Making Lives Better
DSI Luxury Technology, in Lake Balboa, CA, is one the most often-awarded home technology integration firms in North America. Founded in 1994 by Eric Thies, the 26-person DSI team has a reputation for turning away more projects than they accept. Thies says that he intentionally limits the number of projects his company accepts every year so that they can give their clients all of the attention that they need. DSI has been known to have an approach that is human-centric not tech-centric because their clients want the benefits of technology but often don’t care much about the actual tech.
For more than 20 years, Thies and his DSI team have specialized in providing top Hollywood professionals on the Bel Air Circuit with exceptional private home theater systems. This highly specialized field requires a delicate balance of commercial AV skills with residential AV skills. When deploying professional cinema equipment in a home, careful engineering, planning, and design is required to make the room a success and easy to use. DSI specializes in the artful integration of equipment, the blending of consumer video sources (broadcast TV, gaming, streaming video services), and the simplification of operation for the homeowner.
Here’s what else we learned from our conversation with Thies.
Residential Tech Today: What part of this business makes you happiest?
Eric Thies: It’s always fun meeting clients and solving puzzles for them. I am fortunate to be in Los Angeles with access to some of the most successful people on Earth. So, being in the orbit of superhumans is never dull. Outside of that, I get to be a part of some of the most amazing builds that are happening in the world. Working with world-class interior designers and architects on stellar projects makes me incredibly happy since I am an architecture/design/real estate nerd (two of our projects were on the cover of Architectural Digest this year). Technology on its own doesn’t necessarily make me happy, but how technology can make my clients’ lives better makes me happy.
RT Today: What do you find most frustrating?
ET: My industry is full of frustration. One of the biggies is tech that doesn’t perform as advertised or has been pushed out to the public before it is ready for prime-time. My clients rely on me to protect them from bad tech, and when manufacturers don’t deliver on their promises, I am on the front line taking the heat.
The other frustration is that clients tend to make bad decisions when hiring an integrator. They do little to no research on a firm and routinely hire someone who is underqualified or has a bad reputation. Since there is such a low barrier of entry to our industry, most of the companies out there are underqualified, so it can be difficult to figure out who is good. Bad installations sour clients to technology, and it is causing end users to install less tech in their new home after a bad experience in their old one. I am excited that the Home Technology Association is gaining steam to solve this problem with dealer certification, but this is an epidemic in our industry that is going to take some time to solve.
RT Today: When you’re deciding whether to start offering a new product or technology in your projects, what are some of the most important criteria you consider?
ET: Performance is the number-one criteria. Is it excellent? Is it reliable? Does it solve a problem? I am less concerned about price point. My clients appreciate a good value, but they crave quality. If the price point is a little high but the product delivers, my clients will typically be okay with that.
The other factor is how well a manufacturer supports their product. No tech is perfect, but there is perfect customer service. If something goes south, I want to deal with a company that understands how much pressure I am under to resolve a tech issue quickly. I am not interested in specs and bells and whistles for the sake of marveling over the tech. The product has to have benefits that translate to a better user experience.
RT Today: Currently, what are your favorite products/technologies?
ET: Some of my current favorite tech are Barco projectors. I just installed a Barco Balder projector in my personal theater. Love the fact that the laser image stays consistent–unlike a lamp-based projector–and just also love the film-like image. It’s really impressive. I also love Kaleidescape Movie Players (the last great video source that still has the best user interface). Most people do not understand how much information is lost when streaming a movie. The performance difference of a video stream from Netflix or Amazon Prime versus a Kaleidescape is astonishing. I also love, love, love their movie store–lots of great 4K HDR content with perfect video and sound.
I am also really crazy about the Luxeport from Sonance. I think it is a really great piece of industrial design. I am also a freak when it comes to internet speed and performance, so I am a die-hard fan of Access Networks Wi-Fi products; they’re worth every penny.
RT Today: Looking ahead, what technology trend do you expect to have the most influence on the work that you do?
ET: Since we do a lot of theaters and media rooms, I am closely following videowall technology. I think we are in the very early adopter stage of the life cycle, but it will be really interesting to see how fast the technology progresses and how affordable it becomes. I think, overall, that consumers are moving toward larger and larger screens in typically bright rooms, so I think this technology will be become pretty ubiquitous. It will not be uncommon for an entire wall of a home to be a video screen. One minute it displays art, the next a movie or the homes security cameras. I am excited for this to progress.