By BUILDER Magazine Staff One way to get music around the house is to install in-wall speakers with volume controls and wire them back to a central stereo. But the expense of such a system limits it to well-heeled buyers. Most people who want tunes in the bedroom opt for a mini-system like the Bose wave radio or one of the many MP3 players on the market.
Mark Cerasulo, a senior manager with Leviton's integrated networks division, says he was determined to develop a wiring infrastructure that would knit these mini-systems into a whole-house audio network. And he wanted to use standard Category-5 wiring, which he says is dirt cheap compared to the patch cords used to connect most stereo components today.
The result is the Decora Media system, which consists of Cat-5 wiring in a star configuration, with home-runs connecting wall-mounted send and receive plates to a central hub.
The hub takes the output from a device plugged into a send plate (say, a PC with music files) and sends it to any device (a radio, an MP3 player, or even an old stereo system) whose input is plugged into a receive plate. The system can serve up to six such devices.
The problem, says Cerasulo is a run of Cat-5 that's longer than 160 feet--not unusual in a large home--is prone to interference and losses. Decora solves the problem by outfitting its send and receive plates with electronic amplifiers. The electronics at the send plate sense the strength and clarity of the digital signal at the receiver, then amplify and clean it accordingly. The hub and six wall plates cost roughly $650 plus installation. The system requires dedicated runs of Cat-5 wiring.