Launch Slideshow

network news

network news

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    The eSommelier lets homeowners manage a large wine collection via a touchscreen monitor in the wine cellar or through the main control system in other rooms.

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    Yamaha’s Mark IV Disklavier comes with a Wi-Fi remote control and Tablet PC, enabling homeowners to operate the piano from anywhere in the house.

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    The iPort connects an iPod to the whole-house or local audio system.

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sound investment

Wire the cellar with in-wall speakers and homeowners will be able to listen to the upstairs piano while sipping port. Yamaha's Mark IV Disklavier 21st-century player piano has gone the networking route too. A favorite of interior designers for decorating large living spaces or of Liberace wannabes who never learned to play, Disklavier grand pianos have been popular in upscale homes for both their design appeal and entertainment value. A Disklavier can be played as a conventional acoustic grand piano or as a software-driven player piano.

In the latter mode, Disklavier pianos read specially formatted media that allow the piano to play by itself using digital data to control the keys. The latest version of the player extends the Disklavier into the multiroom realm. Now, homeowners can send a digitized stream from the acoustic piano to other rooms in or outside of the house. The piano can also be wired to play as a conventional grand piano while speakers in the room play backup orchestration.

The Mark IV Disklavier comes with a Wi-Fi remote control and a 10-inch touchscreen Tablet PC. Both enable homeowners to operate the piano from other rooms—and through walls and ceilings. Users can select the piano as an audio source over a standard multiroom audio system and then use the remotes to change songs or create playlists from the 80-gigabyte hard drive built into the piano system.

The piano requires a standard 110-volt electrical outlet for power. Its analog and digital audio outputs run to the central music system, which sends the sound of the piano to other sound-ready rooms. The built-in Wi-Fi card allows the piano to communicate wirelessly with PCs on a home network, and an Ethernet port allows for connection to a more robust wired home network.

Homeowners can take advantage of the PC connection by downloading music from the PC to the piano. Or they can create music on the fly and then send it from the piano to a PC using software that captures the notes and puts the work into printable form. They can then store or print out the sheet music from tunes they just hammered out.

Down the road, the networking capability will lead to Internet applications, Yamaha says. Piano students could participate in online music competitions with other students from around the globe. They could take up online music lessons with a teacher across the state or across the country. Extending the reach of the piano to the Internet opens up a world of possibilities.

tune in

The piano is one new source for the multiroom audio system. The ubiquitous iPod is another. Multiroom audio company Sonance has devised the iPort, a custom wall plate for the iPod or iPod mini that wires the portable music player into the whole-house or local audio system. iPod owners can place the iPod in the iPort dock when they arrive home and the device appears as a separate audio source on a Sonance multiroom system. It can also work with home control systems from AMX, Crestron, and Elan.

Users control the iPod on the device itself, which is charged by a DC power supply while resting in the in-wall dock. A video version of iPort works with iPod Photo players. Homeowners with photos on an iPod can view images from iPod Photo players on a TV located either in the room or elsewhere in the house.

Currently, slightly more than half of new homes are built with structured wiring. For luxury-home owners, the benefits of networked electronics will grow exponentially as companies devise useful ways to benefit from devices that talk to each other within the home. With the wine cellar, grand piano, and iPod in the picture, the case for home networking just became a little more enticing.

Rebecca Day specializes in writing about home electronics. She can be reached at customhomerd@aol.com. A version of this article originally appeared in residential architect's sister publication CUSTOM HOME.