Russound is introducing commercial audio products to the marketplace. Long a manufacturer of home audio products, from humble volume controls to whole house audio systems, the company is starting to explore the commercial marketplace with a mixer amp, speakers and 70 volt volume controls.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with Russound's mixer amp, the XZone70V, and it’s different than any other mixer amp I’ve seen.
Sure, there are similarities on paper. The amplifier is rated at 300 watts, and is monaural. It can play into a 4 ohm load or a 70 Volt load, provided you pay attention to the math. Nothing radical there.
If you need lots of power, the unit has balanced preamp outputs to connect to any manufacturer’s amplifier.
The unit has a microphone input on the back side, and can even support phantom powering if desired. There’s a gain pot on the back side that allows you to get the mic volume into the right neighborhood. The amplifier automatically ducks whatever source is playing when the microphone is activated. Clearly, getting a microphone with an on/off switch or push to talk bar or button makes sense.
If you wanted to use a telephone paging port off of a KSU system, you’d need to buy a matching transformer. Nothing out of the ordinary there, and many suppliers offer that transformer for not a ton of dough. There’s one 3.5 mm stereo input jack on the back side for an auxiliary source.
Benefits for Business Owners
What makes this amplifier unique are a couple of additional features; it has an onboard streamer, and it can be controlled by an app or Russound’s proprietary XTS touchscreen. The streamer allows the user to access a wealth of sources, including Apple Airplay, Pandora, Spotify, and DLNA sources, Tune In, VTuner and Sirius XM for business.
The implications of the last source are big for many business owners, be it bar, restaurant, shop or what have you. Playing music in a public venue means that, by law, the business owner is responsible for paying licensing fees to ASCAP, BMI and Sesac. Failure to do so can lead to civil suits, and even the smartest bar owner should avoid that fight. Frankly, they’re not going to win. By subscribing to the Sirius/Xm for business feed, those fees are paid.
Understand that as the installer, you are not liable for your client choosing to obey or not obey the licensing requirements. But providing a source that is easy for a business owner to comply with the law is a big, big deal.
I’m a fan of always knowing where the control device is, so I’d recommend using the touchscreen. Russound has engineered the software so it appears the same on either the touchscreen or your handheld device. You can have multiple control devices in a system, which could include several XTS’s and/or handhelds as needed.
Further, the app allows the user to switch sources on the streaming part, from channel to channel or service to service. Finally, it allows the user to select the auxiliary input at the push of a button.
And, since its app driven, all the Meta data that the internet source provides will appear on the app. Want to listen to the Bobby Blue Bland channel? You can do it without having to go to the front of the unit. We’re used to that functionality on home equipment. This is an integrated device that does what you want and need without spending premium dollars, with an interface that most folks are looking for.
Did I mention that you can control volume with the app?
At 300 watts, this amplifier will drive quite a few speakers. I haven’t seen the Russound commercial speakers yet, but I could easily drive a whole mess of 70 volt speakers from any number of other vendors; I could do a high/low system and run the preamp out to an 8 ohm amp for driving bottom end subs, and install lots of 70 volt speakers for mids and highs.
The Real Test: Installation
I tested the amp at a small restaurant and bar one town downriver from where I live. Rebecca, the owner, was practically giddy when I described what the system could do. She loved the app control, and since paying music licensing is a chore, she was thrilled with the Sirius-XM business service.
Her facility is divided into two zones; outdoors on the deck are a couple of small box speakers, and inside there are four more. I was able to get it to rock, with acres of headroom. I didn’t install the keypad, and so when Rebecca’s phone battery died, she had to adjust volume from the front panel mounted controls. Since she did that with the previous system, it wasn’t a pain at all.
The most difficult part of the installation, frankly, was running a network wire to the amplifier. Installers will need to register the unit to unlock it, and you’ll need to be a Russound Certified Installer to do that. Your Russound supplier can get that process going for you; don’t wait until you get to the job site to do that. I’d strongly recommend that you have your client have their account information for whatever streaming service they wish to use ahead of time as well.
Once you’ve unlocked the unit, you’ll use a web configuration tool to set up things like static or dynamic IP settings, naming, volume trimming, and enabling or disabling services from online sources. The first time you do it, it’ll take about ten minutes, and the second time, less.
All in all, this thing is great for folks who want music, maybe some paging, don’t want to fuss with separate licensing issues, and want to run a medium sized venue. I was very impressed. Rebecca wants to know if she can keep it.