Grommets: Perfect Cable Management for Any Decor or Environment

I don’t know how familiar you are with grommets, so I thought I’d take some time today to highlight what is actually a very cool and useful (although oddly-named) category of products.

At some point or another, you’ve probably (at the very least) encountered grommets at work, whether they were built into a desktop or conference table, or installed in a countertop near a POS system. Most often, you’ll see them as black plastic rings that are fitted into the cutouts that allow cables to run through work surfaces – the whole idea being that the grommets will buffer the cutouts’ sharp edges so that cables aren’t accidentally scratched up or cut.

But lest you get the wrong idea, let me be quick to add that grommets aren’t limited to the standard-issue black plastic designs, or even to workplaces. You can find them in schools, theaters, entertainment complexes (think all those arcade games), and more than ever, in homes. And speaking of homes, the grommets just keep getting better to keep up with all of those HGTV-worthy upgrades we’re always after, like granite countertops, home theater setups, and modern furniture. There are grommets available in many different designer metal finishes, wood, and even a rainbow of plastics, so no matter what type of surface you need to run cables through, you can rest assured that even utilitarian grommets won’t drag down your decor.

In addition to different styles, materials and finishes, some grommets also multitask – that is to say, they do even more than just organize and protect cables. Some have built-in USB hubs, some have power outlets and data ports – I’ve even seen grommets that double as desk organizers and have compartments to hold pens and other small items. You never know what you might find.

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Home Theater Cable Management Sweepstakes: Like Us for a Chance to Win

July 24, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Cable Wraps, Cord Covers 

Alright, so I’m technically violating my Strictly Product Review policy for the second week running, but there’s one more giveaway we have going that it would be just wrong not to tell you about: from now through July 31st, 2012 (that’s only 1 week away – yikes!), if you like us on Facebook, leave a comment and fill out a quick entry form (click here to do all three), you’ll be entered to win a free Home Theater Cable Management Kit that we’ve put together just for the occasion.

The main reason I’m getting the word out is, in fact, because the products in the Home Theater Cable Management Kit are pretty standout, and a few in particular are downright killer. The heavy-hitters may even be items that you’ve always loved the idea of, but could never bring yourself to shell out for. Or maybe you didn’t even know they existed. Anyway, now’s your chance to win everything you need for the kind of DIY home theater organization that will make your setup look professionally finished.

The kit includes my two favorites, a flat panel wall mount and an HDTV cord cover, as well as Velcro® wraps, cable clips, raceways and braided sleeving to fine-tune your cable management. But like I said, the flat panel mount and cord cover are my favorites. The screen mount is self-explanatory and it’s desirability is probably obvious, but let me tell you about the HDTV cord cover.

You know when you sometimes see a flat screen TV that’s been wall mounted, and it should look really cool, except that there are wires trailing down the wall below it, and they sort of wreck the whole effect? That’s what the flat screen cord channel is designed to tackle, without you having to actually run your cables in-wall. It installs right onto your wall to cover up and camouflage home theater cables, so all you really see is uninterrupted wall space – you can even paint it for a perfect, seamless match.

So what are you waiting for? This is your chance to get a flawlessly organized and finished home theater without spending a penny or agonizing over product choices. Enter now so you don’t miss out!

Raceway Crown: Giving Low-Voltage Wiring the Royal Treatment

June 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Raceway, Duct and Conduit 

If there’s one type of product that I never get tired of, it’s cable raceway that pretends to be molding. Crown molding, baseboard, chair rail, you name it… if it hides cables while looking like an architectural trim, I’m in love. I’ve done numerous blog posts on different raceway/molding products we’ve added over the years, but today may very well be my final such post.

I’ve met what, to my knowledge, is the end-all of home theater raceways: Raceway Crown™. This isn’t an “it looks really close to crown molding” kind of thing… it is crown molding, and of the best sort: the kind you can stuff low-voltage cables behind, so you never have to see them again. Now, I was lucky enough to buy a house where the crown molding was already installed, and happily, I’m not plagued by visible cables at the moment, but were I crown molding-less and eager to hide some wiring, I’d be all over this stuff like the proverbial white on rice. I’m serious.

Raceway Crown consists of two main components that work in harmony to get things done. First are the brackets, which are installed onto walls by just zipping in a few screws with a power drill – easy. Once the brackets are installed, you thread cable ties through them, and cinch your cable bundles into place. Then comes the actual molding, which snaps onto the brackets to cover up the wires. The icing on the cake comes in the form of the splice covers, pre-formed outside corners and copes, which cover up the seams and keep you from having to make ultra-precise miter cuts (miter cuts being the main thing that deters a lot people from installing crown molding to begin with).

The crown molding raceway is made of white PVC, so you can leave it alone if you want (it will have more or less the same look as wood molding painted with white trim gloss paint), or lightly sand and custom paint it yourself, to match any more creative decor whims. Either way, you’re gonna love this stuff.

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BTX Field-Terminable HDMI 1.3 Cable: Custom A/V With No Waste

There’s something about the word “custom” that always seems to make my heart beat a little faster, but then again, who doesn’t drool at the thought of something being made just for them? For example, I love both books and creative architectural details, and there’s this house in a historic neighborhood not far from where I live, which I’ve affectionately come to refer to as “bookshelf house” in honor of the gorgeous custom built-in bookcases (they’re even lit, mind you) that are visible to passers-by when the house is lit up at night. You’re just driving along, glancing casually at the passing homes, and then suddenly you get an eyeful of perfectly painted crimson walls set off by semi-ornate white bookshelves almost artistically loaded with a small library’s worth of reading material. I can never resist giving that sight a longing, head-turning glance, and it’s almost always inevitably followed by me returning home, walking into my guest room, and staring with disgust at the twin particleboard deals holding a hodgepodge of paperbacks and dust. I like to think that the owners of Bookshelf House must feel pretty darn smug.

While this particular example of custom lust is probably a little too old-school and tech-free for a blog that deals primarily with gadgets and cables, here’s something that’s not: Field-terminable HDMI cable from BTX Technologies. Whether you’re fed up with home theater cables that are always longer than you need them to be or are just Jonesing for something made with only you and your sweet A/V setup in mind, you’ll definitely want to take notice.

BTX’s field-terminable cables are rated to HDMI 1.3 standards, and come in either round or ribbon styles, depending on whether you’re planning on bundling them with neighboring cords (choose round), or routing them flat along the wall (that would be ribbon). The bulk cables are simply measured to the exact length you need (no more paying for or cable-managing a bunch of useless slack) and terminated with specially designed crimp-on connectors that achieve an even stronger connection than soldering.

Both the round and ribbon-style home theater cables are made to be ultra flexible, so they can take most tight bends and curves without risking breakage or attenuation. Durability is further enhanced by the connectors’ additional extended plastic boot and strain relief, which gives your HDMI cables extra support just where they need it most.

Custom is now better than ever.

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Rare Earth Solutions Magnetic Cable Clips: High-Grip Clips Without the Damaging Adhesives or Hardware

I’m the kind of person prefers not to assault visible surfaces with hole-making hardware or sticky adhesives no matter what I’m trying to accomplish, be that hanging a picture or wall-mounting things like bag dispensers. Keep your screws, nails and tacks, and hand me the 3M™ Command™ strips – I’ll use a dozen if I have to. Just don’t make me fill in a nail hole or patch peeled paint where a stick-on product ripped it off.

That’s why I was so intrigued when I came across these magnetic cable clips by Rare Earth Solutions™. Instead of sticking onto or bolting into a surface, neodymium magnets let the clips get a death grip on racks, enclosures, beams and other metal structures, so that you can route cables just about anywhere without having to make any permanent modifications. Aside from the fact that they require a metallic surface to stick to, these magnetic cable clips give you pretty much limitless options: they can be used in both temporary and permanent applications, positioned right-side-up, sideways, upside-down or anywhere in between.

Rare Earth Solutions™ cable clips come in either round or rectangular shapes in a range of sizes, each of which hold up to two cable bundles ranging between ¼” and ¾” in diameter. They’re perfect for garages, home theaters, automotive and aerospace work, stages, and pretty much anything else you can dream up – as long as there’s metal to anchor them to, they’ll work.

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The Scoop Slotted Cable Entry Plate: In-Wall A/V Cables Without the Expense of Pro Installers

April 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Electrical 

When you think of things associated with the word “scoop,” they tend to be classified as “the good stuff”… as in useful information, ice cream, and Woody Allen movies starring Hugh Jackman (don’t worry, boys, Scarlett Johansson’s in it, too). And it’s the same with cable management, hence Arlington Industries® dubbing their super awesome (and more importantly, easy to use) cable plate the Scoop™.

We’ve talked about the Scoop cable entry plate before, but there’s a new version of it that I can’t help showing off: the Scoop with Slotted Cover. While the original scoop has a (you guessed it) scoop-shaped design that helps to neatly transition home theater cables into and out of walls, the new Scoop with a slotted cover makes for an even neater finish, thanks to flexible wedge-shaped flaps that surround penetrating cables to hold them in place and fill in extra gaps around the edges.

In case you’re not familiar with them, cable entry plates like the Scoop are the perfect way to run in-wall low voltage cable without having to hire a professional or go through the hassle of terminating A/V faceplates yourself. That means you can enjoy a great-looking home theater setup without the distraction or clutter of exposed cable by doing nothing more than cutting a couple of strategic holes in your drywall (one where the cables need to start, and another where they need to end), fish your cables through the wall from Point A to Point B, and pop in a couple of entry/exit plates.

Instead of the cables being terminated to faceplates with the appropriate A/V connectors, they just come back through the wall and connect directly to your devices, so it’s essentially the same as running any other home theater cables from one spot to another, except that you happen to be hiding them behind your wall along the way.

A professional-looking finish for cheap – you’ve gotta love it.

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8-Outlet Swivel Surge Protector: These Outlets Twist So You Don’t Want to Shout

April 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Power and Data Distribution 

Ever plug a bunch of stuff into a surge protector and end up one measly outlet short because a couple of the fatter plugs were taking up more than their fair share of space and blocking a technically “free” receptacle? Curses! What are you supposed to do, go out and buy a whole other UPS to accommodate one stupid plug?

Actually, no – just use a 360 Electrical® Swivel Surge Protector to begin with, and you won’t end up in that low and frustrating place.

The entire idea behind the Swivel Surge Protector is that each of its 8 outlets can be strategically positioned in such a way that they can all be used at once, no matter how big neighboring plugs may be. If what you’ll be plugging into Outlet A is bulky enough to impede on Outlet B’s usable real estate, just dial Outlet A forward or backward to the point where everything will fit, and then plug in. It reminds me of one of those multi-digit combination locks, where you independently turn each successive dial to the number you need… except that there’s no set combination (just make things up as you go along), and it’s more for powering electronics than guarding your gym gear or bike. But stylistically… similar.

In addition to its shape-shifting capabilities, the Swivel Surge Protector guards your sensitive computer or home theater equipment from potentially damaging power surges, has integrated cable clips to keep things both safe and organized, and is UL listed in the US and Canada. Looks like someone thought things out! I like it… I like it a lot.

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Middle Atlantic’s RDR Series: Home Theater Racks That Won’t Make You Feel Like You’re in a Server Room

February 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Home Theater 

middle-atlantic-rdr-home-theater-rackSo, you drop big bucks on a home theater. Amazing screen. Killer audio. Super posh decor, and furniture that’s almost impossible to part ways with at the end of the show. As you, the fam and maybe a few friends snuggle in for a fun night in front of the big screen, you glance over at your equipment rack, and suddenly you’re whisked away to a cold, brightly-lit, featureless data center, where the only thing to make you feel cozy and comfortable is the warm air being exhausted by the enclosure ventilation fans.

No, you’re not hallucinating or having a nightmare, and you haven’t been forcibly sucked into some weird parallel universe in which you’re actually an IT guy. You were just shocked out of your sweet cinematic surroundings by the stark, metallic, “a-little-too-techy” look of your electronics rack. What the heck is that thing doing in your perfect (well, near perfect) home theater? Have you no sense of style?

It’s a good thing that the designers at Middle Atlantic got wind of the fact that there are more than a few people out there who are butchering the aesthetics of otherwise well-planned home theaters with racks that were designed for… well… less-than-decor-conscious environments. Clearly, they must have asked themselves, “Do movie lovers kick back in residences, or telco closets?” And as I imagine it, they then glanced around the room at each other during a brief silence, shouted “residences” in unison, collectively nodded their heads, and then got down to business designing their home-worthy RDR Rack Series.

Much like your standard-issue server rack, RDR home theater racks are built out of tough steel that can take abuse and still support the weight of hundreds of pounds of electronics. The difference is in the finishing touches, from the decorative trim that replaces sharp, angular corners, to a sleek black woodgrain top as the crowning touch. It’s like Clark Kent turning into Superman. Moneypenny to Bond Girl.

Hey, look! You’re back from the data center.

Dasco Media Storage Racks: Simple, Organized Storage for Offices, Studios, Libraries or Home A/V Hounds

dasco-media-storage-rackSo, A/V fans, how do you store your media? Unless you’ve gone completely Technologically Awesome and have, by now, ripped all of your CDs and started downloading all of your favorite movies from iTunes, you still need a place to keep that stuff (for the record, I do, too). I don’t know about you, but my music and movie storage situation tends to get a little precarious at times, mostly because discs (boxed, jewel-cased or au naturel) aren’t meant to be stacked into mini-skyscrapers until you need them. Bump into one of those piles, and bad things happen. Try to whisk one disc out of the stack without disturbing the others, and you’re in a predicament that’s worse than Jenga and the Tablecloth Trick combined.

Sounds like it’s time for a media rack.

I just recently got a load of Dasco’s Media Storage Racks, and I have to say, I like what I’m seeing. If you’ve ever wished that you could get your hands on the type of shelving units you see at the neighborhood movie rental place or your library’s AV department, these are them, just a little better. Their angled shelves keep things from sliding off, make it easier to scan titles, and can be adjusted in 1 inch increments, depending on what you need to store. Whether you’re into CDs, games and Blu-Ray discs or are still kickin’ it old school with the audio cassettes and VHS tapes of your glory days, it all fits.

I’m not going to even try to imply that this would be the perfect fixture for your living room, but if you have a separate, dedicated home theater or media room, it would work like a charm. What’s really nice is that you can choose the configuration that works for you – there are multiple heights, single and double-sided designs, and standing or wall-mount versions available.

Lest I paint too narrow a picture, here, Dasco‘s media racks aren’t just for home A/V types – they’re also great for offices, schools, studios, and any other environment with lots of media in need of proper storage. It’s time to stop treating your discs and tapes like building blocks.

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Home Theater Wiring Solution

02-wiring-solutionSo, you’ve just wall mounted your new flat-screen TV, and everything looks perfect…. except for those cables trailing down the wall below it. Just because you didn’t run in-wall cables, that doesn’t mean you have to live with messy-looking exposed home theater wires. Meet the Wiring Solution, a unique home theater cable concealer that is designed specifically to hide cords that run between wall mounted HDTVs and the entertainment centers stationed below them.

The home theater Wiring Solution is a conduit-like cord organizer that holds up to 10 cables, and only requires two small screws for installation. It’s also very low-profile; because it protrudes only 1 inch from the wall, it doesn’t attract much attention. Best of all, the Wiring Solution is built to blend in: it’s available in two finishes, smooth and textured, to match the surfaces of either flat or knockdown/stucco finished walls, and comes pre-primed so you can paint it the same color as your walls (a foam paintbrush is even included in the kit).

Made from ultra light medium density fiber board, the Wiring Solution is available in 3 different lengths to span any TV-to-entertainment-center distance: 12, 20 or 30 inches.

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