As I work more and more within the realm of display calibration, I have been drawn to the often underappreciated realm of scalers and processors. These units allow for correcting for many problems that exist either within the source material, or even within the display itself. I don't think these devices get enough respect... they definitely are unsung heroes in the realm of displays and display calibration. This led me to examine the concept of the massive amount of equipment, ranging from scalers, processors, to the humble distribution amps and switchers, which are a highly important and necessary part of many audiovisual systems. When Analog Way asked me to review their new Tetra Vio "universal device", I was delighted and intrigued, to say the least. I was quite eager to get my hands on a unit, and examine how it worked, and what it offered, given my current penchant for just this sort of technology. What I found was quite impressive, and a device that I can see having many applications.
Analog Way's Tetra Vio
The Tetra Vio is billed as a "universal device" and an "AV computer" in Analog Way literature. Of course, these kinds of nonspecific names really piqued my interest so what exactly does this thing actually DO in the real world? Well, once I had a chance to spend some time with the sample unit I was sent, it became rather clear to me, that it "does" a great deal. It offers six main functions to the user: scan converter, scaler, standards converter with TBC, audio de-embedder/embedder, switcher, and interface. Wow, that's quite a laundry list of capabilities. At its heart, the device basically offers the user the ability to put a large number of signals in, at many different resolutions and formats, and output all of them through one or more formats and resolutions. Now that certainly is impressive!
The Tetra Vio can accept a rather large range of formats, from computer video, to standard definition analog video, HD analog video, and digital video. The unit offers BNC, HD15, DVI, mini DIN, and RCA inputs. The outputs provide the same array of formats, and the same type of signals and connectors. Each of the 3 universal inputs features an active loop through (to use for monitoring), allowing easy control of the sources. The Tetra Vio unit is also equipped with an analog genlock input with an active loop through. The Tetra-Vio offers a choice for genlock between SDTV Black Burst and Black HD-YUV. It also allows genlocking of HDTV output signal on an SDTV Black Burst. The system also provides user phase adjustments to allow for fine-tuning. Tetra-VIO supports numerous input and output formats and signal types, such as HDTV, SDTV and COMPUTER up to 2048x1080 & 1600x1200 @60Hz in both analog RGB & DVI. A feature I found impressive, and would prove very useful, is a simultaneous output of a single format to multiple output types. For instance, feed it a computer video signal, and it will output RGB and DVI at the same time. Feed it an SDTV signal, and it will output S-video, composite, component, SDI, and so forth.
In addition to all this "video magic", the unit also possesses a good amount of audio flexibility, as well. The Tetra-VIO features four analog stereo inputs and one output as well as a single digital SPDIF audio in and out. The nifty feature here is that the system can embed a stereo audio signal, either digital or analog, into an SDI stream while allowing for delay compensation. In addition, the processor can work in reverse, stripping off and outputting SPDIF digital audio from an input SDI embedded stream. This is yet another useful feature and definitely shows that Analog Way put as much thought into the audio portion of this device, as they did the video side.
Of course, we have to discuss video performance. Once I got the unit connected, and configured, I found I was impressed with the quality. The scaling and format switching was nearly seamless, and I was pleased to see the images produced from scaling an SD video stream, in this case an S-video DVD player, up to fit on an HD display. It was clean, clear, and relatively free of noise and artifacting. As a bit depth "freak" I appreciated that the system offers a 10 bit video path and automatic 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down in the processor. This is starting to look and even sound good! The deinterlacer was also quite capable, whether dealing with an HD or SD source. Analog Way equipped the unit with a great motion compensation system and a frame rate converter, working on a pixel-by-pixel method. It certainly did a capable job. They also list a number of other features, but the bottom line, is the unit did exactly what Analog Way claims it will.
All in all, the Tetra Vio is a pretty slick device. The applications are broad, and I have to admit, when I was asked to take a look at it, I was somewhat nonplussed. First of all, I wasn't entirely clear on what the "thing" truly did and of course, every company with a chip claims to have a top notch-scaling engine. However, after I set up the unit in my office, I was pleasantly surprised. The build quality was first rate, the control scheme was simple, and the functions were well laid out. The device was a bit cluttered, of course, with all the ports provided in a single rack unit configuration, but I didn't find any of them to be too difficult to get to. In a world where we, as system designers, have to deal with a true mess of formats, resolutions, and video signals, it is very useful to have a piece of gear in our kit that can help unify and simplify a system, and help us untangle the rat's nest of video cables we often have to deal with. Well done Analog Way!