Niles Audio's ZR-8630AV Multiroom System Buckhannon WV
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Niles Audio's ZR-8630AV Multiroom System
April 1, 2004 By Brent Butterworth
I sit in my kitchen, brush my finger against a touchscreen mounted in the wall, and the DVD I just rented appears on my flat-panel TV. After 20 minutes, I realize it’s a stinker, but one more tap on the touchscreen salvages my evening with the local TV news. When the news is over I head for my lounge, where I encounter a tiny keypad next to the light switch. I flick the CD button on the keypad and the room comes alive with jazz classics. One cigar later, I head for bed, where I push a button on a handheld remote control to bring up a late-night radio talk show.
All this entertainment, yet no electronic component except for the TV is visible. And now my doorbell plays Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” through every speaker in the house.
The more I use Niles Audio’s ZR-8630AV multiroom audiovisual system, the more it seems like a magician’s bag of tricks. The ZR-8630AV produces surprise after surprise—video and audio for up to six rooms, all controlled from simple keypads or powerful touchscreens. It can flip through channels on your satellite receiver, skip ahead a few minutes on your TiVo, or retrieve MP3s from your music server. It can trigger lights or motorized screens. And it occupies not an entire equipment rack, but merely a 7-inch-high box. Want sound and video in more rooms? Just add one or two more ZR-8630AVs. (Click image to enlarge)
Here’s how the system works: Anything you want to listen to or watch—your CD player, DVD player, satellite TV receiver, etc.—plugs into the ZR-8630AV. (No need to connect an AM/FM tuner, since two are built in.) In each room where you want entertainment, you have two speakers and a TV.
To control the system, each room is equipped with a touchscreen or as many as three keypads, all discreetly flush-mounted into a wall. You can also control the system via a handheld remote; if you choose, you can dispense with the touchscreens and keypads and use just the handheld. Each room gets exactly the level of control you want—perhaps a touchscreen for your bedroom, two or three different keypads for your tech-savvy son, and a single, simplified keypad for your guest bedroom.
Truth be told, these capabilities have been available for years with a variety of multiroom entertainment systems. What distinguishes the Niles system is its single-box design (most of its competitors require at least two boxes) and the fact that you have so many ways to control it.
You will quickly forget that the ZR-8630AV exists; it humbly carries out its tasks in the obscurity of an equipment cabinet. Since the parts of the system you interact with are the touchscreens, keypads and remotes, let us look closer at these.
The Select keypad (far right in the photo) offers enough control to get the system running. The Transport (left) and Numeric (center) keypads give you more control over the source devices connected to the system. (Click image to enlarge)
The TS-1 touchscreen is a black-a...