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Multiroom Audio Making Installs Simpler

More multiroom-audio and multiroom-A/V systems are using fewer boxes to distribute music and video to multiple rooms of the house.

Exhibitors at CEDIA Expo, being held here this week, are combining multiroom controllers with multichannel amplifiers, tuners, and other components to simplify installations and in some cases deliver low-cost solutions that they hope will broaden the customer base. In many cases, the solutions are taking on the look and functionality of stereo and A/V receivers, though with multizone capabilities.

Crestron and Niles, for example, are expanding their selection of receiver-based multiroom systems incorporating tuners and amplifiers that drive remote speakers (see stories, p. 48). In Crestron’s case, the company is tossing in additional amplifier channels and surround processing to simultaneously power a home theater.

Like Niles, Netstreams is packing controller, amplifiers and tuner (though FM only) in one box in its $2,500–suggested Quartet system, which is also the company’s first system packaged with in-wall keypads.

In its new E series, Russound will offer the $5,650 street price ACA-E5 eight-zone, 12-source controller/amplifier with embedded AM/FM tuner and optional Sirius and XM satellite radio plug-in cards.

Other suppliers at the show are showing a variety of other system architectures. They include speaker-selector-based systems (newcomer Aton), systems with amplified in-wall keypads (Aton and Audioaccess) and systems that plug intio structured-wiring cabinets (Audio Design Associates).

Here’s what select companies are exhibiting:

Audio Design Associates: The company is offering its first multiroom-audio system to use a structured-wiring cabinet box. The SWAN (Structured Wiring Audio Network) is ADA’s lowest price multiroom-audio solution, a modular system that fits into standard structured-wiring boxes, and it eliminates the need for big entertainment cabinets and equipment racks. It’s available and suitable for multiple dwelling units as well as tract and custom-built homes, the company said.

The cabinet box, mounted between wall studs, accepts four-zone preamplifier, integrated-amplifier, and HD Radio, XM, and Sirius tuner modules. SWAN accepts up to two tuner modules. The preamp are intended for connection to local-zone amplifiers. The electronics in the cabinet connect via CAT-5 to in-wall keypads and to audio sources in other rooms.

A basic system delivering eight sources to four zones retails for a suggested $6,040. The system can be expanded 48 zones in four-zone increments. Amplifiers are rated at 2×35 watts into 8 ohms and are stable to 2 ohms, enabling one zone to have as many as four speakers pairs.

Also new: the $5,999 HDTV-16 16-zone high-definition 1080p video switching card for the Suite 16 multiroom-A/V system. It pipes HD video in component form over CAT-5 cables, enabling a Suite 16 to deliver 16 HD streams from one card instead of the previous three.

As part of ADA’s 30th birthday celebration, the products are available with a 30-year warranty if sold between July 4, 2007, and July 4, 2008.

Audioaccess: The Harman brand upgraded its WHEN home-theater/multiroom-A/V system with the ability to display XM and Sirius metadata and interface with a planned doorbell module, which will enable WHEN in-wall keypads to control compatible doorbell/intercom units at multiple doors and remotely lock/unlock the doors as well.

One of WHEN’s key components is the $2,199-suggested AVR21EN, a combination 7.1-channel A/V receiver with two AM/FM tuners and embedded multiroom controller. The other key component is the AVH21 multiroom hub, which distributes A/V signals to up to eight remote zones (up to 20 when multiple models are connected. Remote audio zones are powered and controlled by KP21 in-wall keypads with LCD screen and built-in 2×25-watt amplifier.

Suggested retails start at less than $4,000 for a system with a base home theater and two remote zones.

Aton: The Lexington, Ky., newcomer has developed multiple multiroom audio systems and a line of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers.

The multiroom selection includes two-,four- and six-room DLA speaker selectors controlled by RF remotes and delivering independent control of volume, mute and on/off from remote rooms. Optional IR receivers or touchpads in the remote rooms will contol all audio sources connected to the speaker selectors.

The company also offers a DH44 multiroom-audio system based on amplified in-wall keypads with 30-watt amplification and CAT-5 distribution of digital music to the keypads. The keypads also feature local-source input and IR passthrough.

A third product is a four-source, four-zone HD video router delivering video and digital or analog audio over CAT-5.

Elan: The company is expanding its selection of multisource/multizone A/V controllers to fill in price points between the current entry-level model and top-end model and to offer a good-better-best selection.

The new models, the $2,000-suggested S8.6AV and $1,400-suggested S8.6AVP, are eight-source, six-zone A/V controllers that deliver audio and composite video to each zone. The former comes with integrated 12×40-watt amplifier section to drive six audio zones. The latter lacks amplifiers. Up to four of each model can be linked to deliver audio and video to up to 24 zones. Both are due in October.

The current entry-level S6 is a six-source, six-zone audio-only controller with integrated amplifier. It’s not expandable. The top-end S12 is an 12-source, eight-zone A/V controller without amp section. It’s expandable to 32 zones and can distribute high-definition component video.

Both new models can be controlled from in-wall volume controls, in-wall keypads and touchscreens, and Elan’s Ole Film-Interactive touchpads.

NetStreams: The company is expanding its multiroom-audio selection with the receiver-based entry-level Quartet, which is the company’s first system that does not use IP technology to transmit control or audio signals. Other NetStreams systems use IP for control and audio, and the current opening-price Musica system uses IP only for control signals when an optional module is added.

At a suggested $2,500, including four packaged in-wall keypads, the Quartet is priced significantly lower then the current opening-price Musica system, whose price ranges from $4,400 to $6,500.

The Quartet, said to be the first entry-level system with whole-house and room-to-room paging, consists of a five-source, four-zone Q4000 “multiroom processor” with integrated FM tuner. It’s packaged with four in-wall double-gang keypads incorporating microphone for push-to-talk paging and controls for source selection and other playback functions. Each keypad can also be connected to a local source via optional Audio Port.

Audio performance in each room can be enhanced through five-band equalization and adjustments for loudness contour and balance.

Russound: The company will announce fourth-quarter shipments of two components in the brand new E series, announced earlier this year and available only to installers certified under the company’s Sphere certification program.

The ACA-E5, with a $5,650 street price, is an eight-zone, 12-source controller/amplifier with embedded AM/FM tuner, optional Sirius and XM satellite-radio modules, optional AM/FM tuners, 16×40-watt amplification, source inputs, doorbell and paging interface, and composite-video switching. Current Russound controller/amps top out at six sources and six zones.

The double-gang KLK-E5 click-wheel keypad at $599 MAPfeatures LCD screen, menu-driven interface, capacitive-touch scroll wheel, hard keys, IR receiver and metadata display.