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Multiroom Suppliers Push To Expand Market

Custom install suppliers are intent on stimulating demand for installed multiroom-audio systems with powerline-network systems that will expand the retrofit market and with new low-cost platforms that will boost demand for more traditional wired systems.

Installers here at CEDIA Expo will also plenty of upscale systems as well.

In powerline-network systems, Russound (see story at right) and NuVo are hoisting technology demonstrations of their new powerline systems, which use a home’s existing powerlines instead of audio and control cables to transmit audio and metadata to multiple rooms. Russound contends its system will reduce the equipment costs of a typical multiroom audio system with intercom functionality in a retrofit install by substantially more than half while also reducing retrofit labor costs by more than half.

Also to drive down installation costs, Xantech and Linear are joining sister company Aton in launching their first value-oriented multiroom-audio systems that use DIGI-5 architecture to distribute music and control signals over CAT-5 wires. The companies are owned by the Linear Home Technology Group, which developed the platform.

Aton’s DIGI-5 system, already available, creates a four-source, four-zone multiroom-audio system for about $2,000, including Aton Storm series architectural speakers but excluding source components and installation costs, the company said. Affordability is achieved in part by simplified wire runs that use a single CAT-5 cable to deliver power, two-way communication, and noise-immune, no-loss balanced differential digital audio to amplified in-wall keypads. The keypads’ 2×30-watt digital amplifier drives in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. The technology is expandable to 28 zones.

Aton’s implementation uses a rack-style hub that fits in an A/V equipment rack. Xantech will offer a a rack-style hub and a structured-wiring hub. Linear will offer a structured-wiring hub.

Although each company takes a different approach to DIGI-5, each brand’s DIGI-5 components interoperate with the DIGI-5 components of the sister companies.

Also debuting at CEDIA Expo is a PC-based multiroom audio systems for the IT aficionado from CasaTools.

Here’s what various suppliers plan to show:

Audio Authority: The company’s second-generation CAT-5 matrix routing system, the $2,799-suggested AVX-562, is a six-input/six-output device that delivers analog audio, digital audio, 1080p component video and IT commands over up to 1,000 feet of CAT-5e and -6 cable to in-wall receivers equipped with A/V output jacks. It can be expanded to 36 zones. Two cables must be run to each viewing/listening location.

The new model’s chassis is downsized by 33 percent to 2U height and adds source lockout for private viewing of a source, zone lockouts and improved IR control, the company said. The receivers, which are powered through the Cat-5 cable, are available at a suggested $200 to $220 each.

Crestron: The company is turning an iPod into a one-zone music server with the launch of the iServer, a first-of-its-kind product that uses an iPod installed in a front-panel slot as its hard drive. It’s billed as a bridge between dedicated HDD music servers and lower cost iPod docks in custom installed multiroom-audio systems. It also uses USB-over-Ethernet to automatically synchronize the iPod with a networked PC’s iTunes library whenever a new song is added to the library. The targeted suggested retail is $995. It ships in October.

Control4: Multiple new multiroom-audio products include a next-generation three-zone tuner, 16-source/16-zone audio switcher and four-zone audio amplifier/switcher. New integrated-system products include a 7-inch touchscreen and home controller (see p. 1).

The $1,199-suggested four-zone multichannel amplifier/switcher joins an eight-zone model to provide a Control4 option for smaller multiroom-audio installs. The device switches any of six source inputs to up to four stereo zones.

The $599-suggested rack-mountable three-zone V2 Multi-Tuner, likes its predecessor, sports two built-in AM/FM tuners and built-in XM Radio, but the new model has a new industrial design to match other Control4 components, international capability (ability to tune to odd or even frequencies), and improved reception. A new industrial design is also the hallmark of the latest generation 16-source/16-zone audio switcher, the $1,295 V2 Audio Matrix Switch-16. It features automatic detection of audio signals to improve audio zone management. All prices were unavailable.

Linear: The brand’s DIGI-5 system, due in January, features a hub designed for mounting in a structured-wiring enclosure. Specifications are similar to the Xantech-branded DIGI-5 system.

Niles: The company is launching a network-interface card for its GXR2 multizone receiver, enabling the receiver to stream music from a networked PC or a DLNA-certified network-attached storage (NAS) device though a GXR2-based multiroom-audio system to multiple rooms in the house. Music metadata appears on the multiroom system’s in-wall Contact touchscreens, handheld RF-wireless iRemote, and handheld RF-wireless touchscreen iRemote TS, which just shipped at $1,200.

The $600-suggested IM-Net card will be the company’s first product to connect to a home Ethernet network when it ships in December or January. A future firmware upgrade will enable to card to go out to the Internet to stream Internet radio stations and Internet music services without the need for a networked PC.

Remote Technologies: The company is launching the A8 audio distribution matrix switcher, V6 video distribution matrix switcher and CP-1680 multichannel audio amplifier.

The A8 is capable of routing eight analog audio and eight composite video (or digital audio) sources to eight individual zones. The V6 video distribution matrix switcher switches six component video and composite video (or digital audio) sources between six different zones. The CP-1680 amp is rated at 16×80 watts. Pricing and ship dates were unavailable.

Russound: The company’s lowest-priced controller-based multiroom-audio system is the four-zone four-source CA4 system. It’s priced at a little more than $1,000 and includes controller/smplifier, four in-wall keypads without LCD screen and a handheld IR remote to send commands to IR receivers embedded in the keypads. An included wall port connects cables from the controller to behind-the-wall speaker wires and to the CAT-5 cables that run to the keypads.

“The CA4 is value-engineered,” said product management director Andy Lewis. “It’s uncommon at this price point to have a system supported by [third-party] control systems [such as AMX and Crestron systems].” He also called routed IR at this price point “unusual.” With routed IR, consumers can attach two of the same type of source component, such as two tuners, to the controller, and the controller will know which room is playing which tuner, Lewis explained. If a consumer in one room hits the tuner-search button while the second tuner is playing in another room, the system knows which tuner should get the search command.

Two CA4 controllers, each with 8×15-watt digital amp, can be linked to create an eight-zone four-source system. The controller also features RS-232 to connect to home automation systems. The keypads enable remote source selection, on/off, volume and bass/treble adjustment, but the handheld remote delivers complete control over sources, including track up/down.

Russound’s other controller-based systems start at $1,499.

Xantech: The brand will offer two versions of a four-zone, four-source DIGI-5-based system, one with a hub for mounting in an AV rack and one whose hub is mounted in a structured-wiring cabinet. Pricing was unavailable. Either version comes with 2×30-watt amplified keypads, four-zone/ four-source hub, and optional six-zone expansion hub.