By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The DIGI-5 multi-room-audio platform, developed by Linear's home technology group, is on track for year-end shipment by Linear-owned Xantech and for late-January shipment under the Linear brand, said Bob Holland, the group's DIGI-5 program manager.
Shipments of the Xantech and Linear systems will follow August shipments of a DIGI-5 system by Aton, a division of Linear-owned Elan.
The DIGI-5 platform, announced at 2007's CEDIA Expo, is the lowest-cost platform for multi-room delivery of music in digital form over low-cost CAT-5 cable, Linear contends. Digital transmission eliminates signal losses, noise and other audio-degrading effects that hamper analog-signal transmission over whole-house wiring, Linear said.
To distribute audio, DIGI-5 sends balanced, differential audio signals from a central Digital Audio Hub located in a central equipment rack or in a structured-wiring enclosure. The signals, along with 24-volt power and two-way control signals, travel over CAT-5 cable to in-wall single-gang amplified keypads, which are rated at 2x30 watts into 8 ohms and drive in-wall, in-ceiling or in-room speakers.
Aton offers a system based on an equipment-rack hub. Linear plans a structured-wiring version, and Xantech will offer both versions. Components from the three brands will interoperate, but the brands have the flexibility to develop their own user interfaces.
The new systems will be priced in line with the Aton system, which is promoted as creating a high-performance four-source, four-zone multi-room-audio systems for about $2,000, including ATON Storm series architectural speakers but excluding source components and installation costs. All systems are expandable to 28 zones.
DIGI-5 will expand the market because of the performance it achieves at an entry-level price and because of the combined marketing clout and market share of the Linear companies promoting the platform, the company contends.
DIGI-5 hardware prices are about 6 percent higher than competing analog systems that use amplified in-wall keypads but lack digital distribution's benefits, said Holland. And they're far less expensive than other digital-transmission systems for a variety of reasons, he said. For example, he said, plug-and-play compatibility makes it unnecessary to program keypads, as is the case with other digital-transmission systems. In addition, consumers can use any off-the-shelf universal or learning remote to control source functions from a remote room. Consumers aim the remote at the keypad's embedded IR receiver or at a connected external IR receiver. The in-wall keypad itself lack source controls but features source selection, zone and system on/off, zone mute, zone volume, zone bass and treble, zone loudness EQ and left-right zone balance.
Unlike other digital systems, Holland contended DIGI-5 is “the only system that is end-to-end digital,” pointing out in a whitepaper that two of the hub's four source inputs are digital only, switching between coaxial and optical. Two other source inputs switch among analog, coaxial digital and optical digital.
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