The Most Critical (and Overlooked) Component of Your Home Entertainment System

Published Oct 12, 2012 By HD Living Staff

What’s the most crucial electronic component in your home? Depending on how you use your entertainment system, you may think it’s the receiver or AV processor—the box that routes and switches all of your audio and video, sending sound to your speakers and video to your display.

Or, if your home is automated, perhaps the control processor comes to mind—the box that routes and switches all of your remote control signals, fires up the home theater at the touch of a button, dims your lights, and fills the house with music when guests are on the way over.

Maybe you’re a gamer, and wouldn’t trade your Xbox 360 for a kidney, or perhaps you’re among the new breed of entertainment consumers whose consumption consists mostly of streamed movies and music, making your Roku or Apple TV the one little black box you think you absolutely cannot live without.

There’s one thing you’re forgetting, though—the one little black box that allows all of those black boxes to do their thing: your router.

Of course, there are other components to your home network, the nebulous system of wires and wireless signals that carry information between your computers, smart phones, and entertainment devices, and connects them all to the internet at large. But the router is the essential component—the brain that directs all of those bits of information, telling which bits of information when to go where. It hasn’t been that long ago that the router was responsible for communicating between two or three computers in the home, and nothing more. Then smart phones were added to the mix, often doubling the number of devices that a router had to keep track of. Today we’re adding to the workload of the router at an ever-increasing pace, bogging it down with tablets, weather stations, security cameras, and streaming audio and video; voice-over-IP services like Vonage, Skype, or FaceTime; and even burdening it with the control of many of your home devices, from TVs and surround sound receivers to media boxes and even door locks.

Now, more than ever—and this is only going to become increasingly true in the future—the home network is the very foundation of both entertainment and home control. The only truer statement is that most consumer routers are woefully inadequate at the task of handling all of the streaming audio and video we’re increasingly consuming.

We’ve all witnessed the impact of streaming video on the internet as a whole. Raise your hand if your internet connection crawls to a halt around the primetime hours, when all of your neighbors get home and fire up Netflix (which, by the way, accounts for 20 percent of peak internet bandwidth today, a number that’s projected to go up in the future). Think of your home network as a mini-internet inside your home. If one streaming video service can cripple the professional, multi-thousand-dollar networking equipment employed by your internet service provider, just image what it’s doing to that cheap $50 router you bought at your local discount electronics store.

And the problem isn’t merely a matter of insufficient bandwidth; a network router is also a tiny computer, tasked with keeping track of where all of the bits and bytes flying around your home need to be delivered. That cheap router we mentioned before (or, perish the thought, the free one that came from your internet service provider) may work perfectly well at delivering a few chunks of data at a time—say, if you’re checking your email on your smart phone—but overwhelm it with audio and video and control commands, and anything it can’t get to in one computing cycle gets dumped into a “to-do” list, of sorts. Fill that to-do list, and the router runs out of memory and crashes.

Thankfully, you’re not just limited to the consumer routers clogging store shelves. A custom installer can work with you to develop a robust, reliable networking solution that will not only stand up to the rigors of streaming media and home control today, but the additional bandwidth requirements of the coming years, as well.

And there are a number of tricks that your local custom installer has in his or her toolbox to ensure that when you press play, the media flows, or when you access your lighting control via your smart phone, you’re not left in the dark due to a locked-up router. Products like ihiji invision, which allows your installer to remote monitor, service, and maintain the IP connected devices in your home.


Image courtesy of Pakedge

The last thing your installer wants is for your entire entertainment system to grind to a halt as a result of an unreliable network, so he or she is also more likely to rely on tried-and-true networking components that far exceed the capabilities of store brands. Solutions like Pakedge, which offers bulletproof, secure networking solutions for the home that include rock-solid routers and switches, as well as high-range wireless access points that can be discreetly mounted in the ceiling for the utmost in reliable coverage and décor friendliness.

If your home is much larger than average, or if you’re pushing the limits of the amount of data even a good home network can handle, your installer may also turn to Access Networks, who provide and maintain pre-configured, enterprise-grade networking solutions, custom designed for the specific needs of home automation, multimedia streaming, security, lighting and shade control, communications or whatever specific networking concerns dominate in your home. With Access Networks, the emphasis is less on the specific hardware than it is on creating a robust, secure, reliable, and future-proof networking infrastructure, but its hardware three-year advanced replacement warranty, and boasts a 100,000 hour expected life span, compared to the two or three years you might get out of the average consumer router, if you’re lucky.

No matter which brand of networking solutions your custom installer relies upon, though, the important thing is that he or she knows it, is familiar with it, and is qualified to provide ongoing technical support, so you don’t have to worry about static IP addresses and lost packets and router crashes and channel conflicts. With a robust, reliable, professionally installed network at the foundation of your home’s electronic systems, you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy more dependable performance from all of the little black boxes that you think are more important