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Pre-wired Home Control System Expands Future of Custom Market

Mar 3, 2008 12:00 PM


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Sony and Control4 have taken their relationship to the next level, offering custom installation dealers a pre-wired integrated home control and entertainment system. Last year at CEDIA Expo, the two companies showed Control4 management of Sony’s 400-disc DVD changer and video switcher. At its open house last week in Las Vegas, Sony took the wraps off the NHS-130C, an integrated rack system combining 7.1-channel, high-definition audio/video for the main theater, HD video distribution and multiroom music in 12 additional zones—with Control4 management.

The addition of home control functionality for lighting, thermostat, and security brings new capability to Sony dealers from a company already established in the home control field. “We were looking for a partner that had dealer support and to fit the need we had to address the growing trend in whole-house automation,” says Neal Manowitz, director of marketing for Sony Electronics' consumer systems and applications division. “By leveraging the capabilities of Control4, we’re able to tie in all these other pieces we don’t’ do business in—lighting and thermostat control—so it was a good match.”

The NHS-130C combines the new CAV-CVS12ES, a video switcher that delivers HD via component video to a dozen zones. Also part of the rack are Sony’s DVP-CX777ES 400-disc CD/DVD changer augmented by Control4 management software; a Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray Disc player; a 160GB music storage and management server managed by the Control4 HC-500 Home Controller; iPort iPod dock; ES receiver with AM/FM/XM/Sirius radio tuner; and Sony’s two six-zone matrix switch with 12-channel amplifier.

For future expansion, the Middle Atlantic racks are pre-wired for three additional A/V sources, two of which are HDMI-ready.

Sony expects NHS-130C to run from $45,000 to $90,000, depending on the number of TVs, keypads, lighting modules, and other options. Currently Sony sells 80 percent of NHS systems to new construction, but Manowitz expects the new system to skew more toward a 60/40 new construction to retrofit ratio because of Control4’s wireless retrofit capability. “Although the housing market is slowing, a higher percentage of these homes are getting technology,” he says. According to CEA/NAHB data, 15 percent of new homes have audio/video systems compared with less than one percent for home control. “There’s a huge opportunity,” Manowitz says.

In addition to the marketing and training muscle Sony brings to the deal, Control4 benefits from the controllability of Sony products, according to John Yoon, vice president of marketing for Control4. “As a control company, you want to partner with guys that have well-documented, easy-to-write interfaces,” Yoon says. He cites Control4’s ability to speak with the Sony CX777ES changer and go to the online database for cover art based on the table of contents and digital footprint. “We couldn’t do that if we didn’t have a tight relationship between the Control4 product and the Sony product,” he says.

The prefab integration has the potential to offer dealers, and ultimately consumers, more tech power for their time and money. “Because the system is already pre-racked and pre-integrated, installation becomes extremely simple, saving integrators significant time and money,” Manowitz says.

Manowitz noted that consistency has traditionally been part of Sony’s control strategy. “If you pick up a remote from a 10-year-old Sony TV and point it at one of our new TVs, you’ll find the same discrete on/off codes, source selection, and things like that,” he says. “From the installation perspective it’s critical, and makes it so much easier as the industry evolves so quickly.” The same applies, he says, to the ES line when it comes to RS-232 control. “We use the same protocol and just add to it,” Manowitz says, citing the addition of XM and Sirius satellite radio metadata.

Sony’s goal with the integrated system is to expand the custom market, according to Manowitz. “The custom market is expected to double in the next five or so years,” he says, “so our challenge is how to get there.” As the company has brought out ES products for the custom market, the top model is always the most popular, and now home control advances Sony’s offerings to the next level. “There’s been this thirst for the best of the best in the custom market,” he says. “Control4 was a nice fit as a next step in our evolution of NHS.”



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