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Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

Spousal Approval Factor High – a new entertainment unit

If you probably couldn’t guess, I have a baby. Eli was born a little over six months ago, and what used to be an inert sack of potatoes is now scooting around, starting to get a bit mobile.

This instilled the panic reflex in his parents due to this thing.

Living Room

That entertainment unit contains the following:

- Denon 3808CI Receiver
- Mac Mini + Lacie 2TB Hard Drive
- Slingbox + HD Connectors
- DirectTV HDR-23 Receiver
- Sonos Zone Player
- Sonos Bridge
- Apple TV
- Samsung BluRay player
- Nintendo Wii
- Cable Modem
- Netscreen 5GT Router
- 8 port Netgear switch
- JBL center channel speaker
- Cisco ATA Voice box for Vonage
- Apple Airport Extreme

That’s a lot of equipment. Too much to be contained in this unit, so a lot of spilled to the back and floor underneath it (especially all the networking gear). It also spit out a lot of heat, and due to the unit not being well ventilated, required the sliding door to be kept open.

With a six month old, this is not a good situation.

Cue the reengineering of the entertainment unit.

Choosing the Unit

I had my eye on a BDI entertainment unit for a long time, as a friend of mine has one. They are super high end, ventilated and designed for high density equipment. They also have a distinctly modern look with clean lines and no curves, which I appreciated. One of the biggest selling points for me was the center channel drawer, which would hide the unsightly brick of a speaker.

BDI units however are not cheap. We purchased the Avion Series II 8927 from Modern Essentials. While I’m sure we could have found a cheaper place, the price differentials were in the $100 range and Modern Essentials had the best reviews.

The Accouterment

If you know me, no project is worth doing if its not worth over doing. Usually my projects start with a simple goal (ie, new child proof entertainment unit) and end with more purchases. In this case, I had to get a few new items:

- New center channel speaker
- More ports on a switch
- Cable organizing material
- Power switch

Center Channel Speaker

The BDI unit has a limit to how big the center channel speaker can be. I searched around, but ended up going with the same speaker my friend who also has a BDI has, the NH2 Classic Two. My old center channel speaker was OK (JBL Venue Series), but lacked some clarity in the high end with dialog. I needed a bit more punch for the center to counter the emphasis from the two Polk RT12 speakers I have as the mains.

Switch

This was easy. I bought a 16 port gigabit switch, unmanaged (no fan) from Netgear. I have four ports free on it now.

Cable Organizing Gear

I ended up getting a bunch of cable enclosures (the hose kind) to make “trunks” of cables for specific purposes. Any cable bundle leaving the unit was to be enclosed. I separated the trunks with power, telco (DirecTV and Cable), TV (power, two HDMI and one Cat-6 network) and speakers.

I also got some spools to wind up excess cable. They come in handy.

Power Switch

This unit has a total of about 28 power outlets required. As such, I needed a good space saving power strip, but that had room for a lot of the big transformer bricks. I ended up buying a TrippLite 16 port power switch. The networking gear is currently on its own power strip, and will be moved to a UPS soon. I like this strip because it fits precisely behind the entertainment unit, and doesn’t get crowded.

Installation

To get all this installed in the new unit, I first had to take everything out.

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That is all the equipment laying on our floor. I have a way of doing this that involves first unplugging all cables from each component, and taking the component out. Then taking out the cables and sorting by use (HDMI, Power, Opitcal TOS-LINK, etc). This way I keep cable tangle at a minimum. I of course still had the inevitable more cable than should have existed, but that’s part of the game.
That being done, I put the new unit in place. The BDI’s arrive nearly assembled. You only have to put the legs on, which are actually on very carefully hidden wheels. Since the unit weights a metric ton, this comes in handy. The unit has two side compartments, a center channel drawer and a center compartment with a fold down door.
I organized my system as such:

Left side: – BluRay Player
- AppleTV
- Mac Mini
- Sonos (player and remote charger)

Right side:
- Receiver
- Slingbox
- DirecTV

MIddle
- Networking gear

I organized it this way to accommodate varying cable lengths, as well as keeping cable clutter to a minimum. I still ended up with some cables going back and forth (below, before zip-ties), but not as much as I would have otherwise.

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Having the center compartment for the networking gear was good as its a shorter, longer compartment and gave ample room for the Cat-6 and Cat-5 cables to be plugged in without getting tangled. It also kept it all accessible for swapping in and out of connections. And the geek in me likes the green blinking lights behind the glass.
Hooking everything back up was painless, especially with most connections only requiring HDMI cables. The most complicated aspect was getting cable lengths proper for the Cat-6.
The Result
Here’s the result:

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I’m super happy with the look, and that i can keep the doors closed without the gear burning up.

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2 Responses

  1. Freerk Smit says:

    What a great project indeed! I’m currently living abroad in a temporary home, so no entertainment-unit-project coming my way soon, but will keep this post in mind when doing my on little entertainment setup. Keep the blog posts coming.

  2. You’re gonna love the Avion. There really isn’t anything better for a serious home theatre.