Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Like many other integrators, after many years installing custom electronics Craig Cooley of HELP in Plainville. Mass., has a lot of legacy systems in the field. At some point, the outdated or unwieldy technology in those past projects needs to be upgraded.
In the case of multiroom audio systems, the technology has advanced so rapidly over the past several years that systems have quickly become somewhat obsolete in terms of their ability to access various source devices, utilize different interfaces and stream content wirelessly.
Using servers, streamers and amplifiers from CasaTunes, Cooley has discovered a fast and profitable way to upgrade his clients with a state-of-the-art solution. In the end, HELP has become a more valued partner for its customers, who are ultimately more satisfied.
HELP (Home Electronic Life Protection) started as an electrical company and branched into security, then home automation in 1998. Security systems are still the company’s “foot in the door” so to speak with new homeowners, but Cooley works closely with several large homebuilders, also.
“I have a lot of older Russound multiroom audio systems out there,” comments Cooley. He doesn’t want to rip those systems out, but he needed a way to upgrade them to include streaming audio from services like TIDAL, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify and TuneIn (with Deezer coming soon).  Cooley first discovered CasaTunes back in 2011 when he needed a solution for one of the New England Patriots. His local rep introduced him to the full line and now 98 percent of his multiroom audio installations include CasaTunes.

Plug and Play

“It’s seamless,” he says.  “You just plug it in and it works.” The CasaTunes upgrade not only allows clients to stream music but also access their iTunes library from their smartphone.
“For one-third of the price of installing a completely new system from scratch, I can upgrade their existing multiroom audio system,” he notes.  Right now, Cooley is installing about six systems per month mostly integrated with RTI or Pro Control. His typical install is a packaged CasaTunes CT-8 unit with a CT-1240 amplifierfor $2,699. The system gives the homeowner full control of power, volume and sources for each zone individually. CasaTunes has written the two-way drivers for both RTI and Control4 for integrators to use.  It comes with free smartphone Apps for both iOS and Android.
“I typically add the home theater as an additional zone,” he notes.  “I can install a system in two hours with no wiring… it’s easier than installing a Sonos system.”
CasaTunes’ new CT-4+ (shown above), CT-8+, CT-4S Streamer and CT-8S Streamer products incorporate 1TB of storage and Apple AirPlay options.
Speaking of Sonos, Cooley gives the company kudos for opening up the wireless multiroom audio category, but he is sold on the CasaTunes solution.
“Sonos has no margin, so I look for another alternative. Also, my clients need a keypad, which Sonos does not offer… especially in the bathroom,” he comments.
Lastly, Cooley says Sonos is not ideal for large homes. “Why would I try to stack 10 Sonos amplifier modules in a home vs. just installing two SKUs from CasaTunes,” he says.
From a sales standpoint, HELP uses its 2,000-square-foot showroom to demo the system. The showroom also has a tiered home theater vignette with a JVC projector, Integra separates, Definitive Technologies speakers, multiple Sharp 60- to 80-inch flat panels with soundbars and IP security cameras.

Software-based Switching

Steve Guerra, vice president of business development at CasaTunes, calls the company’s media server solution the “Swiss Army knife of home audio.”  He adds, “It’s all done via software. Our Systems can handle three to 24 zones of audio using the built-in matrix. The integrated AirPlay solution adds up to 10 additional wireless zones via AirPlay devices (AirPlay Speaker, Apple TV, AirPlay Enabled AV Receiver).  The server options include 1TB of storage for all servers except the CT-3, which includes 320GB of storage.
CasaTunes Systems include a full software-driven matrix switch that draws low heat and low power. For adding streams to third party matrix switches, Guerra says the CasaTunes Streamers can control and supply streams to Key Digital Compass Control, Channel Vision, NuVo, Leviton, SpeakerCraft, Russound, and Audio Authority. CasaTunes’ Systems and Streamers integrate easily into Control4 and RTI home control systems.
CasaTunes has an app that runs on iPhone4s, 5, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as the iPad2.

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