Today’s solutions are better sounding, more reliable, easier to install, simpler to use and more affordable than ever!

Let There Be Music…Everywhere

Peter Hoagland

"Let There Be MusicEverywhere"
How the Latest Multi-Room Audio Technology is Changing Homebuyer's Lifestyles
By Peter Hoagland

Today's solutions are better sounding, more reliable, easier to install, simpler to use and more affordable than ever!



It's a scene played out in households all over America. Mom wants to listen to soft rock. Dad prefers oldies. The kids' musical tastes change as quickly as the latest fashions, but are sure to hit their parents like fingernails on a chalkboard. The musical happy medium has yet to be written. Unless you're living in the digital age, that is.

Today's high-tech households have discovered a secret to family harmony: multi room audio. A multi room audio system takes the music you love-from CDs, DVDs, your MP3 player, FM and satellite radio or a music server -and sends it to any room in the house. No longer do you have to fight over the family stereo. Multi room audio systems enable family members to store and play the music they love when they want to hear it wherever they are. On command!

For more than twenty years, customers have enjoyed quality music and sound distributed around their home. In fact, Multi-Room Audio fueled the early days of custom installation in the 1980's and early 90's. Eventually home theater became the focus for custom installers while in recent years, structured wiring, home networking and systems integration have taken center stage. Meanwhile, Multi-Room Audio solutions in the custom community have steadily become more elaborate and leaning toward the high-tech yet offering remarkable ease of use and affordability.

The demand for multi room audio systems has grown over the last few years, with projections for household penetration as high as one quarter of new homes by the later third of this decade. In fact, 65 percent of homebuilders currently offer multi-room audio as a standard or optional feature, according to the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) Multi Room Audio Video Council.

It's Your Serve

The latest rage among high-tech homebuyers is the ability to record and store their favorite music on what is a sophisticated hard drive called a music server. Music servers are fast becoming an essential component in home entertainment systems. Centrally located, they provide convenient, easy access to your music collection from virtually anywhere in the home.

Higher performance music servers allow multiple users to listen to the same or different song from anywhere in the home that the system can be accessed. Greater capacity models are now entering the marketplace, allowing customers to store more music than ever in one central place.

Technological advancements over the past two years have made music servers more affordable than ever and most are compatible with home A/V and control components from other manufacturers. New, must-have consumer features are being added rapidly to these home music servers. For example, downloading to existing portable players makes it possible for consumers to take all their favorite music wherever they may go outside the home.

The process is simple and intuitive and in most cases your music can be recorded and stored automatically. Best of all, as with virtually all technology, music servers are becoming so affordable that they are becoming a must have in many new homes.

Growing Number of Choices

A growing number of Multi-Room AV companies now offer Music Servers and some offer a family of differentiated models in a good/better/best format. With the latest models just introduced at the recent CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis, more and more brands are offering complete music solutions - from the entry, single room solution to the multi-room, upper echelon of the custom market. These logical step up solutions provide a powerful selling proposition for the homebuilder and their A/V contractor to the homebuyer. High quality music servers are now available for as little as $2000.

These multi-tiered lineups also provide great flexibility of features and options allowing the A/V contractor or integrator to best tailor a product solution to the individual homebuyer's needs and/or budget. For example, how large a hard drive you need can range from 160GB to 250GB and more. Or the number of "streams" offered which simply defines the number of different music sources a home can have playing at the same time.

Much like copying CD's on the home computer, music servers have a "ripping speed" which simply specifies how fast the music will be copied. The newest models employ state of the art ripping speeds of 20x through use of the server's front CD tray. Faster ripping speeds can save considerable time, especially for large music collections.

Another convenient service offered by some companies is an affiliation with a company called Ready To Play, a leading digital music services provider. Dealers can offer the end customer Ready To Play's service of loading their entire music collection right onto their music server for them. Turn around time is quick and provides the customer with a truly plug and play experience so they can begin enjoying their complete music collection even faster.

Higher performance servers also provide jukebox-like features providing the user with the ability to easily create a song list from their music collection that will play in the order they wish. In the great tradition of the classic American jukebox, users can add as many songs as they like to their jukebox, all with intuitive ease.

Even the portable rage of the universally popular iPod hasn't been overlooked with Music Servers. Some models now come standard with an iPod compatibility feature that makes it easy to transfer music and take all their favorite tunes with them wherever they go.

Of course the best technology in the world does little good if the customer can't access it quickly and easily. Music servers and Multi-Room AV systems in general now provide state of the art graphics for use with Touch Panel displays which can be located throughout the home, offer a rich graphical experience with intuitive ease of use. Affordable keypads are even becoming simpler and more user friendly via new breakthroughs in industrial design.

The Opportunities Are Endless

As evidenced by the latest technology in Music Servers, Multi-Room Audio products and technology have changed dramatically in twenty years. Today's solutions are better sounding, more reliable, easier to install, simpler to use and more affordable than ever! Whatever the budget or complexity of system, Music Servers are certainly worth considering for installation in a new or existing home.

Whether you are a homebuilder, A/V contractor or high-end systems integrator, don't overlook the tremendous customer benefits and profit potential of Music Servers in today's Multi-Room Audio systems.

Peter Hoagland is a consumer electronics technology consultant based in Warrenton, VA PeterHoagland@earthlink.net 


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