Which whole house audio system?


Active Member
In another thread I discussed the ON-Q GreyFox Intercom and Lyriq / A-Bus whole house audio systems. Based on the input there, I don't think I want to go A-Bus and would like to wire / plan for something more sophisticated like Nuvo or Russound. But I'm still not quite "getting" the integration piece.

Basically, here is what I see using audio for, in priority order

1. Intercom. We want intercom units in every bedroom, gameroom, office, kitchen, home theater, etc. Basically every room.

2. HA controller integration (Elk M1G most likely) for voice announcements, etc. Voice control integration via HomeSeer or the like would be good too. Not sure if mics are part of any of these systems or if that's separate deal all together.

3. Distributed audio (Media server, XM, FM, etc.)

So basically what I want is an intercom system that can also carry Elk announcements. If it could also do whole house audio that would be nice but is not required. If the intercom could be used as a mic source for voice control that would be good too.

Does such a system exist? If I can get the intercom and HA integration and just pre-wire for whole hous audio (and not in all the same places), that would be ideal.
For intercom, Cat5 from locations to central wiring closet where the master unit will be installed.

For whole house audio, you need to pick the type system to decide low level signal or high level signal distribution. I suggest a Cav6.6 which is high level signal. Keypads are Cat5 wire from keypad to Cav6.6 unit. Multiple Cavs can be daisy chained for more channels. The Cavs are RS232 controllable.

Be careful with voice recognition. Very hard to implement well. You have to minimize your customer's expectations on reliability or you will drown in return calls. For open floor plan houses, next to impossible to get good mike positioning. Go with touchscreens in wall instead. Much higher satisfaction level and reliability.

You can connect the ELK to HA software like MainLobby, CQC or Homeseer. Then, you can have a Text to Voice software (not sure if CQC offers this yet), that can speak the ELK induced actions out a PC sound card. Then, tie the PC sound card output as an input to the cav6. The automation software would do all the zone / source switching so that you can manage where the spoken results are broadcast, and what volumes. This is far superiour to the ELK speaker output as it will sound almost natural language and much more extensible.

Yes, you can do any pieces you want, but make sure you go overboard on the wiring (low voltage - IR, speaker, Cat5, alarm, keypads, etc. and high voltage). Ideally home run wire all the high voltage so you can upgrade to a low voltage light controller. Of course you can also wire UPB, Insteon or Z-Wave instead of the traditional switches and receptacles to save the double labor of a retrofit later. Well worth the investment up front.
I use a Panasonic phone system for intercom which provides both all-page and private station to station conversations. I do HA announcements using the all-page and youcan use either the handsets or the speakerphone for VR applications.

Distributed audio is a separate system from the phones but HA messages can go over those speakers as well.
DavidL said:
For whole house audio, you need to pick the type system to decide low level signal or high level signal distribution. I suggest a Cav6.6 which is high level signal. Keypads are Cat5 wire from keypad to Cav6.6 unit.
Doesn't the CAV stuff also require running speaker wire from the unit to the keypad and then to the speakers as well?

Also, I believe Russound has a new product coming out already out, etc. called ComPoint that is supposed to work well with there stuff..

pkoslow had some good posts floating around (here i believe) about it.. He also has done some good topics on the homeseer board about VR as well..
It's sounding like a need to treat the whole house audio system separately from the intercom. I like the idea of using the audio system for HA announcement except that I'll have more intercom units than audio units, especially if I go with something like CAV 6.6. Intercoms in all bedrooms, but CAV keypad likely just in master and main living areas, theater, etc.

Would be nice if I could use the intercom system for HA announcements. Anybody done this or know a system that supports it?
Doesn't the CAV stuff also require running speaker wire from the unit to the keypad and then to the speakers as well?
No. That's an A-Bus design where the amplifier is in the keypad. With the MS/MZ systems the amp is in the unit. There are separate runs from the unit to keypads (cat5) and speakers (14/16ga).

I was also looking at running HA announcements thru a MS/MZ system and spoke to Russond and Nuvo at EHX. Ideally you want it as a paging over-ride so the announcement would over-ride the music. Neither system supports that so you would have to figure out a way to control it like maybe sending serial commands to it but I have not researched that. With all the complexity involved I am seriously considering just keeping the HA/TTS and audio separate. You would also complicate it if you throw a pc like CQC or Mainlobby into the mix where you wanted Elk voice AND TTS from the PC. You would need a way to switch or mix them as well.
Don't forget the "Old School" method which is messy to wire but very flexible. Use a separate PA amp for HA messages and do speaker switching. You can use dedicated HA speakers in areas where you don't have whole house audio set up and you can share the music speakers in locations where you have them installed.

You can use the relay outputs from your ELK to do the switching and control it right in the Elk rules.

This requires messing with a lot of relays and maybe some 70V audio transformers but it is a brute force approach that can be adapted to interface with a lot of different situations.

I would still use a Panasonic phone system for your intercom requirements.
The reason i'm personally choosing to not use the audio system for HA announcements is that my pre-amps and/or receivers that drive the sound take too long to switch to the announcement input source. There's probably a 2-4 second timelag, which is long enough to be irritating.
Take a look at the KX-TA824. You may still see it's previous model the 624 on the web. Go with the 824, it is configured through a PC interface (the 624 requires a Panasonic phone). It supports Panasonic's phones, plain old phones and door phones. Channel Vision has door phones with integrated cameras that are compatible with the Panasonic systems.
The 824 also has integrated basic voicemail or you can use an external voicemail system (KX-TVA50) which has a lot of additional features.

Best feature (IMHO) is that ring patterns can be set so the phones ring different for main line, kids line, fax line, business line or whatever. The variable ring pattern is much better than a "ring tone" option because it works with plain old ordinary phones as well as system phones.

Only real downside is system capacity. It only supports 24 extenstions plus 4 doors. If you stick a voicemail system on it knocks you back to 22 extensions. If you add a Busy lamp field console you lose another extension. I have the previous model (624) and am living with 21 system phones but could really use about 8 more.

Panasonic makes systems larger than the 824 but you give up key features (like the ring patterns) that really make the 824 ideal for home use.