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Adventures in 70-Volt

Why more residential integrators are paying attention to this commercial AV staple.

Residential integrators are encountering an ever-increasing number of opportunities to use 70-volt amplifiers — a technology that was at one time a staple of the commercial AV realm. But with a growing demand for landscape entertainment systems and the emergence of “resimercial” as an important category, 70-volt amplifiers have gained traction as an important solution across the entire spectrum of audio/video integration opportunities.

The 70-volt ecosystem, also referred to as high-voltage audio distribution, enables integrators to “tap” or connect multiple application-specific loudspeakers (each speaker features an onboard transformer) off one amplifier output at a fixed wattage and constant voltage. This technology has traditionally been favored because it uses series wiring that is easier for installers and facilitates the distribution of many speakers across any space. Translated, this means that a 70-volt AV system architecture has been the de facto solution for driving a large number of loudspeakers from a single amplifier. For residential integrators expanding into resimercial markets such as hospitality or corporate office/boardrooms, the 70-volt amplifier is the foundation of a successful system design and the all-important happy clients.

AudioControl 70-Volt Amplifiers
AudioControl 70-volt amplifiers

The challenge with high-voltage audio distribution has always been that most 70-volt solutions just haven’t delivered high fidelity, particularly in the bass region. In many commercial applications, audio quality may not be priority-one, and so the reliability and flexibility of the design takes precedence. But with most residential landscape systems and many resimercial applications, such as bars and restaurants, sound quality is paramount. Integrators with experience in the design and installation of home entertainment systems know that their clients want high fidelity! So how does the integrator take advantage of the flexibility and durability offered by 70-volt systems and still deliver superb sound quality?

Engineering Makes Premium 70-Volt Solutions

Like conventional 4/8-ohm loudspeakers, the quality of the components plus care in engineering and design dictates the performance of any 70-volt speaker. There are loudspeaker manufacturers that devote engineering and development resources to creating a superior 70-volt solution that feature premium transformers for clarity and balanced bass output, carefully selected materials, and precise driver designs that all work together to determine sound quality — just as it does with traditional speakers.

As with loudspeakers, 70-volt amplifiers must be engineered to deliver premium performance. Because 70-volt platforms have primarily been a tool for commercial installations, high fidelity has not been the focal point. AudioControl has adopted a completely new approach to 70-volt amplification, engineering a ground-up solution called CM Series that delivers all the advantages of a high-voltage ecosystem with the ultimate performance philosophy and made-in-USA quality that integrators expect from AudioControl.

Available in 4-channel, 3-channel, and 2-channel configurations, the 750-watt per channel CM Series amplifiers from AudioControl feature a proprietary Dual Mode Constant Power circuit design that puts sound quality first. The Dual Mode platform delivers both 70-volt and 4/8-ohm compatibility, enabling integrators to use this versatile amplifier to drive either high-voltage, low-voltage, or both styles of loudspeaker simultaneously. Dual Mode enables integrators to use the 4/8-ohm outputs to drive subwoofers, if applicable, providing reference quality bass response that outperforms conventional 70-volt solutions. The CM Series amplifiers also offer DSP control, matrixing capabilities, and optional Dante network connectivity. Integrators can confidently offer audiophile-grade performance and legendary build quality, perfectly blending the power, performance, and reliability of a commercial amplifier with the Dual-Mode capability, digital audio inputs, and DSP features from AudioControl’s residential amplifiers.

Because the finest entertainment systems require fine-tuning to satisfy the most demanding clients, AudioControl offers DSP capabilities on many amplifier models. One DSP feature that improves performance and installation efficiency is the onboard speaker profiles crafted by the engineers from leading architectural and commercial loudspeaker manufacturers, such as Dynaudio, Graysound, James Loudspeaker, Monitor Audio, Nuvo, Origin Acoustics, Stealth Acoustics, and Triad Speakers — all part of a growing list of Sound Partner Program members. These profiles can be instantly applied zone by zone in the app, which will save considerable time when it comes to system calibration. AudioControl’s DSP engine also offers advanced graphic and parametric equalization, along with onboard crossovers, enabling integrators to fine-tune the sound to any acoustic environment.

Networking Capability With Optional Dante

Dante is an uncompressed, multichannel digital media networking technology that moves data over a standard IP network using readily available Cat5e, Cat6, or fiber-optic cable with near-zero latency. Network-based audio solutions are a staple with commercial AV integrators, and their popularity is growing steadily with residential dealers due to scalability and versatility. With the new CM Series amps from AudioControl, any source can be accessed from anywhere on the network, and up to 16 mono or 8 stereo streams of digital content can be routed to any Dante-enabled device, creating limitless system architecture options for any size project. And because the Dante technology utilizes a master clock, all connected devices remain in precise synchronization. CM Series amplifiers are also compatible with popular smart home platforms, enabling control of Dante signal routing, as well as volume up/down and power on/off by zone.

Chris Kane is the vice president of sales and marketing at AudioControl and has been with the company based in the greater Seattle area since 1992. He has been immersed in the CE industry for close to 40 years.