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Expo Exhibitors To Simplify Audio, Video, PC Networking

9/16/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Suppliers aim to simplify the distribution of audio, video and data around the house with an eclectic mix of solutions that include such "one-box" solutions as 12-channel six-zone AM/FM receivers and 12-channel integrated-amp/controllers.

Installers will also find more ways to distribute A/V over CAT-5 wiring, and more multizone amplifiers will turn up. At least one amp will feature 16 channels, and at least one more will deliver 32 channels.

Here's a sampling of what installers will find at CEDIA's Expo:

Audio Design Associates: Acknowledging some builders' propensity to prewire new homes for CAT-5-based A-Bus distributed-audio systems, ADA developed a new version of its Suite 16 16-zone preamp controller to plug into an A-Bus infrastructure.

A-Bus systems use amplified keypads, which are fed control and audio signals via CAT-5.

ADA's new controller, dubbed Suite 16D, sends control signals and line-level digital-domain audio to in-wall keypads, which in turn connect to a 2x20-watt Class D amp that fits inside a two-gang box or behind architectural speakers. The CAT-5 cables also carry low voltage to power the efficient amps. "The audio can go 1,000 feet over CAT-5 because it's digital," said sales and marketing VP Richard Stoerger.

Suite 16D ships in October. The amp is due in the fourth quarter at an undetermined price.

The original Suite 16 sends control signals over CAT-5 but is mated with a multichannel amp to distribute line-level analog audio throughout a house. Add-on A/D converters, however, can be plugged into a Suite 16 to send digital audio over CAT-5 to remote amp modules.

In new construction, local amplification of speakers doesn't save a lot of money compared to home-running speaker wires to a central amp, said Stoerger, but the Suite 16D lets installers make use of CAT-5 cables that builders have already installed.

To go with its 16-zone controllers, ADA has developed a 32-channel high-current amp for the home-run situations that Stoerger said delivers the best audio quality. The PTM-3245 amp, at a suggested $5,300, is only 5.25 inches tall. Other products can be stacked on top because the fan-cooled amp vents heat through ports on the side. The 2-ohm-stable amp delivers 45 watts per channel (wpc) into 8 ohms and 75 watts into 4 ohms.

Also new is a $2,500-suggested 7.1-channel home theater preamp/processor and a companion eight-channel amp, both intended for secondary-room installs. Both were expected to ship by Expo time.

The processor, the THX Ultra II-certified Suite 7.1, features THX EX and DTS ES decoding. It connects via multipin DB-25 connector to the $1,500 PTM-850 amp, which delivers 8x50 watts into 8 ohms or 90 watts into 4 ohms. For $2,000, the amp adds multisegment LED output indicators.

AudioControl: New products include the company's first 16-channel amp and a balanced-line driver/receiver pair that distributes audio and video over CAT-5 wire.

The 16-channel Architect 950 delivers 16x55 watts into 4 ohms compared to an existing 12-channel model's 50 wpc. Both models feature separate five-band equalization for each stereo pair and Class H amplification, which draws less current during peak periods than other types of amps and dynamically changes its current draw to draw only what's needed for peak and non-peak passages. The models also feature separate low-frequency cutoff controls for each zone.

The new model adds increased internal signal-routing capabilities, enabling installers to simultaneously route anywhere from one to eight sources through the amp.

An optional Ethernet card enables installers to remotely diagnose a problem via the Web when the amp is integrated into an AMX, Crestron or Premise Systems control system.

The new balanced-line driver/receiver pair, the BVD-10 and BVR-10, adds video distribution to their predecessors' ability to convert unbalanced two-channel audio to balanced and send it 1,000 feet over CAT-5 cable. The new models send composite and S-video over CAT-5, and if two pair are used, component video over CAT-5.

Elan: System6, the company's first "one-box" distributed-audio solution, is a 12-channel six-zone integrated-amp/controller that's the heart of an entry-level distributed audio system. At a suggested $1,725, it's promoted as offering more sources, zones and power (12x40 watts) than other basic multiroom systems.

It can be expanded later to include additional zones, outboard amplifiers and step-up in-wall control panels, including the company's touch screens. It can also be interfaced with Elan's communications controller to provide door-station communications and phone-to-phone intercom function. It also interfaces with a distributed-video controller.

Also for distributing audio, the company plans to unveil its first 12-channel amp, which is also its first digital (Class T) amp. The $3,200-suggested D1200 is stable into low impedances and is designed for systems that are growing in size and complexity. It delivers 12x100 watts into 4 ohms, with all 12 channels capable of delivering their full rated power simultaneously while running cool, the company said. The size is 5.25 inches by 17 inches by 15 inches. The margin is said to be 50 points.

Motorola: Besides showing the DCP501 A/V receiver with integrated DVD player and digital (non-HD) cable receiver (see page 50), the company is unveiling the SBG1000 cable-modem gateway. The device combines multiple products: cable modem, five-port Ethernet router, wireless 801.11b access point, HomePNA 2.0 phone-line access point, print server and enterprise-grade firewall.

The company also plans to demonstrate its Simplefi wireless digital audio receiver, a HomeRF-based receiver that wirelessly streams compressed music or Internet music stations from a PC to a home audio system. The device lets users select individual songs from a menu on its LCD screen.

Niles: The company is following up last year's launch of its first receiver, a 12-channel six-zone distributed-audio model. The latest model offers two AM/FM tuners instead of one, increases the number of connectable sources to eight from four, and adds video switching to distribute video. Distributed video could include movies from a central DVD megachanger or the onscreen GUIs of a central hard-drive audio servers and music-management systems.

Amplification remains the same at 12x30 watts.

The new model, the ZR8630AV, is tentatively set to retail for a suggested $2,995. The original receiver, nicknamed Gloria, remains in the line at a suggested $2,200.

Both connect via CAT 5 to Niles' Select or Solo in-wall keypads, which control IR sources. Both also eliminate the need to program each connected keypad with the IR codes of connected sources. The receiver learns all codes and distributes them to each keypad.

To merchandise Gloria in retail venues and custom showrooms, Niles will also demonstrate its "port-o-zone" displays, which feature Gloria, keypads and speakers at work.

Sonance: The company's first touchscreen-equipped keypad controller is the Navigator K2 with black-and-white LCD screen. It is designed for use with the IR-based Navigator Harbor multizone multisource A/V controller and with other IR-based systems.

The two-gang K2 ships in November at a suggested $550. It's only 1.83-inches deep, suitable for European homes.

Hard keys control power, volume, channel up/down, source selection, and genre selection. Once a source button is pressed, virtual buttons appear on-screen to control additional source functions. If a CD changer source is selected, title and artist information will appear. The installer can program the title information into the keypads.

Macros can also be programmed in. A power-sensing input connection delivers smart macro execution so that if a TV is already on, and a movie macro is selected, the TV won't be inadvertently turned off.

The two-gang K2 will also be smaller than the current non-touchscreen Navigator keypad, which requires a three-gang version to supply all of the same on-keypad functions without having to use a handheld IR remote to access all of those functions.

The company is also adding to its amplifier line.

Tributaries: DataSound Combo Wire is actually two cables in one sheath: 16-gauge four-conductor speaker wire and CAT-5E cable, which handles dataspeeds up to 1Gigabit per secomd for compatibility with current and future PC- and home-networking standards. The intent is to save time and material costs when installers pull cable.