Is the A-Bus Going Your Way?
By Ron Goldberg
Anyone who either designs or markets technology products can tell you it isn't easy to go against an established order. In the case of Sydney-based Leisuretech Electronics, developer of the ABus audio distribution system, the challenge has been taken up on two fronts. ABus is not only a departure in terms of technology, but also a marketing challenge. How do you get system designers and C-tailers to go against a well-established, decades-old paradigm?
According to Andrew Goldfinch, president of Leisuretech, it's about offering a simpler product that can still claim to be a better mousetrap than the status quo. His company's ABus system, which is available both via established product lines and also as a licensable technology, is trying to change the way audio is carried around the house. Recent licensees are showing that the idea may be catching on. Says Goldfinch, "We see it not as a product, but as a platform. It makes the whole way you do distributed audio easier, with a better sound in the end."
A lofty claim, but one that's finding more ad-herents. Because it was first to market with ABus-enabled products, Russound is often perceived as "the ABus company." But the ABus technology's reach has been steadily increasing, with powerhouses like UStec, Home Director, ChannelVision and recent Leviton acquisition, OnQ, now offering ABus products. Recently, mass market audio vendors Harman Kardon and Onkyo began offering consumer-level home theater receivers with ABus capabilities. The radical idea that Goldfinch and Leisuretech Chief Engineer Len Andrews first came up with in 1991 is getting its moment onstage.
The basic concept behind ABus is to distribute audio as a line-level signal to the local zone for amplification, rather than speaker-level output from a centralized location. One CAT5 cable carries the audio, IR data, operating power and signal status from a what ABus calls a "Central Power Unit," which accepts signals from the traditional A/V source components. The CPU contains system connectivity and the amplifier's power supply, which is the biggest physical component of an audio amp.