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SpeakerCraft To Get Its Nirv In Multi-Room A/V

SpeakerCraft is developing its first IP-based multi-room-A/V system, which will distribute multiple simultaneous streams of audio and 1080p video over category cable from connected CE and PC sources.

The IP system will appear under the Nirv brand at the CEDIA Expo in September in preparation for tentative shipments during the mid- to late-first-quarter period of 2010, said electronics engineering VP Jason Craze.

“We needed to be networked,” Craze said in citing the company’s review of the SpeakerCraft electronics line and industry as a whole. “RS-485 is going the way of the buffalo.”

An IP-based system for multi-room-A/V distribution is simpler to design and install because audio and video cables don’t have to be home-ran to each room from a central A/V rack; they’re less expensive; and they’re scalable a zone at a time so consumers don’t pay for zone capacity that they don’t need, he explained. They’re also more suitable for retrofit installs than traditional multi-room-A/V systems, Craze said.

SpeakerCraft’s iteration will be simple to configure because all setup is done via a TV-screen interface, he added. “It will take a couple of hours to configure rather than days.”

For its Nirv system, SpeakerCraft eschews standard Ethernet protocols for its own proprietary IP-based protocols to ensure quality of service, Craze said. “Standard Ethernet uses quite a bit of headroom for things we don’t need for media distribution,” Craze explained. As a result, SpeakerCraft’s network will run parallel to a home’s Ethernet network. A Media Bridge, however, will connect an Ethernet network to SpeakerCraft’s network so that PC-stored media can be streamed to TVs and speakers around the house.

Because of its IP-based architecture, the Nirv system accommodates up to 256 sources and 256 zones. Anywhere from four to six 1080p programs can be streamed simultaneously along with multiple stereo-only sources. The network is compliant with Blu-ray’s HDCP copy-control technology, but its bandwidth won’t support Blu-ray’s Deep Color capabilities.

Two dozen SKUs will be available for Nirv, including a main system controller, or brain, with ports to control connected home automation systems. Audio-only and video source-input devices connect to legacy sources such as cable boxes, audio servers, video servers, Blu-ray players and changers, and DVRs. Different legacy sources can be placed throughout the house for connection to the Nirv network without having to be grouped together in the main A/V rack.

Unlike other networked-A/V systems, all A/V content, control signals and low-voltage power are transported around the house over a single eight-conductor cable to and from source-input devices, decoder/receivers in local rooms and in-wall controllers.

Rack-style receiver/decoders with built-in audio amplifiers still require a separate connection to 110-volt household power to amplify audio signals. These devices can be installed locally or in a main A/V rack.

Other Nirv SKUs include two in-wall keypad controllers, an in-wall touchpanel controller, and a battery-powered in-wall touchscreen that ejects from the wall and can be used as a tabletop controller. SpeakerCraft also plans an RF Wand with fewer than 10 buttons to control a Nirv system via an on-TV user interface.