Epsom, a market town in Surrey, is famous for a few things: Epsom Downs, for one, where people of a certain equine bent gather en masse to watch horses run around and around; Epsom salts, for another, with their myriad health-enhancing benefits; it was also the birthplace of recent CEDIA Awards host Warwick Davis; and, of course, it is home to those doyens of smart-stuff distribution AWE.
Naturally, being a CI-centric mag, it’s towards the last of that list we’re going to focus on here, as myself and the Bon part of Bontell hit the road out of the sprawling metropolis that is Colchester early in November, Epsom-bound to lend our eyes and ears to some of the most cutting-edge AV and CI kit around at AWE’s Smart Home Expo.
Arriving fashionably late thanks to the traffic, AWE’s Show Apartment never fails to impress – slick, minimalist design aesthetics complemented by the kind of AV toys that those of us with mere mortal wallets can only dream of ever owning.
After catching the tail-end of AWE MD Stuart Tickle’s press briefing, it was time to tour and take in all the latest changes AWE have made to the place; which are considerable.
Stunning main home cinema aside, new for 2017, AWE have constructed a second, smaller cinema to demonstrate what can be achieved in a more compact space and on a comparatively modest budget.
The room contains the latest technology from Epson, Definitive Technology, Denon, Draper and Philips Hue. The Denon 11-channel AVR-X6400 AV receiver drives Definitive Technology in-wall Reference Line Source Speakers and in-wall Reference Subwoofers to achieve an immersive 7.4.4 configuration. The Definitive Technology speakers and subwoofers deliver incredible sound quality, with the Denon AVR supporting all the main 3D audio formats. The visuals, meanwhile, are provided by an Epson EH-TW9300 projector, which boasts exceptional image quality by supporting 4K content and intelligently enhancing 1080p. Epson’s 3LCD technology delivers bright and rich colours accurately, and was expertly displayed on a 110-inch Draper Clarion fixed frame NanoPerf screen.
The 7.4.4 speaker system and amplification featured retaisl at around £15k, with the 4K-enhanced projector and perforated screen coming in at around £5k for the pair.
Also new this year, AWE can now showcase the performance and power of high-quality home audio with the unveiling of its Music Room, featuring KEF BLADE TWO speakers. Apartment in Epsom. With an iconic visual design and acoustic prowess, the KEF BLADE TWO speakers are a serious option for high-end residential projects. Delivering distortion-free low frequency response, four powerful 6.5-inch bass drivers side fire, enabling the acoustic centre to coincide with those of the all-new, latest generation and highly acclaimed Uni-Q midrange driver and tweeter.
The Music Room also features Q-Motion wireless shading, and is part of a major upgrade to AWE’s Show Apartment, which now allows AWE to demonstrate a range of immersive, multiroom and 2-channel audio systems at a wide variety of price points.
Also on show at the expo, demonstrating the heart of the smarthome, the new Total Control 2.0 from URC features a full graphical update, a new user interface and advanced logic to put homeowners in charge of their home with a seamless, intuitive and versatile solution.
With Total Control 2.0, installers can personalise their URC system using a fully customisable colour scheme. They can also add attractive images to help define and flavour room, scene and background settings. Either single devices or scenes can take preference on the interface to meet the individual needs of homeowners. Up to 100 scenes can be pre-programmed for immediate access to a specific command.
Total Control 2.0 also boasts much faster speeds for both installers and end-users, with downloading to the system, loading new programming and response time all vastly improved. Installers can also make adjustments and edits much more quickly and simply, and pollinate across different control devices in the house with ease.
Alongside the release, the extensive range of design-led URC controllers is now also available, via AWE. One of the major attractions in this series is the unique 7-inch TDC-7100 desktop controller which provides elegant, responsive control over the system. The TDC-7100 affords added security and room-to-room connection benefits and also features a camera and speaker to work alongside the intercom system.
Turning to one of Stuart Tickle’s latest signings, Videotree, AWE now exclusively supply a range of products from the luxury TV brand. Videotree brings a series of award-winning design-led screens for outdoor, wet room and concealed applications to the AWE portfolio.
Where concealment is king, Videotree’s brand new Hyper-Illusion XT is a perfect bright mirror with picture frame surround when off, yet provides a superb TV viewing experience with natural colours and white whites when on.
Engineered for 100% waterproof and dustproof performance, the Videotree Lifestyle series is designed for bathroom, spa, pool and gym installation.
Also out for demo was the stunning 100-inch Sony ZD9 4K HDR TV, complemented by the stunning Sony A1 OLED. The 4K HDR bild 5 OLED from Loewe was also put through its considerable paces, while the LG 65-inch SIGNATURE OLED TV W, known as The Wallpaper Screen, really is a model that needs to be experienced first-hand to fully appreciate.
A WORLD OF AWE
With demonstrations of Definitive Technology’s Mythos loudspeakers and HEOS By Denon out in full force, with the new AVR, Drive, Soundbar, Subwoofer, Speakers, Amp, Super Link and Home Cinema all on display, plus roast pork in a bun for lunch, AWE’s Smart Home Expo proved to be nothing less than an absolute feast of audio/visual excellence and porcine perfection.
A pleasure as always to catch up with Team AWE and witness their wonder-wares in person. It’ll be interesting to see how they can possibly top it next year…