The Latest Developments in Custom Integration Signal Distribution Products
Integrated systems, as developed and honed in the residential integration
evolved into beautiful, desirable commodities. Elaborate, complex, and
professional whole-home automation and entertainment systems have set
themselves apart in
an age of buttonless innovation and smaller components, often building on these
to maintain their status as the ultimate choice for discerning
Behind and inside every unique custom integration project, however, is
a nerve system of
hubs, routers, and switchers that deliver valuable information that is
necessary to the full functioning
of the whole. Much like the human nervous system, this network of information
virtually unnoticed until a vital organ—the heart, for
example—fails. In the CI channel, such
failures can be costly, especially to integrators who have staked their
businesses on the smooth
operability of their systems’ designs—making it even more
important that every pulse, signal,
and command fulfills its stated role at a superior level.
as the Enova-DGX16 SmartScale, are designed to intelligently
perfectly scaled for each connected
Achieving communication between components without loss of signal
integrity has been a goal
for every manufacturer currently working in consumer electronics. Distance runs
have been a
considerable roadblock in this endeavor, leaving signal product manufacturers
work on improving the quality of their wired products, while continuing to
technologies, such as HDBaseT, to their wireless offerings.
At Crestron, the focus has been on developing AV distribution products
that deliver quality
images and sound over both copper and fiber cable. “Many manufactures
have the ability to
distribute AV over one or the other, but our engineered solutions have
both,” noted Michael DiBella, Crestron’s solutions
marketing manager for AV products. “This
allows for complete AV distribution over both long and short distances on the
Bringing this capability one step further, we can also distribute
HDCP-encrypted content over
both copper and fiber on the same platform.
DiBella pointed to Crestron’s DM scaler as the ultimate
example of this dual capability. Part
of the company’s popular DigitalMedia range of control and automation
products, the DM-RMC Scaler C is a one-box interface solution for a single
device, moving HD video, audio, and Ethernet over copper
or a fiber optic cable without any compression or repeaters.
Accell introduced its UltraCat HD HDMI over Cat-5e
extenders during CES 2011, at a time when HDBaseT technology,
developed by Valens Semiconductor, was becoming
the buzzword in signal distribution circles. Michael Weizer,
director of marketing for Accell, provided an explanation of
why when he noted that for sites pre-wired with Cat-5 cable,
baluns are the go-to solution, but they often do not work in
AVocation Systems’ Mountain Series line of HDMI matrix switchers began with a simple 8x8 HDMI matrix router and were expanded to enable the addition of either eight or 16 I/O’s of analog and digital audio.
“These inconsistencies are not just the baluns’
Weizer said. “The quality of the category cable, the quality
of the field termination, and the RJ45 connector combined
with environmental issues, such as signal killing electromagnetic
interference (EMI), all put up barriers to the successful
transmission of long-length HDMI signal transfer. What many
don’t realize is that it’s a marvel that baluns work at
The UltraCat extender, which incorporates an HDBaseT
chip set, serves as Accell’s counterpunch to this issue, Weizer
said, delivering point-to-point high-speed data transmission
over a single Cat-5e cable up to 328 feet (100m).
Atlona has integrated the HDBaseT “Lite” chipset
its AT-PRO3HD44M matrix switcher, which is often used in
“[It] still provides most of the capabilities of HDBaseT and
offers up to 70 meters (228 feet) of a single UTP
said Mike Grubb, national sales manager for Atlona. “This
single UTP carries two-way RS-232 serial commands, bidirectional
IR, HDMI up to 1080p quality, and POH.”
For its latest switching products, AMX has taken an all-in-one
approach to multimedia distribution throughout the connected
home network. “Instead of individual AV components
like a controller or switcher, the new Enova DVX and DGX are
total AV solutions in compact units with a controller, switcher,
transcoder, intelligent scaling, multi-format inputs, local and
remote distribution, and more,” said Adam Gershon, AMX’s
residential product manager.
AMX has also incorporated a couple of proprietary technologies
into these switching products. According to Gershon,
SmartScale is designed to intelligently deliver video perfectly
scaled for each connected display, eliminating integration
challenges faced when encountering displays with varying
resolutions, while InstaGate Pro addresses key constraints
and delays created by HDMI/HDCP.
Gefen has gone a different route, implementing its own
Fast Switch Technology (FST) into all of its switchers using
HDMI. Hagai Gefen, president and CEO, described FST as
a technology that speeds the HDCP handshaking process.
“With FST, those 10 seconds have been reduced to zero
when switching sources,” Gefen noted. “High-definition
video appears on the display immediately with no latency.”
series of digital matrix routing switchers enable I/O
9x9 up to 80x80 and the ability to accept many cable types,
Cat-5, optical cables with various types of
The proprietary technology is best highlighted by Gefen’s
8x8 CrossPoint Matrix for HDMI, a rack-mountable matrix
with built-in EDID management, local front-panel control, IR
remote access, RS-232 serial control, IP control, support for
DVI sources and displays, and the ability of users to select fast
or slow FST mode.
With the goal of alleviating the pains integrators feel when
trying to distribute audio and HDMI, AVocation Systems has
introduced its Mountain Series line of HDMI matrix switchers.
“We started with a simple 8x8 HDMI matrix router and have
expanded it to include all kinds of options for the dealers to choose from at
different price points,” explained Trent
Mulligan, AVocation Systems’ sales and marketing manager.
“In addition to the 8x8 HDMI, you can add either eight or
16 I/Os of analog and digital audio. The audio I/Os offer
the integrator independent routing of audio/
video, as well as volume control for the analog
If even more functionality is required, the
integrator has the option to add conversion to
the audio, meaning you can strip the audio out
of HDMI and route it through any other format—
analog, digital, or HDMI.
DVIGear’s modular MXP series of digital
matrix routing switchers enable I/O configurations
from 9x9 up to 80x80. With the ability
to accept many cable types, including copper,
Cat-5, optical cables with various types of connectors,
the MXP series features copper cable
inputs with built-in equalization that support
direct connection of cables up to 197 feet
(60mm), while offering EDID management, pixel
accurate reclocking on outputs for minimum jitter, and USB, RS232, TCP/IP LAN
and a web browser interface
for remote system management and control.
In response to customer feedback, Intelix will be debuting
the new Flex Matrix line at next month’s CEDIA EXPO. The Flex products, as noted by Cameron Smith, general manager of the company, are a consolidation of several technologies into one device.
is best highlighted by its 8x8 CrossPoint Matrix for
rack-mountable matrix with built-in EDID management, local front-panel
remote access, RS-232 serial control, IP control, support for DVI
displays, and the ability of users to select fast or slow FST
“The Flex line provides
you with a matrix router and
cards that let you do twisted
pair outputs, HDBaseT outputs,
scaling at the inputs,
and analog-to-digital conversion all in
one box,” Smith said. “These products
are unique in that they let contractors
select exactly what they need for specific
applications without having to make any compromises.
Plus, since they are card-based, they can be adjusted
for the size of any job to be 8x8, 4x4, 4x8, or whatever the
configuration needs to be.”
Focusing on the delivery of 3D content, IOGear’s 3D
Complete+ (GHDSSW4) goes beyond the usual functionality
of a 4x1 HDMI switcher. Without the use of software, the
GHDSSW4 converts 2D media (DVDS, Blu-ray, TV sporting
events, home videos, etc.) to 3D, with user-defined controls
that allow adjustments of the 3D level and real-time fine-tuning
of pop-out and depth effects. IOGear pitches GHDSSW4
to integrators, with the company noting that “electronic
systems contractors can now sell 3D projectors and displays
with the IOGEAR 3D Complete+ as an accessory value add-on
and literally open up entire video libraries for 3D viewing.
DVDO also has a genre-eschewing product on the market
in its DVDO AIR HDMI-replacing wireless HD connection system.
Fully HDMI compliant, capable of 1080p video, 7.1 surround
sound, 3D and CEC (using a TV’s
remote to control the source), DVDO
AIR also integrates with DVDO HD
switching and scaling components.
“The industry has been trying to
find a reliable, no-compromise wireless
solution for years, and while there are
numerous systems on the market, none
have provided a true cable replacement until
now,” said Joseph Lias, DVDO’s president.
“Other solutions require compression, color
space manipulation, or some other degradation
of the audio or video to support wireless transmission
of HD content. DVDO Air is the latest addition
to DVDO’s innovative product line, leveraging the
As it is the central purpose of AV distribution, it is only natural
that better, greater resolution is the defining innovation focus
for manufacturers in the channel. This means intense development
of products that support 4K and significantly improve
the quality of IP-based media distribution.
“We see an on-going trend for higher resolutions and color
bit depth,” said Steven Barlow, president of DVIGear, noting
that this trend will drive digital bit rates higher and pose
more challenges for high-speed digital signal switching and
Current 1080p HDMI signals with 8-bit color operate at
aggregate bit rates (R, G and B) of approximately 4.5 Gbps.
Barlow pointed out that next-generation 4K systems (30 Hz)
will operate at double this bit rate (approximately 9 Gbps).
“While it will take some years for the new 4K format to fully
catch on, doubling the bit rate of the HDMI signals
will be a game changer as most equipment and
cables installed earlier will simply not work at these
data rates,” he noted.
Barlow finds support for this vision in DiBella, who
said Crestron is preparing to further support 4K
resolutions over the internet and points to YouTube
as the only online hosting service to allow streaming
of 4K videos. “To support the distribution of 4K
resolutions, we have built our switchers to be able to
stream this resolution,” he said. “The most common
trend driving this is the increased focus on video
over IP, driven by decreasing cost of complex high-performance
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Llanor Alleyne is a
contributing editor to Residential Systems.
SOLUTIONS, HOUSTON, TX
What features do you value in
routers, switchers, or hubs?
Atlona has been our primary source for integration
products for all of our installations. We
especially appreciate the new features included
in the AT-PRO3HD44M, such as the ability to power the receiver baluns
using PoH (power over HDBaseT), the local coaxial audio output per zone,
and the EDID-friendly nature of HDBaseT. This 4x4 matrix with its 1U rack
mount and slick case design fits well with other high-end products we are
installing. Atlona has become our partner in integration products by setting
themselves apart as a leader in design and
JB&A, SAN RAFAEL, CA
What features do you value in
routers, switchers, or hubs?
One of the best features of all of
Gefen’s products is rock solid reliability.
Gefen, having been at the forefront
of many new developments, including
wireless and digital signage technologies, has a solid reputation for
quality in this industry that is well earned and well deserved. Though
the playing field has changed radically in the past few years, our resellers
know that Gefen equipment is backed by years of experience,
unparalleled engineering expertise and frankly, one of the best technical
support teams in the business.