I am planning to prewire a new home and would like to use the A-bus for whole home audio (about 16 zones) and the Futuresmart panel for structured wiring. I see where Honeywell has an A-bus panel for their Futuresmart that has 6 outputs. Can I use 3 of these to serve my 16 zones? Also, I prefer the Channel Vision volume controls (keypads). Can I mix Channel Vision and Futuresmart A-bus components?
Sixteen zones? How many pairs of speakers are we talking about? (If your answer is 16, you may want to re-think your setup).
Yes, A-bus is compatible between different vendors. The only thing you have to be concerned about is if you plan to install (or later upgrade to) a multisource hub, whether the keypads are compatible. Some are, some aren't.
Well, it is a big house and counting patios, there are in fact 16 pairs of speakers. What is wrong with that? The ChannelVision panel modules handle 4 pairs each and they claim you can use up to 4 of them, while the Futuresmart panels handle 6 each and they claim you can use 2 of them (not quite enough for my setup). I looked into speaker level distribution and it is less expensive, but lacks the IR control capability of the Abus, plus I am not wild about running this many #16 wires all over the house.
Make sure you have enough amplification out on the patios. The A-bus keypad amp IS NOT capable of driving outdoor speakers. I have one as a slave to a CAV66 and I use a separate 200W amp to feed the rock speakers. I take the line-out from the keypad back into the house, into the amp and then over
12ga outdoor wire to the speakers. Sounds great.
Stick with units that use multiples of four as most ABus keypads support 4.
Bear in mind that in order to support the 16 zones you're talking about feeding your audio signals into 4 different hubs and then each to four keypads. Daisy-chained from one hub through to another. That's a fair bit of messy cabling. Be sure to leave enough room to effectively mount the hubs. And seriously consider getting cabling that's as close to the right length as possible. As in, don't get 6 footers and bundle them up. Get 1 footers and lay them out neatly. Likewise consider using patch panels for the keypads. Bring the wires out of the wall to the patch panel and then use a short patch cord to connect to the hubs. Don't just snake the wires out of the wall and stub then with RJ45s. It'll look crappy and if/when you need to replace something you don't want to risk breaking a cable in the process. Besides, when you show it off and it's got cleanly laid out cables people are generally more impressed than a rats nest coming out of a hole chopped in the drywall.
I have a combination of A-Bus and a CAV6.6. I greatly prefer having the Uno keypads over the somewhat 'dumb' A-bus keypads. The Uno's allow a lot more and provide text display feedback. That and the A-bus keypads don't remember the last used volume level. You have to turn them on and then ramp up the volume. You don't know it annoying until you use an Uno and it automagically starts up at a configurable volume level.
What I do it take four of the CAV66 zones and slave them each to an A-Bus keypad supplying a room nearby. For example, the sunroom has the Uno, while the deck right next to it has an A-Bus slave. Likewise, the exercise room gets the Uno, the guest bedroom next door gets the A-Bus. You could mix-and-match futher by daisy chaining the audio through the various source devices.
But when you're wiring, seriously consider wiring for the future. Pull both CAT5 for the keypad but also 4 conductor 14ga for possible future centralized speaker amplification. Wire is the CHEAP part during an open-wall installation. If you never use the central lines, well not much of a loss as wire's inexpensive. But if you even need to expand it'll cost triple to fish new wires.
Bill, thanks for the advice. I am planning to use this for background music and talk radio, nothing high volume. But the average ceiling height is about 11 feet so I hope that the Abus amps will drive a pair of Proficient Audio C610 (6-1/2 inch diameter) or equivalent at sufficient volume to do the job. What do you think? Even outdoors I plan to use the same setup with the speakers in the patio cover ceiling.
Re the cabling, I am thinking of putting the 4 audio Abus hubs (Channel Vision AB404) at three different locations. One location would have two hubs and feed 8 rooms, the other two locations would have 1 hub and feed 4 rooms each. That way, I minimize the cabling over what would be required if all hubs were at the same location. The Channel Vision hubs and the volume controls (Channel Vision AB114 keypads) all take 110 style punch down connections which I think would make for a pretty neat setup.
No, I'm saying I have a CAV6.6 and it supports attaching A-Bus keypads as slaves to 4 of it's 6 zones. The CAV6.6 supports the Uno keypads on it's 6 zones. I added the A-Bus keypads to the CAV setup, not the other way around. I did this because, frankly, using only the limited keys on the A-Bus keypads or having to use the remote all the time was not what we wanted. We greatly prefer using the Uno buttons and it's text feedback. While we *can* use the remotes, we don't unless forced to when using an A-Bus covered location.
It will not work out of doors. There's just not enough wattage to cover the sound loss due to lack of walls. You can try it first, just make sure you run the back-forth cabling to support an amp. If you never need it, well, nothing other than the cost of the wire lost. But trust me, you will need additional amplification for an area like a patio. There aren't any walls to contain and reflect back the sound.
The hubs EACH have to be provided with the source audio. If you spread the hubs around then you'll have to run the source cables to them. They DO NOT share source signals. They have to be fed in a daisy-chain fashion through each hub in order for the keypads to get them.
So, every time you want to turn on audio throughout the house, or fiddle with whole-house volume, you want to run to 16 keypads? Imagine you're rocking to some tunes in the kitchen, and get a phone call. It's an important call, and the person on the other end is hard to hear. You turn down the kitchen speakers, but then the speakers in the nook, hallway, and sunroom are still loud and interfering with your call. You'll have to run around to each of these and do the same thing. Or just run from your house :)
Typically, and especially in a large house or an open floorplan, you want zones to consist of multiple pairs of speakers. You can put volume controls in for each pair to set a good balance, but then you don't have to fiddle with them very much because you can use the zone keypad to, for example, turn down the volume in an entire living area, rather than a single pair of speakers.
It requires a little extra expense, because you'll need external amps and impedance-matching volume controls. But I think you'll find having more speakers than zones is much more convenient. Otherwise you'll be a slave to your audio system.
I use Russound Uno keypads. All I have to do is hold down the power button and all zones get turned off. Works great. Likewise I can kick them into 'party mode' and fire them all up at once, all listening to the same source and locked out from anything other than volume changes on all but a master keypad (the one that started the process). Works great for parties, people in each room can control the volume level but can't go wandering into other sources or tracks. If they need that it's easy to just set the keypad as not in the party and leave it working independently.
I think it's a little unrealistic to use the "whole houseful of speakers all cranked up" argument but it isn't beyond possibility. What this also highlights is why having an on-wall keypad is a lot better than a remote. When you get that phone call it's a lot easier to just whack the Off button on the wall than it is to go fishing around for the remote. ESPECIALLY in a place like a kitchen where you're likely to already have your hands full (or messy).
Well if I use something that is not capable of being very loud to start with (like A-bus) then I am unlikely to be bothered by the background music in another room interfering with a phone call. I like the idea of being able to turn down the volume either at the keypad or via the remote control, which I think the ChannelVision A-bus allows me to do.
Does anyone have an opinion on the quality of the Proficient Audio C610 ceiling speakers? They appear to have the same specs as several others but are a lot less expensive.
True, but that wasn't my point so much as you'll be visiting multiple keypads to do certain things, but with a little planning you could reduce the effort by creating multi-pair zones.
In fact, if you get a Russound AH-484 as your hub, you have the ability to "link" two keypads to the same zone. In other words, you still have your 16 keypads, but some are joined together where either one will control the volume for a particular living area ( 2 or more pairs of speakers). This is a nice feature, and perhaps something you can look into. One of the nice things about this is that you can remap them at will. If you decide you want to join or unjoin two keypads, just move a plug at the panel.