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CEA Plans Distributed-Audio Install Standards

CEA is developing distributed-audio system-design standards that it believes will make builders more comfortable with promoting the custom-installed option in new homes.

Among other things, the standards will define common system architectures, such as distribution of speaker-level audio from a central amplifier or distribution of preamp-level signal to local amplifiers in each room. The standards will also include minimum cable requirements, including gauge and type of conductor, recommended locations of key components, attachment techniques, and types of controls installed in a wall.

Installers “will be able to go to a builder and say, `Here’s what distributed audio is,’” said Russound’s Peter Hoagland, chairman of CEA’s Multiroom Audio Video Council (MRAV). “We can say it’s a proper standard, and the builder will know what he’s getting.”

The standards, which could take a year or more to finalize, “will create awareness and clarity” among builders and home buyers and will lead to higher installation rates, Hoagland continued. He pointed to the jump in structured-wiring installation rates after the development of the TIA 570 standard for distributing voice, data and video around the house.

TIA 570 is a major contributor to a jump in structured-wiring install rates to 12 percent of new homes in 2003 from 8.7 percent in 2002, CEA contends. That standard recommends appropriate wiring grades for multiple signal-distribution scenarios.

Distributed-audio wiring standards “are about a common backbone or backbones and the proper implementation of it,” said Russound’s Jeff Kussard, a member of the CEA’s wiring-standards steering committee. “They will be as broad as possible to support the vision of anything that might come down the pipe in the future. It must broadly encompass everything from amplifier-level signals to IP-based distribution.”

The standards will incorporate the industry’s best practices, he continued. Although the best practices are well-known, “it’s not enough to say it’s a standard industry practice. At some point, someone has to put it on paper so it can withstand public scrutiny,” he noted.

CEA’s audio systems technology and standards division is developing the standard at the request of MRAV, formerly the Distributed-Audio Council. The name was changed to reflect an expansion of the group’s scope to include distributed-video and other forms of distributed entertainment.

The council is working through CEA’s standards-setting division, a spokeswoman said, because it is an ANSI-accredited group that conducts open meetings in which builders and installers can be represented along with manufacturers. The open process promotes “buy-in from the end-user communities,” she said.