Walk into any Essential Install Live! South show and you’ll immediately spot at least two distributors from wherever you stand. That’s because every distributor is keen to showcase their latest offerings to the installation community, and 2016 was no different.

Redline distribution was demonstrating the flexibility offered by the Artison Nano Backpack P-5 amo, billed as the smallest AV amp.

Powerful enough to drive a 5.1 system, but small enough to be mounted behind a flat screen TV, the unit is designed to deliver space and cost savings to installers and features Dolby Digital, PLII and DTS decoding.

The amp can also be used with Crestron, Control4, AMX, Elan g!, Savant and RTI.

Over in the AWE area, Denon HEOS was attracting a lot of attention.

Gavin Shing, area sales manager, said: “One of the exciting things we are talking to our customers about today is the Denon HEOS product range, specifically the HEOS HS2, which represents the next generation of HEOS products.

“It encompasses a number of upgrades from the HEOS 1, 3, 5 and 7 ranges, as well as the HEOS preamplifier and the HEOS amp.

“In terms of the upgrades, what we’re talking about is support for Bluetooth, so you are now able to stream audio directly from your iOS, Android, Mac or PC device. HS2 also provides support for hi-res audio and wireless AC.

“All of the products have seen really good traction at EI Live! but it seems with the custom install crowd that the HEOS soundbar seems to have attracted lots of attention; it’s extremely well priced and in addition to optical and coaxial digital connections, you also have the ability to connect via HDMI, allowing the utilisation of the audio return channel and CEC control.

“I think the star of the HEOS show is the HEOS Drive, this is the 2U, rack-mountable, four zone player, installers really like this.”

RGB showcased products from the Atlona brand including the UHD 4×4 matrix switcher.

Chris Brzostowski, residential and commercial solutions account manager, Atlona, said: “Now that we’re working with RGB we are focusing on residential in the UK, which has been an untouched market for Atlona previously.

“What installers really seem to like is that our products come with a 10-year warranty. We’ve had lots of installers asking about projects at the show. It’s halfway through day one and we’ve had at least eight project discussions so far.”

Also in the RGB area were products from Lutron and invisible speakers from Revolution Acoustics, which were garnering a lot of interest from visitors.

On the Oceanair section was a new wire-free option for blinds, which the manufacturer said is a feature that is unique to the brand.

David Webster, chief technology officer, RGB, explained: “It’s a high end offering, it’s very custom, virtually unlimited and very bespoke. We are here to provide the hand-holding into the blind market for installers.”

David added: “This is the first showing of our Internet of Thing (IoT) division, our first product in this sector being Nest – which we’ve had lots of interest in.

“The classic custom installers are now being asked by their customers about Nest. Or on the other end of the scale we have electricians trying to get into the custom install market by using Nest – this is a great way for them to get their foot in the door. It’s sold as a DIY product, but it’s really a DIFM (do it for me) product!”

Addressing the relationship between Savant and RGB, David said, “We have been so successful with Savant distribution that we are now Savant Europe. It’s a code-free control system and that’s why installers like it.”

New for the show was the Savant Remote, which integrates seamlessly with Sonos.

C-Hear Distribution Ltd was established just last year, but in that year the company has been able to grow to include a wide choice of different brands specialising in residential, commercial and marine integration.

Brands on show included James Loudspeaker, ATI Amplifiers, Theta Digital, Nexus21, FireFX, Fusion Research, AIA Ascendo, SOEE and Symetrix.

Miguel Soto, owner of the company, said: “We are focused on the residential market. A new brand for us here is Key Digital, which makes integrated control systems, although our range of James Loudspeakers have had lots of visitors asking questions, as has the Nexus TV lift.”

Alltrade was featuring its distribution of the HDL, Sonos, Sanus, Blustream and Triax brands.

Piers Johnston, sales manager, added: “The UBIQUITI networking system seems to be quite a draw in the last couple of days. Either they already do it from somewhere else, or it could be that more people are beginning to understand the benefits of networking.”

Piers held a packed seminar during the show called: How will Sky Q impact your business?

Piers explained: “This is very topical at the moment, especially from a satellite and aerial perspective. We had lots of people on the stand on the first day in particular.”

Mike Bonnette, product director for Connected Distribution, stated: “We’re focusing on the Russound audio distribution brand, advanced network video streaming and some of the speakers that we do for different applications, like home cinema and distributed audio.

“Installers have been most interested in the wireless distributed audio product, closely followed by the Russound distributed audio products – this is one of our most popular brands.

“Generally what we get is that guys get a project, then they’ll come to us and discuss what’s the best product for that site, then we’ll try and get them to go back to the client and ask them questions, find out what their expectations are, so then we can meet those and raise the bar.

“The questions we’ve been getting a lot here are how to integrate systems using iPads and whether the customer will find the products easy to operate. Our products’ Apps are really easy to use, so we have this covered.

“The people that come here are pre-qualified, so they’re all really interested in the products that we do, which is great.

“Many manufacturers make similar products, so they want to come and find out how we do ours and how we would put them into a home. Then they can make the decision as to whether it’s right for them. We’ve really enjoyed the show; it’s been really good.”

KNX and Control4 integration was the order of the day on the Janus Technologies stand.

Richard Caton, company MD, explained: “What we’re showing is integration between Control4 and KNX; what we have developed is a completely universal solution allowing you to control a KNX thermostat.

“We like to think that we can solve any kind of software problem in this space, whether that be developing a driver solution for RTI or a bespoke android App to sit on a phone in a hotel room, we can help people develop these types of customised solutions.

“Installers like the fact that they can come to us and we can provide these solutions for them; we can actually talk to the providers meaning that they don’t have to worry about it. We act as their interface.”

Also focusing on KNX, Sam Pound-Jones, sales lead, Ivory Egg, said: “We’ve had really good feedback about our new training course – previously there was a five-day training course for around £2,000 which was quite a high level of entry for people to adopt KNX.

“We’ve broken that down into two courses: so there’s a three-day course and a two-day course.

“The courses give installers the skills they need to adopt KNX successfully and get on with projects and they can become rubber-stamped and KNX certified at a later date with the other part of the course.

“Up until now, it has been very hard for AV installers to justify that initial investment of KNX.

“To have an uptake of training courses for the next two, three months based on this show has been fantastic; there’s been a really good quality of contacts here.”

Aerials & Cables Equipment (ACE) distribution was concentrating on the HD Media Partnership part of its offering which includes a SKY referral scheme.

The company also had on show its garden speaker systems and CCTV. Lots of interest was generated in the Polk garden speakers and the CCTV systems which offer HD over coax performance. 

CIE AV Solutions took the chance to offer more detail on products it offers from the CYP brand.

Martin Featherstone, CYP audio visual product manager, explained: “We represent a large number of brands in the UK, but at this show we are really focusing on CYP. We’re trying to focus on integrated solutions and how AV solutions can truly work together.

“We like to meet new faces here as well as old faces, it’s good just to have a chance to talk to people about the new products that are available from us and also how they can use all of these new products in more installations.

“People are looking for a complete solution and sometimes alternatives to things that they are used to installing. We can help with system design and we can guide them through the process of specifying and design. We’re not just a distributor; we do more to help out.”

Unicam showcased two new additions to its line up including Garvan speakers, which offer a wide range of speakers including in-wall, on-wall, bookshelf and a product designed to stand out called the drop. It’s not just indoor speakers that Garvan specialise in either – with a range of outdoor speakers also available.

The other new brand is Viveroo in-wall iPad docks. Available in both landscape and portrait, the iPad docks can be used in both commercial and residential installations. For commercial integrators, a locking mechanism on the iPad docks ensures that the iPad remains securely in the wall.

As for the company’s existing brands, Ad Notam was paid particular attention with the bespoke German brand offering a range of glass and mirror TVs ranging from 13in up to 84in with any type of glass, any colour of glass available. Novasonar, plaster in-wall speakers were also on the stand.

Teleste had a range of test equipment from T3 Innovation on show, as well as a whole host of products from ZeeVee. The T3 Innovation products enable installers to test their data comms networks and the coaxial networks for continuity and ensure they get the right pairs on the data network. The tools also have the ability to actually test switches and see what capability of the switch is.

Teleste also showed off a DVB-T modulator from ZeeVee that enables installers to create their own Freeview channel.

All products are manufactured in the US and are constantly updated with new firmware and because they’re MPEG-2 they’ll work with MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 screens, so there’s no compatibility issues. They’ve also got 200Mb of on-board memory so installers can create their own digital signage content and send that as a separate channel, so they’re ideal for commercial projects, high-end residential, call centres, restaurants and stadiums.

All of the set-up is done through an on-board web browser called Maestro, which is designed to be simple to set-up, so installers can change anything at a later date if needed.

The company also showcased Mocha which enables installers to send data alongside the usual TV pictures up to 60Mb.

When someone buys a new smart TV or they want to activate the smart TV, the manufacturer tends to recommend Wi-Fi or PowerLine, both of those technologies can’t really support 4K, Mocha allows users to get up to 400mb at each point-to point on the network and is described as very simple to set up.

There can be 16 boxes in a network, each one with its own MAC and IP address, they basically poll each other to see who is on the network, a new one gets added automatically when comes into the group. 

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