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Audioaccess Plans Speakers, New Distributed-Audio System

10/11/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

The Audioaccess division of JBL is broadening its custom-install portfolio with plans for branded in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, its first color touch screen, and a new receiver-based distributed-A/V system that's designed to be within reach of production-home buyers.

The new system, called W.H.E.N. (Whole-House Entertainment Network), is built around a two-tuner 7x100-watt receiver that connects via a single digital cable to an outboard hub/power supply. The hub, in turn, connects to amplified in-wall keypads.

The company previously offered a receiver-based distributed-audio system, but it didn't feature a surround-sound home theater receiver, the company said.

The new receiver, shown last year in mock-up form, uses the CAT-5 IEEE 1394b physical layer to send digital audio and two-way control signals from the hub to the keypads. A separate run of 12-gauge and 14-gauge two-conductor wire delivers high-amperage low-voltage power from power supplies inside the hub to the amplified keypads to produce 2x50-watt audio output per keypad.

Composite video is distributed from the hub via separate coaxial cables.

Audioaccess chose 1394b because of its bandwidth, robust hardware, expandability and hot-pluggable keypads that are automatically recognized by the system without special programming.

The eight-zone hub distributes content simultaneously from two audio-only sources and six A/V sources, such as PVRs and DVD megachangers. Additional hubs expand the number of zones and simultaneous sources to 23. The hub also distributes security-camera video from up to six cameras. A doorbell input mutes music and reproduces the sound of a home's doorbell through the system's speakers.

Consumers interested in a three-zone audio-only system can connect two keypads directly to the receiver. Power for the keypads' functions and amplifiers could be obtained through local outboard power supplies.

In-wall keypads with LCD screens display text received from source components such as select RS-232-equipped DVD/CD megachangers. The keypads also offer paging throughout the system using a built-in microphone.

The system controls outboard sources via IR outputs and select DVD megachangers via RS-232 ports.

The receiver features video conversion to component video.

Systems prices, excluding speakers and sources, start at about $5,500 for a receiver, hub and six amplified display keypads, less than the cost of current Audioaccess systems. The receiver is targeted to retail for about $2,400 when it ships sometime in the spring. Keypads will be about $400 each. They're targeted to ship in late spring.

An existing Audioaccess system is more sophisticated and is suitable for very large homes, the company said. For example, it can support 36 zones rather than 23, and each zone can support four rooms (each room having to play the same source, but each room featuring separate on/off and volume control).

The branded in-wall and in-ceiling speakers will be available later this year, based on dealer requests to increase awareness of the Audioaccess brand, the company said. Previously, Audioaccess packaged its distributed-audio infrastructure with speakers from JBL and sister company Revel.

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