Category: blog

Office Move and Business Growth


We have moved

We have recently completed an office move due to outgrowing our old building.  This is an exciting (but often stressful!) time for us, we have now completed the move to the new premises which is nearly twice the size of our old building.  We are some way off from being settled though as you can probably imagine.

We will be doing lots of work in the new office to make it our new home, but this will be interspersed with our current workload and carried out over time.

While on the subject of workload…..Did we mention the sort of work we do?

Well here’s a list of some of it: –

  • Residential Smart Home Systems
  • Commercial Audio Visual
  • Public Address
  • Control Systems
  • Home Automation
  • CCTV
  • Security Systems
  • WiFi systems and networking
  • Voice Controlled Smart Systems
  • Wireless Broadband Connectivity
  • IRS Reception Systems
  • Lighting Control
  • Heating and HVAC Control
  • Gate Automation
  • Bespoke Builds


Call us on 01604 211200 or email today

Alternatively, head over to our contact page and drop us a message via the contact form…



Productivity with Public Address Systems

What is a Public Address System?

The definition of a public address system, is a collection of equipment such as microphones, amplifiers and loudspeakers used to distribute speech and music across a building or area.  Some people would refer to a public address system as a ‘Tannoy’.  In fact Tannoy is a brand name and a manufacturer of audio equipment.  This is much like people referring to vacuum cleaners as ‘Hoovers’.

Sound Designs Ltd have been designing and installing public address systems since 2005.  Our staff have experience of public address which goes way back further than this.

We have been fortunate enough to have been involved in some very unique and prestigious projects over the years including: –

  • Several sports stadium audio systems
  • Police Force control rooms
  • Cold store warehouse public address (-40°!)
  • Hotel music and speech systems
  • Invisible audio systems in listed buildings
  • High performance systems for high end jewellery stores
  • Mobile systems for rapid deployment
  • Local authority meeting chambers
  • Corporate communications systems
Cabinet speaker

cabinet speaker

What are the benefits of a public address system?

Depending on what your business is, the benefits of a public address system can be numerous.

Getting urgent messages around a building can be achieved in just seconds.  Alerting staff to visitors.  Even announcing the arrival of the lunch time food van!  Uses for speech announcements can be very varied.  Then there is music.  Staff productivity and moral is shown to be increased with the addition of music to the workplace.

Staff who are able to listen to music in the background are often shown to be happier in the workplace which in turn leads to higher productivity and greater employment loyalty.

Lastly there are emergency uses.  Depending upon the application will determine the type of system required for this, but for certain sites, an emergency system can quite literally mean the difference between life and death and some buildings will require this type of system by law.

Is Your Data Secure? – NAS drives and their benefits

Did you have a nice holiday last year?…  How about that family Christmas meal?


Or those first days with your new born child.   All those precious memories captured with your camera or phone that you can look back on in years to come.

Or can you??

What do you do with your most precious and secure data?  is it on your computer or laptop?

I hate to break it to you but unless you have a very good backup plan and regular routine, you are getting closer and closer to the day when you permanently lose all of your photos, videos, music etc etc.

Almost all of the smart home installations that we carryout benefit from the installation of a NAS drive (Network Attached Storage).  This is a device that runs permanently on your home network and can be used to back up all of your data.  You may ask what the difference is between storing it on a NAS and storing it on your laptop?  A very valid question!


All hard disc drives fail, especially conventional ones that have a motor and moving disc inside.  The latest SSD’s are slightly better but certainly not immune from failure!

Your computer will almost certainly have just one hard disc drive.  So when this fails (not if!) you will very likely lose all of the data stored on it.

The Solution…

A multiple disc drive NAS like the ones we supply our customers are slightly different.  They have two or more hard disc drives installed and all of your data is mirrored across those drives.  When one drive fails, your data can almost always be recovered by replacing the faulty drive. Then allowing the NAS to rebuild the mirrored data again from the still functioning drives.  Of course it’s not truly infallible, but it’s a huge step forward in terms of protecting your valuable data.  There are further steps you can take which we have employed for clients where even this is not enough data security.  Off-site mirrored copies are kept too, this then protects against building related problems like flood, fire, lightening etc.  But taking that first step in installing a NAS drive could make a huge difference to your life when that inevitable hard drive failure happens!




Other benefits for using a NAS are that you can create your own personal cloud service.  It makes it very easy to share your files with others and even get access to your data from anywhere in the world.

For any enquiries or for information on how to purchase a NAS. Please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

Control4 Single Room Bundles!

Control4 Bundles, Here They Are!

We recently announced on our social media feed that we would be packaging some Control4 bundles together. These bundles are able to offer a single room installation at a bargain price. Well here they are!

This is a perfect start into the world of Control 4 smart home systems. and is something that can be expanded upon at any time. It’s important to note that this is NOT just a programmable remote for your TV. It’s a fully featured Control4 system that uses the latest EA1 system processor.

The idea of these bundles are to allow you to benefit from a Control 4 system in just one room of the house. (Most likely the room with the most audio visual equipment).

Each of the three bundles offered below includes full installation.  This includes the initial set-up, programming and user training.  The offer is valid within a 30 mile radius of Northampton. If you are further away we will still honour the bundle price, but charge a small fee for traveling time.

Sound Designs Ltd are a Control 4 authorised dealer and a Cedia member (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association).  We have been in business offering audio visual services since 2005.  Sound Designs are not an electrical contractor, or security installer trying their hand at ‘something new’.  We are a specialist AV installer offering the very best products and services in the industry.

Cedia Member

Control4 Authorized Dealer

The Benefits Of Control4

To give you an idea of what benefits these bundles will offer you, here’s an example UK living room set-up and what Control 4 will offer once installed:


Control4 Living Room


Living Room Audio Visual Equipment:

  • Sony 55″ Smart TV
  • Sky HD Receiver
  • Samsung Bluray Player
  • AppleTV
  • Sony Playstation
  • Yamaha Surround sound system



In the above example there would be four remote controls. These would be replaced by just one Control 4 interface. The SR260 in the case of bundle 1 and 1a, or the 7″ mobile touchscreen with bundle 2.  The same user interface will also be available on mobile devices and the TV itself.

How It Works

The Control4 processor takes control over the above devices in order to offer a single user interface for control and also to automate some functions. Most devices are controlled either via infra-red where the controller emits a light signal that mimics the device’s own remote control. Other devices use IP commands sent via your internet router to the device as a form of network control.  The level of control available is dependent on the device and how easily it integrates.  Devices with no level of control are incredibly rare.

  • The Sony TV – Controlled via either IP or infra-red depending on it’s model and year.
  • The Sky HD Receiver – Controlled via infra-red.
  • The bluray player – Controlled via infra-red.
  • The AppleTV – Controlled via IP.
  • The Sony PlayStation doesn’t have any direct control. However the TV will switch on to the correct input.
  • The Yamaha amplifier – Controlled via IP.

Having all devices controlled by the Control4 processor means that certain tasks are automated. As an example, watching Sky TV uses just two button presses. The Control 4 processor would handle turning on all relevant equipment and changing settings to suit. Once powered up, the Control 4 remote becomes the Sky remote for you to surf your favourite channels.

Switching the system off is even easier with a single button push!

Every living room is different and differing combinations of equipment will change how the system is installed and set-up. However Control 4 as a system is able to integrate with thousands and thousands of products.  So whatever your audio visual set-up, the system will make your living room life easier and your viewing more pleasurable.

The Bundles

Bundle 1 consists of an EA1 processor, SR260 handheld remote control and installation of the mobile app on your devices. The system is installed and programmed to control up to 4 infra-red devices in your living room and unlimited IP controlled devices (Subject to driver availability). A Control4 customer account is created and full user training given.

Control4 Bundle 1

Control4 Bundle 1


Bundle 1a has all of the features of bundle 1 with the added benefit of a recharging station and lithium battery for the SR260 remote handset.

Control4 Bundle 1a

Control4 Bundle 1a


Bundle 2 is an upgrade that replaces the SR260 with a 7″ full colour mobile touchscreen panel. This offers a fully graphical user interface that is always on, ready for action. The user interface seamlessly mimics the same user interface that is available on mobile devices and the TV.


Control4 Bundle 2

Control4 Bundle 2


For any enquiries or for information on how to purchase a Control4 bundle. Please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

AmpliFi Mesh Wi-Fi System For Your Home

In this blog post we look at AmpliFi Wi-Fi from Ubiquiti and how it can help solve your home Wi-Fi troubles.

The Problem:

Most households use just their ISP provided router to serve Wi-Fi around their home.  And as a result often suffer poor performance, slow speeds and black spots.

The main problem is that the routers supplied by internet service providers are cheap.  They are designed to cater for the masses whilst maintaining the lowest possible cost to the provider. It’s fair to say that this means they are usually not the best especially when it comes to Wi-Fi. We have found that they usually struggle to provide a decent wireless service to even a modest UK home, let alone a larger home. Problems are not always immediately present or obvious.

Sometimes they present themselves as blackspots within the home where reception of Wi-Fi is simply impossible.  But more often than not the problems are much more subtle and intermittent.  Problems such as slow connection speeds, buffering of audio or video streams, connections dropping out etc are all very commonplace.  Often people just accept it as normal.  However it’s usually a very easy thing to correct by using better performing equipment.


The Answer – AmpliFi:


AmpliFi from Ubiquiti

This is where the likes of Ubiquiti’s new Amplifi mesh Wi-Fi system come in.  Designed for incredible ease of use allowing end user to install and set up in minutes.

We have lots of experience with Ubiquiti products and have been installing their enterprise class Wi-Fi solutions for years.  This however opens up professional Wi-Fi services to the masses by making it really easy to self install.

AmpliFi Router

The AmpliFi Wi-Fi Controller/Router


Being a mesh system means that each part of the system is capable of relaying it’s connection via any other part of the system.  So for example if you purchase the three device pack with a router and two Wi-Fi extenders and the second extender is out of range of the router. The Wi-Fi passes to the second extender via the first extender.


AmpliFi Mesh Multi-hop

AmpliFi Mesh Multi-hop Example


The AmpliFi system is capable of all modern Wi-Fi standards including the latest 802.11AC and has a maximum speed of 1750Mb/s.

Setting up the system is incredibly easy.  The main router can be set-up via a smartphone app, or it’s built in touchscreen display.  The extenders are simply plugged into a mains socket around the home.

The router unit also has ethernet ports built in to connect local wired devices such as printers, computers or games consoles.

AmpliFi Router Rear

Ubiquiti AmpliFi Rear view


In summary, if you are one of the many that suffers endless problems and niggles with your home Wi-Fi service, you need to install the new Ubiquiti AmpliFi system!

For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

Introduction to Control4

Control4 EA Series Controllers

If you like the idea of a control system for your home and would like to know more about what is available from Control4, then please read on . . . . . . .

The heart of any Smart Home System will be the controller. This is the brain that receives instructions or inputs and causes things to happen depending on how it is programmed.

Typical inputs to a controller can be:

  • Touch panel, either wireless or wall mounted
  • Keypad. A wall mounted light switch size panel with configurable buttons
  • Mobile device such as a phone or tablet
  • A dedicated hand held remote similar to a TV remote control
  • Remote switches, door contacts or alarm inputs etc.

The controller can control:

  • Well, just about anything that is electrically powered!

Controller Line-up

Control4 EA Series Controllers

Control4 EA Series Controllers


The current line-up of Control4 controllers consists of the EA1, EA3 and EA5. EA stands for Entertainment Automation controller and the number represents the number of concurrent audio streams it can serve. All controllers have a number of control inputs and outputs consisting of relays, contacts and infra-red, the latter being used to control TV’s etc. In addition they all have wired and wireless network connections.

Some Control4 devices communicate with their controller using a wireless mesh network called Zigbee. The ‘mesh’ is a system that passes commands from one device to another if there is no direct connection between the device and the controller. This is a really useful feature particularly in large installations.

Bespoke firmware called Director runs on the controller. We then use a program called Composer to configure and program the system to do exactly what you want.

Examples of Control4 applications

A very simple installation could consist of an EA1 connected to a TV, surround sound audio video receiver and a satellite receiver. Therefore, with just one button push, the TV, AV receiver and Satellite receiver will turn on in the correct sequence and your favourite channel will appear at the appropriate volume.

What more could you want?

For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

First Look At The Soundcast VG7 Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker

We Look At Soundcast’s Latest Offering

Here at Sound Designs we often get new technology to try out and today is no different. Chris couldn’t wait to open this one when it arrived through the door. The Soundcast VG7 is a high-end outdoor Bluetooth speaker that is rechargeable as well as portable. It boasts 360 degree sound using four 3″ speakers, one on each face of the unit that provide the mids and highs. There is also one 7″ long-throw sub-woofer at the bottom of the unit that provides the lows. All of this is well presented in an excellent looking bit of kit, I think you’ll agree!

Features And Specifications


  • Pair Two VG7 Units for TWS (TrueWireless™ Stereo) Configuration
  • Indoor and Outdoor Audio Modes
  • Weather Resistant Enclosure
  • Stream High-Def Audio via Bluetooth® (+NFC Pairing) with aptX™ and AAC
  • On-Board Track and Volume Controls
  • External Auxillary Connection
  • 4 Discretely Enclosed Speakers for Immersive 360o Sound
  • 7″ Subwoofer
  • Long Life Rechargable Battery


  • One 7″ long-throw woofer in a downward-firing configuration withhigh efficiency BL ferrite motor design for increased battery life and high-performance IMPP cone with butyl rubber surround
  • Four 3″ full-range drivers in a stereo 360º array with high
  • SPL Neodymium motor design, aluminum cones and butyl
  • rubber surrounds
  • Acoustic frequency: 55-20kHz +/-3dB


  • Subwoofer Amp – 30W RMS, Class-D
  • Stereo Amp – 15 X 2 RMS, Class-D


  • Rechargeable internal battery with external AC power supply
  • Play audio via battery or while plugged into AC power
  • DC power via optional 12VDC power adapter
  • Power bank to charge USB devices


  • Built-in Bluetooth 4.2 technology with 8 memory slots
  • NFC auto device pairing (with Bluetooth)
  • Qualcomm
  • TrueWireless™ Stereo (TWS) Circuitry
  • Bluetooth hi-def AAC and aptX™ codecs
  • Proprietary 24-bit DSP
  • Auto muting


  • Aux input 1/8″ (3.5mm) mini jack
  • AC/DC power input
  • USB charging output

Weight & Dimensions:

  • Diameter: 28cm
  • Height: 48cm
  • Unit only weight: 9.5 kgs
  • Shipping weight: 11.8kgs

Our First Impressions

Our first impressions of the Soundcast VG7 are very good. We are still currently undergoing more thorough testing, but initial thoughts from all of us in the office are that it’s a fantastic bit of kit. For it’s size it’s surprisingly loud but not only that it sounds very good as well. No matter what position it is placed in it fills the room very well thanks to its 360 degree sound. Bluetooth pairing was incredibly easy and works pretty flawlessly. We still haven’t had to charge it since it came out of the box even after multiple hours of testing. We will write a more detailed update once we have finished testing but for now check out our unboxing video below.


For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

Speak To Me! – Google Home And Alexa

Using Google Home And Alexa To Control Your Smart Home With Control 4!

In this blog post we look at the very latest in speech recognition technology and how it can improve smart home systems such as Control 4.

Voice Control



Speech recognition and voice control is nothing new. In fact here at Sound Designs, we have experimented with various forms of it for years!

The earlier version of this was using Siri on an Apple iPhone. We have had success in controlling our office systems by simply speaking commands. Turning on the office lights being one example.

A computer running specialist software sat in between the phone and the control system interprets commands on Siri. This command is then forwarded onto the control system so that it can carryout the programmed function. This system worked and worked pretty well! However we didn’t feel it was a solution that could be rolled out to any customer systems.

It felt just a little too ‘clunky’ and basic to install on a customers Control4 system. Also with it being a little too cutting edge and DIY it would no doubt have reliability issues.  So until recently the ideas of voice controlling a smart home installation were that ‘it’s possible’ but it’s not a solution to roll out to clients homes.


I Want Voice Control In My Home

With the introduction of Google Home and Amazon Echo, voice control has suddenly sprung back to the forefront with real promise.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo


We have drivers available for both products to work with Control 4. We even have it fully operational in our office.  The speech recognition of both of these devices is light years ahead of previous voice control technology and they are beginning to introduce real intelligence and interactivity.

So far in our office we only have some basic commands operating but it has proven to be very reliable and the scope of what’s possible is huge.  So much so, that we will be trialing voice control on a customer’s system very soon.

This trial installation is quite large with a cinema room, lighting and heating control, automated curtains and blinds etc.

Google Home

Google Home

The future of this technology is very exciting!  Having such big players leading the way will mean that advancements in the technology will come thick and fast.


Sound Designs Ltd have been installing smart home systems and audio visual technology for residential and commercial clients since 2005. We are based in Northamptonshire but work all over the UK. Providing practical and high performing installations all specifically designed for each application.

For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200

Smart Home Technology And Fire Safety

Smart Home Technology And Safety

With the recent terrible tragedy in London where a fire ripped through a block of flats. It got us thinking about how the smart home technology we install can help with home safety.

Fire call point for Smart Homes

A traditional fire alarm call point


Sound Designs Ltd has installed smart home technology and audio visual systems in residential homes since 2005. And while early systems tended to focus mainly on the entertainment aspect of home life. More modern systems are much more capable and are able to carryout a much wider range of functions.

In fact even what we would class as low level smart home technology can have some really nice safety features.

For example the Nest range of products, if you combine their intelligent heating control with their smoke detectors they are able to interact and prevent the boiler from firing in the event of a smoke alarm activation.

This is a really simple form of interaction but if a boiler developed a fault. This simple interaction could have an incredibly effective influence on the course of events and possibly save lives.


nest thermostat for Smart Homes    Nest Smoke alarm for Smart Homes


Home Automation In Current Times

As mentioned, historically a smart home system has mainly focused on AV (Audio visual) equipment as a way of creating a convenient and high performing entertainment system for the home.

However the custom install industry has increasingly expanded into other elements of technology and home life. We have been a part of this over the last 12 years, installing ever more capable and intelligent systems.

We would be the first to admit that there have been painful periods where systems try to be too intelligent and don’t end up doing as good a job as perhaps the manufacturers portrayed. At times emerging technology has caught out the whole industry (The introduction of HDMI signals springs to mind!).

But now we are in a time where smart home technology has never been better, it’s more reliable, more powerful and manufacturers are much more open to collaboration of products making interactivity much easier to achieve.

So how does this help with home safety?

When it’s easier to make different systems interact with each other, it opens up the possibility to do some very clever things.


Give Me An Example?

An example of this is a residential smart home system recently completed by us in Notting Hill, London. Due to the size of the property it required a full fire alarm system.

We installed a system that handled all of the home AV, lighting, heating and air conditioning. We were able to quite easily create a link between the fire alarm and our smart home system.

Upon fire alarm activation, the home cinema system automatically muted itself. In addition to this escape route lighting lit up all stairways and corridors which provided the safest exit possible. The last aspect of the interaction was to prevent boilers from firing.


Can It Do More?

The interaction on this project could have gone much further but the client decided to restrict it to the above. However we could have had the gates open up to give clear access for the fire brigade. Shut down air handling equipment to limit the amount of fresh oxygen entering the property. Light up further parts of the property and even contact key holders etc etc.

The possibilities are simply huge when you have a solid host system that is capable of linking together all of the systems of the home.

While disaster will never be stopped, it’s refreshing to know that it’s possible to make a real difference to peoples safety by implementing technology to take practical steps in the event of an emergency.


Sound Designs Ltd have been installing smart home systems and audio visual technology for residential and commercial clients since 2005. We are based in Northamptonshire but work all over the UK providing practical and high performing installations all designed specifically for each application.

For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us either through the contact page or call us on 01604 211200