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Harman Exec Outlines Multi-Room, Video Plans

5/03/2010 03:30:19 PM Eastern
New York - Harman is looking to acquire video-industry suppliers and migrate Ethernet audio/video bridging (AVB) networking technology from its pro sound division to its Harman Performance AV (HPAV) consumer group, executive Blake Augsburger told TWICE.

Augsburger is worldwide  president/CEO of Harman's professional division, which includes HPAV, the high-end supplier of Mark Levinson, Revel, JBL Synthesis and Lexicon consumer audio equipment. Augsburger is also Harman's North America country manager.

Harman's pro division, he said, is "looking at the right opportunities" to acquire a video company in any of four key video segments: control, servers, signal conditioners or displays.

Although the division would most likely buy a pro video company, many of which also offer consumer gear, the acquired company's technology would likely migrate to HPAV and to Harman Consumer, which markets the JBL, Infinity, Harman Kardon and AKG consumer brands, he said.

Harman is looking for a company that manufactures, not just markets, video products, he stressed. "Video is a logical adjunct market for us," he added.

In migrating the industry-standardized Ethernet AVB technology from the pro division to HPAV, the high-performance group will bolster its position in the multi-room-A/V market following its recent sale of the Audioaccess brand to Amplifier Technologies (ATI).

The Audioaccess platform, Augsburger said, had technology limitations that IEEE 802.1 Ethernet AVB will overcome when it appears in HPAV products in calendar 2011.

The Audioaccess multi-room audio architecture consisted of a multi-room hub that distributed control and audio signals to amplified in-wall controllers via CAT-5. Power was delivered from the hub to each in-wall controller via a separate two-conductor cable.

With Ethernet AVB, a standard promoted by the AVnu Alliance, Harman pro and consumer products will take advantage of AVB's Ethernet-network architecture to distribute audio, control signals and power over one RJ-45 cable while eliminating wiring home runs. The cable would deliver enough power to operate local 50-80-watt amplifiers, Augsburger said. The AVB network can be shared with a home computer network, he added.

Ethernet AVB also has the bandwidth to distribute uncompressed 1080p HD video around the house, and in single-zone applications, the technology would eliminate cable clutter by transporting audio, video and control signals over one RJ-45 cable, he noted.

Ethernet AVB already appears in select Harman pro products and will appear in most new Harman pro products by June, enabling dealers to create a complete Ethernet AVB system for pro sound applications, Augsburger said. The technology will appear in HPAV products next year for the residential market, although dealers might get a first glimpse at the products during September's CEDIA Expo, he said.

Harman's first residential Ethernet AVB products will be multi-zone A/V processors and amps, Augsburger said. A spokesman said the first products would likely be designed to connect to Ethernet-AVB home-control systems from other companies to distribute only audio and control signals.

For Harman, it would be "cost-prohibitive" to bring Ethernet AVB to the pro industry alone, Augsburger said of HPAV's plans. Harman also plans to migrate the technology to its car OEM business, where the technology will remove 200 pounds of copper from vehicles, he added.

HPAV's current multi-room A/V presence consists mainly of Revel and JBL in-wall speakers and two-zone Lexicon and Levinson preamp processors.

Under Harman, Audioaccess marketed multi-room-audio and multi-room-A/V systems, in-wall keypads and touchscreen controllers, and in-wall, in-ceiling and outdoor speakers.

The AVnu Alliance promotes the adoption of the IEEE 802.1 AVB standards over various physical layers for use in the automotive, consumer electronics and professional A/V markets. It has created compliance test procedures and processes that ensure AVB interoperability of networked A/V devices.

Members include Broadcom, Cisco, Harman, Intel, Samsung, Xilinx, Analog Devices, Applied Micro, Avid, Barco, Lab X Technologies, Marvell, Meyer Sound, Peligacore and Shure, which announced its membership earlier today.
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