David Frangioni - Audio One
1. Please give us a little background about Audio One. Who are you and what do you do?
Audio One is a high tech custom installation firm with offices in three cities that specializes in several different facets of technology integration and installation services and products that includes typically home theater, whole house automation, touch panel control, recording studios and training. We're very multi-faceted.
2. On most of your higher end installations, what do you rely on, for the ultimate in control technology?
As soon as you go beyond controlling one system, and what I mean by that, is as soon as you go beyond just controlling audio, just controlling lights, you need to look at a Crestron system. So the answer to the question is Crestron. It is a very powerful scalable technology that allows you in one unified platform to control virtually anything.
3. Are you able to control multiple types of technologies (audio, video, curtains, lights) from one unified platform?
That's exactly what the Crestron specializes in, and it's a very unique product in the sense that there are very, very few companies that offer the type of versatility and scalable power that the Crestron control system offers, and in our opinion, Crestron is the best at it.
4. Are the control panels wireless, wall mounted, handheld or any of the above?
With Crestron the nice thing is that you have very versatile technologies from which to choose as far as what the user interface looks like, so the physical device that the client or homeowner uses can be mounted on the wall, it can be wireless or it can be wired tabletop, it can be waterproof, it can be one-way or two-way, it can be a touch panel or a keypad, it can be a handheld remote with buttons or it can be a handheld touch panel. It can be a combination of a wired or wireless panel depending on your application. And on top of that, the touch panel and the remotes and the keypads are all 'empty' when you order them. So you really need to know how to configure and program these systems because they only do what the programmer and the installer knows what to do with them. So the user interface is entirely custom. What's exciting about that is that there are no limits and no options that the client can't have, but on the other hand you have to be a very good programmer and you have to be very proficient in the Crestron language, which, fortunately for our clients, Audio One is.
5. Are they easy to use for the end-user?
Easier to use than anything on Earth. The Crestron Touch Panel system allows one button control of an up to 100,000 sq ft building.
6. How long does it normally take for a client to learn to use and be comfortable with a sophisticated system and how do you go about the training?
With a Crestron touch panel system it usually takes under 60 seconds. It takes about a minute to teach somebody. The Audio One philosophy on control touch panel technology is specifically that of Crestron: if you have a touch panel and if you need an instruction book, then you've done something wrong. Now if we're using keypads or we're using button-oriented touch screens or touch surfaces, then there usually is a little more of a learning curve and there's usually some sort of little manual we'll give the client and it takes a little longer because you don't have that graphical user interface to kind of lead the client from page to page and allow them to easily and intuitively step through the process of gaining access to controlling the technology. So when you have a touch panel it's very visual and very easy to make simple.
When you have buttons, even if they're labeled, it's not nearly as intuitive, so you typically need an instruction manual to inform the client that when they press this button the following thing's going to happen or the following control is going to occur, whereas on a touch panel they just see that control and they can just keep using it, they can keep going. It's almost like a map where the car drives you along, and the driver just follows the map, and is actually being driven as opposed to a map that you have to drive and follow along manually.
7. What is currently the most popular home system in your marketplace (i.e. Home Theater, Security, Multiroom Audio etc.)?
For home theater, it's unquestionably plasma. There's nothing comparable to the ease of installation, in terms of fitting into various aesthetic decors, in terms of satisfying the image quality that wasn't there before but is now ... it just has the best of all worlds. Front projection is second to that, specifically by using DLP projectors which are very forgiving in ambient light conditions. Remember, most people that have theaters actually have viewing rooms, they're not dedicated theater rooms. More often than not you've got a room that wears many hats and usually isn't light-controlled to the point that you can achieve ninety or a hundred percent black out. Therefore you need a display that is not only very high quality, but is also very forgiving to ambient light. And by being forgiving, that means that it's giving out a lot of light. It needs to be giving out literally dozens of foot lamberts in order to compete with ambient light and not take away from the image quality.
Plasma is able to do that. We're able to get 50 to 60 foot lamberts out of a plasma, whereas with a CRT you might get ten. With DLP you might get between 20 and thirty. So once you get over 20, you start to compete with ambient light pretty well. When you get up around 30 to 60, you're just doing a better and better job of competing with the light. So you can see that a plasma is going to work even in a sunroom and be viewable all times during the day and night regardless of what light is bleeding in.
8. What would be the "ultimate" way to control, say, a Plasma TV system?
There's no comparison to a touch panel system. The only time somebody doesn't choose a touch panel system is because of budget. Typically when you're doing a plasma there's enough budget to do a touch panel system. Clearly we're proponents and installers of the Crestron system because we're believers in finding something that works, finding something that's great value and most importantly that's scalable. So it's not only robust, it's scalable. So for example if a client buys a touch panel control system from us today, that client doesn't have to sell it or trade it in a year from now, they just simply add to it. So the touch panel system just becomes a series of building blocks from which they can expand if they need to.
9. What, in your opinion, are the differences between one Plasma and another and what do your clients typically choose?
There's lots of differences between plasmas. The key things to look at in a plasma is the native resolution - the higher the better, the quality of the glass, the quality of the pixel count - you want zero dead pixels, and the quality of the video processing. With the exception of computer images, all of the images coming into the plasma need to be processed in order to scale to the native resolution. So if we've got a 1280 x 768 resolution, just to take a very common resolution, and that resolution is the native resolution of the display, but the resolution of the images coming into it are lower, then in order to fill all the pixels on the plasma, we've got to up convert the incoming resolution to the native resolution. And that process is not easy to do from a processing standpoint. It needs a lot of video processing and it needs very high quality processing. So it not only needs to be powerful in the sense that the processing is high powered, but it also needs to be high quality and there's a lot of technology that goes into that.
The clear and away winner for us is the Runco plasma. They make a whole family of TVs from 42 to 50 to 61 and all of their TVs have very high end processing and the highest quality glass and a zero dead pixel count. We're able to go into these plasmas and tweak the settings so that we get incredible black level, the image regardless of the source is very, very sharp there's no motion artifacts, the 3 to 2 pull down is done nearly perfectly. The brightness to contrast ratios are very high. It's just a great looking display. We haven't had a dissatisfied client yet. They are at the high end of the spectrum, the Runco plasmas; they're not what you would consider entry-level by any means, so you pay more. I know plasmas are coming down in price a little bit, but the good ones have not come down in price a whole lot, and one of the reasons for that is the accompanying video processing. That's really the key. If you get a plasma without a processor, then you're not really getting a high quality plasma, regardless of how good the glass is, because the processing is that important.
About Audio One
AUDIO ONE has offices in North Miami Beach, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Boston, Massachusetts. AUDIO ONE is the Southeast's leader in studio design, installation, wiring, digital audio solutions, computer services, and Pro Tools sales. Founded by David Frangioni in 1985, Audio One has earned a reputation as the most innovative team of professionals in the audio & video industry.
David Frangioni co-produced/engineered the first 5.1 digital surround sound music mixes ever on CD for DTS in 1995. He also co-produced two of the best selling Sample CD's of all-time (Dance/Industrial I & II) released in 1991 & 1994, respectively. David released his 3rd Sample CD, "Steve Smith - Rhythmic Journey" in 1999 and his fourth and latest Sample CD, "More than Styx" in December, 2002. Recipient of over 65 Gold and Platinum albums as technical consultant, engineer, and/or programmer since 1987. Featured many times in over 55 different magazines worldwide since 1988. 17+ years of experience & knowledge.
1926 NE 154th Street
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Sales and Technical Support - North Miami
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of HomeToys
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