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Russound Hones Powerline-Network Strategy

Russound is dropping plans for one powerline-network multi-room-audio system to concentrate on another powerline system that it contends delivers more at a lower price.

The company plans October shipments of select components in its IP-based Collage Media and Intercom System, which is targeted to the retrofit market. The company dropped plans for its more expensive Avenue system, which was to have shipped last year. The company cited a need to hone its product line in a tough market and said that during rough economic times, a lower-cost system makes more sense for consumers.

“We realized that Collage holds much more promise as a category-defining PLC [powerline communication] solution,” said CEO Charlie Porritt.

Unlike the Avenue system Collage lacks a central hub, or controller, allowing networked sources to be placed anywhere in the home in a decentralized, expandable design that lets consumers install a low-cost system in two or three zones and add additional zones at a later date, he said. In another difference, Collage relies on such new media sources as Internet radio, iPods docked in a networked docking/charging station, and digital music stored on a networked PC or network-attached storage (NAS) device, although legacy devices can be attached via a source-bridge component.

Collage’s main components include an in-wall amplified keypad, which incorporates RDS-equipped FM tuner, and a Media Manager device, which connects to a home’s Ethernet network and acts as a bridge between the Ethernet network and the powerline network. The universal plug-and-play-equipped, DLNA-certified device also connects to the Internet to stream free Internet radio stations and the subscription -based Rhapsody music service to the keypads.

The CAK1 amplified keypad will retail for a suggested $849 and ship in October. Up to 10 can be installed in a system to create a 10-zone system. For each system, only one $549-suggested CMM1 Collage Media Manager is needed. It’s also due in October. An iPod dock and IR source bridge, which connects legacy sources, will ship sometime later.

The Avenue system consisted of a $2,100 (street price) powerline-network Hub that plugged into a $3,999 CAV6.6 six-zone, six-source controller. The controller in turn connected to six bundled in-wall unamplified keypads. As with traditional multi-room-audio architectures, the CAV6.6 was to connect to source components in a centralized A/V stack. The connected Hub was to encode and transmit the sources’ audio over powerlines to $950 Point amplifier/decoders installed in up to six rooms. Each Point would send audio to in-room or custom speakers.