Music for your home? In the kitchen. In the bathroom. On the patio. Music, yes . . . but ONLY music?

While there are many stand-alone whole-house music systems on the market, you may want to look at your home’s bigger integration picture and decide if you wish to tie together your home’s multiple sub-systems.

Somfy Automated Shading Solutions
Just this past week I viewed yet another integration proposal minus the integration. A whole house music system. A home theater. A smaller wireless lighting control system. A separate security system. The thought of some cameras. Odds and ends – nothing pieced together. The hip bone was definitely not connected to the leg bone or any other bones in the home’s technology skeletal framework.

The residential dealer had become more of a “black-box” reseller than an actual integrator. Further, it became clear that the stand-alone system specified was not what the homeowner was looking for, as this particular system did not provide source selection feedback. The family felt it important to know what source they were listening to. Tuner? Satellite? CD? What station? Which CD? Which track (song)?

If the homeowner was only looking for a multi-room audio system, then he could choose from multiple lower to mid-range systems (Russound, Niles, Sonance, Elan, Xantech, etc.) or a selection of higher end systems (Audio Access and ADA for example). But what about integrating the home’s music into a central control system, a system which can tie together the home’s music, video, lighting, security, temperature control, cameras, and gates?

Music + Home Automation = Complete Package

AMX and Crestron, the two home automation leaders for the past couple of decades, have been providing integration solutions for whole house music for quite some time. They eventually produced their own audio switchers and amplifiers, and combining them with their touch panel and keypad assortments, these control system giants were able to provide a cost-effective whole-house music system. Once you have invested in the home automation central processor, adding an audio switcher and amplifiers becomes easy and cost-effective.

The primary features of a home-automation based house music system are (1) you have a bigger selection of user interfaces to choose from (keypads and touch panels), and (2) you can demand a lot more functionality from the system, including:

* A single interface to show status of what zones/rooms are on
* A single interface to turn on or off any specific zone/room
* A single interface to show volume levels for all zones/rooms
* Ability to set entertain modes (turn on multiple zones at one time)
* A single interface to send any music source to any room
* Ability to see and select CD/Track titles through CD management systems
* Ability to see and select specific tuner stations and satellite channels
* A single interface to provide transport control, 10-button keypad, and arrow navigation

Better Wall-mount User Interfaces

prod photoAMX and Crestron have been developing smaller, more aesthetic wall-mounted user interfaces, some quite cost competitive with audio manufacturers’ whole-house music keypads. AMX introduced the popular DMS menu-driven keypad a little more than five years ago, offering an intuitive music interface (depending on who programmed it), which could also serve as a lighting keypad, and display outside and indoor temperatures, time and the date. This was an important product development which would allow homeowners to install more whole-house control interfaces throughout the home.

prod photoTouch Panels were always considered cost-prohibitive as multi-room interfaces. AMX and Crestron have responded to the market’s need for smaller wall-mounted touch panels, producing a selection of 4″-6″ panels such as AMX’s CP4 panel, perfect for the bedside, the master bath, the kitchen, or an entry. Touch panels will always provide more information and more control of your home’s music systems, but always cost more than the standard/simplistic multi-room audio keypads.

Finally, home automation touch panels help you avoid “multiple keypad syndrome”. I recently walked into a lovely master bedroom, very impressed by the selection of wall paper, art, and antique furniture. Oh how the wife must have felt staring at an assortment of keypads on the wall, fit for a dealer demo room. Security, lighting, music and HVAC all together — but definitely not in harmony. I was quite happy to see the integrator replace everything except the light switch with a small AMX CV6 color video touch panel, allowing total control of the house sub-systems, including the ability to view cameras. We discovered afterwards that this same panel does a good job of displaying Escient Fireball CD and MP3 management pages.

Before purchasing your whole-house music system, be sure to understand the exact functionality of your system and of the different keypads which may be installed. Decide if music is the only sub-system in your house, or if you might want to integrate other sub-systems in the future (lighting, security, HVAC, video, etc.). Planning for the future now can save on your investment and your home’s technology expectations.