A Closer Look at URC Total Control: Pricing an 8-Zone System
What does a URC Total Control ecosystem look like? Nifty remotes, elegant interfaces, streaming multiroom amps, home automation and just a little Cat 5.
Make room for another whole-house audio and control system. URC’s new Total Control line begins shipping tomorrow, Friday the 13th.
At URC’s Harrison, N.Y. headquarters earlier this week, the company provided a first-hand look at the new system, which was demonstrated for the first time at CEDIA Expo 2010.
When the full line ships later this year, it will offer whole-house audio, surveillance, lighting control and energy management, although the first batch of products focuses on multiroom audio and lighting.
Total Control revolves around a $700 networked controller, the new MRX-10, that sits on the home network. Various IP-enabled devices—URC calls them “native to the network”—plug anywhere on home network to provide whole-house control of video cameras, music, lighting, thermostats, A/V components and more.
Starting Out with Audio
The first native-to-the-network subsystems to ship are a couple of controllers and multiroom amplifiers, including the DMS-1200 8-zone amp and the single-zone DMS-100. The other key piece of the audio ecosystem – the SNP-1 music streamer – is coming this summer.
As with other devices in the Total Control ecosystem, the audio products simply plug into the home network for whole-house control and streaming.
Even though URC is new to the multiroom audio category, the company claims to have a superior solution compared to other products in its price range.
The secret is in the new MFSPOE-8 managed switch with PoE, which keeps the audio system isolated from the rest of the home network, and manages traffic for optimal multizone performance. With the switch in place, URC claims, there is no discernable latency from zone to zone.
The company says that other IP-based multiroom audio systems – the inexpensive ones at least—tend to introduce the slightest of delays, which produces a nerve-wracking echo when music plays in multiple zones simultaneously.
URC claims its competitors compromise either on multizone synchronization (with buffering, for example) or sound quality.
“There’s really no acceptable way to sync with buffering,” says Mitchell Klein, URC director of business development. “We don’t buffer.”
PRICING A SYSTEM
How much does this 8-zone URC Total Control system cost? About $12,000. See bottom of page 2 for details.
Streaming CD-quality audio throughout the home “is a lot of traffic,” says Klein. “It will take down the network. It will take down the WAP [wireless access point].”
In the Total Control scenario, all audio gear is “south” of the MFS (MAC filtering switch), isolated from other devices on the home network.
Music from the “rest” of the network can enter the Total Control ecosystem but it can’t get out, says Klein, “so audio can’t go where it doesn’t need to go.”
Sure, you could get away with a high-end managed switch but those could cost “multiple thousands of dollars,” says Klein.
Plus, a good managed network takes some expertise that many A/V specialists don’t have.
URC’s switch is optimized for its multiroom audio system, so it doesn’t have the overhead – in terms of technology, learning curve and price—of generic devices.
“Because we’re building this, and we know our products, these [switches] are preconfigured,” says Klein. “For a dealer to configure a switch, they need to plug it in.”
At this time, URC does not plan to introduce wireless audio products because the company refuses to compromise on sound quality, Klein told a small group of reporters at URC’s Harrison, N.Y. headquarters earlier this week: “When we find a good enough solution for wireless, you’ll be the first to know.”
Streaming Amps, Media Player
The two new amplifiers not only get their control signals from the network; they also can get their music streamed music over the same Cat 5.
Any source plugged into one amp can be streamed to another.
The DMS-1200 supports four sources and the single-zone DMS-100 supports one.
The SNP-1 Streaming Network Player, shipping this summer, effectively adds an unlimited number of sources. It streams audio from any DLNA device on the network, and natively supports vTuner Internet radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius and other services.
Metadata from the SNP-1 is available on any Total Control interface – including handheld remotes and touchscreens – as well as the TV via an interface much like URC’s PSX-2 iDevice server.
The SNP-1 does not require Total Control, says Klein: “You could put it into a Crestron system if you wanted, but boy is this a great product with Total Control!”
Controlling the Music … and More
A multiroom audio system is only as good as its controls, and that’s what URC does best.
Shipping tomorrow are the TRC-780 handheld remote and TKP-100 keypad. The remote incorporates two-way ZigBee RF (but don’t call it that because it is not “officially” ZigBee) and the keypad is a nice-looking one-gang unit with five buttons for scenes, plus up and down to control local audio or lighting.
Later this summer, URC will ship a WiFi-enabled touchscreen remote similar to the haptic-enabled MX-5000, as well as a two-gang IP touchscreen/keypad like the KP-4000. While the controllers work similarly to their counterparts in the Complete Control line, they are not interchangeable. In fact you can’t use any Complete Control remotes with Total Control system.
The not-officially-ZigBee remote displays a modest amount of data, while the IP devices support rich graphics including video.
RELATED: URC Total Control: First Impressions
“After the system was thoroughly explained, URC put a TRC-1280 in my hand so I could play around.
I found the interface to be very intuitive. With no coaching, I was able to select different rooms, link rooms and
control a number of systems literally within a 30 seconds of first trying it out.”—Grant Clauser, Electronic House
The programming platform for the Total Control line, CCP Accelerator, is not unlike URC’s Complete Control Program (CCP). If an integrator already knows CCP, it should take “just a little longer” to learn Accelerator, Klein says.
The new program automates many of the functions that must be applied manually in CCP. For example, if you attach a power sensor to a cable box, the on/off macros are generated automatically.
Accelerator also provides user tools not available in CCP, such as the ability for customers to create their own schedules.
The installer might program a GOOD MORNING scene, for example, and then the client could schedule it.
URC makes it easy to program certain activities such as SLEEP TIMER: The installer programs the activities – for example play waterfall noise in the bedroom speakers, and turn the lights on to 20% – and the user sets the duration (15 minutes to 75 minutes).
This should be an especially nice feature for parents whose kids are allergic to bedtime.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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