HydraConnect’s HSS-2 is an 8x8 HDMI matrix processor along with an 8-in/16-out analog audio matrix. It also incorporates Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) functions. Depending on your geek cred, “hydra” either conjures images of Greek mythology or the marvel universe. A hydra was a mythical poisonous creature possessing many heads guarding the entrance to the underworld, and when one of its heads was cut off, two more took its place.
So the hydra is the perfect analogy for troubleshooting HDMI distribution issues; you frequently encounter multiple problems, and solving one often causes another to spring up. For this reason, many have been reticent to embrace HDMI distribution. While component cable isn’t as sexy, it’s time-tested, bulletproof and affordable. But with the analog sunset complete, there are increasing cases where HD over component is no longer viable.
HydraConnect’s HSS-2 is an 8x8 HDMI matrix processor along with an 8-in/16-out analog audio matrix. It also incorporates Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) functions, allowing component control via HDMI only; without any IR, IP or serial connections. Another of the HSS-2’s tricks is its certification for integration into Control4 systems. (HydraConnect recently added support for Crestron, RTI, and iRule as well.)
The HSS-2’s front panel resembles a rack-fan system, featuring two large fans, a single LED, and a HyraConnect logo. The unit is meant to be racked away in an equipment room where the perpetually flashing blue LED and fairly noisy fans won’t be a bother. The back features the necessary HDMI and RCA ins-and-outs–well spaced–along with a detachable power cord and LAN connection.
I installed the HSS-2 at my custom install showroom, replacing our existing component video distribution system. I connected three HD video sources–DirecTV, Kaleidescape, and a 3D Blu-ray player–to six HD displays from a variety of manufacturers including Sony, Sharp, Samsung, and Runco. Four of the systems included surround receivers. (I did not utilize the audio distribution portion.) Two displays connected directly via HDMI cabling, and I used HydraConnect’s HEXT-21a HDMI extenders for the other four. These extenders utilize HDBaseT technology for transmission up to 100 meters over a single Cat-5/6 cable. One particularly nice feature of the extenders is that they require a power supply at the send location only, not behind the TV. HydraConnect also supplied the HEXT-MT rackmounting system that holds up to six of the sending units, for a cleaner install. The company’s new HSS- 3 unit is identical to the HSS-2 but incorporates eight of the HDBaseT sending units into the unit along with two traditional HDMI outputs for local connection.
After installation, you begin the “commissioning” process where all sources and displays are turned on and playing content. Logging into the HSS-2’s IP web browser starts the discovery and authentication process, during which the system identifies the components and then examines the capabilities of each source and display, automatically generating all EDID and HDCP key management. The whole process takes about five minutes and once it finishes, the HSS-2 knows the limitations of each component–which can handle 3D, which audio and video formats are supported, etc.
Programming-wise, the HSS-2 is very similar to integrating Control4’s audio matrix switch, and it’s a breeze as HydraConnect provides the certified driver. Just drag it into your project, identify it with an IP address (a static IP is highly recommended) and then assign the input and output bindings as with any other component in Control4’s Composer software. Once the bindings have been made, you click a button to sync the settings, and it’s done.
HydraConnect’s HEXT-21a HDMI extenders utilize HDBaseT technology for transmission up to 100 meters over a single Cat-5/6 cable. One particularly nice feature of the extenders is that they require a power supply at the send location only, not behind the TV. HydraConnect provides generic CEC drivers for receiver, TV and Blu-ray player control. Adding these drivers allowed control over a Samsung Bluray and TV, Yamaha receiver, and Sony TV. While the receiver and TV control is limited–handling power and input switching chores, volume on the receiver, but not TV–the Blu-ray control offered all the necessary commands. HydraConnect keeps a list of devices and their CEC quirks, but I’d still recommend pulling a separate control cable when possible. However when one can’t be retrofitted, the HSS’s CEC control could save the day.
Performance wise, the HSS-2 supports all HDMI 1.4a features like 3D and deep color along with all HD video resolutions and high-res audio formats. Additionally, it switches video quickly, eliminating lengthy delays or dropouts. HydraConnect’s “Dynamic 2D/3D” technology also helps eliminate issues where a 2D TV will try and join a 3D source. An on-screen display notifies viewers if a display doesn’t support 3D or if a 3D display views a 3D source already in use by a 2D display will say that 3D is not presently available. These simple messages are just the thing to save a potential truck roll.
Most importantly, the audio and video quality was flawless; perfectly switching and displaying every source to any/all of the displays in my showroom. In short, the HSS-2 did exactly what a matrix switch should do; it got out of the way and just routed audio and video where desired.
Excellent Hdmi audio/video performance and terrific integration with control4 systems
Though less expensive than competitive solutions on the market, it’s still a bit pricey
• 8x8 video and 8x16 audio matrix with no HDCP key limitations on number of simultaneous displays
• Automatic EDID management ensures maximum video resolution and audio format support
• Integrated CEC control for Blu-ray, receivers, and displays
• HDMI 1.4a pass through 3D formats; Supports: 108 0p/1080i/720p/576p/48 0p/576i/480i resolutions
• Supports HDMI audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD
• Fully integrated Control4 Composer support