Hands On Review: Niles MRC-6430 Backbones Complete Home Entertainment
This CE Pro review found the Niles MRC-6430 whole-home controller to be easy to program while handling six sources and six zones, including surround sound home theater.
Keeping things relatively simple, I set up a 5.1 home theater and three audio zones (game room, deck, garage). Using Niles’ Auriel software to facilitate control, I use a number of devices: a free app for iOS and Android, nTP7 in-wall touchpanel, nHR200 remote, as well as Windows and Mac computers. The interface renders identically across devices, which is a major plus, but my iPhone 4S and iPad mini have become the go-to devices.
The benefit of the MRC-6430 is how easy it is to program. Find a source in the programming wizard, rename it, and assign it to the master chassis. The control interface’s home page lists each of the programmed zones and has volume control for each. Users tap a zone to see sources and click one to play.
The MRC-6430 doesn’t have any built-in sources, like streaming, which would be nice, but there are six rear analog inputs. Sources are broken into two groups, IP or IR. Niles has a vast library of IR devices, sorted by device type, then alphabetically by manufacturer and device name, but they require running IR emitters to integrate with the control devices, which can be tedious.
The list of compatible IP-controlled devices is somewhat limited, but Sonos is one, and this gets the most use from my system. All I had to do was set up the Sonos Connect, which is basically plug and play, select “Sonos” from the MRC-6430 IP device database under “media servers,” and set the source assignment. I use Sonos to stream Pandora to the theater, Niles DS7HD in-ceiling speakers in the game room and Polk Audio Atrium 4 outdoor speakers.
To control a theater, your client needs an Internet-ready receiver. I use a Denon AVR- 1613 that I connected to the same network as the MRC-6430. Through any of the control devices, I can manage theater sources, and also power on/off my Epson 705HD projector via IR. Sources hooked up to the AVR-1613 include a cable box, Apple TV and Sony Blu-ray player. The two former devices require IR emitters, while the latter is hardwired to the network. Speakers include three Niles HDLCR In-wall high definition loudspeakers, two 7-inch DS7FX DS directed soundfield ceiling-mount surround effects loudspeakers, and an Infinity PS-8 subwoofer.
The nTP7 in-wall touchpanel has to be connected to the network. I did this via a PoE switch to pass power through to the router and avoid a 12-volt wall wart.
During initial setup with Niles’ technical team, we ran into an issue when trying to connect the nHR200 to my network. We tried many things, including tweaking the settings on my router and setting up a separate network. But nothing worked until we restarted the remote a few times. There have not been any issues since.
So, how does everything sound? I am by no means an audiophile, but Sonos sounds great in all three zones; and in the theater we mostly watch Netflix, live sports and the occasional Blu-ray, and the audio very capably complements the video. In my opinion an intuitive control interface and convenience are the most important test, and the Niles system passes with flying colors.
Plus, with the possibility of being used for lighting and HVAC control, integrators should feel comfortable recommending it to clients.
MSRP varies with configuration; MRC-6430 $2,000; nKP7 in-wall controller $200; nTP7 wall-mount touchpanel $1,000; nHR200 $800.
CE Pro Verdict
PROS: Easy setup; Sonos integration; home theater integration; intuitive interface; various control options.
CONS: No built-in sources; supports a limited number of IP device.
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Steve Crowe has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Steve at email@example.com
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