The Whole-House Entertainment Network from Audioaccess is an integrated solution for the custom builder installing a high-end system in the home.
In the late '80s and early '90s, whole-house audio systems seemed to be yet another passing fad, cursed to tread the path of the Dodo and shag carpeting. But thanks to custom home sector demand, the market stayed alive, and manufacturers kept improving the whole-house audio and entertainment concept.
The Audioaccess W.H.E.N. (Whole-House Entertainment Network) is an integrated system that reaped the benefits. The W.H.E.N. incorporates three systems in a single package: a home theater system; a whole-house audio and video distribution system; and a paging and audio/video intercom and monitoring system. The system's active components include four basic parts that provide all audio and video needs, with features such as the AVR21EN Receiver/Controller; the AVH21 Audio and Video Distribution Hub; the WPS21 Power Supply Hub; and the KP21 Amplified Display Keypad.
"In the home theater, the AVR21EN Audio Video Receiver/Controller is not only a high-quality home theater A/V receiver but also is the system's centerpiece for the whole house system," says Chris Robinson, director of sales for Audioaccess. His colleague Paul Bente says controls for the home theater should go in the home theater and other areas of the home.
The AVR21EN's integrated design controls sources and distributes entertainment signals for the rest of the home in addition to providing surround sound and amplification in the main home theater area, so a separate whole-house music and paging system won't need to be integrated.
Although the technology is quite complex, how it works is simple. The audio and video signals from home entertainment systems such as a DVD player or iPod are distributed from the AVR21EN to the Audio and Video Distribution Hub, which could be anywhere in the home; Robinson says installers usually put this component in the basement, crawl space, attic or utility area.
The AVH21 hub and associated Power Supply Hub are the multi-room wiring "head-end" components where the whole-house wiring terminates. A single Cat-5 cable from the AVR21EN receiver located in the home theater to the AVH21 hub streams all eight uncompressed digital stereo audio signals (including those from the AVR21EN's two built-in FM/AM tuners) and also sends control signals to the hub. It distributes to up to 20 rooms throughout the home.
The same type Cat-5 cable is then routed from the AVH21 hub to one of the KP21 Amplified Display Keypads located in a remote room. "The keypad includes a high-powered digital amplifier that can play speakers at not only background volumes but higher levels, including party levels as well," says Robinson.
The sources in the home theater are controlled with control screens on the remote keypad, and advanced source control may be accessed locally with a hand-held remote.
Some sources, such as an iPod at the AVR21EN receiver in the main room, have two-way feedback to all the keypad displays, and iPod menus may be viewed and controlled by any keypad just as if the iPod itself was located in the local room — a huge selling point for the W.H.E.N. system.
In addition to the Cat-5 cable for audio and control signals, a speaker wire from the WPS21 Power Supply Hub provides enough voltage — or as Robinson puts it, "amplifier Juice" — to the keypad so that the unit can provide its relatively large 50 watts per channel to the speakers in the local room.
Video, on the other hand, is distributed by the system to local TVs from up to 13 video sources. Six video sources from the AVR21EN, such as a DVD or cable box, may be routed to a local TV using a RG-6 coaxial cable from the AVR21EN to the AVH21 Audio Video Hub. Seven additional inputs on the AVH21 hub are used for sending composite video from security cameras.
The keypad also includes a microphone for paging any room in the house, and these other rooms may then talk back to the area initiating the page and be heard from the high-quality local music speakers. A monitoring function may also be used to listen in to another area of the home, and if paged in this function, the monitored room can talk back without going to the keypad to press the "talk" button on the keypad.
"A near-term future upgrade will include a door communications and door opening function that will allow the homeowner to speak to the person at the front door," says Robinson. Currently, W.H.E.N. enables users within the home to see the person standing outside the door from a security camera on a local TV display and unlock the door from a keypad.
Though there is a lot of technology huffed into the system, Robinson says, a custom builder in Colorado has already installed a W.H.E.N. system and plans to install a system in each of the homes he builds.
"In most cases," says Robinson, "a builder would subcontract this work with a local integrator. The system is so simple to install that the builder most likely already work with a subcontractor, A-V or low-voltage integrator that can easily do the work with minimal training."
Unlike most systems that provide more than just simple audio distribution, the W.H.E.N. system does not require PC programming to initiate any system feature, and all functions are configured using an on-screen menu system.
This allows W.H.E.N. to be installed by not only high-level audio and video integrators, but also by emerging integrators that install other low-voltage systems. The on-screen system allows the installer to configure source control, label sources and rooms, and set up entertainment and paging groups.
All this technology is nice, sure — for today. Future technologies, however, may be implemented by replacing parts of the system that are then upgraded — and not necessarily by replacing all the components.
"Although no system can be considered as entirely future-proof," says Robinson, "W.H.E.N., with its modular system design and common wiring infrastructure, gives homeowners the satisfaction of knowing that that the wiring embedded in their home will most likely accommodate future whole-house technologies."
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