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A-BUS Adds One Company, Might Lose Another One

4/19/2004 02:00:00 AM Eastern

LeisureTech Electronics signed up Phase Technology of Jacksonville, Fla. as the first U.S. speaker maker to license its A-BUS distributed-audio technology.

With the agreement, A-BUS will be marketed in the U.S. by 14 companies, but LeisureTech could be back to 13 with the potential loss of structured-wiring company Greyfox as a partner over trademark-infringement allegations.

For its part, Phase Tech initially plans June shipments of a system using A-BUS/direct technology, but future plans call for A-BUS/active technology, said president Kenneth Hecht. Pricing hasn't been set. "This is a way for us to sell more custom speakers," he noted.

A-BUS/direct is designed to reduce the cost of distributed-audio systems by transmitting line-level analog audio, control signals, 24-volt power and status information down a single CAT-5 cable from a central stack of A/V equipment to an amplified in-wall keypad. The amplified keypad, in turn, drives in-wall or in-ceiling speakers in the same room.

Phase Technology plans to offer amplified in-wall membrane touch pads, amplified volume controls and a local input module that will enable consumers to plug a local audio source, such as a CD player, into the amplified touch pad or volume control, Hecht said. The company will also offer an A-BUS hub that would sit among A/V components to connect the components to A-BUS wiring.

The company, he added, "is working on all of our speakers to make sure we get the most out of them" when connected to an A-BUS system. That includes tweaking sensitivity and impedance when necessary, he said.

Phase is also interested in offering A-BUS/active as soon as it can, Hecht said. A-BUS/active, based on core A-BUS technology, is designed for systems featuring active in-wall and in-ceiling speakers that incorporate built-in A-BUS amplifiers and an IR receiver. With the IR receiver, installers can replace a more expensive in-wall amplified keypad with a less expensive handheld IR remote. Alternately, suppliers could provide stick-on, surface-mount IR keypads that essentially are infrared remotes. A-BUS/active systems further reduce system costs by eliminating keypads and simplifying wiring within a room.

In other A-BUS developments, the company created a U.S. marketing arm headed by industry veteran Richard Frank, based in Dana Point, Calif. He is U.S. operations VP.

Additionally, LeisureTech said it is suing Greyfox, the structured-wiring company, for trademark infringement in a California court, said LeisureTech managing director Andrew Goldfinch. Greyfox is marketing an A-BUS structured-wiring system sourced from a company that is no longer approved by LeisureTech as an A-BUS manufacturer, Goldfinch said.

Other A-BUS licensees include OnQ, Tyco, Channel Vision, Home Director, UStec and Future Smart (Honeywell Custom Products). Audio manufacturers that have included A-BUS ports in receivers or other audio components include Integra, Harman Kardon, Onkyo and Russound.

Other companies shipping approved product in the U.S. are Amp/Connect and Mordaunt Short, which offers the Opus distributed-audio system through Marantz.

Companies approved to manufacture A-BUS products include Russound, Channel Vision and Mordaunt Short. Other companies source from approved suppliers or from LeisureTech itself.