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Suppliers Expand, Upgrade Multiroom-Audio Lines

Technological advances in TV and audio are giving past purchasers of custom-installed audio and video systems a lot of good reasons to update and improve their systems, and multiroom-audio suppliers at the Expo are delivering new solutions to tap into the potential.

Here at the show, multiple companies are expanding their multiroom-audio selections, including Origin, Parasound, AudioControl, Proficient and Monitor, while a new brand called Black puts in an appearance.

Some of the suppliers are also stepping up their selection of higher end products, including Proficient and Monitor, reflecting the strength of the upper end of the custom-integration market.

Here’s what select suppliers are unveiling:

Beale Street Audio: The company’s slimmest-ever architectural speaker is the Pancake, which measures 2.75 inches deep for space-limited installs.

The two-way in-ceiling/in-wall speaker is designed for European markets or cities or other places where ceiling or wall depth is limited. It features 4-inch ribbed polypropylene woofer with butyl rubber surround, 0.75- inch aluminum-dome tweeter, and sealed enclosure to a frequency response of 80Hz-20KHz. The enclosure is a compact, integrated, tuned cabinet that offers a type of ported transmission line design to produce bigger sound than the speaker’s 2.75-inch depth would seem to allow, the company said. The enclosure adds a 6dB to 9dB mid-lower bass boost while keeping sound from bleeding to the room behind it.

Channel Vision: The company is unveiling its all-new integrated multiroom-audio matrix switcher, whose basic switching controls and other basic functions can be controlled via Wi-Fi a smartphone, tablet or computer. It also integrates with more third-party whole-house audio systems than previous models.

The device functions now with a master controller that incorporates serial control as well as compatibility with Channel Vision’s IR remote and the company’s volume control keypads.

The A4403 Integrated Audio Matrix features four inputs and up to 16 output zones. Each input features a separate Toslink digital optical audio input to avoid loss of music quality.

CasaTunes: The company’s music servers can now be controlled from URC Total Control home-automation systems, thanks to a driver created by CasaTunes.

Clare Controls: To reduce the cost and install time of multizone audio, the company is launching a compact, networked multizone amplifier/matrix switcher. Via the ClareHome app, users control the amp and its switching functions. Through an Ethernet connection, the amp streams content via Google Cast or AirPlay. It also incorporates embedded TuneIn streaming with more streaming services in the works. Drivers for Sonos Connect are also available to offer many Sonos-supported services.

It’s rated at 8×40 watts into 8 ohms and incorporates Class D amplification from ICEpower. It’s not Clare’s first networked amp, but it lacks the company’s CobraNet audio-distribution technologies to reduce costs.

Paradigm: The brand is unveiling two new custom-installed marine speakers.

Parasound: The company is expanding its fledgling multizoneamp line, which debuted in January with the $2,395 ZoneMaster 1250 12-channel amplifier. Now come the $1,350 ZoneMaster 650 six-channel amp, $795 four-channel Zone- Master 450, and $475 two-channel ZoneMaster 250. All are designed to match the performance of the company’s two-channel amps.

All use the same Parasound-designed discrete Class AB input stage and Class D power stage “to achieve sonic performance consistent with Parasound’s audiophile heritage while meeting the growing demand from industry professionals for excellent sound quality and bomb-proof dependability,” the company said.

Each channel pair comes with independent oversized power supplies to deliver high-current capabilities and stability into 2-ohm loads, enabling each channel pair to drive multiple speakers. Up to 12 speakers, for example, can be powered from the six channels of the 650, while the ZoneMaster 1250 drives up to 24 speakers from its 12 channels.

All new models are bridgeable, and they feature independent level controls for each channel as well as a speaker-level input, which makes the amps compatible with any receiver or existing stereo system. Installers can choose a 12-volt turn-on trigger or audio trigger independently for each zone. The 650 and 1250 also include bus inputs with loop outputs.

The 650 is rated at 6×50 watts into 8 ohms and 6×90 watts into 4 ohms. It just began shipping.

The 450 is rated at 4×50 watts into 8 ohms and 6×90 watts into 4 ohms. It will be available in December.

The 250, due in November, is a twochannel amp with built-in 18dB/octave low-pass crossover, enabling it to drive two speakers or a passive subwoofer. It’s rated at 2×50 watts into 8 ohms and 2×90 watts into 4 ohms. Two can be mounted side-by-side in a standard 1U rack-space.

Proficient Audio: The brand, part of Nortek’s Core Brands group, is stepping up the price and performance of its architectural speakers with the addition of architectural speakers to its top-end Signature series of cabinet speakers.

To the Signature series, the brand is adding in-ceiling, in-wall, dual-woofer in-wall LCRs, and outdoor speakers to give dealers “a highly effective way to upsell the value of Proficient,” the company said.

The addition will make it easier for dealers “to sell up and sell down in the Proficient line,” said Core Brands senior VP Keith Marshall.

The launch is the first step in “larger brand-segmentation program to come,” he added. “Proficient is already known as one of the better values in architectural and outdoor speakers, and this now gives our dealers more tools to position their offering in home theater, whole house and outdoor.” Dealers will be able to explain that if consumers want to offer top-line Proficient speakers around the house, the Signature series “will be available across all types and configurations,” he noted.

Monitor Audio: The brand, marketed in the U.S. by Kevro, is expanding its top-end CP series of architectural speakers to 13 with the addition of two in-wall models that will sit at the top of the series.

The $1,250-each CP-IW260X and $2,000-each CP-IW460X are both three-way five-driver designs with closed-box design and paintable trimless grilles held in place by magnets. Both are targeted to the luxury market and are said to offer audiophile performance for music while delivering high-quality home theater audio production.

Both the CP-IW260X and CP-IW460X measure 35.75 by 10.1 by 4 inches and feature two 6.5-inch bass, two 4-inch mid drivers and a tweeter. The mids are in their own enclosures. The CP-IW460X is also the company’s first in-wall speaker incorporating a ribbon tweeter from the Gold and flagship premium in-room speaker lines to extend frequency response to 60Hz from the IW460’s 30kHz. Both ship in mid-November.

NEAR: The company is launching its first two bundled outdoor speaker systems, each consisting of landscape speakers and a subwoofer. The two Nearscapes systems include the $2,599-suggested Nearscapes 4.1, which consists of four mid/high frequency “satellite” speakers plus an in-ground 10-inch subwoofer to cover a 3,000-square-foot area. The $1,899 Nearscapes 2.1 system consists of two satellites and one sub covering 1,500 square feet.

Each system fills a large coverage area with sound because of the satellites’ 120-degree dispersion.

The satellites come with ground stakes for mounting in gardens and lawns, and the speakers come with ball-and-socket aimable brackets for mounting.

OSD Audio: Optimal Speaker Design got its start in 2007 selling outdoor and indoor architectural speakers and related audio products direct to consumers, and it began in 2012 to sell OSD-brand products through Amazon. Now the Brea, Calif., company is going to the Expo with a new brand – Black by Optimal Speaker Design. The line, which recently shipped, is focused on premium-quality custom-installed audio products that will be sold direct to select custom integrators and through a limited number of premium A/V distributors. The brand won’t be sold direct to consumers.

Black products also feature better materials, sound quality and styling, a spokesperson said. Bezel-less magnetic grilles and square grille options for in-ceiling speakers, for example, are not available in the OSD line.

Triad Speakers: The company will display an expanded line of invisible in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, previously sold as Triad’s Designer Speaker series but now sold under the Amina Technologies brand.

In the past in North America, Triad marketed Aminamade Designer Speakers, and Amina Technologies sold Amina speakers direct to dealers from its U.K. offices. Now, Triad has become the exclusive distributor of Amina Technologies products throughout the Americas and has dropped its Designer-series products “to create one consolidated face for Amina to the market,” the company said. With the consolidation Triad dealers get access to Amina speakers that were previously available solely to Amina dealers, and Triad will market and sell Amina speakers to Amina dealers.

Amina’s passive speaker panels consist of aluminum frame, honeycomb core and transducers. The panels’ paper covering provides a surface that adheres to plaster, drywall compound, mud skims and veneer.