• Keypads from Harman Kardon (left) and Russound (right) bring A-BUS distributed audio technology to the home. The streamlined wiring system is built around Category-5 cable.
    Keypads from Harman Kardon (left) and Russound (right) bring A-BUS distributed audio technology to the home. The streamlined wiring system is built around Category-5 cable.
Electronics integrators like Tim Wilcox would rather their customers didn't know how easy an A-BUS distributed audio system is to install. The multisource, multizone music system does much of what only expensive, hard-to-wire audio systems could deliver in the past. “It's superintuitive for the end user and it's pretty easy to install, but it works like magic,” he says.

Notably, the A-BUS system allows integration companies like Wilcox's JWE Corp. to bring whole-house audio efficiently and reliably to a broader segment of the population. “Our focus is production home building, so we need solutions that allow us to get in and out with [the fewest] callbacks possible,” Wilcox says. “A-BUS improves our world because we don't get calls for support.”

a peek at the engine

Developed by Australia-based LeisureTech Electronics, A-BUS is licensed in the United States to structured wiring and electronics firms such as Cambridge Audio, Channel Vision Technology, DSC, Eaton Corp., Harman Kardon, Honeywell, Integra, Jamo, MTX Audio, Opus Technologies, Phase Technology, Russound, and UStec. A-BUS products are sold in both custom and retail channels, and UStec integrates A-BUS as part of its structured wiring portfolio.

Part of A-BUS' appeal is its streamlined wiring. The system is built around the ubiquitous Category-5 cable, an eight-conductor communications wire that's the backbone of structured wiring, home networks, and residential telephone systems. A single Cat-5 cable transports the power, control, and audio signals required to carry music from an audio/video equipment stack to other rooms in a home. The Cat-5 connection also enables bidirectional data communication so users can tell if the system is on or off in other rooms.

Keypads from Harman Kardon (left) and Russound (right) bring A-BUS distributed audio technology to the home. The streamlined wiring system is built around Category-5 cable.

Keypads from Harman Kardon (left) and Russound (right) bring A-BUS distributed audio technology to the home. The streamlined wiring system is built around Category-5 cable.

The heart of the system is the A-BUS hub (either an audio/video receiver or a dedicated module), which connects to amplified keypads in other rooms via Cat-5 cabling. The hub connects to the source components, including their infrared receivers, thereby allowing remote control operation of the equipment from keypads in other rooms. Keypads also pack onboard digital amplifiers, which don't give off excess heat the way analog amplifiers do, in turn allowing for much smaller designs that fit in the wall. Keypads connect to the speakers using standard speaker wire. Homeowners select sources and control volume at the keypad or by using a hand-held remote control to send commands through a keypad's IR (infrared) sensor.

Positioning the amplifiers in each room, closer to the speakers, has two tangible benefits. First, it minimizes the number of cables that must be strung from the equipment head end to the speakers. (The Cat-5 cable handles what used to be accomplished with four-conductor speaker wire, a control cable, and AC wiring.) Plus, the shorter the distance the audio signals have to travel, the less signal loss that occurs along the way. The result: better sound.