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Aton Readies New Control Option For Audio ‘Routers’

3/27/2008 10:30:00 AM Eastern

Lexington, Ken. — Elan’s Aton division is preparing an in-wall touchpad to control its DLA series of speaker-level audio “routers.”

Promoted as bringing RF and IR remote-control options for the first time to low-cost multiroom audio systems built around speaker selectors, the in-wall touchpad will begin shipping in June.

Separately, the company said it delayed shipments of its first multiroom-audio system based on Digi5 technology until late summer from the first quarter. Aton and other brands owned by Linear developed the technology to expand the entry-level market and create a standardized platform that other companies could license.

For its DLA speaker-level router series, Aton will offer a $149 suggested in-wall touchpad in lieu of the standard-issue in-wall volume control knobs typically used with speaker selectors, said Aton executive Bob Williams. From touchpads installed in multiple rooms, consumers will be able to turn a speaker router on and off, independently adjust a single room’s volume level and mute the room’s output, he explained. Using the touchpad’s built-in IR receiver will make it possible to use a third-party handheld IR remote to control central sources from a remote room. If the IR remote is a learning remote, the remote will also control DLA speaker-selector functions if DLA IR codes are transferred from a small Aton-supplied IR remote.

Alternately, installers could add in-wall IR receivers in remote rooms without installing the touchpads.

To eliminate remote room installation of any control device, consumers could opt for an Aton-supplied handheld 433MHz RF remote with a range exceeding 200 feet within a home. The RF remotely controls only the DLAs, not source components, so consumers can control the volume levels in any room from the handheld RF remote. If a consumers wanted to control central sources as well as Aton’s audio routers from an RF remote, they could download Aton’s DLA codes from Aton’s Web site, then transfer them to third-party RF learning remotes, which come with RF-to-IR converters to control connected IR-equipped components.

In its DLA series, Aton offers two-, four- and six-room selectors at suggested retails of $299 to $499, RF remote kits for each at $99 to $139, and the planned touchpads at $149 each.

Unlike other speaker selector systems, the Aton models also activate a preprogrammed whole-house macro, such as stepping up volume in selected rooms to a preset level for parties, Williams said. Aton’s system also directs amplifier power to a room as needed when a room’s volume is turned up.

In its Digi5 roadmap, Aton will be the first of the Linear brands to ship a Digi5-based system in late summer.

Digi5 technology will create a high-performance four-source, four-zone multiroom-audio system for about $2,000, including Aton Storm series architectural speakers but excluding source components and installation costs, the division said, updating previous estimates. Digi5-based components will interoperate regardless of brand, but they will allow suppliers the flexibility to develop their own user interfaces.

Digi5 will expand the market, Linear contended, 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.

Affordability is achieved in part by plug-and-play compatibility that makes installer programming unnecessary and by simplified wire runs that use a single CAT-5 cable to deliver power, two-way communication, and noise-immune, no-loss balanced differential digital audio to in-wall keypads. The keypads in turn incorporate a 2x30-watt digital amplifier to drive in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. The keypads also use digital signal processors to perform bass, treble, and balance functions in the digital domain.

The keypads’ amplifiers are capable of delivering 60 watts of total power because of a new Texas Instruments chipset incorporating amps and DSP and because Digi5 delivers power and ground to the amps over four CAT-5 conductors rather than two, the companies said. The amps are said to deliver their 60-watt output with 0.06 percent THD at 1kHz with 96dB S/N and 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.

First-generation systems will come with keypads that let users select sources, control volume/mute, and adjust bass, treble and balance from the keypads’ hard buttons. The playback functions of a source, however, will be controlled from a supplied handheld IR remote aimed at the keypad’s IR pass-through. Second-generation systems due in about a year will include some preprogrammed IR codes and such enhancements as intercom/paging functions.

The hub of a Digi5 system will be available in two basic forms: a rack-style hub that fits in an A/V equipment rack and a structured-wiring hub. All will be expandable to 28 zones.

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