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Control4 Launches EA Smart Home Controllers

Control4’s next generation of home-automation controllers include the industry’s first single-room home-entertainment solution said to offer home control and home automation.

All three new EA series controllers are also positioned as the first home-automation controllers with built-in support for high-resolution audio. They decode 192kHz/24-bit lossless file formats and incorporate high-end DACs, making it unnecessary to install an additional SKU, the company said.

The trio was unveiled to Control4 dealers today at events throughout the country. They are ready to ship.

The three controllers start with the $600-suggested EA-1 single-room home-entertainment controller, which comes with bundled ZigBee remote whose screen and buttons can be used to control all system functions. The single-room experience, said solutions VP Paul Williams, “is a huge opportunity just starting to come to fruition.”

Two other EA controllers, the $1,000 EA-3 and $2,000 EA-5, support multi-zone audio and control home systems in larger residences.  They do not come with a bundled remote.

All three controllers control home systems, including home-entertainment systems, via IR, ZigBee, IP over Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and RS-232. They can be connected to third-party Z-Wave bridges to control Z-Wave devices. The three controllers can also be controlled from smart phone apps, an on-TV interface, and dedicated touch-screens. They also feature Bluetooth to stream music from a mobile device.

Unlike other current single-room home-entertainment controllers, the $600 EA-1 controls home systems such as lighting not just in the home-entertainment room but also in other rooms, the company said. It also delivers true home automation, not just control, because it delivers event-based automation in which actions can be triggered automatically by such events as an exterior door opening, said solutions VP Paul Williams. Actions can also be programmed to occur automatically based on the time of day, he added.

The EA-1 is designed for small homes or apartments and “has the same automation capabilities as our other EA controllers,” though the others are intended for installs in larger residences, he said. The step-up EA-3 is designed for small- to mid-size homes, and the top-end EA-5 is intended for medium to large homes and light-commercial applications in which hundreds of devices can be controlled.

In addition, the EA-1 delivers single-zone audio, but the EA-3 steps up to three zones of audio, each playing a different stream, and the EA-5 steps up to five zones of audio with five different simultaneous streams.

All stream music from a PC’s or phone’s music library and from cloud-based services Tidal, Pandora, Napster, Deezer, TuneIn, and Rhapsody.

The EA-1 is not a “de-featured” controller compared to the step-Up EA-series models, so it can be programmed with any of Control 4’s more than 9,500 device drivers like its bigger brothers, Williams said.

All three models also feature Control4’s AirPlay implementation called ShairBridge, previously available only in the older $1,500 HC-800 controller and not in the older $750 HC-250, which is a single-room home-entertainment solution available with a separately sold $200 remote.

With ShairBridge, music from an iPhone can be played back through multiple rooms at a time, not just in one room throughout the house.

 In other advances, the EA-1 is three times faster than the HC-250, the EA-3 is seven times faster than the HC-250, and the EA-5 is two times faster than the HC-800, the company said.

The EA-1, like the other EA controllers, is intended for professional installation to eliminate “frustration with DIY systems” whose experience at home doesn’t match the in-store experience, he said. The EA-1 “still requires a level of expertise or knowledge that the typical consumer doesn’t have,” Williams said. 

The EA-1 and step-up EA-3 are compact enough to fit behind a TV or be mounted on a wall rather than an in an equipment rack.

The professionally installed controllers run on the same platform for a consistent user and installation experience. “We didn’t develop a separate platform like some suppliers to reach a price point [for a single-room system] with different user interfaces,” Williams said.