The Short Form
|Price $6,800 (AS TESTED) / intellicontrol.com / 305-238-4373|
|This system's modular architecture and powerful amplifier deliver great flexibility and sound, and its iRemote handheld controller sets a new benchmark.|
|•Flexible source configuration
•Convenient iRemote controller
•Excellent sound quality
Easy, affordable iPod integration
|•Six sources might be inadequate for large homes
•XM/Sirius song data appears only after channel-selection
•Expandable to 30 listening zones
•60-watt per channel amplifier
•Four different control options
•Modular, card-based architecture
•XM, Sirius, AM/FM, or all three
•GXR2: 17.4 x 5.8 x 18 in; 54 lb
A zone, in audio distribution parlance, is an area capable of independent control and operation. That could be one room, two rooms, or 100 rooms. Multiple rooms within a zone are called subzones, and the ICS lets you easily control them with configurable fixed or variable line-level RCA outputs, allowing simple volume controls or one of ICS's more advanced control options.
Since the Niles ICS is intended for professional installation only, your installer will program the system with an IntelliFile 3 "learner," a black box whose software interface has been totally redesigned from earlier Niles systems. Any installer who has worked with Version 2 will love the upgrades: bulk downloads to all controllers, a direct USB connection to the learner, faster code learning, and more. Installers will also appreciate that any previously learned remote-control files from earlier systems can be imported seamlessly. A 21-step wizard walks you through the programming, which could easily be completed in less than an hour.
PERFORMANCE The GXR2 could be mistaken for a big, black power amp, as it offers no control functions save a system-killing power button. Some system control from the front panel would have been welcome in my setup (which is rack-accessible), but Niles expects the GXR2 to be hidden away and instead put a lot of thought into developing a range of controller options. For now, it offers the entry-level Single ($200), a traditional-looking 14-button keypad; the Display ($400), a hybrid keypad/2-inch LCD; the Contact ($750), a 3.5-inch color touchpanel; and the oh-so-sweet handheld iRemote ($800). All have similar aesthetics and offer "one touch to music," meaning that a single button push is all you need to get music playing from any connected source.
What channel am I on? What song is playing? What album do I want to hear? To fully enjoy iPods, XM, Sirius, and even AM/FM nowadays, you need continuous feedback. Smartly, all ICS controllers except the Single directly display the information you need to make selections. At $400, the Display offers an incredible price-to-performance ratio; it's well worth the extra $200 over the Single.
With no disrespect to the other controllers, though, they all paled next to the iRemote. I loved it so much that I essentially abandoned the others. The iRemote reminded me of the handheld remote for the Control4 system (see my review at soundandvisionmag.com), but with elegance of operation raised to the next level.
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