HDMI Matrix Switchers Explained
Television. TV. Telly. The tube. This life-changing picture box has become an essential part of our daily lives. There's an average of two and a half TVs in every American household. While businesses from sports bars and dealerships to medical facilities and malls can have anywhere from six to thirty TVs. All used for different purposes like entertainment, monitoring, gaming, and digital signage. Wonder what makes connecting all these TVs possible?
We can thank a device called an HDMI video matrix switch. Matrix switchers allow all the AV equipment, cabling, and sources to be consolidated in a remote closet, utility room, garage, or basement. This centralizes the entire system for aesthetic and structural convenience.
There are a multitude of options when it comes to HDMI matrix switchers on the market. The primary goal is getting the matrix switcher that best suits your budget and application needs to fit the overall scheme of the AV design.
Some important aspects when searching for an HDMI matrix switcher are determining the number of TVs and sources you have. This tells you whether you need a 4x4, 6x6, 8x8, 8x10, 16x16, or an HDBaseT matrix switcher. The numeric combination represents “sources x displays.” So a “4x4” matrix switcher means four sources / four displays. Now if the cable runs needed exceed 40 feet, you'll want to consider using HDBaseT technology. HDBaseT matrix switchers use category cables to send the audio and video signals long distances via baluns/receivers, with limitations typically to 328 feet.
Another thing to consider is audio. How will the audio sources be distributed? Are you using local TV speakers or are house speakers involved? HDMI matrix switchers offer a variety of connections for house audio systems and home theater surround sound receivers. Many matrix switchers offer analog and digital audio de-embedding for sound. Make sure the one you choose has the proper set of audio connections that matches the video / HDMI matrix switcher's style of audio connections.
One last crucial point is how will the equipment be controlled? Are you interested in touch panels or wireless control through your phone or tablet? A major deciding factor is always understandably budget. This helps determine the extent of control provided by home automation systems like Crestron or Savant. An alternate, less expensive solution would be universal remote controls coupled with an RF (radio frequency) or IR (infra-red relay system). Prices typically range from $500 - $50,000 for parts and labor.
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