Multi-zone (note...we aren't even close to discussing video distribution).
There are two variants of a multi-zone system. Multi-zone, and Multi-zone/multi-source. Here we will discuss multi-zone/multi-source. This is basically a system where each zone is independently controlled from any other zone and each zone may use a different source concurrently.
On the vendor side, you have three primary vendors: Xantech, Crestron, Audio Control (Director), and Niles. While the Xantech and Niles can use IR for zone to zone control, both also allow the use of touchpads. The primary characteristic of these systems are:
1. Any zone operates independent from any other zone.
2. Each zone may be using a different source (CD in the exercise room while the tuner is being used in the kitchen, for example).
3. You can have a source "stolen" out from under you. In other words, you're enjoying Francoise Hardy in the Library (from your 300 disk CD changer) and your wife (from the living room), selects the Moody Blues. Well, now the war of the wor(l)ds begins.
The wiring is largely the same as in a single zone system except that in the majority of these systems your speaker wire runs directly to the speakers from the multi-zone amp (no volume controls). You will have a control pad in each zone which is wired back to the "zone controller" (each system using a different wiring topology). And, your sources will connect directly into the multi-zone controller.
Beyond that, there's very little similarity in the systems. Of the Xantech, Niles, and Audio Control, the Audio Control is far easier to set up and is far more intelligent (for example, if you turn off the CD and it's "on" in another room, it won't power off the CD player. When you "off" the CD in your room and it is NOT being used elsewhere, it will power it off, etc.)
The Crestron system is a beast of a different color. Not only is it more expensive, it's not likely a DIY'er will be able to program it; but, on the other hand it has capabilities far beyond the others. For example, you can prevent a source from being "stolen" out from under you. It is IP enabled to control and access MP3 sources on the net, etc.
Because most equipment (CD players, DVD players, SAT receivers have more than one pair of audio outs, you can run one Audio out into your Home Theater system and the other audio out to your multi-zone controller. With the Crestron system, you don't have to do this...Crestron will control the whole house AND the theater from a single controller (while preventing someone elsewhere in the house from killing your movie).
This is no where near as simple as audio. Largely because we all try to make it far too complex. (IE, I want the VCRs in the Living Room, Home Theater, Bedroom, and kitchen to be sources for every other video device in the house.)
In the Channel Plus world, video signals (and their audio) are modulated and assigned a channel number. For example, your DVD player's audio and video outputs are plugged into a Modulator, assigned to an unused channel (on your antenna or cable coax) and then can be viewed on any set in the house by simply tuning to that channel. Here's the downside.
The cost effective modulators are MONO. If you start paying for Stereo modulators your cost starts running up quickly. Secondly, why take a perfectly good S-VHS, Composite, or Component video signal and downgrade it to an FM, off the air quality, signal that must now be decoded by your remote TV set?
By the time you get three or four video sources (DVD player, SAT receiver, etc.), it will become more cost effective to use an Extron Matrix switch and send the Video signal (in its good form) to any set in the house.
Thus, you can have all your video sources connect to the matrix switch which would then distribute the video signal to the Video 1 or 2 input of any set in the house (or several of them concurrently). How do you control them. Well, you'd have to install IR receivers in each room, that will relay your IR request to the controller in the equipment room, or utilize a Crestron system.
Here's the rub. This is expensive. The fact of the matter is, you'll likely find it is far cheaper to buy a DVD player $100-$200 and/or SAT receiver ($200-$300) for each local set than to build the distribution and control system.
To distribute your SAT Dish and cable (or antenna) signals to every room of the house you:
1. Run RG6 quad shield coax cable from a "distribution site" to each TV set location.
2. Run your RG6 from your DSS or Dish Network satellite dish to the same distribution site.
3. Run RG6 from your off-air antenna or cable to the same location.
4. Get a Channel Master multi-switch (they are available with either 4 or 8 coax outputs.
5. Attach the cable/antenna lead into the Antenna In on the multi-switch.
6. Install two leads from your sat dish on the LNB+ and LNB- inputs on the multi-switch.
7. At each TV set, attach the coax to a Di-plexor. (It has one "Input" and two outputs. One labeled SAT/DBS/DSS and labled Antenna).
8. Connect the Antenna Out on the diplexor to the antenna/cable input on your TV set or tuner (yes...you will get the HDTV stuff this way). Attach the SAT out to your DSS/Dish receiver.
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