New Multiroom-Audio Options, TV-Audio Amps Due From Russound

New audio-controller features to simplify setup, combat Internet sales
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New York – Russound is adding new features to a trio of planned multiroom-audio controllers to simplify setup and reduce unauthorized Internet sales.

Also for authorized installers, the company plans June/July shipments of its first Android-based in-wall touchscreen controller, which offers multiple advantages over an existing touchscreen controller. The company also plans its first three TV-audio amplifiers, which can be mounted on the back of a TV or mounted flush in a wall behind a TV.

To speed up configuration of three previously announced multizone-audio controllers, the company is adding the ability to configure the components via smartphone or tablet web browser rather than from a software suite running on a laptop. Setup by browser will require less technician training and deliver faster configuration, said Russound CEO Charlie Porritt.

When the six-zone MCA-66, eight-zone MCA-88, and eight-zone MCA-88X ship in the coming months, installers will be able to configure six- and eight-zone audio systems via a browser, with the exception of some complex IR programming. Via firmware updates later this year, installers will be able to use web browsers to configure more complex systems built around more than one controller to control additional zones, Porritt said. “The goal this year is no more laptops,” he said.

The MCA-66 and -88 ship the first week of June, and the MCA-88X with music-streaming services ships in midsummer.

Another new feature being added to the controllers is focused on controlling unauthorized online sales to consumers. Under the Russound Certified Installer Program, only authorized installers will be able to unlock the three controllers before they can be configured and used. Installers will enter their user name and password onto a smartphone or tablet web browser to access the Russound cloud, which will automatically obtain the component’s Mac ID and send an unlock command to the controller.

“The new program covers 80 to 90 percent of our problems,” Porritt said.

Product packaging will clearly state to unauthorized dealers and to consumers that the product can be unlocked only by an authorized installer.

The program will reduce calls by consumers to Russound to fix problems created by DIYers or by unauthorized installers, Porritt said. It will also ensure homeowners get the best possible experience.

Many authorized Russound installers, he noted, are reluctant to fix multiroom systems incorporating a Russound controller sold over the web by an unauthorized source and installed by a consumer or unauthorized installer. “It can be a nightmare to test,” he said.

The program will also help the company’s international installers in countries with import duties as high as 30 and 40 percent, Porritt said. Consumers visiting the U.S. from those countries buy products here and bring them home to avoid the duties, Porritt said.

In the mid to late 2000s, Russound locked controllers available at that time, but the unlock procedure was more cumbersome, he said.

In entering a new category for the company, Russound plans a series of slim TV-audio amplifiers to improve the sound quality of individual TVs in secondary rooms. The company plans shipments in eight weeks of its first model, a slim, small-footprint TVA 2.1 digital amp with subwoofer output at a suggested $299. It will be followed by a 3.1-channel version and 3.1-channel model with AB switcher, which will switch between a TV’s output and the output of a multiroom-audio system. Those two are targeted for fourth-quarter availability and will feature the same dimensions as the first.

The TVA 2.1 features 2x35-watt amplification and learns the volume up/down and mute IR commands of TV remotes. It automatically turns on when it senses audio from a TV’s analog, coaxial, or optical output.

The planned TVA 3.1 is intended for use with passive three-channel soundbars, and the TVA 3.1 AB will incorporate the AB switcher. All three amps will have the same dimensions. Prices and details of those models weren’t released.

The TV amps can be used to drive in-wall or in-ceiling speakers or in-room speakers in homes, but they’re suitable for use in commercial applications, including boardrooms. All will be available through the company’s existing installer channels.

The original TVA 2.1 was shown at last year’s CEDIA Expo but redesigned with a smaller footprint and with improved placement of inputs, said Porritt. Though other companies offer similar TV amplifiers, Russound’s TV amp will be the thinnest, opening up additional install possibilities, he said.

Also for June/July shipment, Russound plans the $599-suggested XTS in-wall touchscreen, which runs on Android and features four-color 4.7-inch portrait-mode touchscreen display. It controls multiroom-audio systems built around the company’s planned controllers and the current MCA series controllers and XStream X5 controller/streamer.

The device runs the company’s My Russound app, already available for Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. The app and XTS touchscreen issue IP commands to IP-ready controllers over an Ethernet network. Because they fit in a single-gang box, the in-wall touchscreen can be used to upgrade previously installed single-gang Russound keypads. They feature standard Power over Ethernet.

The touchscreen also offers more options for running control wiring, Porritt said. Instead of running CAT-5 cable from each touchscreen back to a router near a home-A/V stack, installers can route cables to multiple Ethernet switches closer to each keypad if available.

The XTS touchscreen also offers multiple advantages over an existing in-wall color touchscreen, which is more expensive at $850 and features a smaller lower resolution 3.6-inch display, whose landscape orientation requires a double-gang box.

The new touchscreen features quad HD display and also adds control over all audio zones in the house, whereas the current touchscreen controls only the zone in which it is mounted and activates a pre-set one-zone multiroom party mode programmed by an installer.

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