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No Stopping The One-Stop Shopping Trend

Custom-install suppliers, like their home audio counterparts, are branching out into new product directions in a bid to become one-stop shopping sources for their customers.

Custom suppliers such as Phoenix Gold and Atlantic Technology will show their first distributed-audio systems here at CES, where companies known for distributed audio — including ADA and ReQuest Multimedia — will show distributed-video products.

Also at CES:

  • Multiple suppliers will show products already introduced in the nascent multizone/multisource receiver category. They include SpeakerCraft and Sonance.
  • Home satellite tuners, many designed specifically for use with distributed audio systems, will be shown. XM Satellite Radio tuners will be shown by ADA (four-zone), and Crestron (single zone). Sirius Satellite home tuners will be displayed by Antex (three zones) and Kenwood and Audiovox, both with single-zone models. They were previously exhibited at the CEDIA Expo.

The satellite radios were previously unveiled at the CEDIA Expo.

Here’s a guide to some new, and relatively new, products to be displayed at CES:

ADA: New devices will distribute up to four streams of high-definition component video from a central cable box over CAT-5 wiring to multiple TVs in a house. One VCT-4 sender and one VCR-4 receiver are needed per display device. Distance could be up to 500 feet, pending final tests. The device could also distribute DVD-Video from a central DVD changer or distribute audio.

Remote access to the sources could be achieved through the installation of ADA’s Suite 16 16-zone preamp controller, capable of component-video switching.

Atlantic Technology: Having fielded architectural speakers, the company is expanding into new territory at CES with a six-zone audio distribution system that runs over CAT-5 wiring. “The biggest opportunity for growth is in distributed audio,” says Atlantic president Oscar Chornei. “As a speaker company, we believe the market needed a high-quality speaker system using entry-level wiring.”

The Systemline system is designed for the new construction and retrofit markets. A six-zone system, based on options, will sell for between $3,800-$4,500. Shipping is slated for late January, including keypads, a remote control, hubs, a power supply and 10-watts-per-channel powered speakers.

CasaWorks: The Albuquerque company’s Cielo Home Management system integrates with many other home system brands to program and control systems via Pocket PC PDAs, Tablet PCs, Web pads, select PC-programmable IR and RF remotes via a TV-screen user interface, and Windows PCs, including remote PCs that access the home system via broadband connection. CasaWorks provides client software for each device. The system will be available at the end of the first quarter.

Supported interface standards include IR, X10, TCP/IP, HTTP, UPnP, WiFi, Bluetooth, RS-232, RS-422 and RS-485. The system is therefore capable of controlling home lighting systems from Lutron, LiteTouch, and others; security systems from DSC, GE Interlogix, and others; thermostats from RCS, Aprilaire, and others; and a variety of sensors that sense humidity, light, water, carbon monoxide and the like. The system also connects to security cameras.

The system will also be able to integrate with a planned Medio Digital Media multizone AV server, which distributes audio and DVD-Video over CAT-5 and 6 wiring to component-style, PC-based Medio clients in each room. It’s due around midyear.

From the server, consumers will be able to stream audio and video from connected DVD/CD mega-changers or from music and movies stored on an internal 300GB hard disk drive, which can store up to 60 encrypted DVD movies. Add-on 1-terabyte storage modules are optional. Video is streamed over the network with original DVD-Video encryption intact to the clients, which decrypt the movies.

Music can be stored in MP3 or WMA format on the HDD.

The company expects it to sell for about half the price of the Kaleidescape video server system, which costs $27,000 for the base system.

Crestron: The new $15,000 DVP4-DI digital video processor/matrix switcher displays four video windows of scalable size on a large high-resolution projector or plasma screen. The windows can display security-camera video as well as other video sources. It’s available.

A new handheld wireless touch panel, the battery-operated STX-1700CXP, ties together disparate home systems using two-way 2.4GHz spread spectrum technology. It features 5.7-inch active-matrix color touch panel with five programmable and engravable pushbuttons on each side. It’s available at a suggested $4,400.

Elan Home Systems: The company’s first wireless touch panel, due in the first quarter, is the 802.11b-equipped VIA!2 at a $3,500 suggested retail price, including the VIA!2 Server Station and Docking Station.

Kaleidescape: The company will demonstrate the industry’s first hard-disk-drive DVD-movie server, which rips and stores DVD movies for distribution over an Ethernet network.

The Kaleidescape System provides instant access to a consumer’s entire movie library through an on-screen menu that can be controlled by AMX, Crestron and IP- based touch panels or by universal remotes. A basic system offers one server for storing up to 130 movies, one Movie Player client that must be connected to a TV, and one DVD Reader. The server can be expanded to store 440 movies. Additional servers and clients can further increase movie storage capacity to 3.3-3.6 terabytes and increase the number of viewing zones in the home.

A base system retails for a suggested $27,000 and includes a server with sufficient storage for 130 DVD movies, a Movie Player for playback in a single zone, a DVD Reader for importing DVDs, and the Movie Guide Service.

When a disc is ripped, the Movie Guide Service automatically provides the information about that movie, including title, cover art, genre, MPAA rating, cast, directors, synopsis and certain video bookmarks. A lifetime subscription to the service is included in the purchase price.

Phoenix Gold: The NeoSys distributed-audio system (DAS) would be the first multizone, multisource distributed-audio system to use the professional audio market’s ADAT optical-transmission format, which shuttles audio signals to multiple mixing boards in a recording studio.

Late spring shipments are possible.

The system is the company’s first distributed-audio system and will complement its selection of in-wall speakers, speaker selectors and connectors.

A four-zone system with amplified keypads will retail for less than $2,500, excluding sources, speakers, and installation.

The system features a hub that distributes control signals and 24-bit/48kHz digital audio and control data to up to 64 zones over CAT-5e cable. The cables can run to in-wall keypads, which convert the audio signals back into analog form and amplifies the signals for transfer to in-wall or in-ceiling speakers. Alternately, keypads can be ordered without D/A converter or 11-watts-per-channel digital amps. These keypads would route the audio signal via CAT-5e to an in-wall input/output module that would incorporate D/A converter and send the analog audio signal out to a higher power outboard amplifier and speakers.

Previewed at CEDIA, the system has since been upgraded. New features include the hub’s ability to learn the IR commands of other manufacturers’ remotes.

ReQuest Multimedia: The audio-server supplier plans first-quarter shipments of its first video product, the Video ReQuest VRQ-1 DVD management system, which controls up to four Sony 400-disc DVD changers via RS-232. Users can create a four-zone distributed-video system by linking four centrally located changers to four VRQ-1 units, each located in a different room.

Estimated price of each VRQ-1 is $2,500.

SpeakerCraft: The company plans to show its first two multizone/multisource receivers, its first rock subwoofer, and its first in-wall speakers incorporating aimable woofers and tweeters.

Also new: SpeakerCraft’s first two digital amplifiers, an expanded lineup of rock speakers and cabinet speakers.