Review: Russound C Series Multiroom Audio System

Russound's new 8-source/8-zone MCA-C5 controller with MDK-C5 keypads 'addresses many of the kvetches' of the CAV and CAM systems.

Review: Russound C Series Multiroom Audio System
Fred Harding · May 21, 2009

Disclaimer: Fred Harding works for Capitol Sales, a reseller of Russound products. His review nevertheless provides a useful analysis for CE pros.

Russound has been building quality whole house systems for many years. They were on of the first manufacturers to offer metadata to keypads in responsibly-priced systems with the CAV and CAM.

Their newest entry is a system called the MCA-C5 controller, which utilizes MDK-C5 keypads. In Russound’s nomenclature, they call this the C series.

Out of the box, the unit features the ability to work with 8 sources and feed 8 zones. The system can be expanded to include up to 6 controllers, making for an 8 x 48 system option.

The first source can be the built in AM/FM tuner, which features Radio Data System technology. That will show program information on the keypad, along the lines of what your customer sees in their car radio display.

The system has 6 amplified zone outputs with 40 watt per channel digital amplifiers. Each zone offers the option of preamp or fixed outputs. The last two zones only offer preamp or fixed outputs.

When purchased as a package, the system only includes six keypads, so take note if you have more then six zones.

Features Include R-Net, Routed IR and Power Management

The system supports the Russound proprietary communications link they call R-Net, which supports meta data to keypads from:

  • Russound external tuners (AM-FM x 2, AM-FM and XM, XM x 2, and AM-FM and Sirius)
  • the Russound BGK-1 iPod dock
  • the Russound BGK-2 server, which links up to a Mac Mini computer for iTunes applications
  • the Russound SMS music servers, as well as their Component Video Matrix Switchers

Connection to those components requires a cat 5 jumper and a left and right audio pair for each output.

The system offers many of the things we’ve come to expect from any whole house system: voltage triggers to activate ancillary devices, routed IR for controlling multiple units from the same code set, and paging capabilities.

I really liked the power management capability, which looks for an audio signal, and, if none was present, would output an appropriate power command.

The system offers the ability to link up zones and sources, and allows the user to have one control point for several zones or have several control points in a continuous floor plan home always listening to the same source.

The keypad is elegant, and passed a thorough examination by my wife. It was easy to manipulate, and allowed me to hide unused sources so that there was never a dead air situation. My wife enjoyed being able to find her favorite Patti Smith tracks through the iBridge without having to go through the CD rack.

Programming Software Done on a PC

Programming was accomplished by a PC, and only by a PC. In years past, you could program Russound systems using a keypad, but it was arduous at best. The software for this system is not the PC Power Tools that Russound sells; the software is available online at no charge to qualified installers.

The software allows the user to match source volume levels, name zones, set macros and establish numeric limits on the number of discs a CD player has so you aren’t searching for things that aren’t there.

It took me about 15 minutes to program the system the first time. As with any new software, I’d strongly suggest working with it before you get to the job site to have any questions clarified.

Sound Quality Performs Well

Sound quality was good through the amp on a variety of box style of speakers, including Boston A-40’s, NHT Super Zeros, Pinnacle Atlantis 5’s, M & K K 5’s and more.

I’d always recommend a larger amp for outdoor applications. I was able to easily hook up the companion K-9 subwoofer to the M & K satellites using pre amp out on the appropriate zone, making for a nice, well balanced sounding zone.

Russound designed the system to be an audio system, but installers can link it to their component video matrix switcher and control it via the R-net connection. I would certainly like to see Russound address HDMI switching integration, however. It’s a feature that is clearly missing from the product.

In any case, Russound addresses many of the kvetches that installers had with the CAV and CAM systems with this product.

  About the Author

Fred Harding is in sales and technical support at Capitol Sales, a full service distributor of electronic installation hardware. He is a frequent contributor to CE Pro, writing hands-on product reviews and technical tips. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Fred at [email protected]

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  Article Topics

Security · Keypads & Control Devices · Audio/Video · Distributed Audio · Products · Russound · All Topics
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