When Sony chose to introduce its latest WallStation and pre-built rack and HD video distribution systems at Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in June, it was making a statement. Sony is aiming for the middle of the market, not high-end custom homes that are normally the domain of the low-voltage guy. So it went right to the people who matter most there: the builders.
Part of that growth is because of the simplicity and functionality of Sony's WallStation systems, which combine audio, video, and intercom systems in easy-to-use-and-program WallStations. Sony introduced an audio-only WallStation, the WS-ADP4, that can be used as a doorbell and an intercom at an entry door, or even the driveway gate, and then electronically open the door. A homeowner can talk to whoever is at the door, or gate, through the A/V system from any room. The cost for a WallStation system is about $2,000 per room. Adding an entry station at a door costs about $500, but four doors go for about $1,000.
It was Sony's CAV-CVS12ES HD video distribution system that raised eyebrows at PCBC. Designed to distribute up to 12 source components throughout a home, the CAV-CVS12ES is a single-box solution that incorporates eight HD component video inputs (up to 1080p) and four composite video inputs with up-conversion. HD video content is delivered to up to 12 zones through Category-5e wiring and fed into a component adapter connected to the display, according to Sony. It also serves as a whole-house audio system.
This is not quite as good in picture quality as HDMI, which delivers pure, unadulterated audio and video signals to HD video displays and sound systems. But HDMI solutions are expensive, and the length of HDMI cable runs is limited. The average home buyer, however, is not likely to be such a purist as to be able to tell the difference.
When combined with Sony's pre-built A/V rack systems, such as the NHS 40, the video distribution system allows for the closeting of the gear, including cable and satellite boxes, out of sight in a single location. The system will access tuners, boxes, DVD storage systems, Blu-Ray players, music storage systems, and FM receivers from any video display in up to 12 rooms in the home.
That system starts at a suggested retail price of about $3,000 for an entry-level setup; a seven-room HD system with the rack will run around $20,000; a 12-room application with a full home-theater will get up to around $50,000.
Kolter Communities Homes has installed one nine-room and one five-room system in two model homes at its Verano community in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The community will eventually include 6,200 units mixed among single-family homes, villas, and paired units around a "city center" adjacent to the company's PGA Village. Homes are priced from the mid $200,000s up to the mid $500,000s and range in size from 1,750 to 3,400 square feet.
Tim Carlow, director of purchasing for Kolter, says, "I wanted to achieve that 'wow' factor. I was attempting to take the mystery out of electronics and low voltage."
He reports that it is an easy sell, particularly when stacked up against what the home buyer could get at retail for the same money. The systems come with a two-year, in-home warranty and the cost can be rolled into the mortgage.
"We're coming out with product that will have a good price point but will not be stripped down," he says, referring to competitors who have slashed standard features in order to lower prices. The homes, he says, "are a phenomenal product at the price point."
As for the A/V systems, he says, "We've already sold several of them."