PLC Products: Myth vs. Fact

September 10, 2010

Getting the Straight Scoop About New Technology Opportunities

Jeff Kussard ( is strategic development director for Capitol.

There is no need to discuss the challenges that custom installation professionals face as we mark the second anniversary of the near-halt in new housing starts. According to CEA figures, a 35-percent decrease in residential construction led to a 27-percent decrease in sales of multiroom audio, while home automation and automated lighting fell 18 percent during 2008/2009. But, three-quarters of the way through 2010, this is simply old news.

With two years to consider how best to stay vital, I would think that my friends and colleagues would only differ on what new trends to follow, rather than whether or not new opportunities exist. And many of them do, though nearly as many are opting to wear blinders and stick only with what they know.

Nowhere is the need to be open-minded more necessary than when it comes to looking at the many “no new (long) wires” options that have surfaced over the past year. From wireless to Powerline Carrier, not to mention the extensive pre-installed base of long wire runs that offer important new signal transport opportunities (not to mention new and upgraded sources and speakers), our industry is hardly suffering from a dearth of opportunities for new and expanded business.

So why then do so many CI professionals simply wring their hands and turn away from the potential? Personally, I’m baffled. There are far too many professionals who are either resistant to change or are mistakenly awaiting a return of the runaway home building fervor of the recent past.

In an effort to clear up a few misconceptions, here are two lingering myths that I would like to eradicate once and for all:

Myth #1: We tried Powerline Carrier (PLC) technology before and without much success

Fact: No you didn’t. Without mentioning names, an age-old product that received a bad rap is being confused with PLC products and their proven capabilities; forget it.

PLC is a recent innovation, having coalesced in 2000 when the Home- Plug Powerline Alliance set out to create a standard that would allow manufacturers to use existing home electrical wiring to connect to each other and in turn connect to the Internet. The specification published in 2005 opened the door to increased physical layer peak data rates from 14 Mbps to a remarkably robust 200 Mbps.

An example of the topology used for Russound’s Powerline Carrier-based Collage multi-room audio system.

The growing list of manufacturers tapping into PLC is indicative of its market potential, especially for the CI community. Channel leaders such as NuVo and Russound have committed significant R&D to creating entertainment and intercom systems that are specifically designed for retrofit installations.

These new products are typically installed in hours, not days or weeks. With minimal disruption to the end-users’ lives, and a level of reliability that easily matches more traditional systems, an installer can turn to a prospect and safely commit to setting up a multi-zone system within 24 hours or less. This time savings makes it easier to close a sale, yet there are those among us who are afraid to sacrifice more traditional projects because of the significant drop in labor.

Myth #2: I won’t make as much on a typical installation because of the significant drop in labor

Fact: It isn’t a myth, at least when looking at it on a project-by-project basis. However, the drastic savings in time devoted to a single installation means that many more installations can be completed in the time it takes to retrofit a home with a new long wire system.

Back when I spent a significant amount of time pulling wire, I would have been thrilled to have at my fingertips an easy-to-install, easier-to-use product that allowed me to complete, say, three or four jobs in the time it usually took to finish just one. A faster turnaround time allows for more jobs, especially with so many satisfied customers ready to offer referrals to their friends and neighbors.

As much as we would all like to see a return to the building craze of the late ’90s through early ’08, I think we can all agree that it will not happen during our lifetimes. Instead, we can either wallow in nostalgia and misinformation, or take advantage of some of the most exciting new products to come along, no matter the economic scenario. I think we have no choice but to embrace the new and make it work to our advantage.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!


No records found
Photo GalleriesMore Galleries >
Doug Henderson and Joe Atkins

Doug Henderson (left) president of Bowers & Wilkins Group North America, and Joe Atkins, Bowers & Wilkins global CEO, invited consumer and t...

BMWs, McLarens, and Volvos

Upon arrival, guests experienced Bowers & Wilkins Automotive products in BMW, McLaren, and Volvo cars (the Maserati wasn’t available...

Demo'ing the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson show demonstrates how to open the door on the McLaren.

B&W Speakers in the McLaren

Bowers & Wilkins speakers in the McLaren.

B&W Vintage Living Room

Bowers & Wilkins North America president Doug Henderson shows off the company’s vintage living room space, which featured vintage ge...

The B&W LP Collection

Part of the Bowers & Wilkins vintage living room space is this collection of LP covers that represent a seminal album from each of the com...

The B&W Museum

Bowers & Wilkins had to purchase much of the gear in its museum because most discontinued products were not kept over the last 50 years.

The Wisdom of John Bowers

Words to live by from Bowers & Wilkins founder John Bowers

The History of B&W

A timeline of Bowers & Wilkins’ product and company history

Andy Kerr and Martial Rousseau

Senior product manager Andy Kerr and head of research Martial Rousseau from the U.K. Bowers & Wilkins office. They were showing off the ne...

Turbine Head

  The turbine head for the 800 D3 houses the mid-range speakers.

Andy Kerr

Senior product manager Andy Kerr holds up the very heavy solid-body turbine head.

Historical Flagship Products

A look at the company’s flagship products through its 50-year history

The Legendary Diamond Tweeter Dome

To show off the company’s legendary diamond tweeter dome, one was encased in plastic to protect the brittle material. The tweeter domes ...

Demo'ing the 800 D3 Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins’ new demo room showcases its new flagship 800 D2 speakers, which are the outcomes of one of the company’s mos...

800 D3 Close Up

The silver 6-inch FST midrange drive unit of the 800 D3 uses Bower & Wilkins’ new proprietary Continuum woven material. Developed af...

In-wall Demo

Bower & Wilkins’ showcases its in-wall speakers in this space.

The B&W Nautilus

Bower & Wilkins’ legendary Nautilus is 17 years old but just as contemporary now as it was then.

Nautilus Pricing

A wall plaque in the “Nautilus demo room” itemizing the price of the system

Theater Demo

A theater demo showcasing the flexibility of 800 D2 speakers