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Russound Honing Strategy For Powerline-Network Audio

6/26/2009 09:59:00 AM Eastern

Newmarket, N.H. — Russound is dropping plans for one powerline-network multi-room-audio system to concentrate on another powerline-network audio system that it contends offers more at a lower price.

The company plans October shipments of select components in its IP-based Collage Media and Intercom System, which is targeted to the retrofit market. The company dropped plans for its more expensive Avenue system, which was to have shipped last year. The company cited a need to hone its product line in a tough market and said that during rough economic times, a lower-cost system makes more sense for consumers.

“We looked long and hard at Avenue and believed in its promise, but as development progressed, we realized that Collage holds much more promise as a category-defining PLC [powerline communication] solution,” said CEO Charlie Porritt. “When compared to every other anticipated PLC solution in the custom market, including Avenue, Collage accomplishes so much more, and at a more appealing price. At a time when manufacturers need to hone their product lines, Russound is making the most logical move, both for the company and its customers.”

Unlike other PLC systems that require a central hub, or controller, Collage lacks a hub, allowing networked sources to be placed anywhere in the home in a decentralized, expandable design that lets consumers install a low-cost system in two or three zones and add additional zones at a later date, he said. In another difference, Collage relies on such new media sources as Internet radio, iPods docked in a networked docking/charging station, and digital music stored on a networked PC or network-attached storage device, although legacy devices can be attached via a source bridge component.

Collage’s main components include an in-wall amplified keypad, which incorporates RDS-equipped FM tuner, and a Media Manager device, which connects to a home’s Ethernet network and acts as a bridge between the Ethernet network and the powerline network. The universal plug-and-play-equipped, DLNA-certified device also connects to ShoutCast’s subscription-free Internet radio aggregation site to stream Internet radio to the keypads. The subscription-based Rhapsody music service can also be streamed to the keypads, which display cover art from networked sources.

The CAK1 amplified keypad will retail for a suggested $849 and ship in October. Up to 10 can be installed in a system to create a 10-zone system. For each system, only one $549-suggested CMM1 Collage Media Manager is needed. It’s also due in October.

An iPod dock and IR source bridge, which connects legacy sources via IR, will ship sometime later. The bridge features analog-stereo and digital audio inputs, composite-video input for use with a security-camera, and IR outputs to control IR sources.

Collage systems also serve as a baby monitor and point-to-point and “all call” intercom system.

To install the Collage keypads, integrators cut a hole in the wall above an electrical outlet or near a light switch, then run Romex from the outlet or switch to deliver power and audio to the keypad.

The double-gang keypads, about a third taller than traditional keypads, feature a click wheeel to navigate menus and double as an intercom for room-to-room communications and baby monitoring. The keypad’s amp is rated at 2x15 watts into 8 ohms and are 4-ohm stable. It also features built-in FM antenna and external-antenna jack.

The Avenue system, in contrast, consisted of a $2,100 (street price) powerline-network Hub that plugged into a $3,999 CAV6.6 six-zone, six-source controller. The controller in turn connected to six bundled in-wall unamplified keypads. Similar to traditional multi-room-audio architectures, the CAV6.6 was to connect to source components in a centralized A/V stack. The connected Hub was to encode and transmit the sources’ audio over powerlines to $950 Point amplifier/decoders installed in up to six rooms. From there, audio was to be sent to in-room or custom-installed speakers.