Crestron Sonnex – Multi-Room Audio – An In Depth Review.
Credit: CUSTOM CONTROLS
The Crestron Audio Distribution – Crestron Sonnex system is central in the vast majority of our designs – it’s a hugely flexible system which allows 24 audio inputs which can be distributed to up to 72 individual audio zones! Any input can be routed to any zone so each can listen to an independent source or any of the 72 zones can listen to the same source.
The above paragraph only hints at the huge amount of flexibility this system has. In one of typical installs the first four inputs may be Sky HD, with the next four being Apple TVs. The next bank of four inputs may be inputs from an Autonomic MMS digital music server – allowing clients to easily access iTunes, Spotify or internet radio anywhere in the home. Digital inputs at 17 – 24 allow us to input devices such as Blu-Ray players and loop them through to home cinema amplifiers – this is important as it allows clients to enjoy digital audio in surround sound rooms but also listen to that same source (at the same time) in stereo zones – great for open plan spaces where a kitchen may want to listen to the same source as a connected living room. As the Sonnex is in charge of the signal there are no issues with delays and sound being out of sync in stereo and surround zones.
The amplified outputs of the Sonnex unit are hugely flexible and can drive in-ceiling, in-wall and even garden speakers. Within our software we can configure outputs as a single stereo zone, a single speaker mono zone or a subwoofer. This means that we can configure the system to be output 1 as a pair of stereo in-ceiling speakers and output 2 as a subwoofer zone (as the subwoofer only has one speaker, the zone would be bridged providing more power!). The two zones are ganged together in the software so ceiling speakers and a subwoofer will always play the same source and the levels of each can be balanced to ensure they work well together. We even have a full EQ so we can set the speakers up to sound their absolute best in a specific room – for instance a kitchen with hard surfaces. We use this exact setup on the basketball court of our Dubai case study – two pairs of pole mounted external stereo speakers are enhanced by four in-ground subwoofers, one at each corner!
The main Sonnex unit has eight stereo zones. Additional zones can be added by Sonnex Expanders (of four or eight outputs) connected by a single inexpensive Cat5e cable. This gives us huge flexibility – amplifiers can all live in the main AV rack with speakers cabled back to them or we can have a main AV Hub with mini satellite hubs. We use this approach in larger houses to ease wiring, we split the house in to areas and then wire all speaker points to a mini hub – one Cat5e connection from the main hub then gives us a further eight rooms of audio. This approach is also applied to network points (one Cat5e or Cat6 gives us 48 network points with a local network switch) and lighting (local lighting hubs allow mains wiring to have short wiring runs).The Crestron Sonnex is easily the most flexible audio distribution system available, allowing huge amounts of flexibility in design and configuration – it is so much more than an audio amplifier!
Crestron Home Cinema Receiver – HD-XSPA – Surround Sound
This week we have been reviewing the new home cinema processor / amplifier from Crestron – the HD-XSPA. This unit fits in to our designs perfectly – the Digital Media input allows us to send 4k uncompressed video and HD audio to the unit over Cat5e cable and we therefore have the option of fitting the amplifier in the room or in the rack. Rack mounting in a central location ensures no kit on show in the room but fitting in the room allows us to use the HDMI inputs for games consoles and local sources – it all comes down to client requirements. The processing and amplification on offer give us a few design choices too – often when we are installing subwoofers in to cabinet work we need to install an extra amplifier (the sub itself is passive) where as standalone subwoofers tend to be active – luckily the HD-XSPA handles both these scenarios!
The huge amount of connections on the back of the unit allow us to control sources local to the room (bluray, games consoles, even displays) without fitting extra equipment – making this the perfect add on to a Digital Media system.
The HD-XSPA is so much more than a normal home cinema receiver – it is a surround sound solution and control system rolled in to one. The Serial, ir and relay controls all us precise control of devices such as projectors, screens and sources which are local in the room – this is literally one box which does it all. Full EQ and calibration also enable us to ensure that your new home cinema room sounds as good as it is possible to be – minimising the effect of in-room surfaces which can colour and distort the sound. The balanced audio inputs even allow us to integrate the HD-XSPA in to a Crestron Sonnex multi-room audio system – allowing the HD-XSPA to play audio only sources from the rack without the need for messy and unreliable convertors.
Crestron to get native control of Sonos devices
It’s great to hear that Sonos and Crestron have collaborated to allow seamless control of any Sonos device from a Crestron system. We have been integrating the two brands for some time – on iPad’s we launch the Sonos app from within Crestron, minimising app switching as much as possible, and integrating Sonos on to Crestron touch panels by using a Sire gateway. This new collaboration between Crestron and Sonos will mean we no longer have to use third party gateways or switch apps on the iPad.
The Sonos ecosystem is a great way to enjoy music around the home – allowing clients to easily access iTunes, internet radio and spotify via an easy to use interface. By partnering with Crestron, and using Crestron audio distribution, we can take that to another level. Sonnex, the high end audio distribution solution from Crestron, is hugely powerful and flexible – audio channels can be ganged together, rooms fully calibrated and sub-woofers added in to audio zones in addition to being hugely scalable. Our Dubai project contains a full 72 zones of audio – all of which can enjoy a number of audio sources, including Sonos. The clients basketball court is a great example of the flexibility of the Sonnex system – we installed four high end outdoor speakers on his floodlights and then enhanced this by adding four sub-woofers – one in each corner of the court. The client simply selects a custom Spotify playlist from his iPhone, adjusts the volume and begins his game. At the same time as a game being played other areas of the garden can enjoy different audio streams – allowing the family to relax by the pool with a London radio station whilst he enjoys his BBall playlist!
The flexibility of a Sonos system coupled with the power of a Crestron system is a perfect match and provides a world class audio visual experience.