Home Toys Review
- March 2003 -
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Elan Z-Series Multi Room / Multi Source 
Audio/Video System with VIA! TouchPanel

by Bob Hetherington

The Elan Z-Series is a serious system and has many more features and options than mentioned here. Sound quality and control functions are excellent. The keypads buttons are small but tactile feedback is good. The VIA! touchpanel is clear and dependable ... and just a fun thing to play with. Programming the system is fairly straight forward and the functionality of the system allows for a high level of customization.

ZSERIES
www.elanhomesystems.com
 


When we started the Home Technology Demonstration Project one of the first systems that we wanted to work with was Multi Room Audio. In the last year or so this product group has dominated the flow of new products and with good reason ... they are a terrific addition to a home. There is nothing like having the ability to listen to your favorite music ... anywhere in your home. Even better if you can control the source of the music, volume etc. from each location. And filling your home with music from end to end is just a pleasant experience ... at any time.

Multi Room audio can come in many forms and these days there are many options available.

  • A basic system would involve wiring to speakers in multiple locations and controlling them from the source (amplifier). All volume and source control occurs at the source so all zones play the same music at the same volume. This is not a great solution for obvious reasons.
  • The next level would be to add local volume control to this basic system. This is the minimum configuration that gives local control and it works for many simple applications and is relatively inexpensive ... but you are still limited to one source of music in all of the rooms ... and you can't change anything but the volume without a walk to the source.
  • Add an IR (InfraRed) receiver and to the volume control and you have rudimentary control of the source. This will allow you to use a remote control to switch sources etc. and basically control the source equipment from your location. All rooms must still listen to the same source however.
  • Multi Zone / Multi Source systems offer much more flexibility. These systems have a separate amplifier for each zone and a keypad in each room allows control of not only the volume etc. but also the sources. Now you can have different music playing in different rooms.
  • Of course the choices don't end here. There are many ways to achieve Multi Zone / Multi Source control and the costs rise as the flexibility of the system and user interfaces improve.

ELAN Home Systems has manufactured multi-room audio/video systems since 1989. The basic ZSeries system allows you to listen to up to 6 sources independently in 3 different listening areas called "zones". The system is expandable to a maximum of 12 zones. Other ZSeries components can be added to the system that allow you to view up to 8 video sources independently on any TV (Z880 Video Controller) or communicate throughout the home using your standard touch-tone telephones (Z600 Communications Controller).

For control, the Z630 PreAmp Controller allows independent access of up to six sources in three different zones. Updated for 2002, the new Series II allows up to four Z630s to be linked together, providing a six-source by twelve-zone music distribution system.

Z630 SERIES II MULTI-SOURCE MULTI-ZONE PREAMP CONTROLLERBuffered audio loop outputs allow sources to be shared between ZSystem and home theater components without signal degradation. Built-in Music Detect circuitry conveys the on/off status of each source to all ZPADs, allowing for intelligent power management of sources. Source and system status is displayed on all ZPADs and VIA!® Touchpanels in the system, providing user-friendly feedback for enhanced control.

Each zone output level can be independently fixed, making the creation of sub-zones with volume controls as easy as flipping a dip switch. Six source-specific IR output ports allow multiple same-model sources to be used in the system without contention. An IR ALL port is also provided.

Zone-specific Bass, Treble, Loudness and Spatial Enhancement settings are stored in the Z630's non-volatile flash memory. The Do-Not-Disturb feature ensures that ELAN Page and Door Chime audio will be heard in a zone only if it's desired.

For Amplification, the Z660 provides six channels at 60 WPC or three channels at 120 WPC in a 1.75" single rack space.Z660 SIX-CHANNEL POWER AMPLIFIER Six front panel gain pots, signal presence and clip indicators make setup a snap! A convenient buss mode switch allows one stereo input to be routed to three pairs of amplified outputs without the need for additional patch cables. Independent bridge mode switches allow mixing of bridged and un-bridged channels. Buffered Line Level Outputs can be Y-Corded for mono signal applications.

PZ6 ZSERIES PRECISION PANELWiring for the system involves running speaker wires from the "stack" (amps, sources etc. all located in one room) to each speaker in each zone and a CAT5 to each keypad for control. Use at least 14 gauge speaker wire. Elan supplied us with a PZ6 wiring panel to keep track and keep the wiring tidy. The front of this innovative panel provides you with jacks for the instant connection of all ZSeries components, while the back of the panel is fitted with an array of clearly marked punchdown connectors for all your house wire runs including keypads, door stations, relays, telephone and volume controls with override. This is especially handy for our project as we are continually testing different configurations and components in the lab.

Z150 DIRECT ACCESS COMPANIONZ100 INTELLIGENT KEYPADThe Z100 and Z150 keypads can be used separately or fit a 2 gang box with a decora plate. The buttons are small but have a good solid feel to them. 

The Z100 is a learning keypad that is compatible with virtually all IR controllable A/V distribution systems and source components on the market today. Its non-volatile flash memory allows you to program each keypad in-store. Just take the programmed Z100s out to the job site and put 'em in the wall. One-touch music is available with the sequencing capabilities of this keypad. Simply by selecting a source you can-turn on the system, turn on the source, select and play a disc-all with the press of a single key. Add the Z150 Direct Access Companion to expand the capabilities of a Z100 to include ten-key numerical select, additional sequences, Z and HD System EQ control, and local in-room source control. The Z150 also has an IR receiver which allows total component control with a remote control unit. The Z150 can not be used by itself. It must be used in conjunction with the Z100. Note: Since last September, ELAN has been shipping its new ZPADs, the Z200 and Z250. These are standard-format keypads (as opposed to Decora-style), and therefore have a lot more room for larger buttons - which is exactly what we did. These models do not have built-in IR Receivers, but do have IR windows and plug-n-play IR tube connections.

VIA!® COLOR IN-WALL TOUCHPANELFor the ultimate experience you can use a VIA! TouchPanel instead of a keypad. These little beauties add full video to your control panel. VIA! is a full-color LCD touch panel that can be used to control all of your Audio/Video components and other house-wide electronic systems such as Lighting, Security and Thermostats. It is also a video monitor, allowing you to view anything from security cameras to the Weather Channel at the touch of a button.

You can set up multiple control screens and menus for each source component and customize the graphics and motifs to suit your fancy. Add a video source and you can even watch TV. One of the great things about the VIA! Touch Panel is that it is also a video monitor that allows you to view CCTV cameras placed in and around the home. You can see whose at the front door, check on the kids out back in the pool, monitor the baby's room, etc.

Video distribution is handled with the Z880 composite video switcher.  Z880 VIDEO CONTROLLER The Z880 can be used to access any A/V source from any zone. When using VIA! Touchpanels, the Z880 is an essential component-allowing you to view up to eight video sources on each VIA! panel! With the Z880, each one of eight outputs can independently select any one of the eight video sources.

To get this system up and running requires the setup software VIA! Tools and a VIA! Learner. The software lets you program and customize each keypad and touchpanel in the system. IR codes are assigned to each button or icon. Many of these device codes are built into the software but if you can't find your component the Learner allows you to learn the IR signals from the components remote control.

Various motifs and button designs are available to allow you to customize the touchpanel layout and design. All of the icons can activate a sequence of IR signals if desired ... thus one button can turn on the tuner and tune to a preset station etc. Each component can have multiple menu screens.

Once the programming is done it is downloaded to each keypad and touchpanel using the learner which connects to the serial port on your laptop and plugs into the keypad.

The Elan Z Series is a serious system and has many more features and options than mentioned here. Sound quality and control functions are excellent. The keypads buttons are small but tactile feedback is good. The VIA! touchpanel is clear and dependable ... and just a fun thing to play with. Programming the system is fairly straight forward and the functionality of the system allows for a high level of customization. This is not a system that can be installed without a fair bit of expertise but the technology is solid and the reliability is good.

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