Ce Pro travelled to Devon to meet with Nic Black, owner and MD of The Pyramid Group, to check out the company’s new demo facility and understand the company’s expansion of its presence in the smart home market.
Established for over 20 years, the Pyramid group operates in four separate sectors, commercial AV and installation, lighting design services, live events and the home automation and entertainment market.
It’s the last of these sectors that is the focus of our chat today as CE Pro arrives in the beautiful country of Devon, the company’s HQ for the whole of its existence and now the proud owner of a recently expanded HQ and showroom located on the outskirts of Plymouth.
Immediately it’s obvious how proud Nic and the team are of what they have achieved with the new showroom, a compact but extremely well designed space which shows what the company can do in all aspects of its domestic operations.
“It’s really only the second week of the space being fully up and running,” explains Nic, “But we have already done two events, really just to get the word out locally, but also to get the feel of the place and see how it works with visitors.” Nic confirms that the showroom has already generated lots of interest and projects are already being discussed off the back of visits.
The showroom has not sprung into life over-night however, Nic explains, “This has been three years in the making. We already had our offices upstairs and the large downstairs meeting room has been finished for a while, however the success we have had in the home market recently gave us the impetus to make the final push and finish the demo area and our new cinema. There is not another demo space like this in the area, the nearest one I think is in Poole (Dorset), so there was a real gap in the market to fill.”
Nic adds, “We are really proud that we have found success and still kept our Devon roots. I think it informs what we do, sure we might have to work a little harder as we are not directly located to one of the big install hot spots, but I actually think this is an advantage for us, gives us more character as a company and pushes us to be more creative.”
So, what was the catalyst for expanding the company’s presence in the home market? Nic enthuses, “We took on a project for an existing client located on a stunning spot overlooking the sea located at St Andrews, Scotland, called Ladies Lake, this was around four years ago now. Bringing to bear our experience in other sectors on this stunning new build property underlined how much we could deliver in the home sector and create something different.”
Nic’s statement is no idle boast, this project was awarded ‘Best Lighting, Control and Installation’ and shortlisted for ‘Best Integrated Home’ at this year’s CEDIA EMEA Awards, it also won ‘Best Whole Home Project’, again in the EMEA region at this year’s Control 4 ISE Awards.
Delivering a complete home automation and entertainment solution, this project is also particularly notable for its impressive use of lighting inside and outside. Its spectacular setting overlooking St Andrews Castle and West Sands and Castle Sands beaches, provided an inspiring, but challenging environment, but the company’s experience in commercial AV and live events helped deliver a dramatic, and clever, scheme which works with the setting.
Nic says, “Lighting has always been a particular passion of mine, my first job was in lighting and it’s been a strong theme in our work down the years. For this property we created something unique, a circadian lighting system that mimics the natural sun’s light to help human biological rhythms stay in tune with the environment. The system also helps the client deal with jet-lag as they are based overseas and travel from there to the property. Using drivers we created ourselves for Control4, we integrated a hybrid system of DMX and DALI luminaires tied into an astronomical clock and our own dynamic lighting curve in order to deliver the fully synchronised internal lighting.”
The next significant project of the back of Ladies Lake, was another new build, this time in Cambridge where the company delivered a whole home system and home cinema, which also won a CEDIA Award for Best Home Cinema in the £40,000 – £120,000 category.
Nic says, “This was for an existing client who is a real AV fan and he was always going to have a cinema in his new home and we again showed what we could do in the domestic sphere.”
This theme has continued with the company working on several properties currently including an extension to a manor house where being a heritage property extra care needs to be taken. Having worked on lots of sensitive buildings in the commercial sector such as churches, Pyramid already had all the knowledge it needed to cope with that type of challenge. When your CV includes installing an AV system into an officer’s mess on a fully armed nuclear submarine, then rules to do with heritage buildings should not present too many difficulties. The company is also currently working on a seven seat cinema a little closer to home.
Nic explains, “We were up against some perhaps better known dealers in the sector for this one and had to work hard to win the project doing several visits with the client.
“The client is a real movie buff and has a huge collection of movies, but I think the clincher was when he heard just how good his music could sound. With our domestic profile building, we identified a little bit of a gap in our work schedule in the run up to this year’s CEDIA awards and used that to get the showroom finished. Creative engineering is where we are at, always has been, every nut and bolt in our showroom is ‘us’.”
Taking the tour
Pyramid has a bit of an ace in the whole when it comes to getting its audio right, the internal team know their stuff, but when you can call on the services of Simon Honywill, who has been lead sound consultant at Glastonbury Festival, Pyramid Stage since 2007, has toured with the likes of Goldfrapp and has 38 years of experience in audio, that is no bad thing.
Simon has helped create and tune the cinema and is in residence today doing some checks. Simon explains, “Sonically if you can get a system playing music correctly, the rest should follow. It’s interesting how we can get the room to react differently to different types of performance, its sounds very organic, very real world.”
Nic adds, “Two factors determined what we did with our cinema. The physical size of the space we had available meant we decided to keep it compact and offer a solution which felt attainable for everyone. Obviously, we can up-scale, but we did not want to scare people off with something that looked too big and expensive. This played into the second factor, price, we wanted our systems to be deliverable starting from 30K all in.”
The 7.2.4 set up features an Epson TW9300, DT Screen at 118in, the speakers are Artcoustic Spitfire 6-3 for LCR (custom bi-amped versions), two subs x 2 c/w Artcoustic amps, Target SL’s x 4 for surrounds, and Architect 1 in ceiling x 4 overheads. AV power is delivered by a Trinnov Altitude 16 – all 16 outputs being used to drive 13 speakers, an Oppo UDP 203 disc player, Anthem MCA50 amps, WyreStorm 4K matrix and a Kaleidescape Strato.
Nic says, “We went with the Epson as for a 3K projector, once its ISF calibrated, it performs really well, people who have seen it so far are blown away by the quality.”
Simon adds, “There are elements such as a custom designed bass trap in the roof, and some other treatments. We wanted the room to be as neutral as possible. It’s better to think of it as a listening room, we can add elements in there if required like some stand-alone speakers if we wanted to do an audiophile event or presentation. Also, the offices are right upstairs so the staff needed to be able to work without being disturbed by the audio.”
Simon is a particular fan of the Trinnov being impressed with just how much room there is to create the sound he wanted allowing the room for its size to present a really large sound-stage. So impressed is he with the kit, that he is using elements of the Trinnov in some of his pro sound work.
So, demo time, Simon begins with no visuals at all, just some tunes which show of the system’s musicality. A Grace Jones track, with super-producer Trevor Horn at his very best shows just how versatile and musical the system is. Right at the other end of the scale Ce Pro chose AC/DC’s Have A Drink on Me, appropriate with the sad passing of guitarist Malcolm Young the week we visited. Again, the system delivers power, but is not over powering, an easy mistake to make with a track like that.
Onto the cinema and the bombing run sequence from Unbroken really underlines the impressive performance of this cinema, again it pucks punch, but there is subtly there too. The scene excites and pulls the viewer in rather than blowing their ears back, never an enjoyable experience. The Battle of Blackwater Bay scene from Game of Thrones, is also delivered with aplomb, explosions are rounded, punchy, and precise whilst the dialogue is clear as a bell.
In demo, Ce Pro has to say it’s one of the most impressive we’ve seen for a while. When the compact size of the room is taken into account, accommodating just two Ineva seats, the achievement is even more impressive. Simon’s work in widening the sound scape and adding musically to the performance is clear.
As for the rest of the showroom, the automation and lighting schemes the company can offer are showcased cleverly, again in a pretty compact space, the company manages to show what is possible, but not pack in so much that customers are overwhelmed or put off.
Pyramid is confident the showroom will increase its ability to connect with more customers old and new.
Nic says, “Being customer focused is of course hugely important in this sector. We always cut across the technology and get to the client’s wants and desires, who are they? What do they like doing? Before we ever talk kit with a customer, we use a simple matrix process to establish what type of technologies and experiences will be most desirable to them and go from there. The showroom will add to that process.”
A great visit this one and particularly pleasing to see a company doing well away from the more urbanised areas often associated with our sector, Pyramid is using its experience, and its particular approach to build for the future, something tells Ce Pro, its recent clutch of awards in the domestic sector, won’t be the last.