Hardware Spotlight ? Niles
Niles ZR-4630 MultiZone Receiver
By David Dritsas
Looking more like a traditional A/V receiver than a custom-install component, the Niles ZR-4630 multi-zone receiver is designed to distribute audio throughout the home by creating six separate, keypad-controlled zones, powered by six, built-in 30-watt stereo amplifiers. Each zone can be controlled independently, and offers separate access to one of three audio sources or an internal radio tuner. In addition to the separate source-per-zone scenario, the unit can also play the same source at independent volume levels, in multiple zones.
Because the unit is from Niles, as opposed to one of the customary receiver brands, the ZR-4630 is a departure from common A/V receiver layouts and designs. For example, instead of the traditional binding posts, Niles provides 12 "no-strip" plug and un-plug speaker connectors. Another unusual addition, at least from a consumer's perspective, is the presence of eight RJ-45 jacks. Six are keypad inputs connecting the receiver to the control keypads installed in the walls of the various zones. The other two are the input and output for system expansion, used when connecting the receiver to other Niles multi-zone receivers. Up to 18 separate zones for nine sources and three tuners can be created using this method. Other features that separate the ZR-4630 from most A/V receivers include an IR input, flasher outputs, sync inputs, a phone-paging input and a 12-volt control input.
The front panel is free of the usual receiver interface display, though an LED for each zone (with label slots) lights up when the system is activated. Beyond that, the only visible controls are the power and radio tuner buttons. Hiding beneath a door are the advanced controls, including an IR sensor with LED prompts for inputting the IR codes of the source components; an all on/page control for individual zones; and a DB-9 (serial) computer interface for backing up programming settings or downloading new ones.