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Distributed Audio & Surround Sound

Barry Manilow, Elvis Presly, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Guns & Roses... Fill any room with music with a touch of a button.

Surround sound, uses multichannel audio, encompassing a range of techniques for enriching (expanding and deepening) the sound reproduction quality, of an audio source, with additional audio channels reproduced via additional, discrete speakers. The three-dimensional (3D) sphere of human hearing can be virtually achieved with audio channels above and below the listener. Surround sound technology is used in cinema and home theater systems, video game consoles, personal computers and other platforms. Information concerning distributed audio.

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Whole House Audio (distributed audio) systems are ones which allow for playback and often control of music throughout an entire home or building. There are numerous commercial systems that can be purchased, or a system can be custom built or homemade.

Whole house audio systems fall into several categories:
1. single source, single zone;
2. single source, multiple zone;
3. multiple source, multiple zone.

Single Source, Single Zone
These systems distribute the same audio source everywhere--individual rooms must listen to the same audio source. This is the most simple type of system that can be installed. If designed properly, no special equipment is required other than one amplifier and a desired audio source. Care must be taken not to overload the amplifier by keeping the total speaker impedance above the amplifier's rated minimum impedance. This can be done by wiring the speakers in series as opposed to parallel (though if the impedance is too high, power transfer will be very inefficient); by using impedance-matching transformers; or by using constant-voltage transformers (often, 70 volts). These systems are commonly employed in retail scenarios and large buildings such as churches where large, open areas would benefit from additional speakers.

Single Source, Multiple Zone
Separate volume controls are usually installed in each room or zone to compensate for differences in apparent volume due to room size and shape. Here especially, impedance-matching volume controls can be used to protect the amplifier from overload. This system design is otherwise the same as a single source, single zone in that all zones must listen to the same audio source, though volume control is independent in each room (and audio can be turned off in rooms, as desired).

Multiple source, Multiple Zone
These systems are the most advanced and flexible ones, and the most expensive. Different zones can select (and often control) different audio sources independently of other rooms. In contrast to the systems described above, this kind requires multiple amplifiers (at least one per source, but usually one per zone). This kind of system could be assembled from separate components (e.g. a splitter-router-matrix mixer, a processor, amplifiers and control panels), though knowledge of professional audio equipment and automation systems would be required. More commonly, commercial systems are employed to accomplish these tasks. Some systems distribute digital audio over Cat5 cable to amplifiers installed in each zone. Others have all equipment centralized and distribute speaker-level audio from the "headend" equipment location. Manufacturers of such equipment include NuVo and Zon.

Virtually any kind of speaker may be used for distributed audio applications. Home audio systems usually make use of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers or small "satellite" speakers. Larger venues will often make use of larger speakers. For outdoor installations, speakers may be camouflaged as rocks or hidden in landscaping.

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