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Expo Products: Lights Down, Music Up

New distributed-audio and lighting products unveiled at the CEDIA Expo include new retrofit-targeted RF wireless touch screens and keypads as well as distributed-audio systems designed to simplify purchasing and make pricing more affordable.

In a sign of market maturity, select suppliers such as Elan and Lutron are turning to wireless RF devices to upgrade existing custom installations without tearing up walls. In another sign of maturity, distributed-audio suppliers such as Sonance and SpeakerCraft are driving down the cost of entry to reach a broader base of homeowners.

In its booth, Elan launched its first handheld wireless RF touch panel and its first AM/FM tuner (the dual-tuner DTNR with RS-232 at a suggested $699).

Elan’s Via!2 wireless handheld touch panel, due late in the first quarter with 7.8-inch screen, uses the 802.11b wireless standard. It starts at $2,600, consisting of panel and tabletop docking station/charger, and runs to $3,500 with server that integrates the touch panel with RS-232 and IR-controlled systems.

Elan also announced first-quarter availability of its highest capacity multizone A/V controller, the $5,950-suggested System 12. It’s lower in price than its predecessor HD system but delivers more sources to more zones. A single System 12 allows for up to eight zones of audio or eight zones of audio and video combined. It allows for connection of up to 12 audio or 12 A/V sources. By linking four System 12 controllers, installers can design a distributed-A/V system with up to 32 A/V zones.

In contrast, only two HD controllers could be linked to deliver 10 sources/22 zones or 8 sources/24 zones.

Also in distributed audio, Sonance and SpeakerCraft unveiled multizone/multichannel AM/FM receivers packaged with keypads, providing all the components of a distributed-audio system except for speakers and other audio sources.

SpeakerCraft unveiled two such systems at a suggested $1,999 and $3,999 (see story below). Sonance’s entry is the $1,200-suggested DAB-1, a four-source/six-zone kit due in the first quarter under the Architectural Audio by Sonance brand. The brand is sold through installers and is targeted to appeal to tract-home builders.

The DAB-1 kit consists of Architectural Audio’s first multizone receiver and six in-wall keypads. The receiver features a single AM/FM tuner and 12×35-watt-per-channel amp. Up to three units can be daisychained to create an 18-zone system.

Sonance also showed its new AF12 impedance-matching system at a suggested $425. The on- or in-wall hub allows for connections of up to 12 pairs of 8-ohm speakers and impedance loads from 2/3 to 4 ohms. It supports amplifier power levels from 50-200 watts/channel RMS.

Niles’ first touch screen is the TS-1, nicknamed Art. It connects via CAT-5 to either of Niles’ two 12-channel, six-zone receivers, called Bob and Gloria. Due in November at a suggested $550, it’s designed as a more affordable alternative to general-purpose custom-install touch screens.

The two-gang 3.8-inch black-and-white touch screen features seven backlit hard buttons, auto-configuration for quick installs, real-time system-status display, a plasma-proof IR sensor and the combined functionality of four existing Niles keypads to reduce keypad clutter.

Niles also announced plans to offer XM Satellite Radio technology as early as the second quarter. The configuration wasn’t announced.

To get its first rock speakers off to a successful start, the company said it designed its models to look and sound more realistic than competing models. The RS6 series, at $249 each, features a 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter angled up at 20 degrees. The RS8Si adds an 8-inch woofer and two angled-up 1-inch tweeters, and unlike many rock speakers, can be operated in mono, stereo, or single-speaker stereo mode in which the tweeters play in stereo and the dual-voice-coil woofer plays both channels simultaneously.

In lighting, Lutron unveiled an RF wireless version of its in-wall seeTouch keypad, simplifying retrofit installs by eliminating the need to install a wired communications cable. It features large backlit buttons that can be read in the dark and wires into existing light-switch boxes. It can be used with the company’s HomeWorks homewide lighting-control system or Grafik Eye room-lighting control system, both of which can be configured to control other home systems. Pricing was unavailable.

Also for the HomeWorks wireless series, Lutron unveiled an RF-based visor-mounted remote control for the car to control lights, garage doors and any other device linked to a wired or wireless HomeWorks system. It complements a similar RF remote intended for use with the company’s lower cost RadioRA lighting system.

Also at the show, the IC Lights division of ImageCrafters introduced retrofit Light Spots fixtures intended to improve the look and functionality of older 5- and 6-inch recessed fixtures, converting them into 3- and 4-inch fixtures or pendant lights. The retrofit kits comes with low-voltage transformer, mounting bracket and trim rings starting at $120 depending on options and finishes.