Acoustic Visions meets demand for home theaters

BOULDER — In a world fraught with seemingly impossible obstacles, one Boulder businessman with a can-do attitude tackles even the most difficult jobs in his company’s mission to wire Colorado homes to the future.

Adam Rubey, owner and founder of Boulder-based Acoustic Visions, LLC, a 2-year-old home theater and electronics firm, thrives on home-wiring challenges that others may consider undoable. Like existing structures with no attic space and concrete slab foundations. Or narrow stairways for giant televisions.

And eccentric homeowners with money to spend and a penchant toward the high-end in their home environment.

“I truly enjoy finding solutions to (the clients’) problems,” Rubey said, adding that in most cases his jobs are fun because of the “bizarre, fun and interesting people” who make up his clientele.

Acoustic Visions was born in September 1995 when Rubey and his wife, Xan (pronounced Zan), moved to Boulder from Dallas, where Rubey was born and raised. It was there that he learned the intricacies of residential wiring for everything from whole-house stereophonic sound to elaborate home theaters, including the latest and most sophisticated toys the industry has to offer.

With no professional contacts in the area, Rubey started by walking onto job sites — either new construction or remodels — and getting to know the crew. “If there was a dumpster out front,” Rubey said, “we’d stop and talk. Many of our first jobs came from that technique.”

But the expertise that stands behind Rubey’s commitment to his clients and their “impossible missions” began long before he moved to Boulder to escape big-city crime, traffic and pollution, he said.

While attending a small private college in Kerrville, Texas, he took the first steps toward his current vocation. An internship as a sound engineer led to a full-time job as head engineer at “a jingle company” and then work designing and installing recording studios in the Dallas area.

Because of technological advances, “every studio got smaller and cheaper,” he said. “I put myself out of work by staying on the cutting edge.”

So he looked for the next frontier and found it in the home theater/home electronics industry. During the next few years, Rubey worked for the Dallas-based Paul Labute Inc., maxing out his own career there when he became head designer and installer. About that time he and Xan stopped in Boulder on their way back to Texas from a vacation in Vail and decided that they wanted to live and work in the shadow of the Flatirons. It took them another year to make the move.

Acoustic Visions, which began with seed money from Dallas investment firm Merlin Visions, has doubled its revenues every six months, Rubey said, while investing profits back into the company facilitating its unexpected rate of growth and expansion.

Home electronics can be as affordable as $125 for a simple device that will repeat a stereo signal from one room to another to “as lavish as possible,” up to $500,000, Rubey said.

Arvada clients Tony and Nancy Clarke hired A.V. to install a “moderate” home theater system and additional electronics throughout their new, pre-wired home. “It cost about $15,000,” Nancy Clarke said.

For about the cost of a new car, the Clarkes got a home theater system with a 61-inch TV and surround sound, a satellite dish, stereo speakers throughout the home’s upper level and a programming system for the whole shebang.

But they also got dependable service that went beyond the usual.

Rubey and his crew “were very professional,” Clarke said, “very easy to work with. They really cared about what (our) needs were.”

And at the end of the job A.V. supplied the Clarkes with a videotape showing Rubey touring the house, giving step-by-step instructions on how to operate the entire system.

The home theater/electronics industry is the fastest-growing segment of the electronics industry nationwide, say industry insiders. “It’s really a booming industry,´ said Diana Burger, spokesperson for the industry’s member association, Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, or CEDIA.

“In 1995 it had an estimated $960 million in revenue,” she said. “For 1997 revenues are estimated to be $1.63 billion. It’s growing about 20 percent a year.”

Both Burger and Rubey, who is a CEDIA member, recommend that anyone building a house now should be wiring for theater and distributed sound systems and should hire a CEDIA member to do the job.

CEDIA members “created the first home theaters,” Burger said, so they have the expertise. Through CEDIA-sponsored conferences and regional seminars, members are qualified to install the most basic TV/surround sound combinations, as well as more complicated integrated systems that control lighting, interior climate, security and TV/sound.

Acoustic Visions, for instance, can install a simple $125 infrared device in one room that allows for remote control of an existing stereo system in another part of the house. Or it can, and has, designed and installed elaborate — and very expensive — systems with which the client can control every facet of his or her at-home lifestyle.

That’s why Rubey begins each potential job with a free in-home consultation that includes a comprehensive interview and a 100-page questionnaire. Only after evaluating the clients’ needs and presenting a variety of options does money become an issue.

Early on Rubey “decided to sell exactly what’s needed,” he said, “rather than the packages (sold by other, less-scrupulous companies). The end user is happier that way.”

During Acoustic Vision’s infancy, Rubey did all the selling and installing on a weekly and then monthly cycle, which resulted in cash flow problems. After six months, Merlin Investments employee Samantha Shaw-Oswald came on board as the company’s salesperson and third principal — Xan is also a principal and director of marketing — freeing Rubey to concentrate on design and installation.

Since then Rubey has hired five more employees and expanded outside of Boulder into other metro-area cities and Aspen, which has become a particularly lucrative market for the A.V. crew.

The Rubeys, who are expecting their first child in six months, expect their fledgling company to continue expanding with the industry. With home theaters and electronic systems becoming more affordable and the general public becoming more informed about the industry, Acoustic Visions sees no end to the possibilities.

And as for that huge TV and the tiny staircase?

“I took it (the TV) apart, carried it in pieces up the stairs, rebuilt it and installed it,” Rubey said. “I would imagine they’ll sell that one with the house.”

Mission accomplished.