Sight And Sounds

980 David Road, Suite G

Burlingame, CA 94010







Sight And Sounds Newsletter

February, 2009

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Dissappearing Act


Technology Used to Hide Technology…

Many of our newsletters have focused on automation and control, which is our core competency. Integrating Audio/Video, Lighting, HVAC, Pool & Spa, Security, and Access Control, is quite multi-dimensional. Yet, there is more to our industry beyond making things work. Since most of our products and services involve custom installation, we plan to devote this newsletter to the “custom” side of our trade. Automation and control is very exciting, but many clients are concerned about aesthetics and performance. How can we provide the greatest electronic experience without making your home feel like a set from Star Trek? It involves innovative products and detailed craftsmanship to tastefully conceal electronics into your home environment.

Here are several great products we work with on a regular basis to bring a quality listening and viewing experience for our clients, while allowing their home to benefit from a more discreet appearance.


Sound Advance

Sound Advance speakers are virtually invisible. The drive unit is made from a completely flat polystyrene diaphragm and internal coils. A back box is placed into the wall between studs, and wires are run to the back box from the amplifier. If the job is for new construction, the walls are insulated and drywalled. During the taping process, the Sound Advance speaker driver mechanism is installed into the back box and connected to the speaker wires. When the drive unit is placed into the back box, it is slightly recessed into the wall. The four outer sides of the drive unit are taped with a special masking and drywall mud material to adhere the drive unit to the back box and wall. Lastly, a velum sheet is placed over the entire unit, and two layers of the same drywall mud applied. The mud is sanded between two coats, resulting in a completely flush and smooth finish. Looking at the install, there is no visible difference between the speaker and surrounding drywall. The wall can then be textured and painted as necessary.

Sound Advance speakers are perfect for dining rooms, foyers, and other areas where speakers need to be completely hidden. Sound Advance speakers are highly recommended for old-world applications. Some homes have an established look from a certain time period, and speakers could diminish the sense of history if they intrude excessively with the interior. Sound Advance speaker systems are a prefect solution for historical homes.

Here is the link to Sound Advance:



When I was in college during the early 1980’s, I spent my summer vacation time installing what was then a brand new revolutionary product, the flush-mount in-wall speaker. Up and down the Wilshire Boulevard corridor, we spent hot August afternoons cutting open walls, running wires, and connecting flush-mount speakers to stereo systems. Sonance was the company who first invented the flush-mount speaker, and Sonance was the only product available for our first install jobs. Since then, Sonance has continued to manufacture flush-mount speakers, and in 2005, Sonance acquired Sound Advance.

The decision to purchase Sound Advance was a wise move for Sonance, because the innovative minds at Sound Advance were able to develop the same invisible design philosophy to more traditional flush-mount speaker systems. Enter Sonance’s Architectural Series speakers. Much like the Sound Advance, the Architectural Series has a back box that is recessed into the wall. The edges are mudded to create a clean, hard edge. After sanding and paining, the baffle plate containing the speaker drivers is mounted into the recess, and the thin cover plate is pressure fitted into the recessed gap. The end result is a flush-mount speaker is virtually flush. Additionally, the Architectural Series includes a range of cloth and metallic covers to fit most décor requirements.

This same technology is carried over to Sonance’s Visual Performance series, where the speaker trim ring is extremely thin. Behind the trim is a robust frame and superior driver options, creating high-fidelity speaker solution that is far more discreet than other flush-mount speaker systems. The Visual Performance series has a model VP89, which utilizes beryllium drivers throughout. Beryllium is extremely strong, light and heat-resistant, a great material for speaker drivers. The VP89 bass frequency drops all the way down to 30 Hz, and with the added midrange driver, this 3-way speaker provides a full frequency spectrum that sounds more like a large bookshelf or LCR speaker. Since rooms sometimes play at relatively low background music levels, it is important to get a rich tonality at all listening levels, and the Visual Performance series is a great application for quality sound reproduction.

Here is the link to Sonance:



Hate the look of your flat-panel television sitting above the mantle? Put it behind a VisionArt. VisionArt is a framed painting or photograph that rolls up inside its frame, exposing the HDTV when you want to watch television. When finished, the painting rolls down again, making the room look like any other seen in Sunset magazine.

The VisionArt system is based on a "giclee" of an original painting or photo. A giclee is a special digital process, where a piece of art is scanned or digitally captured, then reprinted with extremely high resolution ink application. The resulting image is very close to the look and feel of the original canvas art piece. Since the ink is thick, yet flexible, it becomes the vital medium behind roll-up canvas that covers the display. The VisionArt system can be spooled and unspooled thousands of times without any degradation to the giclee artwork. The VisionArt integrates with AMX and Control4 systems, so there is no need for an extra button or remote to engage the unit.

VisionArt also has a service where they will create a giclee of provided artwork. Since the process involves the digitization of the artwork, the original painting or photograph can be manipulated in size and dimension to fit the exact size requirements for your display. So, if you have your own piece of artwork, VisionArt can incorporate it into their system. VisionArt is the ultimate in discreet display installation solutions.

Here is the link to VisionArt:


Activated Designs

Many people have seen television lifts. In fact, television lifts have been around since the 1955, when Virgil Walker invented the first lift. His company, Auton Systems, is the oldest and most recognizable name in television lifts and other lift mechanisms. A pop up lift actuates through a motor, and all lifts require some sort of motor system to operate. Activated Designs is an offshoot company from Auton, who developed a new motor and drive train for their product line. The team at Activated Designs developed a new high-powered DC motor system that is both compact and quiet. This motor is integrated into a series of telescoping arms that protract to lift and push. The result is a quiet, fast, and extremely versatile base mechanism that can be used in a number of applications.

Their most popular product is their simple telescoping pop up mechanism. Since the lift has no gears and other supporting frame structure, the unit has very little depth. Paired with today’s flat-panel displays, a cabinet with corresponding 46” LCD can be as little as 10” deep. This is perfect for applications where space is at a minimum. We were able to fit one of these lifts between a banister railing and sofa, allowing the popup to hold a display that previously had no place to reside within the room.

But the real story behind Activated Designs is their unique product subset. One such design is an under-the-bed actuator that will pull, turn, and raise a flat-panel display from underneath the bed to its final show position at the foot of the bed (web video link). Because the motor is fast, the process only takes a couple of seconds to perform. Another design is the “Draw Bridge Lift.” This mechanism is designed to sit above the mantelpiece. When engaged, the system pulls the display out from the wall and lowers it in front of the fireplace to rest at the pre-selected viewing height. This is a perfect application for a living room home theater, where the husband wants to have the HDTV, and the wife wants the fireplace. The Draw Bridge Lift can also be integrated with the Vision Art system, making this a true James Bond experience, maintaining marital bliss between husband and wife.

Activated Designs builds systems that pop up out of the floor, swing down from the ceiling, slide out from the wall, and more. In fact, if you have an idea of your own, Activated Designs will custom design/build to your own unique requirements.

Here is the link to Activated designs:



Whether it is for a home theater, music room, or other environment, these products use technology to make technology itself invisible. In many cases, the look and feel of a living or working environment is a critical factor. Whatever the need, chances are, we have a corresponding solution and application.

The first step is to give us a call or send an email. We can make a site visit and explain the various ways we can help you tastefully install your system.




We look forward to hearing from you. Here is our contact info:




Cliff Roepke's Personal Page:


Cliff Roepke's Music Page:



Wanna make it go away?

This is a photograph from Sound Advance's website. Try to find the speakers. You won't be able to find them, since they are part of the wall structure. (click image for web page)


Speakers that ARE the wall

This Sound Advance SA2 Loudspeaker is literally attached, taped, and mudded with the drywall irself. (click image for web page)


Great-Looking Sound

Sonance's Architectural Series has performance with discreet looks. (click image for web page)


Rolling Artwork

Vision Art has a revolutionalry giclee printing process that allows the base artwork to provide a realistic look and great flexibility. (click image for web page)


Hide and Actuate

Activated Designs has incredible and simple solutions for any requirement. This system handles a very large plasma display. (click image for web page)


Great Performances

With its beryllium bass, midrange, and treble drivers, the Sonance Visual Performance VP89 speaker can play like a large bookshelf or LCR, yet has the looks of the most discreet in wall speaker available. (click image for web page)


Sonance's CEDIA awards on the net

The awards speak for themselves. (click image for web page)