Russound Whole-House Music System Uses Existing Powerlines, No New Wires

The popular manufacturer of multiroom audio systems introduces the Avenue system, which distributes high-quality music to multiple rooms using HomePlug technology

By Julie Jacobson
August 29, 2007
Whole-house music may be a killer app, but it can be a giant pain to install a system into an existing home -- running cables behind the wall from one central location to remote rooms throughout the house.

Russound is coming out with a system that eliminates the need for extra wiring to the keypads. The new Avenue system features HomePlug technology that enables the distribution of music and control signals over the home's existing AC wiring.

"I zeroed in on powerline carrier (PLC) back in the early days," says Jeff Kussard, vice president of strategic development. "When I came to Russound, everybody was talking wireless, but the future is going to be an amalgam of wireless, powerline, phone line and coax."

For the whole-house audio application, Kussard says that powerline "is still a much more robust solution. … We've done a lot of field tests as well as lab measurements. It really boils down to this: RF technologies are much more susceptible to natural occurrences that happen in the household. Even large, organic moving bodies like people can interfere with WiFi."

Avenue Hub (More images including schematic follow story)

The usual solution to the WiFi shortcoming is to employ buffering, which introduces latency, "which is fine for data but not for time-based transmissions like audio and video," Kussard says.

He adds that the latency issue is less of a problem in point-to-point scenarios, but when it comes to point-to-multipoint, "you've got this whole issue of developing a universal time clock, and in the process you introduce more latency."

Latency for the Avenue system is a maximum 200 milliseconds, Kussard says. "In real-world applications, you would have a hard time picking up on that. Even when two adjacent zones are playing the same song, you won't pick it up."

Six Zones of Powerline Audio

The Avenue system has two pieces: the Avenue Hub and Avenue Points. The Hub is a 1U box that sits in the equipment room with Russound's CAV 6.6 music distribution system (currently the Avenue system works only with the CAV).

More Details & Specs
For more details, read the Avenue system press release.

Each line output from the CAV plugs into a port on the Hub, which plugs into a standard AC outlet. Music is distributed to as many as six zones via the powerline. The powerline also provides a return path for control signals from the keypads, touchscreens or any other interface that uses Russound's RNET protocol.

At each zone is an Avenue Point that plugs into the powerline to communicate with the Hub. The Point, with its built-in amp providing 20 watts per channel, delivers music to the speakers and RNET control signals to and from the keypad or touchscreen.

The Point includes a line input for feeding a local source into the whole-house audio network.

The Business of Retrofit

Kussard stresses that the Avenue system is not just a convenient solution for retrofit applications. Rather, the system can jump-start an entire new business models for integrators.

"One of the messages I want to get out," he says, "is if I were running a custom installation company, I'd use this to start a whole new business, whether selling door to door or by word of mouth."

He explains that installers can turn around a turnkey system in 24 hours.

He imagines dealers pitching the system this way: "If I can get six zones of audio into your house, and I can do it by tomorrow, will you sign right now?"

Russound hasn't established the final pricing for Avenue but Kussard suggests an Avenue hub with three points of audio might retail for about $4,000.

It is expected to ship this year, and will be joined in the future by other powerline-enabled products from Russound.

Click image to view a full-screen view of the Hub

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