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August 01, 2016

A wireless design

Achieving a seamless look in the home begins with advanced wireless technology

David Crosson

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In praising a structure or space it’s often said that it has “good bones”. Rarely, if ever, do you hear people speak favourably about the “veins” of a space—namely the endless tangle of wires that somehow keep everything running smoothly. Fortunately, in recent years this nuisance network has begun to diminish as more advances are made in the area of wireless technology.

I welcome this on two fronts: one, as a Luddite (I can barely dial a smartphone) and, two, as a person who can make a space look great provided it’s not tethered Gulliver-like by a mess of cords. Well and truly, wireless technology (or even judiciously wired counterparts) is a designer’s dream: no more awkwardly placed plug sockets or oddly positioned cable jacks to trip up my plans for an exquisite room. Simply put, on the freedom scale it’s like being able to fly a kite without a string.

Being obviously limited in my tech-savvy, in pursuit of greater understanding I turned to Andrew Donald of K&W Audio, Calgary’s 38-year-old A/V institution, to help educate me on the latest and greatest. And educate me he did, showcasing the very best in televisions, stereo systems and media furniture. Better still, he did it all without using confusing tech-jargon—which is why you are reading this story right now and not my obit…

On the sound front, when it comes to wireless technology, Sonos speakers rule the roost in terms of outstanding results and ease of use. Unlike other product lines that rely on available Wi-Fi connections (often tricky in high-density dwellings), Sonos creates its own robust network for transferring data provided only one of its component units is plugged directly into a router. In fact, they were so self-reliant in creating an untethered sound experience that it wasn’t until 2014 that they began incorporating Wi-Fi-only options into their systems. Of course, hearing music play is the true test and I cannot stress enough how superb the Sonos experience really is.

Obviously, sound only addresses one of our entertainment senses; when it comes to appreciating new ‘toys’, seeing really is believing. Despite the fact that more and more people are tuning in to watch their favourite programs and movies on computers, tablets and phones these days, televisions are still big players in the world of big-ticket electronics. With the advent of 4K technology (not new but the new-est), portable devices still cannot measure up to the absolutely immersive experience of watching something in breathtaking clarity on a large screen.

If you have ever watched anything in 4K resolution (and I mean anything), then you know that the latest sets make up in sheer dazzle what they lack in portability. I was mesmerized as I watched looped content on a 78-inch curved screen Samsung in the K&W showroom, trying to focus on Andrew’s explanation as images of nature and travel dominated the screen with stunning displays of minutiae. 

Samsung, and to some extent LG, pretty much dominate the marketplace in terms of display clarity and technological advances, although really anything in this realm is sure to impress. Encouragingly, the price point on these televisual wonders has dropped significantly in recent years—hardly to bargain basement levels but in many cases four figures down from five, depending on screen size.

Despite being quite smitten by all the great bells and whistles on offer, my ears really perked up when we got to the furniture part of our tour. For those who have A/V components they need to centralize, options abound beyond the ubiquitous IKEA TV bench. Two in particular are BDI and Salamander Designs. BDI has been making exceptional media furniture for 21 years and it is clear they are committed to their craft. Not only are the pieces beautiful and adaptable to a variety of décor styles, they are purpose-built to handle the specific demands of housing electronics. Most models feature concealed venting to allow for proper air circulation and are designed to allow infrared remote beams to pass easily through their facades, either through decorative slats or tinted glass. More importantly (at least from this Luddite’s perspective) BDI units are crafted of beautiful materials such as walnut and white oak and engineered to a level that ensures they will serve the spaces they occupy for decades to come.

Although I entered K&W on a mission to research this story, I exited a changed man. Looking at my unobtrusive 32-inch television nestled in a bookcase (just above the miniature CD player), I can’t help but wonder if it’s time to join the 21st century and trade-up in my electronics choices. My head fairly spins at the prospect of watching The Great British Baking Show in 4K resolution. I guess life really is too short to be lived as a Luddite…CL

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