Bjorn's Blog

The Power of Voice Control

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

As voice recognition gets better and better, the future of the smart home looks brighter than ever. When we think of the home of the future, instantly we think of controlling it all with our voices. That future is now a reality. And while voice control and recognition has been around for a while in various iterations, it’s gotten a bit of a bad rep. That’s because by and large, users find voice recognition technology in devices to be frustratingly slow and plagued with errors. The fact remains, however, that voice recognition is more convenient than typing or hitting buttons on a remote control, smart phone or computer.

Recently, Consumer Technology Association’s chief economist, Shawn DuBravac, stated that in 2017, the word error rate in voice recognition technology will have decreased from 23 percent in 2013 to zero. “The next computer interface is voice,” he added. DuBravac also pointed to the increasing focus on hub devices, like Amazon Echo, for vocal computing, with companies at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in January expected to show products offering more capability with devices like these.

Amazon is putting its Alexa voice assistant technology in tons of devices, such as its Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Tap in an effort to take over the smart home with inexpensive electronics. Apple, of course, is big on voice interaction with Siri, and has integrated Siri in to new Apple TVs so that you can search a movie without having to annoyingly type on a keyboard plastered on your TV screen. Apple also has a framework for smart devices called HomeKit, that can be controlled with Siri as well. You can ask Siri to turn an appliance on or off, or set one of your home scenes, for example.

While these types of devices and technology are very mainstream, home automation companies have been using voice control for some time. Now they are using some of these more mainstream technologies in their own products instead of using proprietary ones. One well-known home automation manufacturer just announced integration with Amazon Alexa, Amazon Tap and Amazon Fire TV, providing homeowners with the convenience of whole-home automation through simple and intuitive voice commands that can activate smart home scenes and control individual devices.

In fact, most home automation manufacturers have incorporated voice activation into their products in one way or another, allowing you to speak different, simple commands to control your entertainment such as “Apple TV” or “ESPN.” Say “brighter” and your lights will ramp up instantly.

All of this is great news for the homeowner, who can expect not only more accurate speech recognition technology next year, but voice control integrated into nearly every aspect of his or her smart home technology. This category will continue to improve until it’s so intuitive, it will no longer be a topic of conversation.

Want to control your home by voice? Come in to Bjorn's and experience it today in our very own Smart Automation House inside our store! See just how simple it can be. 

Connect your life with smart home technology by Bjorn's. It's smart, easy, convenient and can save you time and money.

Posted in Alexa, Amazon Echo, Control4, Google Home, Home Automation, IoT, Network, Siri, Smart Home, Smart Home Automation, Voice Control

The 2016 Summer Games Start Today

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

Summer is here, and it's time to get ready to watch the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in all their glory. If you can’t make it to Rio for the real deal, the next best thing to being there is to enjoy your favorite sport or event at home. What better time to upgrade your system? After all, the Summer Games only happen every four years. Here is your guide to make it feel as if you were there, and to getting all the excitement of the Summer Games, wherever you happen to be in the world.

Get it on TV
Before you can watch the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, you need to know how and where to get your content. NBC will be broadcasting the games yet again, on both the NBC and NBC Universal family of networks. TV coverage will start on Friday, August 5 with the always entertaining and visually stunning Opening Ceremony. After that, primetime coverage will be running until August 21. (For updated details and channel listings, visit NBCOlympics.com as the event gets closer).

Get it via live streaming
The Olympics will also be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports Live Extra app, available for your tablet or smart phone. You can check the live streaming schedule at nbcolympics.com/live-stream-schedule

Get it in top quality
More than a billion people will end up watching at least some of the Olympic games at home. In order to fully appreciate them, you need a great home theater or media room set-up. Again, this is a perfect time to upgrade your system. There’s nothing quite like enjoying the Olympics on a big, high-definition TV with a killer sound system. For the best viewing experience, we recommend you scrub up your system. For example, check your cables, wires and settings to make sure you are getting true high-definition. Go bigger if your set it small and consider getting a 4K UltraHD TV an don’t settle for the audio your TV set provides, either. At the very least, amplify it with an external soundbar or invest in a nice surround sound system. Finally, we recommend a really good TV (or projector) calibration so you can make sure your settings are optimized for the best possible image quality.

Come in or call us today. We’d love to get you on the road to Rio in your very own living room.

Posted in 4K, Audioquest, Bjorn's Audio Video, Rio 2016, Speakers, Stereo, Televisions, Ultra HD

The Art of Concert Going

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

Summer is the season to get outdoors and see some live music, whether it’s a multi-day music festival or a concert with the family in the park. There’s nothing quite like packing up a picnic for an evening under the stars or getting an all-access pass to see some of your favorite bands live.

Imagine what it takes to execute one of these events. It all starts with the artists onstage, feeding their music into microphones that are amplified and broadcast across a venue, large or small, indoors or out, with the help of amplifiers. Lighting is critical to stage presence, and furthers the artistry of the band. Video is often used to tell a story or paint a dramatic backdrop as the music plays on. Being in that moment and part a crowd of fans can be spectacular and even nostalgic.

For the best possible concert-going experience, we recommend giving yourself plenty of time to get to the venue itself. Parking at a crowded stadium and walking to the venue can take some time. If it’s a band you love but haven’t listened to in a while, brush up on their repertoire by downloading or streaming music from typical set lists to your phone. Check out www.setlist.fm/ before you go to see what’s in store and get reacquainted. Stay hydrated, and most importantly, have fun!

While there’s nothing quite like being there, the live experience can be replicated in the home. For this, we recommend not only listening to live concerts but watching them on Blu-ray. There are some unbelievably great recordings of live performances that include state-of-the-art music mixes, many of them in surround sound. Queen’s Rock Montreal & Live Aid (Eagle Vision), Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (Palm Pictures), Legends of Jazz (WEA), for example, are all iconic performances that you can find on Blu-ray and some of which offer things like Dolby TrueHD multichannel sound and pristine video transfers. We also recommend Roger Waters The Wall, one of the first music-oriented Blu-rays to be presented in Dolby Atmos, the immersive object-based surround sound format. The film details one of the most elaborately staged theatrical productions in music history as Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters performs the band's critically acclaimed album The Wall in its entirety. Not into these artists? Check out your favorite artist on Blu-ray to get a live, surround-sound experience in your own home theater.

For the best live concert experience at home, give your home theater a tune-up. For starters, you want surround sound, which means multiple speakers and a subwoofer. Now’s a great time to upgrade to Dolby Atmos, as we expect this format will become more and more popular for concert DVDs as it becomes more mainstream. (You’ll also love the way it sounds on your favorite movies!) We’d be happy to help you calibrate your speakers to make sure you are eeking out every bit of performance from your investment. It’s amazing how much better a properly calibrated speaker system can sound on your favorite live music.

Whether you are staying home or stepping out for an evening of music, your favorite artists deserve the best possible presentation. Come in or call us to bring the live experience to your home. We’re here to help!

Posted in 2-Channel Audio, Audioquest, B&W, Concerts, Live Music, Music, Speakers, Stereo

Spring Has Sprung: 18 Tips to Get Your Backyard Ready!

Posted on May 06, 2016 by April Akkola | 0 Comments

We report on outdoor A/V nearly every spring. That’s because the trend gets stronger and stronger every year as homeowners increasingly want to spend time outdoors, as evidenced by every consumer electronics magazine under the sun devoting entire issues to the concept. Best practices for outdoor A/V remains largely unchanged with the exception of a few fun trends. Here are 18 tips and tricks, however, for getting your space ready, not to mention creating an out-of-this-house A/V experience.

1. Wireless audio is your new BFF. While we always prefer a hardwired connection for audio quality, wireless home audio systems are great for getting music outside, without a lot of planning or structural wiring.

2. The more outdoor speakers, the better. For those purists who want to get the best sound, we suggest more speakers dispersed throughout your patio or backyard for even coverage aimed toward the home so that you won’t annoy the neighbors.

3. Create fun playlists. Without tunes to liven things up, it’s not really a party at all.

4. Plan for permanent fixtures. It’s important to plan for permanent outdoor electronics. For example, you need to install pool speakers before the concrete is poured, and conduit will need to be run to any permanent outdoor video displays.

5. Look for speakers that blend in. Compact speakers designed with flexible mounting options are increasingly popular because you can place them in trees, bushes or virtually anywhere.

6. Involve us from the beginning and wire for more speakers than you need. You may decide later on that you want more!

7. Allocate the proper space for in-ground subwoofers, which produce great bass outdoors.

8. Invest in a waterproof, rugged iPad cover or remote for outdoor control.

9. Never use indoor gear outdoors. You can’t simply take your TV outside, install it and expect it to hold up to the elements.

10. Run video wiring to several different locations so that you can put video in one or more spots should you decide to add more than one screen in the future.

11. Choose an outdoor display at the largest size so that you can put video in one or more spots should you decide to add more than one screen in the future.

12. For outdoor TVs, make sure to get a mount that includes a lock and key mechanism to prevent theft.

13. Protect your investment with outdoor security. A simple IP camera tied into your control system should do the trick.

14. Light it rightto set the mood and add to your home’s safety. We can program the right lighting for various activities, like watching TV outside, a late night dip in the pool or a soak in the hot tub.

15. Add specialty lighting to your pool(such as color-changing LED) before the water is added.

16. Add outdoor wireless access points to boost signal for continuous Wi-Fi coverage outside.

17. Wow your guests with an outdoor movie theater, complete with weatherproof screen and drop down projector. Just remember that the appropriate housing is important.

18. Add other living elements, such as a grill, wood-burning pizza oven or outdoor seating.

Follow these guidelines and we guarantee you’ll begin to enjoy your outdoor spaces more than you ever have. Plus, we’ll do all the heavy lifting. Give us a call or call us to learn more!

The Full Cinematic Experience, Now Available In Your Home.

Posted on April 01, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

The Cinematic Experience

The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, which is now available digitally, was filled with whirring lightsabers and chaotic action scenes. The theaters were packed as the amazing, crystal clear sights and sounds of Tie-Fighters roaring across the skies and lightsaber battles filled the room. Whether you got to see the movie in theaters or not, 2016 is the year to upgrade your home theater and recreate that exciting cinematic experience right inside your own home. Technology continues its steady march onward, and manufacturers are offering incredible quality—especially in audio and increased image fidelity—at prices that won’t break the bank. So if you want the incredible experience of feeling like you’re right there in the middle of each scene, read on and find out how you can recreate that perfect cinema experience.


4K Ultra HD TV
It wasn't so very long ago that 4K Ultra HD TVs were something only for those with tens of thousands of dollars to spare. Now, prices have come down enough that most of us can afford a 4K Ultra HD TV. While 4K Ultra HD content is still relatively sparse, these sets can make even high-definition content look better thanks to their internal video upscalers, so you don't have to wait. After all, the equipment always comes before the content so when the time comes you'll be ready to go.

HD and 4K Projectors
Want a bigger screen, but don't want to sacrifice image quality? 4K projectors are also popping up on the home theater scene, allowing for an even larger Ultra HD image on a huge projection screen. And when you see Ultra HD on a big screen, you'll see what all the fuss is about. Come in for a demo, we promise it will blow you away.

Wireless speakers
We prefer a wired speaker over a wireless one for reliability and quality, but there's no denying that wireless home audio is the future. Investing in a good pair of wireless speakers or a wireless home audio system is key to building the perfect, hands-free home theater. We're talking more than just a portable little Bluetooth speaker that you can buy at the drugstore. For music fidelity, you need power, features and flexibility.

Dolby Atmos
In many movies and TV shows, the sharpness of the sound is lost in the mix when using conventional audio systems. Dolby Atmos will expand your audio by unlocking up to 128 simultaneous audio objects. That translates to a fuller, richer audio quality that conventional speakers alone simply can't compete with.

A better network
We've said it before and we'll say it again: A great home entertainment experience depends on the solid foundation of a robust home network. The routers your cable company provides simply aren't going to cut it anymore. You need more power, more coverage and more bandwidth to ensure that every area of your home has wireless coverage that won't drop out or get clogged up. We can help you accomplish this quickly and painlessly.

Come in today (14123 Hwy. 281 N.), call us (210-828-3237) or click here to set up a demo of any or all of these technologies. After all, you deserve to have the very best performance when it comes to your favorite movies and content. We can help you get there, simply and affordably.

Posted in 4K, B&W, Bjorn's Audio Video, Definitive Technology, Dolby Atmos, Home Network, Home Theater, Network, Networking, OLED, Projectors, Sony, Speakers, Stereo, Televisions, Ultra HD

10 Ways to Tidy Up and Upgrade Your System for Spring

Posted on March 22, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

 

It’s that time of year when we all get out our dusters and stock up on cleaning supplies to give our living spaces a bit of a refresh. When you’re ready to get moving on some serious spring cleaning, don’t leave your electronics out of the equation. They deserve a good once over too, not only for appearance’s sake, but for top performance as well. Here are 10 ways you can spruce up your electronics this Spring for a sparkling image, sonorous sound and an aesthetically pleasing systems.

1) Connect all your equipment to a high-quality surge protector or power conditioner to get pure, clean power, eliminating noise, artifacts and interference in A/V, while protecting your gear from damaging surges.

2) Do a quick video calibration to make sure your picture settings are optimized. A video calibration will get your system to the best possible performance based on your environment and preferences. We can help with this.

3) Check your connections. If connections are loose or you feel like the picture quality is not up to snuff, you may need to upgrade to a better HDMI cable.

4) Test your speakers. Sometimes, wires are connected to the wrong speaker, whether it’s a stereo or multichannel surround setup. We can do a quick scan to make sure the sound from your speakers is accurate and tuned to your room.

5) Organize your wires. Labeling and grouping wires will keep them from collecting dust bunnies.

6) Consider ventilation. Aside from harmful power conditions, there is no greater enemy to the life of your equipment than too much heat. Heat trapped in an unventilated equipment room or rack can lead to equipment malfunctioning or shutting down altogether.

7) Amplify your network. The wireless home network is the backbone of the home entertainment system, and you need one that goes beyond what the Internet Service Provider can provide for true performance. Say goodbye to buffering forever!

8) Consider upgrading. There is a lot of great technology that is becoming more and more mainstream. 4K Ultra HD TV looks incredible and prices are coming down. Meanwhile, wireless home audio systems and affordable home automation systems are better than ever.

9) Fix your furniture. This is a good time to consider (or reconsider) your furniture. Does it have wire management capabilities? Is it your style or something you purchased just to house your gear? There are more options than ever, for any taste.

10) Clean it up! Finally, spring clean your system in the truest sense, using electronics cleaners to shine up your screen. Dust behind your electronics and make sure everything is fingerprint-free.

Give us a call (210-828-3237) or contact us on the web for upgrades, calibrations and streamlining your electronics system. Your home will feel invigorated and your system will look and sound better than ever!

Posted in 4K, Audioquest, Bjorn's Audio Video, Furniture, Home Network, Networking, OLED, Outdoor Living, Panamax, Speakers, Streaming Content, Televisions, Ultra HD

Is Your Network Ready for What's Coming in 2016?

Posted on February 03, 2016 by Kris Dybdahl | 0 Comments

You stream media all the time, but do you really know what that means? In essence, streaming is an alternative to downloading content to a hard drive and storing it there for playback, which can take up a lot of space on your device and take a long time to complete. Simply put, streaming is content—like TV shows and music—that isn’t stored on your device but that is constantly received and presented to you while being delivered by the provider. This means you don’t have to wait for a movie to download before you watch it nor do you have to store it on your set-top box, iPhone or other device. You can playback while subsequent data is being received.

So take this typical scenario. You’ve got your daughter streaming Netflix in the bedroom, your son playing online games in the garage and your wife listening to Pandora on Sonos while you stream Game of Thrones on your iPhone from the treadmill. The unwelcome buffering wheel can bring all this fun to a screeching halt. That’s because with all this great streaming content comes a heck of a lot of data flowing around the home—especially if you want to enjoy high-definition content. The more content streamed, the more the WiFi in your home will clog up.

What you may not know, however, is that there are solutions. Oh yes, you can heal thy streaming snafus with a more robust home network, preferably one installed (and even maintained) by a professional. For large homes, we can install multiple wireless access points to ensure continuous, even coverage across the house. In fact, for homes with a lot of streaming entertainment demands, we often install enterprise-grade routers and other products that go well beyond what your local Internet service provider will typically install. As an added bonus, a lot of home entertainment and networking gear can be maintained remotely. Instead of us coming out to your home on Super Bowl Sunday to fix something, more than likely, we can troubleshoot it over the internet, saving you time and money while adding convenience.

Wondering where to stream music and movies from? There are the old standbys for video like NetFlix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV and Hulu, but then you also have more niche services like Mubi—which has more obscure movies—along with cable network channels that are getting into the streaming game, including HBO Now, CBS All Access and Showtime. Free content abounds online as well with providers like YouTube, Crackle, Funny or Die and others. 

For the music lover, you can stream Spotify and Pandora free, sign up for their commercial-free and more feature-rich paid services, or go the iTunes or Google Play route. We are also digging the new Tidal high-resolution streaming service, the first of its kind.

Whatever content you fancy, content abounds. You just want to make sure you can play it. Call or come in today and we’ll get you on the road to smooth streaming for what is going to be a content-rich 2016

Posted in Amazon Prime Video, Home Automation, Home Network, Hulu, IoT, Netflix, Network, Networking, Streaming Content, You Tube