Project Overview

Theater Design Northwest was contacted to fix some remote issues and upgrade HDTVs  in this great bay view home in South Bellingham. The client’s older whole house music system was not fully operational and the Escient server (MP3 only, lo-fi yuck!) the previous installers had put in was no longer supported by the manufacturer. Add to that the extreme “unwieldliness” of the Escient interface, you need to control it via universal remote using one of the HDTVs in the home. The system in their theater room had some pretty nice gear but the sub was not working, it was only playing in stereo and video quality was subpar. They hated their expensive RTI remote in the theater room as it was unreliable and system operation was unneccessarily complex too.

Improving the quality for these clients was a balance of selectively upgrading gear and skillful service to integrate the system properly. The Ecsient had to go and was replaced with a 4 zone Sonos system that utilized some of the power amps and the Sonance speakers they already possessed. Upgrading to Sonos was a great value and added these benefits:

  • Separated the functions of whole house music and the video systems for ease of use
  • Their GUI for whole house is now a wireless touchscreen, iPad or iPhone that controls all zones
  • Improved audio quality with full CD/iTunes lossless music quality
  • Over 100,000 free web radio stations at their fingertips, plus Pandora
  • Full iTunes integration over the network importing playlist and album art
  • Music and their family photos are available to Sonos and all Apple devices over the network
  • Automated backup of photo and music library to a NAS drive

The clients got to experience an incredible performance boost in audio fidelity when we took out the wall mount volume controls their old system used. Thanks to full touchscreen control, Sonos doesn’t need ’em-it was like lifting a veil from the great Sonance speakers they had. We have found that even good quality speaker level volume controls and speaker selectors severely limit frequency response and just suck the dynamics out of music in a bad way. Getting rid of these is recommended if you enjoy audio fidelity. They’re for paging systems and grocery store Muzak, not music systems!

Other improvements included a new Samsung Smart TV in the master bedroom with Apple TV and Airplay. We then moved around half the TVs in the home for a “musical chairs” upgrade. A system verification/THX calibration took care of the home theater sound issues. The existing sub was able to work fine after switching out a bad input. ISF calibration helped the older 720p Fujitsu plasma display the best it is capable of for a noticeable improvement. Adding our reliable URC MX-450 RF remote to the theater perfected operations for that setup. We then reprogrammed the old RTI remote to run the master bedroom TV, cable and Apple TV.

Key Components

  • Sonos whole house music
  • URC MX-450 RF remote
  • Samsung Smart LED TV
  • Buffalo Linkstation PRO NAS drive
  • Apple TV
  • Sonance speakers
  • Monitor Audio speakers
  • Energy speakers
  • Denon AVR
  • Sony BluRay
  • Monster power


The clients were thrilled with their Sonos system and taught themselves how to use it in the usual 5 minutes, asking a couple of questions. Sonos is cool that way. Other comments included, “This is the best sound we have ever had in here.” And, “We like the picture better too”. That is the type of service we intend to deliver and makeovers like these are one of our specialties. We often find that up to date quality service is the missing ingredient in many of the older systems our new clients have.