Smart House (or not so)

Having been in the Audio Video business since 1980, I first witnessed the concept of Smart House going back as much as 20 years. Filling your bathtub while you were in route from work, adjusting temperature to your liking, prior to coming home and a variety of sound and lighting, “ make you very happy”-types of features. These manufacturers from the earliest days built these great control center brains of the operation which were to take care of these details through low voltage control, and monitoring of all types of system-based control devices – too bad they all went out of business, or in the case of some of the big manufacturers – soon came to realize what a giant can of worms they invented, and soon sold their lines or gave them to other small companies to ride to the red and quickly out of the smart house business.

I have written many times about the concept of smart house types of features in the Audio Video business. This mostly speaks to having a system controller located in a room or closet which can deliver multiple sources to multiple areas via a remote control in that area, combined with a on-wall receiver (interface) to the system. I cannot tell you the number of these types of systems which have come and gone over the years and left the owners of these systems in a lurch. Back in the days of the great Wall Street run up there were many a young rich broker, who were soon to be broke and left behind in that great house, a system which never worked and never will work.

To put it another way or let’s say a better way: Every room needs its own set of toys and the number and types of entertainment goodies varies with each room. Perhaps that 7.1 surround in the bathroom was not the best idea. Many people like to have their smart TV with a sound bar and perhaps a cable or satellite box mounted behind the TV…and that’s about it for a Master Bedroom or Den. Even Blu-ray/DVD players are not being used as much. Should you have a 5.1 or 7.1 system in your family or main TV area? Yes! Should you have speakers in the rooms and areas with volume controls where it makes sense? Yes! Should you have a system which allows any source to be played in any area? Probably not. The complexity and the usability regardless of what the sales people will tell you is just not good. For instance, you want to play a DVD upstairs, go downstairs find the DVD load it into the player, go upstairs press play- discover you loaded the wrong disk from the set- walk back to system reload proper disk, press play on smart control, discover that play does not work because of the authoring of the disc you must press the enter or select button, discover the enter or select button is not programmed on your “smart” system controller, abandon the whole idea of playing a DVD but not before starting a family feud.

My advice is to keep your devices and/or players with the TV in the room where it will be watched.