Audio Accessories Misc

Control4 HC-250 System

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Installer Training and System Updates of the Control4 HC-250 System

To provide more insight into setting up Control4, they sent me to Chicago for a week for their dealer training. Before you can install a Control4 system, sell one, or even have access to their software you need to pass this class. It consists of four days in a classroom, with your own rack of gear to control. Spending 8+ hours a day in the classroom, along with homework assignments at night, and finally a test to make sure you understand what you are doing in the end. The class is intensive enough that I didn't see anything in Chicago beyond the airport, my hotel, and the classroom.

Another press member, Grant Clauser of Electronic House, was in the class as well. Both of us started with almost no Control4 knowledge compared to others in the class. They all work at stores that do custom installation and have seen people doing programming in their stores, at a job site, or even tried it themselves with a coworkers' license.

Despite our lack of any previous experience, by the end of the week we were both certified Control4 installers. We also learned what is possible to do with Control4, some of which I am planning to implement in my house. Among those plans:

- When it's nighttime and I sit down to watch something, dim the lights in the room to 20%.

  • - If I'm in my basement theater and the doorbell rings while I'm watching a movie, pause the movie, flash the lights, and display a message on-screen to notify me.
  • - If I'm not watching a movie but the lights are on when the doorbell rings, flash them twice to let me know.
  • - When I double-tap the bottom button of the main keypad, turn off all the AV systems in the house and set the lights to my defined Away mode.
  • - When I get home and double-tap the top keypad button, turn on the lights in the main room and kitchen for me.
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    If I had a gas fireplace or a whole-house music system, I could go even further.

    Gentle music to wake me up in the morning? No problem.

    Automatically send my playlist from the living room to the kitchen when I head in there to cook dinner? Simple.

    Setting up a keypad in the kids' room to let them queue up their favorite music with a single click? Done.

    To really test out my knowledge, I installed a couple of components into my system after acquiring my certification. First up is the Control4 Wireless Music Bridge. This adds on AirPlay and Bluetooth support to a Control4 system. As more and more people get their content from a smartphone or tablet, adding it as a source becomes more important. The Music Bridge lets that smartphone or tablet becomes a source for any room in your Control4 system.

    Adding this to my system took 15 minutes. Once it was added, the Wireless Music Bridge option I mentioned earlier appeared under Listen and everyone could stream music to my system. Spotify and Amazon Cloud Player now worked perfectly from my iPhone and Nexus 7. That was a pretty easy one.

    The next upgrade is replacing the Anthem receiver with a Pioneer SC-79 receiver I am reviewing. This is a lot more complex. Instead of just adding a device, I have to migrate everything over to a new device that is the center of the whole system. I am a bit more nervous on this, but thought if I fail I can easily go back to my old setup.

    I back up my existing system configuration and take photos to let me reconstruct it later on. Adding the Pioneer SC-79 to the system is easy in the Control4 software, and the receiver has IP control. Simply plugging in an Ethernet cable lets it be found and controlled by Control4. Very nice!

    The configuration of the system is easy enough as well. I connect the appropriate HDMI cables in the Control4 Composer Pro software (Oppo HDMI Out to Pioneer BD HDMI in, for example) and then everything should configure itself. 30 minutes of cabling and software work later and it is done. Almost.

    I can watch TV. I can listen to music. But I can't watch my Blu-ray player or anything off the Roku. The options are missing from the Watch menu. Did I connect them wrong? I swap some cables and test again.

    Nope, still broken. Still no options.

    What in the world is going on? Then I realize I failed to tell the software that the HDMI output from the Pioneer SC-79 is going to my plasma! I make that connection in the software and everything comes back. Now everything works perfectly. Best of all, the control for everything is exactly the same, so my wife won't even notice the receiver in the cabinet has changed.

    This shows me the upsides and downsides of Control4. The good is that you can upgrade your system and make changes and everything still works exactly the same. My wife only noticed the change a week later as she asked why the on-screen volume display had changed. Otherwise the move from one receiver to another was totally seamless. The IP control even enhanced the system, as it provides on-screen feedback to my iPhone of the current volume level that IR control does not.

    The downside is needing someone to come and do the upgrade for you. Even with the issues I ran into the total time to redo the system is under an hour. That includes unhooking the Anthem, connecting the Pioneer, and programming the software. This was only possible for me to do after a full week of intensive training, and even then I forgot a simple task that temporarily broke the system. Despite years of AV experience and a background as a software developer with a computer science degree, I would have failed at this task without the class. I understand the desire to want to have full control over the system yourself, but I can also tell you that it really requires the training class.