Home Audio Systems–Technology for Retrofitting Existing Homes

Home audio systems can be installed in new homes that are built with structured wiring systems or even in homes with speaker wire and/or CAT-5 wire that is distributed to every room in the home. Most existing homes, however, do not have extensive sound-system wiring that can be used to distribute audio throughout the home. Re-wiring the home to accommodate audio can be an expensive and disruptive process as it usually involves tearing into walls and sometimes floors or attic floors.

One alternative to running separate audio system wiring is the use of powerline communications (PLC) systems. A PLC system works by running a high frequency carrier signal on top of the 50 or 60 Hz signal that is present in the existing electrical wiring. For the distribution of media, the carrier signal frequency is above the megahertz range (much higher than control signals). Installation of a PLC system requires that a keypad be installed near an existing electrical outlet in each room. The keypads communicate over the existing wiring to a media manager that is typically placed near an Ethernet hub, so that popular internet radio and streaming audio sites, both paid and unpaid, can be accessed easily. A minimal amount of wiring is required to connect the keypads to existing electrical sources.

Currently available media managers are capable of providing up to three simultaneous audio signals to the PLC network. The media manager plugs into a wall outlet – the outlet provides power to the media manager while the media manager provides the audio signal to the PLC network through the power line. Once the keypads are installed in each room, wiring must be run to the speakers. The amount of wiring can be minimized by placing speakers in proximity to the keypad in each room.

The PLC audio system by Russound, the Collage, was introduced in late 2010. In the future, it is expected that the systems will interface with iPod devices as well as other popular digital media as well as remote-control devices.

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