Peer Review: Russound MCA-88X whole-house audio streamer

Russound MCA-88X 8 source, 8 zone controller amplifier streamer reviewed by Rory Allan, C.Eng, of AV-Zone Ltd, based in Harpenden, UK

Where have you used this product?

The Russound MCA88X is a great product for clients who just want a simple to use, one-box audio solution that can also control video matrices and sources. It fills a gap between the full control system installs and the simple TV on the wall. We have used these in some high-end residences as well as on smaller jobs.

Why did you choose it?

It’s a single-box solution with all the popular streaming you need built in, mobile device control (iOS and Android) as well as dedicated wired keypads if needed, and the ability to control sources with its IR outputs. It’s ideal where cost is a factor, but reliability and simplicity are key (i.e. they never break!).

It even controls most popular matrices via the addition of a small MyRo Bridge RNET to RS232 converter box. Even if your matrix isn’t supported, you can just give the suppliers a call and send them the protocol and they’ll whip up a driver really quick.

You can learn any IR codes too, so your MyRussound app can also control your Sky box or video sources.

If you add a matrix to your system, you get a single app (MyRussound) that can simultaneously switch audio and video sources on the Russound and the matrix respectively, and control both audio and video sources. You don’t need a control system and you get a synchronised audio and video system.

There are optical and digital inputs too, line level outs, and you can expand the system with various amplifiers or by adding more MCA units, or even adding a control processor above if you need to add in more control of other home technology.

Its very flexible and reliable, the support is great from the US and locally, and it is well priced for the cost conscious client.

What do you like about it?

The MCA88x and all Russound products use the same very easy programming software. It’s all very simple, ‘just fill in the boxes’ type programming. You can write little macros if you need to order your power ups or start multiple devices with one button etc.

The main things are that you get so much flexibility and scope in a single box, and everything about it is simple and dependable. Easy to wire up, easy to program, good quality sound and consistent as anything – we even have one installed up in a loft, with heat, dust and no cooling or protection, and the client has never seen it, because he’s never had to!

Is there anything you would change about it?

The product is quite USA-biased in terms of IR databases etc. I think that some UK-based features would be useful, such as a Sky TV IR database etc, so that we didn’t have to teach it the commands (you can save your IR template, so you only do it once), and also the ability to edit the few standard source templates, even just really basically, like re-label a button, or delete a button. But otherwise it does the job and you can always macro up the buttons in the software or de-function them. A small niggle for a great product and not a game changer at all.

Rory Allan is director at AV-Zone Limited

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