By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Audio Design Associates plugged into the iPod, tapped into the Internet Protocol to control distributed-A/V systems, and unveiled what it claimed is the industry's first distributed-A/V system with 32-source/32-zone HD-video and audio capability among its standard features.
ADA is making the iPod connection with the $800 iBase docking/charging station and companion $800 iBase eXtender, which connects to the main A/V equipment rack of an ADA distributed-A/V system. Multiple docking stations and eXtenders can be connected to an ADA system, whose in-wall keypads could then be used to select songs stored on multiple iPods throughout the house by title, artist, genre or playlist. Up to eight iPods can be played simultaneously through ADA systems, which handle up to 16 sources, and each connected iPod can be an independent source.
The devices, due in September, are plug-and-play compatible with ADA systems, which display iPod metadata on the keypads and navigate the iPods in iPod's touchwheel fashion.
iBase mates with any iPod, including the iPod Photo, whose stored pictures can be displayed on a TV through the base's composite- and S-video outputs. The docking station features angled Plexiglas back plate that's illuminated via LEDs in the base in a choice of colors. The base can be set to change color with the music.
For integration with ADA distributed- A/V systems, the iBase plugs into a wall plate using a flat 10-pin RJ-50 cable. From there, balanced audio, control signals and metadata are sent over CAT-5 or CAT-5e cable to the system's main equipment rack, where it makes the connection with its companion eXtender. The eXtender converts balanced audio to analog stereo for eventual distribution to individual rooms, and it routes control signals and metadata to the in-wall keypads in those rooms.
iBase can also get power via its CAT-5 connection.
For consumers who prefer a central music server, ADA launched a two-zone music server, the iHome Multi-Center, said to be the only music server capable of storing and playing authorized songs downloaded from Apple's iTunes site. The Multi-Center also serves Web-based control interfaces, enabling ADA systems to be controlled via Ethernet-connected Web-browsing devices such as PCs, wireless PDAs, wireless Web tablets and Web-enabled cellphones. Music can be transferred to an iPod via a front-panel USB port. For added measure, it serves as a Microsoft Media Center PC.
The two-zone music server uses Apple's iTunes GUI and can store authorized music from the iTunes site. Stored music can be downloaded directly from Apple' site directly via an Ethernet connection to a broadband modem, or it can be transferred automatically from a network-connected PC via a synchronization program intended to free up a PC's disk space.
As a Media Center PC, the Multi-Center will display stored images and movies and serve as a one-zone HD DVR. As a music server, it will be ADA's first with mirror backup HDD to prevent data loss. The device will come with two hot-swapping equal-capacity HDDs.
The MultiCenter is available for a suggested $7,000 for the version with 250GB of storage capacity, excluding backup drive, or $8,500 for the 400GB version.
In launching what could be the most expensive distributed-A/V system in the industry's history, ADA showed the Omega CB [Custom Built] system, which will ship early next year. Omega CB delivers 32 audio sources to 32 zones and is expandable to 64 zones and up to 256 rooms. The estimated price range for a 32-source, 16-zone installation, including in-wall keypads and all electronics but sources, is $75,000 to $100,000.
In contrast, ADA's current flagship system, the Suite 16, distributes audio to 16 zones in standard configuration. Sixteen-zone HDTV distribution is an option. Suite 16 systems with 16 zones start at around $16,000 with keypads and amplification.
Out of the box, the Omega delivers 7.1 surround sound to each of its 32 zones or two-channel stereo to four sub-zones per each of the 32 zones. Also out of the box, it delivers 32 HD sources to 32 zones. Video and soundtracks are shipped to local zones over 500 feet of CAT-5 cable or 1,000 feet of CAT-5e cable. Music can be transported from the central A/V rack via speaker-level cable to local-zone speakers. Music can also be transported from the central switcher via CAT-5 to a locally installed Omega CB Zone Controller, available in preamp-only and amp/preamp versions.
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