In the first of our “Meet the Dealer” series, WyreStorm sits down with Chris Shaw, owner of Nirvana Audio Visual to find out what makes this top AV integrator from North West England tick.
Name: Chris Shaw | Position: Owner/Managing Director | Integrator: Nirvana Audio Visual
Address: 3 Lockside Office Park, Lockside Rd, Preston PR2 2YS, UK | Phone: +44 1772 731058 | Web: http://www.nirvanaaudiovisual.co.uk
WyreStorm [WS]: Tell us about your business.
Chris Shaw [CS]: Nirvana Audio Visual has been going approximately 10 years now. We initially dealt with smaller residential projects but have moved into much larger, high-end multiple zone residential and some commercial projects.
We currently have 5 engineers but being part of the TVD Group enables us to tap into their resources and take on projects nationwide rather than just in the North West of England, which is where we’re based. As TVD are a ProAV integrator, we are able to pass on the larger commercial projects we get to them and they can pass on the residential projects to Nirvana. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that enables each company to advise on respective projects and decide who is best suited and best equipped to provide the best possible solution.
WS: Tell us about the brands you work with.
CS: We’ve used WyreStorm since the very beginning and we are a Control4 Platinum Dealer. We use both brands for the majority of our AV projects, with C4 as the mainstay of our control systems for residential properties, which integrates perfectly with all WyreStorm distribution products. We interface anywhere from 4 to 32 zones, for whole house AV distribution and control, including home cinema rooms, CCTV, security access, heating control, general audio systems etc. Basically, we offer a complete one-stop shop package of distribution and control.
WS: What kind of projects do you work on?
CS: We’ve seen an increasing number of clients initially work with us on a residential project, being very happy with the result and subsequently return to us with commercial projects. We’ve certainly been able to take our experience in the residential sector over to the commercial, a fact helped by the definite increase in technology crossover between residential into the commercial space we’ve seen recently. However, although we handle some ProAV projects, as a predominantly a residential integrator we pass the majority of commercial projects over to TVD.
WS: Tell us more about your relationship with the TVD Group.
CS: Nirvana merged with TVD as a joint company about a year ago. The idea really came out of our shared belief that there wasn’t a decent-sized company in the UK able to specialize in both commercial and residential projects equally as well. What you typically find is companies that use their expertise in one to carry over into the other – which is what Nirvana and TVD did for our respective sectors. But now with the merger we have two companies acting as one and able to draw on the wealth of experience coming from both sides.
WS: Why do you choose WyreStorm?
CS: We’ve dealt with WyreStorm for a number of years now, despite there being several other companies out there. “Trust” is a word we don’t use easily when it comes to manufacturers, but we trust WyreStorm products. I can use the example of my engineers always referring to the WyreStorm brand whenever they talk about HDMI extenders and matrix switchers, purely because we have had such good results with them in the past. It’s a brand we can install and just know they will work and the level of support offered is phenomenal. We always have confidence with WyreStorm that we can get projects installed that work and if we do have any technical issues they’ll be resolved very quickly. We chose WyreStorm to handle the signal distribution throughout the Nirvana showroom and you can’t get any better endorsement than that. Clients and architects ask us why we use this or that brand over others and with WyreStorm we tell them we’ve used them for a long time, they are so reliable and they’ve never let us down. When you find a brand like that, you’re not even thinking about using another.
WS: Where do you see AV signal distribution going in future?
CS: I believe things will be IP-based going forward for both commercial and residential sectors. In the UK, it was recently announced our main satellite TV provider wouldn’t need a dish anymore and there has been a much greater focus on IPTV generally. Clients are aware of it and are asking about it. HDBaseT transmission isn’t going to disappear but we do see distribution over IP being a major factor going forward.
Certainly, in our experience we’ll continue to see a demand for a centralized AV distribution system, but not in the traditional set formats of 4, 8 or 16 outputs. Clients are now asking for 5, 9 or 17 outputs, so a more flexible solution than a fixed port matrix solution is required, and that’s where the WyreStorm NetworkHD AV over IP is a major step forward. I can say now WyreStorm were way ahead of the curve by launching their NetworkHD AV over IP solution 3 or 4 years ago. The fact they have three different IP technologies means we are confident in being able to specify the one best suited to whatever project application we have.
WS: With IP being a relatively new platform to the residential sector, what’s your experience with AV over IP compared to other technologies?
CS: As we hadn’t had experience with AVoIP, we we’re initially a little apprehensive about using the technology. But WyreStorm’s training and support is fantastic so when a project came along that we felt suited the platform, their advice and assistance made it a surprisingly pain-free experience! We’ve since installed NetworkHD in four projects and from the outset it’s been incredibly intuitive to install and really flexible.
I see NetworkHD as very much an evolution of WyreStorm’s modular approach to its custom HDBaseT matrices in terms of the level of flexibility and scalability. When I look at projects now I know I have more options for the client, rather than telling them “you have this or that many outputs using only this one technology”, so this is opening up different sizes and types of projects purely down to the flexibility of the offering for the client.
WS: What has been the impact of Apple, Amazon and Google in the residential AV sector?
CS: I feel the technology is still playing catch-up so the user experience isn’t quite living up to the expectation in terms of speed of reaction and functionality. I know that from personal experience with my own family, so I wouldn’t advise a client to go for something that I myself wouldn’t use. Like all technology, voice assistants and voice recognition will definitely improve in years to come, so Apple, Amazon, Google (and probably a few more we’re not even aware of yet) will obviously have a place in the delivery of home audio and video, but I think it lives in the DIY enthusiast market at present – something that is perhaps more of a gimmick than a mainstream AV application. I would say that Apple tend to do things right, so it will be interesting to see how Airplay 2 with Siri integration compares to Amazon Alexa and Google Home in that respect.
WS: 2018 will see WyreStorm release a number of solutions using fiber technology. How do you see fiber impacting the market?
CS: With IP and now fiber, the market is definitely going that way. We’re getting asked more and more about it in properties, and with the cost of fiber coming down, the termination of it becoming quicker and easier, and the variety of fiber on offer increasing, it’s definitely become a viable alternative for distribution. There’s an argument to say that from a networking point of view you might not need that, but with 4K and 8K transmission the amount of information needing to be distributed around the property means fiber will be part of your digital plumbing going forward. What’s good about WyreStorm is they not only offer these multiple technologies to give the integrator options, but they are compatible with each so you can use HDBaseT, IP and fiber all within the same distribution. So I’m excited to see the fiber solutions you’ll release this year and how we can utilize them in our own projects to provide the best possible solution for our clients.
WS: What do you see in store for Nirvana Audio Visual over the next 2 or 3 years?
CS: The recent merger with TVD Group means we’ll continue to build upon our reputation and experience to grow organically. I mentioned us moving more into larger scale luxury residential projects but also the level of repeat business we are seeing with past clients upgrading to the latest technology is really positive. For example, previous clients who have been very happy with the early WyreStorm dual UTP systems installed 6 or 7 years ago are now asking to be upgraded to the latest 4K solutions. For us it’s a simple matter of swapping out the old and installing the new. The fact we are using the using the same brand gives the client confidence in our initial specification and that the upgrade will give them another 7 years of trouble-free return on investment. Also, as upgrades are by-and-large able to be carried out using the same infrastructure, for us it’s a simple matter of swapping out the old and installing the new, which reduces time and cost for the client and gives them confidence them the initial install was done properly.
WS: From an integrator’s point of view, what challenges to do come across during projects and how do you overcome them?
CS: No matter who installs the cable, which for the majority of our projects is an electrician, one issue we always come across is the quality of that cable not being sufficient or not installed correctly. We stress properties now should be as carefully “digitally plumbed” for infrastructure as possible and work as closely as we can in the design and implementation and are even looking at launching our own first fix team ensure that is the case to mitigate any install issues when it comes to the AV distribution. What I will say though is that even if we come across an issue with the cabling, WyreStorm products either just work or there is always a simple solution that will overcome the issue.
In the UK, we currently have an issue surrounding 4K and satellite TV providers telling end users they can do more than actually they can. For example, Sky are giving the impression their customers can get 4K throughout their house using a wired main box and various wireless boxes in other rooms. But in actual fact 4K is only possible via the main box and the wireless boxes can only pass HD. That kind of messaging confuses end users and frustrates installers.
WS: How have you seen the CI industry evolve and have client attitudes changed to what they want from their AV distribution?
CS: From a UK cultural perspective, properties are changing and the family make-up is changing, with potentially different generations living under one roof perhaps to a greater extent than they used to. So, the wants and needs of the home entertainment is also changing to accommodate. We’re currently working on a property that features 12x bedrooms, 4x receptions rooms, and a number of other rooms in addition to that with several generations of the same family living under one roof so from a control point of view it’s making sure it’s easy to use and from AV distribution perspective its making sure the right products are installed that will achieve that. As I said before, having that level of flexibility that enables systems to change and expand easily is key – for this project for example, the client decided to add an annex during installation. So, with NetworkHD it was a simple matter of adding decoders to the new zones. Had a traditional fixed matrix solution been installed it would have been a far more difficult and expensive alteration.
WS: What is the the most important tip you feel all AV integrators should be aware of?
CS: I’d say to make sure all your digital plumbing is correct and installed to the highest specification you can in the first place. Technology moves so quickly so if the infrastructure is in place, upgrading clients to the latest technology is so much faster, easier and cheaper, which lets them get the best return on their investment and the best out of their home for years to come.