Flexibility, performance and reliability are the most important factors to a professional systems contractor and customers alike when considering which power amplifier to use in a multi-room music system. After all, an amp is the lifeblood of the system and its performance and features determine the quality and usability of the entire system. I reviewed the Episode e-1230-A to find out how it stacks up as a multi-room power amplifier for a whole house music system.
Episode e-1230-A Amplifier Features
The Episode e-1230-A is a 12-channel amplifier designed as the power hub of a multi-room music system where it can power as many as 6 stereo zones or 12 monaural zones. Each channel has 30 watts of power, quite adequate for most in-wall speakers used in multi-room or distributed audio systems. Adjacent amp channels can be bridged to produce 80 watts of power for a single speaker. Each pair of channels (one zone) is independently protected against a direct short, low impedance operation or elevated temperature and if a problem develops in any zone, a front panel LED indicates the status. However, in the event of a problem in one zone, the other zones are not affected, a real plus for homeowners. Each of the twelve channels has a dedicated RCA Line In audio input, or an audio source can be shared among selected zones via the Bus 1 and Bus 2 inputs. A switch on the rear panel selects the input for each channel. There are two Bus Outputs for connection to additional amplifiers for larger systems with more zones. Independent gain (level) controls for each channel permit setting the input level or the maximum volume level of each zone. To be clear, the e-1230-A is a single-source component, although three sources can be connected to the amp and switched on the back panel. A multi-source component allows different sources to be selected from each zone via an in-wall keypad or remote control. A separate multi-source controller or switcher could be used with the Episode amp to achieve true multi-source capability.
Custom Installation Features
It is clear that the e-1230-A is well thought out with consideration for the requirements of system installers. With custom installation products, small product details make a big difference – they can either make an installer's job easier or much more difficult. This is especially important when working in cramped quarters with dozens of wires to route and connect. To make these tasks easier, each channel on the Episode amp has a removable speaker wire connector block for easier wiring and the amplifier has a detachable IEC power cord for easier installation and cable management. The e-1230-A can be shelf or rack-mounted with rack ears supplied. The Episode amp is very well built with a solid chassis and thick aluminum faceplate. Its rear panel is organized logically and appears easy to install in a multi-room system. The amp can be powered on in three modes: a +12 Volt trigger, Auto signal sense or Always On. In the Auto Mode, only the channels being used turn on, thus saving power. With energy costs likely to rise, this feature is worth noting. The Episode amp is very versatile and can be used in a variety of configurations. For example, the multi-room outputs of a home theater receiver or the fixed REC OUT outputs of a stereo receiver can connect to the amp's BUS input(s) to create a multi-zone/single-source whole house music system. The amp can be configured for six zones of stereo music, twelve zones of monaural music or any combination of the above. Or, it can be coupled with a multi-zone/multi-source controller for a more full featured system.
Unfortunately I don't have six pair of speakers to test all the amplifiers in the Episode e-1230-A amp, and I don't have a multi-room system. However, I connected the amp to my two-channel system to hear its audio performance. Although a limited test, I found the amp's 30-watt per channel output to be clean sounding with adequate power for the Mordaunt-Short bookshelf speakers with 90 dB sensitivity. I give high marks to the Episode amp for its flexibility. Although it is a single-source component, it can be configured in several ways with a choice of three analog inputs for each channel. When combined with a multi-source controller the e-1230-A becomes a multi-zone/multi-source system. It also includes many features that save power and has independent circuit protection features for each zone. Although I couldn't test all twelve channels, based on my positive experience with other Episode products, I don't hesitate to recommend it. Its three power supplies are designed to provide reliable power to all 12 zones simultaneously. At $1,199 it is an excellent value and another winner from Episode. The e-1230-A is one of the Episode products offered by SnapAV, founded in 2005 by Jay Faison, owner of a custom electronics integration company in Charlotte, North Carolina. His business focuses on providing high-value, high-performance products for AV installers and consumers. As a result, you'll find Episode offered exclusively through custom installation dealers and system integrators, not at your local electronics store. For a dealer near you, check out the dealer locator.
- Power: 30 watts per channel RMS @ 8 ohms/45 watts per channel RMS @ 4 ohms
- Comparable Distortion (Unbridged): 0.03% THD 20 Hz to 20 kHz (8 ohms)
- Bridged Power Output: 80 watts per channel RMS @ 8 ohms
- Distortion (Bridged): 0.20% THD 20 Hz to 20 kHz (8 ohms)
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz - 85 kHz
- Overall Voltage Gain: 38 dB
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 16.5”W x 4”H (with feet) x 14.5”D
- Price: $1,199 MSRP
- Contact: episodespeakers.com