Lenbrook’s Stidsen, on Distributed Audio Product Design
Greg Stidsen, Director of Technology and Product Planning for The Lenbrook Group, opines on the need for high-resolution capabilities in distributed audio products, and on the NAD and Bluesound brand initiatives in the category.
Technology Integrator: Why does NAD feel that in the design of distributed audio products/systems it is important to include high-resolution audio distribution capabilities? Is the customer who wants distributed audio capability also the customer who cares about high-res audio?
Greg Stidsen: NAD’s number one core value is to offer music-lovers the very highest levels of performance allowed by current technology. Right now, we can listen to a direct copy of the Studio Master with High-Res Audio and MQA technology for the first time in history. My question is, why would anybody want to listen to an adulterated copy when they can hear the real thing? Our industry abandoned 480i video a long time ago and has pushed video resolution to UHD 4K. HRA 24/192 is for audio what UHD 4K is for video.
TI: How will your 2016 CEDIA introductions incorporate these capabilities, both in the NAD and the Bluesound lines?
Stidsen: Both Bluesound and NAD share the BluOS operating system. and can be seamlessly combined together for a unified distributed audio experience. NAD has specific features that make them more adaptable to the needs of the custom integrator and high-end audiophile, whereas Bluesound focuses more on wireless multi-room solutions.
TI: Is there total overlap in dealers who carry both the NAD and the Bluesound lines (what percent carry both)? Given this overlap, how are you more closely tying together the capabilities of the NAD Masters Series and NAD’s Bluesound product lines via the BluOS operating system – and how does that benefit dealers and integrators who carry and install both lines?
Stidsen: There is quite a bit of dealer overlap, although we also have Bluesound dealers that are more retail-focused. NAD Masters Series dealers are an exclusive group of specialists, and most of them also provide custom integration services to their clientele. With our new CI-focused products, we hope to expand our custom dealer base. The cool thing about carrying both lines is that it gives the integrator amazing flexibility, all within the same ecosystem, from high-end two-channel and theater solutions, to speaker-level distributed audio, to completely wireless network options.
TI: Talk about the various third-party integration options you offer at present, and when and with whom those partnerships will be expanded.
Stidsen: On the control side, we have deep integration with Control4, Crestron, and RTI, all with certified drivers available. We are working with URC and others right now with a goal of full integration with all the popular third-party control systems. We also have unified IR commands and some units also feature IR learning and wired IR connections. This is an addition to our own well-reviewed apps for iOS, Android, and Mac OS and Windows desktops. We even provide the API under license for advanced integrators to develop their own drivers.
TI: How is your technical support better than your competitors’?
Stidsen: We have several levels of support including direct dealer telephone access to a BluOS factory advisor, in-app technical requests (this sends a lot of specific info to our advisors to help zero in on any problem with the network), and technical forums where other users can share information as well as getting direct factory answers to commonly asked questions. More importantly, BluOS is a very stable system that we developed in-house with a deep integration of hardware and software. With complete control, we can find solutions quickly and we are not limited by third-party drivers and software.
TI: What specifically is being introduced by you at CEDIA, and do you have pricing and availability information at this point?
Stidsen: We are exhibiting at Booth #5716 and will also be offering a course entitled: “Bluesound/BluOS Multi-room Streaming” on Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. each day. At the booth, we’ll be showing our CI 720 Rack Mount Single-Zone Network Music player and CI 580 Four-Zone Network Music Player and matching CI 980 8 channel amplifier. We will also be showing some BluOS-enabled AV Receivers and stereo separates to really expand the BluOS ecosystem offerings.