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MultiZone Dilema  

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
You could always roll your own system. Get a multi-zone IR extender system from someone like Niles, put IR sensors in each zone to control the system with a remote, and an in-wall volume control for each set of speakers.

That's what I'm probably going to wind up doing, although I'm also toying around with the idea of using X10 keypads to control each zone and wiring them through an Ocelot X-10 controller to convert the X10 signals back to IR.

Then just buy a cheap receiver for each zone, and a passive multiplexor to feed the source material to each receiver. Put a stick-on infra-red emitter to the sensor of each receiver, controlled through the multi-zone controller.

I just came back from my local automation dealer, since I wanted to look at the Niles stuff again. I'm waffling on this decision myself. Sticker shock! I found out that the Niles keypads are $800 each (Canadian). So a four-zone system with dedicated keypads would be at least 5K going that route. Using IR sensors, an ocelot, and X-10 keypads I can probably build the whole system for $1K or less.
post #2 of 10
I was all set to use the Russound CA4.4pi for the following 4-zone arrangement...when I relaized that the pre-amp outputs of the 4.4 are variable based on kepad volume...Ummph! That means the primary room must be on for the other rooms in the same zone to enjoy audio...HELP!

Here is what I am looking to do:
This is a 3000sq ft Colonial, with a large yard

Zone 1: 2nd Floor Master Suite
Speakers and Keypad in Bedroom...
Speakers and Volume Control in bathroom
Zone 2: Main Floor
Speakers and KP in Kitchen
Speakers and VC in Dining Room
Speakers and VC in Living ROom
Speakers and VC in Library
Zone 3: Basement
Speakers and KP in Finished Rec Room
Speakers and VC in Woodshop
Zone 4: Outside
Speakers and KP in Garage
Speakers and VC for Patio/Yard

I want to be able to listen to audio in the VC rooms without having to hear it in the KP or other VC rooms.

The house has a fairly open floor plan, so seperating the Main floor into zones would be useless...

Help...Would another brand be a better fit? I am "hoping" to do this myself...but, if necessary will pursue an installer (only 'cause they have to configure it http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/frown.gif )

Thanx in advance

Jeff Grimes
post #3 of 10
Because you are using many subzones with 4 primary zones, the choices are limited and you will have to pick the best route for you. I will give you some examples.
1. Rotary Volume controls in each room of the zone, including next to the keypad. Preset the preamp output with the keypad and the rotary VCs will provide individual volume in each room.
2. Place a Switch in each room to allow the rooms to be shut off.
3. Use seperate amp channels for each room in the zone. Preset the volume level by adjusting the gain needed in each room that will track the keypad in the main room.
4. Speaker selector switch at the amp/source location to choose which rooms need sound for your needs. This is the easiest and cheapest.

The next route is to look at a larger zoned systems.
post #4 of 10
Russound also replied to my request..and agreed with your suggestion to add a valume control to the primary (KP) room. I would then set the default volume of the kepad somewhat medium...and use a seperate AMP for EACH room...

Now, another question: Would using the CA4.4pi with an external amplifier be my best choice...

Would "Audio Director", Niles, or Sonance have a more cost-effective solution...Since all require external AMPS anyway...This way I'm not paying for the 20W AMPS in the CA4.4...and only using the Pre-Amp Outputs...

I still see this beiung a DIY project...But struggle with the design...'Cause dealers won't work with since I'm not using them for the install...

Thanx for the help...

Jeff Grimes
post #5 of 10
Audio Director from Audio Control is not a consumer friendly piece of equipment. The Niles Home distribution stuff is targeted for specialty A/V companies. I am not familiar with Sonance equipment. Both Kustom and Russound made easy systems for both the A/V guys and tech-oriented consumers. If the Russound has a preamp pass-through for the zone, use it with an external amp(s). This is the least costly way to go.
I know the KUSTOM KHS6c is very affordable and has powered AND pre-amp outputs. 6 zone and six source. I am not familiar with the keypad details.
ELAN Z series is another choice. 3 Zone and with Pre-amp outputs that can be locked at a level with a dip switch for a volume control or adjustable for use with a keypad or IR receiver.
Email me if you want to get into detail. N8YKC@gte.net
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
I don't think that's necessarily the least costly way to go. You can buy inexpensive receivers for $150 each. Stack four identical units, and you've got the preamp and amps for four zones for $600. Then you just need four stick-on emitters, and a multi-zone controller. Niles sells one for a couple of hundred bucks. Each zone has an IR sensor going to a zone input on the controller, and the stick-on emitters from each zone output go to the respective receiver.

If you want multiple rooms in one zone, you can either wire the speakers in parallel or series (taking care to keep the overall impedance within limits), with appropriate in-wall level controls for each speaker, or home-run each speaker and put one set on the A speaker outputs on the amp, and the other set on the B outputs. If you get a receiver that allows you to switch from A-B with the remote, then you can use a remote in each zone to turn on the individual speakers, then use the level control to adjust the volume.

With this system, you get AM/FM radio for each zone, and each one can be on a different station and even have its own set of preset stations. Then you take your CD changer and feed the output to a 1-4 passive splitter and connect to the CD input on each receiver. Take the non-zoned output from the controller and use another stick-on emitter to control the CD changer. Voila, a multi-source, multi-zone system for less than $1000. And the beauty of this way of doing it is that the system is completely modular. If you have a main listening room, you can opt for a better receiver, better speakers, etc.

Can you see any problems with this? I've done similar setups before, and it works very well. I also used A/V receivers and fed the audio output of the DVD and Cable box into them, so that I could watch a DVD in the bedroom and listen to the sountrack in stereo without having to buy a stereo modulator.
post #7 of 10
dHanson- No, Multi-zoned preamps are not the least costly for sure, especially with external amps. Jeff has 10 areas he wants to have music in. The muli-zoned preamp method will give an extra level of control. The receiver method has been used for years and is still an easy economical way to go for some. I totally agree is is hard to beat for a zoned audio system on the low dollar budget. I do like the fact that there are seperate tuners for each zone. The complexity adds up though when trying to distribute 3 or four sources to 3 or 4 receivers. Niles and others have made amplified blocks for this and they add significantly to the price. The reason is when a receiver is off, the load impedance on the preamp circuit is lower and reduces the output. This is not the case on all receivers. I am not recommending to anyone that they daisy chain 3 or 4 sets of "y" cables. Another problem is using the home together as one Zone. Trying to control the volume and source (matching)from one area. I mean turn all the zones on and off from one keypad or IR receiver. The way I have done it in the past was to make IR zoned Macros with Xantech stuff. Another way to get an easy two-zoned music system without seperate IR zones is to use two different brands of receivers. This sounds easy to do, but the receivers operate a little differently from each other. Make sure you can find some that will accomplish the same tasks, such as Preset NEXT and PREVIOUS.
You know what. It wasn't worth the hassle for me. I just stick with the good Multi-source, multizone gear.
This is a good topic and the more suggestions like yours encourage people to read the board and get their own ideas. This section needs more readers and people to post. The stats are poor compared to the other sections.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
In my system, the Home Theater and main family room are not part of the whole-house audio system, because their needs are quite different. Surround sound, etc.

What I'm thinking about right now is a cheaper way to integrate all my various video sources into my video distribution system. The original plan was to buy separate modulators for the PC Controller, front and back video cameras, DSS/Cable box, VCR, etc. That would have the advantage of each one getting its own channel, which is nice and which means you can just use the TV remote to cycle through your in-house video. But the cost for all the modulators starts to get excessive, especially if you need high quality and stereo output.

So now I'm thinking that I should just use a single high-quality stereo modulator on the output of an A/V receiver that has lots of video inputs. It'd then be a two-stage process to select a camera view - turn the TV to the channel for the Receiver, then select the video source on the receiver using the IR distribution system. Using an Ocelot I should be able to build macros that use the source buttons on multi-function remotes. In other words, if I replace the TV remote with something like a One-For-All 6-1, then pressing 'VCR' will change the TV to the channel for the receiver, and switch the receiver's input to VCR. That'd be about as simple to use, with the added benefit that the remote would then be set up to control the VCR at that moment. A possible drawback here is that that receiver would pretty much have to be on at all times. And it can be hard to find a cheap receiver with more than 2 or 3 video inputs, so if you have more than that it could be a problem.

There are a lot of advantages to the modular way of doing things, besides cost. For one, if a component breaks down you only lose that zone, instead of your entire house.

The drawbacks are complexity, lots of wires (meaning lots of potential troubleshooting in the future if it's not done right), and a lot of physical space required for all the hardware.

Still, if you're just getting started with whole-house video/audio distribution, this isn't a bad way to go, because you can build it in pieces, and have a very inexpensive system to play around with. Then you may find that the limitations of the roll-your-own system are annoying, and you'll want to upgrade to a dedicated multi-zone preamp/amp system. Then you can just sell those receivers second-hand, and the cost to switch over should be minimal.

Or you may find that everything works well, does what you want, and you've saved some money.
post #9 of 10
Dhanson_ Take a look at the Sima SVS-4 video swither. 4 A/V inputs with S-video. Auto sensing switching available and volume stabilization. IR remote. about $130.00. Also JVC makes some 4 input and 5 input switchers with remotes. Take a look at a JX-S555.
I have a Robot 4 input video multiplexor with Rs-232 control that is available. I think the model is M94ve. There are alarm trigger inputs and outputs too.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks! I'll do that. I started looking at switchers last night after thinking about using a receiver as the switcher. A dedicated switcher is almost certainly a better way to go.
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