The Russound MCA 88X: Fill Your Castle with Music

With the Russound MCA 88X audio streamer, your house or small business will be wired for sound — without the wires! So, whether you are looking to up your hosting game, or make your customers’ ears happy, it is time to see why Russound has been around for over 50 years.

The name Russound is synonymous with exceptional custom installation as well as quality DIY whole house audio sound distribution. Since 1967, Russound has been a leader in home and business audio. Famous for their A-Bus products and volume controllers, their ComPoint intercom systems, multichannel amplifiers, and architectural speakers have put them on the map.

While you are in total control of your sound distribution, this system requires custom installation. It is no bargain surround-sound setup; it is a top of the line, industry leader. You need to understand Russound’s product to truly appreciate it.

Russound MCA 88X Roundup

With the X Series, Russound is now incorporating streaming audio and Bluetooth capability into their already state of the art sound distribution technology. The Russound MCA 88X is the flagship of their audio distribution catalog.

This Digital multi-zone streamer operates from as many as eight separate input sources. Besides the seven on-site source inputs, it also can channel ‘XStream,’ included with the system. The controller sends up to eight distinct and individual zones with the base unit. However, by linking as many as six additional systems to the base unit, you’ll have enough power to stream to as many as 48 individual zones. That’s enough to fill a small castle with music.

Home theaters needs quality audio systems like the Russound MCA 88X
Image CC by SA-2.0, by Paul Chin, via Flickr

Mandatory Certified Russound Installers

You may be able to fill your castle with high quality, wireless sound, but you will not be installing a Russound MCA 88X with your own tools. The company only approves a custom installation of the system by Russound certified installers who have successfully completed the Russound Certified Institute (RCI) training program. And just to make sure that no “non-certified” customers, or friends of customers, try to install the Russound MCA 88x, the manufacturer sends it out of the factory in a locked configuration only accessible to RCI trained installers.

To quote Russound:

“The RCI Program is designed to provide the best possible product and installation experience to our consumers while maximizing the value that the thousands of Russound installers in the U.S. and around the world offer to their customers throughout the sale and installation process.”

Put simply, it will not only make sure correct initial installation of the system to specs. This also limits non-Russound sales from unauthorized distribution points such as yard sales, Craigslist, or on eBay. While this is a simple matter for the installer, merely requiring the certified installer to enter his personal activation data, it is virtually impossible for anyone else to get it up and running.

This is not only a good policy from a sales and profit standpoint, but even more so from a quality control perspective. You are purchasing the Mercedes Benz of audio streamer systems. Like Mercedes Benz, Russound permits no one other than their certified and trained mechanics to pop the hood.

One quick look at the unit’s back panel may convince you that having a professional install the system may not be a bad idea.

Russound MCA 88X Design

The back of the Russound MCA 88X, which can seem overwhelmingly complicated to the DIY homeowner.
Image via Russound


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As you can see, Russound did not waste any space when designing this unit. It has inputs and outputs edge to edge, but once you start using those connections, you will be glad they are all there. This is a powerful and versatile audio streamer, so you would expect it to look highly technical — and it does!

As I mentioned, several input options provide for up to seven individual sources as well as its built-in XStream streaming. Source inputs include up to seven Analog, and three Digital inputs (two coax and one optical or three coax inputs).

It also includes a Bluetooth extender port and a paging connector. The Bluetooth port makes it possible to set up the system anywhere convenient and connect a Russound BTC-1X Bluetooth receiver remotely as far away as 300 feet from the Bluetooth source. Note that the BTC-1X offers much improved audio quality through its higher performance aptX audio codec, while the RNET link permits connecting Russound RNET Smart Sources (the ST1 AM/FM external tuner), linking multiple MCA controllers, and using its high-performance aptX audio codec.

Russound has enabled all their MCA products for Ethernet devices, permitting internet control and extras. The Russound I/O feature (RIO) permits all Russound Internet control systems control, and communicate bi-directionally via internet protocol.

Russound MCA 88X Setup

Configuring the MCA-88X is performed using either Russound’s SCS-C5 software or a Web Config browser. Logging into the MCA-88X’s IP address prompts you to enter a password to access the configuration settings. Once that’s done, setup is simple and fast. This is where that DIY control comes into play.

You can choose which zones are active and name them. You can also set analog outputs to fixed or variable. The system supports user naming for sources as well as the ability to choose which zone can use the various sources. Russound has added other customizable options like loudness, bass, treble, and balance. Owners can group zones together, adjust volume by zone, and choose different zones for party mode.

End users can also personalize and adjust performance through the MyRussound iOS or Android, too. All told, basic setup configuration took me about 15 minutes.

Front of the Russound MCA-88X, which is sleek and stylish.
Image via Russound

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Russound MCA-88X features

If you’re shopping for a whole-house music system, here’s a breakdown of some of the Russound MCA-88X best features not mentioned above:

  • Voice controllable with Amazon Alexa.
  • Six routed IR outputs, plus one global IR output
  • Home theater 12v trigger In/Out for shared sources
  • Removable screwless speaker connectors
  • Paging system support with a dedicated 12v trigger input
  • Supports KNX® with optional KNX-RIO-1
  • Rack mountable with rack mount ears Included
  • Sleep timers, alarm timers, do not disturb mode, and party modes
  • A 12VDC trigger output for power management and control.
  • Six amplified zones @40W per channel
  • Two-year limited warranty

Manufacturer’s Overview

Does Your Castle Need the Russound MCA 88X?

The Russound MCA-88X is not for everyone. It isn’t cheap, but mostly that’s because it isn’t cheap! Russound’s spot-on design, top-of-the-line features, and exquisite craftsmanship means you’re getting the best on the market. However, for a simple household streaming system with few rooms and everyone content to listen to the same format of tunes, you may likely find it more than you need to get the job done.

That said, if you have a larger house, outdoor audio requirements or the need for a variety of high-resolution and streaming music in different areas, and want the special internet control and feedback, the Russound MCA 88x will provide you with everything you desire. And probably more than a few features you didn’t know that you couldn’t live without.

Feature Image: CC0, by vivien viv, via Pixabay

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