Windsor, California-based RCA Integrated Systems, a full-service electrical and integration company in Napa Valley, had been working on a 15,000 square- foot smart-home project, on the estate of a well-known winery and vineyard, for a year before the pandemic hit. With pro-AV supply chain issues over the last 18 months, RCA was serendipitously introduced to the Connect Series from LEA Professional to provide powerful amplification to this unique residential install.
The main focus of the new home’s design was to feature an integrated, professional-grade audio system with enough quality, power, and control to host special events and parties and to cover both indoor and outdoor spaces. Jason Nelson, AV Project Manager for RCA Integrated Systems, explained that his company began working on the final phase of the installation earlier this year, just as COVID restrictions began to loosen. But while it was becoming easier to do business again, many of the amp manufacturers Nelson usually worked with could not get product components because of shortages and supply-chain issues. And even if companies would accept backorders, they had far-projected ship dates that did not meet the customer’s needs.
The RCA team was under pressure to get a set of audio zones operational for an important event the customer was hosting. All their usual go-to amp suppliers we’re out of stock with no reliable availability projections. Ironically, there was a surge in residential and smart home pro AV installations during the pandemic because everyone was staying home and looking for in-home entertainment. And that surge, coupled with a factory fire at an AV component manufacture in Japan, left many amp manufacturers and suppliers with few options.
“I was frustrated, banging my head against a wall trying to find amps, and I then I get a call from John Hernandez, our manufacturers’ rep at LVX Marketing who says that they have a new line of amps they wanted to show us,” said Nelson. “He told me a bit about LEA amplifiers and sent me a specification sheet, and I couldn’t believe it. It was the exact type of amp we had been searching for, and best of all, they were in stock and ready to ship — the timing was amazing.”
Nelson explained that typically they use multimode type amplifiers because of their versatility. This approach helps keep their installations clean and organized. Power output is also very important. The RCA team usually specifies amps of 700 watts and above to appropriately power larger residential systems with headroom to spare. Nelson ordered and installed a set of five, Connect 704D amplifiers from LEA Professional to meet these specifications.
The Connect Series is a commercial-grade audio amplifier family perfectly suited for small to medium-scale installations. Featuring three ways to connect, users can engage the built-in Wi-Fi access point, connect to the venue’s Wi-Fi, or use the FAST Ethernet to connect to any local area network via Cat5 or Cat6 cable. The Connect Series also features cloud connectivity allowing users to harness the power of the cloud for remote control, monitoring, configuration, and more from any personal device. The Connect Series also features HiZ and LoZ channel selectable analog inputs, Dante inputs, and external I/O control for remote on/off and fault monitoring.
“This home has extensive interior and exterior audio program requirements, and with the LEA amps in place, we now have many of the zones operational, and it’s been great so far,” said Nelson. “The amplifiers’ interface is great to work with, the amps sound really good, and best of all, the system is rocking, and the client absolutely loves it!”
For the loudspeakers, RCA installed a combination of in-ceiling, wall mount, and subwoofer speakers from Sonance Professional internally. For the landscape zones, they used a mix of rugged, custom, environmental systems from James Loudspeaker.
“We’re using analog inputs from the audio sources, but we’re also using all the web-based features that the LEA amps have built-in,” said Nelson. “It’s so cool to be able to hop on a smartphone or iPad — even if we don’t have our network going or everything plugged in — and we can connect to the amps and configure them. This saved time and had simplified the install for sure.”
After ordering the amps, Nelson worked with a LEA representative for a couple of zoom-call training sessions to quickly get up to speed with the amps’ capabilities, configuration possibilities, and installation best practices.
“The training was perfect; the amps’ interface is powerful but straightforward. When I got in front of the amps on site, everything was exactly what they said; it’s very intuitive, and we were almost immediately up and running,” said Nelson. “Unusual circumstances brought LEA to our attention, but the amps got us through a tough situation with great performance. We’ve definitely added LEA amps to our go-to list, and I’m looking forward to working with them on future installations.”