In looking back over all the blog entries I’ve written this year, I thought it would be fun to review the products I installed in my own home in 2010 that I enjoy the most.

Apple's iPad

Apple’s iPad

My first item is probably a favorite for a lot of you. I got an iPad a few months ago and have really taken to it. It makes it so easy to check my email, weather, and sports that I think it has actually reduced the amount of time I spend at my desk. It was a truly great breakthrough for Apple this year to price such a cool toy at only $499. I’m 100% positive it will help revolutionize home control, making control where almost anyone can afford and enjoy it.

The new Mac Mini

The new Mac Mini

The iPad served well as a Trojan horse. A few weeks after getting it, I bought a Mac Mini. Since August, I’ve spent any time I’m near it ripping all of my CD’s in AIFF (Apple’s non compressed format). I now have only about 100 left to burn – I can’t wait to get it connected to my music/theater system.  You can read my earlier blog entry (how to get the most out of iTunes) on how to get your music into iTunes for best performance. In 2011, I’ll be playing around with USB DACs. These DACs will give you the best possible sound from your iTunes music.  If you have a decent sized CD collection, I highly recommend you contact our Audio Advice team to learn how to get it on a hard drive and let us help you design a system that will give you incredible audio performance. It also costs way less than a high-end CD player and is a ton more fun!

Sonos Wireless Music System

Sonos Wireless Music System

The next item on my list is somewhat related to the iPad.  It’s Sonos.  Sonos is a new wireless multi-room music playback system. Basically, it’s a small box that connects to the Internet on one side, and on the other side connects to your music system. What it gives you though, is just amazing.  It puts Pandora (why I love Pandora), Internet radio, music on any computer in your home, and a host of other Internet music options all at your fingertips! I have Sonos connected to my whole house music system and control it all from my iPad, iPhone, or iTouch. It’s so easy to pick and choose what you want to hear with the iPad, it has revolutionized the way I listen to music. Now get this, the Sonos system price of entry can be as low as $349 for your main controller! Can you believe that? If you have an Apple portable device and don’t have Sonos, you are missing out. It will bring all kinds of music into your life with such ease of use I guarantee you will love it as much as I do.RA22

My next favorite toy isn’t an audio or video product-it’s a new lighting control system from Lutron. I say with certainty, this is my wife’s favorite new part of our home. She just loves it! Lutron pioneered lighting control many years ago. Up until their new RA2 system, it’s been found only in very upper end homes. It’s almost a necessity in a very large home to keep all lighting under control, but RA2 brings the price of entry WAY down. What Lutron has done with RA2 is to bring the processing power and control of their upper end system into an affordable system.

RA2 is totally wireless-all you have to do is replace your existing light switches with RA2 devices. Each dimmer costs only $150, so most people can control their whole main floor and exterior lights with RA2 for a pretty reasonable price. Imagine being able to press one button to get your home ready for entertaining, or pushing one button to turn a room or your entire home on or off. Throughout 2010 Lutron added lots of new features that make it a great value. For example, I have some of my exterior lights coming on 30 minutes before sunset and turning off at 10PM. My kids always leave on lights upstairs- I’ve programmed them to turn off every hour. But that’s not all-Lutron just added some more neat features. My new vacation mode can randomly play back timed scenes, making my house looked lived in while we are out of town. Finally, we had a holiday party the other night and I didn’t want my outside lights turning off at 10. Just pushing the new “extend” button temporarily disabled all my timed events. Lighting control is something that is very hard to really appreciate until you live with it. I know for sure, once you live with RA2, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Did I mention, I can also control everything with my first favorite toy?  Yes, there is an awesome Apple app for RA2!

Runco LED Projector

Runco LED Projector

Ok, I’m down to my last item, but it’s far and away my favorite new toy of 2010. What is it, you might ask? It’s my LED front projector! Earlier this year I wrote about how I had seen the light with LED and I am still completely thrilled with my newest theater addition. We watch 3 or 4 movies a week, and there has not been a single time that I don’t think to myself that it is flat out the best picture I have ever seen. You should see how good Inception looks on my 2:35 screen with an LED projector! Just like the iPad, this technology is truly revolutionary. It brings a high level of video performance to a new lower price point and better yet, it never wears out or needs a new lamp. Yes, 60,000 hours is the expected LED engine life!

What LED light engines look like- NO LAMP!!!

What LED light engines look like- NO LAMP!!!

You can see I’ve tried and added lots of new technology in 2010. But when it comes down to it, if I had to choose just one thing to have in my home, it would be my front projection home theater. Nothing gives me more pleasure. I love my 2:35 widescreen, which really adds to the immersive experience. I can totally escape from the stress of the day by watching a movie. If I don’t have time for a movie, I can just listen to some music for a few minutes and wind down. When thinking about new toys, don’t forget the good ole front projection home theater. It’s been around now for about 20 years, but keeps getting better with improvements like the 2:35 screen and LED projector, and is loads of fun for the entire family.

As this is my last blog post of 2010, I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you and your families a very safe and happy holiday season. I’ll be back with a lot more in 2011!