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The Integration Guide to AV Signal Distribution Products - ResidentialSystems.com

The Integration Guide to AV Signal Distribution Products

Recent developments in custom AV distribution have been nothing short of staggering.
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This Integration Guide was sponsored by Atlona as a supplement to Residential Systems, April 2015

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Acknowledging the influence of HDBaseT’s 5Play on the last iterations of its AV distribution products, Savant Systems says its Smart Media Pro card-based configurable chassis continues to be extremely popular among its integrators. Recent developments in custom AV distribution have been nothing short of staggering. Once plagued by poor quality transmission, short cable runs, and complex integration configurations, the creation and distribution of audio and video in the home setting has improved by leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to better connectivity standards, especially the introduction of HDBaseT in 2010, as well as fast-evolving UltraHD 4K technology.

“It cannot be overstated just how important HDBaseT technology has been in revolutionizing possibilities in AV distribution and control,” said James Meredith, product manager for Wyrestorm, “in terms of affordable high quality transmissions over distance of 1080p HD video at 60Hz and 36-bit or 48-bit color, multichannel audio, power, two-way IR and serial control and Ethernet along a single category cable, and has played a vital role in the expansion of our industry as a whole.”

Improved AV signal distribution technology and the demand for simpler configurations—influenced in large part by worldwide interaction with the ease-of-use associated with mobile devices—has led custom AV signal distribution manufacturers to up their game while delivering on the promise of high-quality audio and video within custom home entertainment and control systems.

SENDING SIGNALS

Matrix switchers and extenders are at the core of powerful AV distribution networks. Working vigorously behind the scenes, these units, which have increasingly expanded in functionality to accommodate and deliver larger pieces of visual and audio data as technology has improved, have been joined by mobile applications to design, drive, and interface with custom control and entertainment projects. Reliability, above all, is the end goal.

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Having received positive integrator feedback for its point-to-point extenders and matrix switchers, Atlona has been enjoying further success with its features-rich PRO3HD66M 6 x 6 HDMI to HDBaseT matrix switcher. Having received positive integrator feedback for its point-to-point extenders and matrix switchers, especially because of the 10-year warranty that comes standard with its products, Atlona has been enjoying further success with its features-rich PRO3HD66M 6 x 6 HDMI to HDBaseT matrix switcher. Equipped with mirrored HDMI audio breakout for Blu-Ray HD Dolby/DTS to AVR routing, the PRO3HD66M also features compatibility with third-party control system protocol integration for IR, RS-232, and TCP/IP, with driver support available for most popular control systems. Its user interface, referred to as the WebGUI, includes 12 popular EDID settings that are pre-programmed into the unit, as well as configurable RS-232 output zone settings to ensure display/projector compatibility and HDCP and system status updates, which are ideal for troubleshooting.

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Control4, which recently acquired AV distribution manufacturer Leaf Audio in a move that underscores its commitment to being a complete control solution provider, has created the Control4 8x8 HDMI matrix switch. “This design combines system-friendly features with easy-to-use WebGui setup menus,” noted Michael Khain, co-founder and vice president of engineering and product development, Atlona. “Integrators have found the Atlona system setup process to be intuitive, easy to follow, and allows them to get in, get out, get paid, with no frustration.”

Control4, which recently acquired AV distribution manufacturer Leaf Audio in a move that underscores its commitment to being a complete control solution provider, has created the Control4 8x8 HDMI matrix switch that Ross Livingston, the company’s senior director of listen & watch notes for hitting a “sweet spot” for its residential client base that needs a solution that accommodates smaller distribution setups (4-5 sources/zones) but with future scalability built in. Among its features are zone locking, which rejects a request to degrade a video stream to an additional zone, and a new media service interface that provides integration with streaming audio solutions on Control4 and third-party streaming servers.

“Part of the success of these switches in general is due to easy installation and incredibly simple EDID calibration through the Control4 certified driver,” Livingston said. “Just plug everything into the unit, turn it on, and let the Matrix do all the work for you. EDID negotiates on which resolutions and refresh rates each video display in your home supports, so that the best picture is presented to the user. Our switch calibrates this automatically by “talking” to every source and every video display, and then storing the EDID information. This means that when you switch from one source to another, the switch happens very quickly instead of waiting for the devices to renegotiate.”

Wyrestorm’s broad selection of HDBaseT matrix switchers—ranging from 4x4 to 16x16—offer scalable and custom solutions in a chassis integrated with multi-format digital and analog transmission modules specified by integrators via the company’s virtual rack online configuration tool.

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Zektor has compatibility and management of sources and displays in mind with the new Palladia III 6X4 HDMI matrix, which is also available in 8x8 and 16x16 configurations. “The WyreStorm MX-0808-PP-POH-4K switcher offers free HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 transmission module upgrades when technology standards are confirmed, to ensure future matrix compatibility with the 4K devices and content it is distributing,” explained Meredith, who also highlighted Wyrestorm’s NetworkHD product line as another easy distribution solution for integrators. “With our HDBaseT products ideal for residential applications, our NetworkHD and the soon-to-be-released NetworkHD-PRO HD-over-IP solutions are very much designed for commercial installations as highly scalable distribution and control over a network using JPEG and H.264 compression technology with two-way control and KVM functionality to provide integrators with a simpler, more cost-effective solution for HD AV distribution and video wall management.”

Zektor has compatibility and management of sources and displays in mind with the new Palladia III 6X4 HDMI matrix, which is also available in 8x8 and 16x16 configurations. Ideal for most installations, Palladia III 6x4 offers six inputs of HDMI, four mirrored outputs of HDMI and HDBaseT, and a full DSP audio preamp.

“This affordable and extremely capable matrix seamlessly integrates with all major control systems, providing fast integration with proven drivers and control modules,” said Jeff Haynes, CEO of Zektor. “Our new SoloCAT HD MAX receiver also allows the integrator to distribute HDMI, IR, RS232, 10/100 Ethernet and audio return path all via a single Cat-5e/6 cable. Zektor’s proprietary Audio Return Path technology allows CEC control to be turned off and still bring audio back from a smart TV, AppleTV, etc., in the remote zone back to the matrix or transmitter.”

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Transformative Engineering’s (TE) HLE-1 HDBasetT HDMI extender utilizes the latest version of HDBaseT known as “HDBaseT Lite” and offers HDMI extension up 70 meters, along with bi-directional IR all over a single Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable. Acknowledging the influence of HDBaseT’s 5Play (a feature set that allows for audio, video, control, power, and Ethernet to be carried over one Cat-5/6 cable) on the last iterations of its AV distribution products, Savant Systems said its Smart Media Pro card-based configurable chassis continues to be extremely popular among its integrators because of its ability to configure to the specification of the job, as well as upgrade cards as new technology solutions become available.

“[An] award-winning product for our Smart Media Pro chassis is our SmartView Tiling cards, where an integrator can add cards to the system with our video processing chips and software on them,” noted Tim McInerney, Savant’s director of marketing. “Again, no major configuration necessary, once the cards are added they simply check a box in our software to enable the feature that can display up to nine different sources on one TV. No more need for multiple TVs to make up an odd-looking wall of TVs; you can watch up to nine things at once on one large TV or projection screen. Control of all nine sources is super easy also in our TrueControl app for iPad: simple drag and drop to move screens around or pinch/zoom to go from one picture to multiple picture modes.”

Embraced faster and more enthusiastically than any of its other solutions, according to Jonathan Ralston, Transformative Engineering’s (TE) HLE-1 HDBasetT HDMI extender, which utilizes the latest version of HDBaseT known as “HDBaseT Lite” and offers HDMI extension up 70 meters, along with bi-directional IR all over a single Cat-5e or Cat-6 cable, ideal for budget-minded integrators.

“For our integrators, Friday-afternoon reliability, an extremely competitive price, and unparalleled support are undoubtedly behind the HLE-1’s success,” said Ralston, who is the company’s director of sales.

Zigen, who has largely focused on modular 4K UHD matrix switches, including its new HDBaseT transmitter (ZIG-POEWP-100) and receiver/amplifier (ZIG-POE-RXAV) pair, is concerned with simplifying the integration of AV distribution with complex automation systems while addressing evolving content copy-protection standards.

“Today, since these are modular switches, we can easily address the new requirements

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SnapAV’s B-500 HDBaseT/HDMI platform is a result of the company’s investment in its testing and development lab, where the emphasis has been on reliability and compatibility. for HDCP 2.2 copy protection to watch 4K UHD movies with a simple card swap that can be done in the field, like replacing a card in a PC,” said Zigen founder and president Ed Dellalyan. “Once replaced, the switch auto-configures to the new card, and 4K HDCP 2.2 sources like the Sony FMP-X10 player can be connected to the system and distributed to the 4K TVs throughout the house. There are three chassis options and three card choices: HDMI to HDMI, HDMI to 70-meter HDBaseT, and HDMI to 100-meter HDBaseT. TV boxes (receivers) are also provided in 70- and 100-meter formats.”

SnapAV’s B-500 HDBaseT/HDMI platform is a result of the company’s investment in its testing and development lab, where the emphasis has been on reliability and compatibility. This year, SnapAV has focused on updating many of the designs of its switchers to zero in on ease of installation and other features that its dealers have requested.

“SnapAV has made a significant investment in OvrC, our cloud-based remote management software tool,” said Robert Riggsby, senior category manager, content distribution. “The OvrC platform allows SnapAV dealers to have cohesive management of our IP-enabled hardware. Think of it as a single web-based, mobilefriendly application that an integrator can use to configure the products and then gives them the ability to manage the products, once they’ve been deployed in real time. Integrators also have the ability to configure alerts, which allows them to resolve issues proactively so there is no interruption to the end user’s service. This is a critical business advantage we are enabling our dealers to use across our entire platform of connected devices.”

Using HDBaseT to deliver resolutions up to 4K 60Hz with various methods of control supported, Gefen’s 4K Ultra HD ELR-POL extender w/RS-232, Ethernet and IR, and the Gefen ToolBox 4K Ultra HD ELR-POL extender w/ RS-232 and IR deliver HDMI at 1080p up to 150 meters over a single Cat-5 cable. 4K UHD content is delivered up to 70 meters over a Cat-5 cable, or up to 100 meters over a Cat-6 cable with up to 7.1 channels of high bit rate (HBR) lossless digital audio also supported. The company, like many others in the category, has also paid strict attention to integration software platform.

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Zigen, who has largely focused on modular 4K UHD matrix switches, including its new HDBaseT transmitter (ZIG-POEWP-100) and receiver/amplifier (ZIG-POE-RXAV) pair, is concerned with simplifying the integration of AV distribution with complex automation systems while addressing evolving content copy protection standards. “Syner-G is a windows desktop application designed to discover, configure, manage, monitor, and update Gefen products using a friendly graphic user interface over a local IP Infrastructure, and through direct connections using USB,” Tony Dowzall, Gefen’s president, explained. “With the ‘manage’ feature, Gefen’s EDID tools control what EDID is presented to equipment, and stored EDIDs can be remotely manipulated as well as built from scratch using the EDID Generator. Integrators can upload unique EDIDs, store them for later use, and modify any EDID in the program for ultimate simplicity. The configuration aspect of Gefen Syner-G gives access to Gefen hardware settings so they can be changed on the fly using the web server interface. A ‘discovery’ tool lists all connected Gefen equipment on the network and makes adding new Gefen products to an existing network seamless and easy.”

Crestron’s DigitalMedia platform, which debuted its DM3.0 version earlier this year, continues to be an integrator go-to for AV distribution. This latest generation of the platform, which supports a slew of 4K products, utilizes a flexible, scalable architecture and can accept analog, digital, and control signals such as advanced EDID, CEC, and USB, and then transmit them over HDMI, HDBaseT, Cat-5e, multimode fiber, single-mode fiber, and now H.264 streaming video over the network.

“Streaming video has made some very significant advances in the last few years,” said Tom Barnett, Crestron’s director of marketing communications. “We have invested heavily in tightly integrating it into our DigitalMedia product line. This allows distribution of content of any type to any display on a single unified platform. It’s now quite common for a home to have H.264 streaming sources such as camera, HDMI sources, HDMI displays, and H.264 displays. We make it transparent to the customer—they just want to be able to see everything everywhere.”

IT’S A 4K WORLD

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Using HDBaseT to deliver resolutions up to 4K 60Hz with various methods of control supported, Gefen’s 4K Ultra HD ELR-POL extender w/RS-232, Ethernet and IR and the Gefen ToolBox 4K Ultra HD ELR-POL extender w/ RS-232 and IR deliver HDMI at 1080p full HD up to 150 meters over a single Cat-5 cable. The chatter around 4K has become a deafening roar as more content becomes available to showcase this next-greatest development in ultra-HD resolution. Its overarching influence on residential AV can not be overstated, as the industry has signaled its inevitable takeover with heavy investment in 4K distribution products. As with all things that have become common technology, there will be teething issues, especially in product compatibility, but custom AV manufacturers, for the large part, are not worried.

“Hands down, there is no doubt that the adoption of 4K televisions and, most importantly, 4K content, will have the greatest influence on design and functionality of AV distribution products,” noted Control4’s Livingston. “4K is the next big thing. Unlike 3D, 4K is getting a tremendous amount of traction.”

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