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Our Video Distribution Recommendations

Discussing the products we trust — including a new line that solved some big issues.

We recently discussed the pros and cons for centralized and local video solutions and, from the number of hits the article got, that is something in which a lot Residential Systems’ readers are interested. This week, we are talking about our favorite products and brands for video distribution. This will encompass everything from single-room HDMI switches and extenders to HDBaseT matrices and AV over IP solutions. Mark has been rescued by a new line he has started to carry, which helped to give us the idea for this blog.

For single-room solutions, or what we like to call “hybrid,” where the equipment is central in a rack (or even hidden away in a closet in the room) but a matrix is not used, Mark likes to use an HDMI extender for each room paired with an HDMI switch or an AVR. The HDMI switch or AVR is used for switching the sources and then the extender is used to send the signal to the TV. While many HDMI switches can fulfill this need, Mark has been loyal to Key Digital’s KD-S4x1X. This unit provides the basic switching of four inputs to one output, but also has EDID settings, hot plug detect to help maintain the HDCP handshake, and can extract 2-channel audio from the HDMI inputs and output them via optical audio or analog 3.5mm. This last feature is great for stripping out the audio and feeding it into either a Sonos Amp in the rack or an audio matrix for distribution to the room’s speakers.

Also by Todd and Mark: My First AV over IP Installation with SnapAV MOIP

Until recently Mark had paired this switch with an HDMI extender. It was very affordable and had never failed him. However, in the past month he has had three situations where the extender failed to pass an image — one with a legacy TV and new AVR that did not pass the Apple TV or AVR menus (cable TV did work) no matter the EDID settings used; a second time with a brand new Samsung TV, Marantz AVR, and 4K Apple TV where no image passed or, if it did work, it flickered in and out; and the third situation was with an install from about 18 months ago where the client recently was unable to watch newer 4K content — he kept getting an HDCP error. In all three situations, technical support was unable to help, and after trying everything he could thing of, Mark put in an HDMI Extender from AVPro (the AC-EX40-444-Kit). In all three cases, the AVPro piece just worked right out of the box. He is now a believer and is stocking up on AVPro (from Blackwire designs because of the great support and, of course, the snacks).

AVPro EX40-444 AV over IP

For traditional centralized solutions, AVPro has won Mark over and he will be using its HDBaseT Matrix products as well as its MXNet AVOIP solution. He has used other AVoIP products in the past and had good results, but we both like to keep our vendors partners and SKUs to a minimum so we can build better relationships.

Todd hasn’t used an HDMI extender kit in over eight years. He bleeds Crestron Blue, and for good reason. For years he was dedicated to Crestron DM matrix solutions. He never had problems and it always “just worked.” The incredibly fast switching, reliability, and amazing features (including audio downmixing and extraction and chassis design for inputs and outputs) were nothing short of best in class. Then he tried Crestron NVX (AVoIP) and has never looked backed. Every job Todd does gets an NVX solution. Even if it is just one or two sources in the rack going to one TV, there are NVX transmitters, an NVX receiver at the TV, and a small, dedicated, network switch in the project. It is essentially a point-to-point solution in this case — no HDMI extenders or switches, just NVX. For surround sound rooms, the NVX has two HDMI outputs so one of them goes to the AVR and one to the TV, allowing for full surround sound with downmixing for the rooms that are 2-channel. Just like the DM matrices, it works flawlessly, switching is virtually instantaneous, failures are exceedingly rare, and, when they do happen, True Blue support is on top of it and helps work through any issues.

Crestron NVX AV over IP

We both know there are other HDMI solutions out there, but we both adhere to the philosophy, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Mark had to make a change because his previous solution was not reliable and was broken. With all the great integrators using and raving about AVPro, he is hopeful he’s found a solution for the long haul, and Crestron has been nothing but success for Todd.