Review: NuVo Renovia Powerline Multiroom Audio System
Thanks to dead outlets, a combination of plaster and drywall, shallow stud bays and yucky blow-in insulation, my 1950 home didn't make things clean or easy.
Pre-wiring for multiroom audio systems isn’t as common as it used to be. The retrofit dilemma has led to flexible new solutions such as those that employ homes’ existing electrical infrastructure, like NuVo Technologies’ powerline-based Renovia System that recently went into four zones of my house.
Renovia can distribute six sources up to eight zones. The amplifiers’ class D design is energy friendly and efficient, with no problem driving architectural speakers, and the magnetic touchpad faceplates come in four standard colors of black, almond, white and bone.
Key sources will likely be your docked iPod or Sirius XM satellite account, but NuVo covers far more bases with its Music Port that features a built-in 320-GB hard drive and can tap into network-stored files as well as the cloud for 20,000 plus stations from RadioTime and Pandora.
NuVo says that with Renovia, “even the most complex installations are clean, quick and easy.” Thanks to dead outlets, a combination of plaster and drywall, shallow stud bays and yucky blow-in attic insulation, my 1950 ranch home didn’t make things clean or easy for senior programmer Rob Frost and lead installer Brad Coutu of New England-based Russ Towers Media Solutions.
Owner Russ Towers designed a four-zone setup to put the system’s main output components - architectural loudspeaker, OLED touchpad and “freestanding” zone amplifier - in our bedroom, my daughter Jordyn’s room, family room and kitchen/dining area.
A few days later, Rob and Brad arrived to begin work. The first business was testing the outlets the amplifiers will plug into. Like Wi-Fi, the “signal strength” of your power can diminish the farther you get from the main circuit breaker, which is the ideal placement for Renovia’s headend hub and Music Port Server. I had a free dual outlet by the breaker to power those units.
Renovia System Highlights
Full-color OLED touchpad
Powerline-based HomePlug 1.0 system
Limitless music choices
Low-profile freestanding zone amplifiers
Can include: Music Port Server, OLED Touchpad, iPod Docking Port
Distributes six sources, up to eight zones
Signal strength was 94 percent in Jordyn’s bedroom, for example, but in our bedroom, though, one outlet was dead, and another would not give a readout despite powering a lamp.
The installers hit that curveball by relocating the zone amplifier (the amp uses Cat 5 wiring to connect to the touchpad) to a stronger outlet and routing Cat 5 through the basement to the entry wall. One problem discovered after cutting into the wall: it was 3.5 inches deep, while the NuVo speaker was about 3.75 inches. Rob managed to create a snug fit, but we decided to turn the inwalls into in-ceilings for the dining and Jordyn’s rooms. The entire install was complete around 5.
We started listening to my docked iPod while Rob walked through highlights of the controllers like: keeping a host controller “locked” so guests can’t change tunes; using “party” mode to turn all rooms on; creating presets; switching sources; calibrating speakers; and enlisting the sleep timer.
Being able to use the OLED to adjust speaker equalization is a plus - my wife noted that the kitchen/dining area speaker seemed light on bass, so I went into the settings and maxed it.
The great part is that anyone familiar with an iPod interface can use the menu, which mimics it. The only downside I’ve found is that hitting “artists” always brings you to the top of the alphabet.
A Solid Multiroom Solution
The Music Port definitely serves up “the sizzle” that Russ had enthused about, and the system makes it simple to dock and play your iPod.
Renovia is a solid multiroom solution for townhouses and condos, and retrofit-heavy regions like New England. Also, the freestanding amp can be placed anywhere near an outlet, so you can even have it on a bookshelf fueling nonarchitectural speakers, for example.
Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro, Commercial Integrator and Security Sales & Integration magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews. Have a suggestion or a topic you want read more about? Email Arlen at [email protected]
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