Making the Most of HDBaseT Capabilities For experienced custom integrators, HDBaseT technology has become as ubiquitous in signal distribution products as Dolby encoding in audio processors and the TI chip in video projectors. By Jeremy J. Glowacki Published: April 3, 2014 ⋅ Updated: April 15, 2019 Crestron’s HD-EXT3-C supports 4K signals and extends uncompressed, HDCP-protected HDMI content up to 330 feet (100 meters), without any signal degradation. Digital Projection’s E-Vision WUXGA 7500 presents a compelling media room projector solution, utilizing HDBaseT functions. Epson’s PowerLite 3LCD, three-chip Pro Cinema G6900WU is certified to work with all HDBaseT certified switches in the market. For experienced custom integrators, HDBaseT technology has become as ubiquitous in signal distribution products as Dolby encoding in audio processors and the TI chip in video projectors. Although the bones of the chip technology from Valens don’t vary greatly from licensee to licensee, each manufacturer of HDBaseT matrix switchers, signal extenders, splitters, and projectors tries to differentiate its offerings in a unique way and make the most that the technology’s performance specs allow. Fundamentally, the goal of HDBaseT is to enable plug-and-play digital connectivity between HD video sources and remote displays. Valens’ 5Play feature set, converged through a single 100m/328ft Cat-5e/6 cable, enables the delivery of video (uncompressed high-definition /3D video in up to 4K resolution), audio (any standard digital audio format), Ethernet (100BaseT), control (including CEC, RS-232, USB, and IR signals), and power (up to 100W using Power-over-Cable.) HDBaseT relies on Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM), which is the same technology that is used to code Ethernet signals into twisted pair cabling; digital data is represented as a coding scheme using different levels of DC voltage at fairly high rates. HDBaseT, however, uses a patented proprietary version of PAM, enabling its feature set to be converged into a 100-meter single Cat cable, without the electrical characteristics of the wire affecting performance. It is important to note that while HDBaseT uses the same coding technology as Ethernet and has an Ethernet channel, it is neither Ethernet nor packet based. It just relies on the same cabling, thus providing the inherent benefits of the cost-effective Cat infrastructure. What follows is an update on many of the manufacturers that are utilizing HDBaseT in the CI channel. HDMI Extenders Crestron’s HD-EXT3-C supports 4K signals and extends uncompressed, HDCP-protected HDMI content up to 330 feet (100 meters), without any signal degradation. In addition to HDMI in and out, the HD-EXT3-C also includes IR and RS-232 transmission. “As a standalone system or as part of a complete Crestron control system, the new HDMI extenders provide a low-cost, reliable signal extension solution that’s simple to implement,” said Crestron’s Dave Silberstein. “No special configuration or programming is required–just connect your source and display and enjoy high-quality HD video and audio from across the room or to the other end of the home.” Crestron’s transmitter can be mounted in a single-gang wall box, inside an equipment rack, or to any flat surface. The compact receiver mounts discretely behind a display device, projector, or wherever necessary. Leaf’s LTPTP-L HDBaseT extender passes up to 4K (30 fps), DTS-HD multichannel audio, IR, and RS232 control commands, all up to 230 feet. The company’s LTPTP-F passes the same as the LTPTP-F, but adds an additional 100 feet of range (330 feet total). “Since HDBaseT is a standard, the implementation [between brands] is similar,” noted Danny Webb, North American sales and marketing manager. “One difference from many HDBaseT extenders in the market is that we utilize POE for the receiver units. Not many are doing that right now. Mainly, we give the dealers an option between the HDBaseT Lite, and HDBaseT full chipsets. Most competitors only use the lite chipset.” Savant uses HDBaseT in its SmartLink products to transmit AV, control, Ethernet, and power up to 100 meters. Most noteworthy, said director of product management Tim McInerney, is Savant’s support of the full 5Play feature set and that it can send all five components of 5Play the full 100 meters. Savant also uses the SmartLink technology to monitor the status of HDBaseT end points, giving integrators highly efficient reporting capabilities. HydraConnect’s HM-16X16BT matrix switching processor was designed to resolve problematic audio mode conflicts inherent to conventional HDMI matrix switching systems. The Gefen ToolBox 4K Ultra HD Extender for HDMI extends UHD resolutions with 7.1 channels of high bit rate lossless digital audio over a single Cat-5 cable up to 100 meters in distance. It also extends RS-232, bi-directional IR and PoL (power over line). HDMI at 1080p full HD resolutions can be extended along with RS-232, bi-directional IR, and POL up to 150 meters. “PoL allows power to be transported over the same Cat-5 cable, so the receiver requires no separate power connection,” explained VP of product development, Teemu Nivala. “It also passes through EDID information for a constant video signal transmission.” Splitters Hall Research’s UHBX-3S is an HDMI 1.4-compliant splitter with one local HDMI output and three HDBaseT outputs for transmission to compatible receivers up to 150 meters. The splitter supports HDCP, 3D, Deep Color, CEC, and 4Kx2K resolution. EDID management is integrated into the unit with “pass-thru,” “learn,” and “emulate” features. Advanced users can use the USB port to download, edit, and upload EDID data to and from the device. The unit provides an RS-232 port that can individually address and control remote displays that feature an RS-232 interface. The UHBX-3S also provides front-panel LED status indicators for all HDBaseT parameters to quickly verify proper operation. The UHBX-3S supports PoH (power over HDBaseT) using an optional (sold separately) external 48V DC power supply. Compatible receivers are powered from the sender using the PoH standard, so no additional power supplies are needed. The HDBaseT-compliant PoH performs all necessary low-voltage handshakes prior to injecting supply on the UTP line for maximum reliability, safety, and compliance. Compatible receivers include the UH- 1BT-R and UH-1BTX-R for HDMI only or UHBX-R-PD that supports RS- 232, PoH, and long-reach modes. Hall Research’s UHBX-3S is an HDMI 1.4-compliant splitter with one local HDMI output and three HDBaseT outputs for transmission to compatible receivers up to 150 meters.Matrix Switchers HydraConnect’s HM-16X16BT matrix switching processor was designed to resolve problematic audio mode conflicts inherent to conventional HDMI matrix switching systems, and it provides enhanced distributed video and audio capabilities. Its 32 DSPs decode Dolby Digital 5.1 audio to simultaneously provide both two-channel stereo and 5.1-channel surround sound to all remote zones from the same HDMI source. Audio data is tapped off of the HDMI inputs, so no additional connections other than HDMI are required. HydraConnect’s David Schanin noted that HDBaseT enables his company’s product to operate properly over longer distances than simple HDMI. “By including full 100-meter HDBaseT transmitters in our product, we make the installation process for our dealers very simple, as they need only connect a Cat-5e/6 to our unit, and plug the HDBaseT receiver into the other end of the cable at the display,” he said. “No power supply is needed at the display.” Leaf’s LTPTP-L HDBaseT extender passes up to 4K (30 fps), DTS-HD multichannel audio, IR, and RS232 control commands, all up to 230 feet. SnapAV offers a family of HDBaseT matrix switchers, including the B-500-MTRX-230-16×16. Liberty AV’s Intelix FLX-44 matrix switcher utilizes the IR and RS232 tunneling capabilities of the HDBaseT chipset. It also can provide power to a remote HDBaseT receiver by using the PoE standard, which is compatible with the PoH standard referenced in the HDBaseT specification. Product specialist Sterling Glass says that the FLX-44 is the first Intelix matrix product to feature remote RS232 command routing from either of the matrix’s main control inputs: RS232 and TCP/IP. This allows a single interface point with the control system to control the matrix and all connected displays. It also allows a TCP/IP-based control environment to interact with remote RS232 devices. SnapAV offers a family of HDBaseT matrix switchers: the B-500-MTRX- 230-4×4, B-500-MTRX-230-8×8, B-500-MTRX-230-8×16, and B-500- MTRX-230-16×16. “We’ve implemented HDBaseT Class B (230 feet) into this new line of matrix switchers to make our products more cost effective for a wide variety of applications where HDBaseT wasn’t previously an option with the more standard (330 feet) technology,” said Erin Bowman, marketing communications manager. “Another unique feature that the binary switchers offer is using HDBaseT technology in conjunction with simultaneous HDMI outputs. Each output provides an HDMI output for local display(s), as well as an HDBaseT output for longer distances that are used in parallel. This is ideal for applications that require multiple devices for a single source; you can connect a projector via the HDBaseT, and the preview monitor via HDMI.” For those requiring a robust HDMI extender without all the full functions and features of its flagship product, but wishing for the highly requested audio return channel feature, Transformative Engineering has introduced the HL- 2. Utilizing HDBase-T Lite, the HL-2 offers HDMI extension up 70 meters, along with bi-directional IR, all over a single Cat-5e or Cat-6 UTP cable. A single 24V power supply is injected at the transmitter side. “We add our own ARC capability to the HDbase-T Stream,” said TE president Jay Triber. “ARC is not designed into the Valens topology, but can be managed through it. We also provide single-ended power (POC), so no supply is used at the receiver (display) side.” As with all its Pro Plus matrix models, Wyrestorm’s Modular Matrix features HDBaseT Class B distribution of lossless full 1080p HD video, audio, and bidirectional IR control for distances up to 70 meters. The latest evolution of the Pro Plus adds remote powering of display receivers from the matrix (PoH) and serial passthrough, with the modular models for a fully customizable and scalable multi-format switching and distribution solution for projects of virtually any size, complexity or application, whether residential or commercial. An added feature available on the Modular models is integrated cable testing via LED indication on each matrix transmission card. This allows for a clear and reliable determination of transmission status, with a card LED failing to light indicating a possible problem with the cable termination or the cable itself. This can be solved by swapping out cables or a re-termination of connections. The Zigen 2K/4K modular HDMI to HDBaseT matrix switch is field upgradable from 2×2 to 16×16. Available two port cards (two inputs and two outputs) include 70-meter and 100-meter HDBaseT along with HDMI to HDMI cards. The ZIG-HX-88HDBT and ZIG-HX-1616HDBT are currently shipping, and both utilize advanced EDID management, IR functions, memory management, and internal power supply. Control system integration is available, with Crestron, AMX, RTI, Control4, Bitwise, and URC drivers available to Zigen dealers. As with all its Pro Plus matrix models, Wyrestorm’s Modular Matrix features HDBaseT Class B distribution of lossless full 1080p HD video, audio, and bidirectional IR control distances up to 70 meters. “We are implementing UltraHD for the first time in a big switch, while giving options for I/O configuration (modular/card based, plug and play),” said Zigen president Ed Dellalyan. “Additionally, we made advancements in EDID management functions and have incorporated robust internal power supplies for 24/7 operation.” Scalers A few months ago, KanexPro introduced the HDSC12D 12-input scaler to its high-resolution pro line. It boasts a twisted pair output based on HDBaseT technology for routing HD signals up to 230 feet in commercial applications. Kashyap Khetia, manager of product marketing, noted that his company understands the complexities of the commercial applications and product requirements needed to satisfy the decision makers and system designers dealing with legacy or analog sources projecting to digital displays. “With the introduction of our new HDBaseT Presentation Scaler solution, many integrators will like its features and will be able to combine VGA, S-video, and component devices to HDTVs and projectors over HDBaseT,” he said. Video Projectors Video projector manufacturers represent a newer product category that is seeking benefits from HDBaseT. In this category, the technology is useful to consumers that want to send a signal or control the projector from a remote location. The Zigen 2K/4K modular HDMI to HDBaseT matrix switch is field upgradable from 2×2 to 16×16. Digital Projection’s E-Vision WUXGA 7500 presents a compelling media room projector solution, utilizing HDBaseT functions. The 1920×1200- resolution projector, with a white chassis, features a dedicated HDBaseT input that allows for displaying source content plus Ethernet-based control. “It’s important to note that a signal distribution system, a switcher for example, is necessary in a system using HDBaseT, as the source and control are compiled there and then distributed to the projector via the single Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable,” explained DPI’s director of marketing, Michael Bridwell. Bridwell also pointed out that while HDBaseT operability includes the ability to power low-wattage displays, source and simple control are the primary points of value for projectors, not power. “Projectors simply draw more power than what is possible to carry through the single-cable HDBaseT solution,” he said. Agreeing with that assessment is Epson America’s marketing manager Jason Palmer who also pointed out HDBaseT’s power limitations. “At this time, the technology doesn’t carry enough [power] to power a projector,” he said. “It would simplify setup and management for users if it did, requiring home theater users to only run a single cable for everything.” Epson’s PowerLite 3LCD, three-chip Pro Cinema G6900WU is certified to work with all HDBaseT certified switches in the market. HDBaseT enables Epson customers to send HDMI, networking, and control signals over a single Cat-5/6 cable from a source up to 325 feet away to their projector.