Matrix switchers have always been at the core of some of the most complex systems in the industry because of their flexibility and bandwidth, but the newest models are going beyond their predecessors by embracing new technologies and allowing integrators to do more. From classrooms to convention centers, matrix switchers are more popular than ever, as several of the top manufacturers agree.
Earl Jamgochian, manager of product marketing for matrix switchers and signal processing for Extron, explained the use of matrix switchers: "What sets them apart is their central role in so many of these systems, the flexibility they have, and that they're at the heart of so many AV systems. The matrix by definition is multiple ins by multiple outs, and the number of sizes, flavors, and signal types that they're available in now is really amazing."
To ease integrators' minds on the multitude of signal types, many manufacturers are looking at making matrix switchers more modular, as Dan Jackson, marketing and development engineer for Crestron noted. "Most people just need the support to HDMI," he said. "And to be able to support not just HDMI, but everything else as well, is why we make ours completely modular. You need to support HDMI in your installations, but you also need to support all these other things that haven't moved over to HDMI. The mixing and matching of different input and output types is key. Most people are doing either DVI- or fiber-only switching, which has its applications, but for the most part you're integrating stuff in the rack or far away. That's really the big benefit; you don't have to waste half the inputs and outputs when it's modular."
Paul Hand, AMX's signal distribution product manager, spoke on the new capabilities that matrix switchers are starting to incorporate for integrators' benefits. "At AMX we already handle the signal (matrix switching), so why not integrate something else, like transport technology that gives you a way to transmit uncompressed high resolution video signals via fiber or category cable, DSP adjustments that allow advanced EQ audio adjustments, and signal conversion. We're interested in adding more to the 'matrix switching box' to eliminate the need for multiple external boxes. In addition, we are focused on future-proofing our products; and because many of our matrix switchers are modular based, the integrators can design a system one year, and easily accommodate industry advancements and signal type changes the next year-often without replacing the entire system. We talk to our dealers and end users to stay ahead of the curve, so we have the solution in place before the need is there."
Jamgochian concurred, "One thing customers are asking for is that these matrix switchers do more than just switching. They could also have signal processing built-in, where they could be modular, or have a scaler output or a scan converter output, so you could have it all in one box."
The future continues to be a bright one in matrix switching technology, with manufacturers heeding customer requests for more capabilities. Hand expanded, "When we [AMX] focus on giving integrators matrix switchers that allow for simplified integration of multiple signal types and platforms as well as future growth potential, we allow them to spend more time on other aspects of their business. Our goal is to save them time and resources. Matrix switching is becoming the entire core of the audiovisual distribution concept."
Jackson also believes flexibility will continue to increase on these products. "I think the bandwidth will increase, stuff going beyond 1080p, and the cost will come down a bit, but I think streaming video will become a big part. Uncompressed video is really only half the story at this point. A lot of people are moving streaming media around their facilities. So you're going to see a lot of people trying to pull video from prerecorded stuff out to many displays."
New Matrix Switchers 2008
Utah Scientific UTAH-400 Family
Utah Scientific has introduced two new members of the UTAH-400 routing switcher product family. The UTAH-400/528 is a 20 RU package that can handle matrix sizes up to 528x528. The new router brings all of the advantages of the UTAH-400 family to this new larger size, including 3Gbps HD signal capabilities and the option for full crosspoint redundancy. The second new router is the UTAH-400XL, a router that offers a 1056x1056 matrix in a single equipment rack, while using industry-standard BNC connectors.
Extron FOX 4G Matrix 14400
Extron Electronics has introduced the FOX 4G Matrix 14400, a high performance, modular fiber optic matrix switcher for complete, end-to-end digital AV signal transmission and routing over fiber optic cable. Equipped with all of the features common to Extron matrix switchers, together with hot-swappable I/O boards, real-time system monitoring, and redundant, hot-swappable power supplies, the FOX 4G Matrix 14400 delivers highly reliable, enterprise-wide switching of fiber optic AV and control signals for any mission-critical environment.
Altinex MultiTasker Products
Altinex has expanded its MultiTasker AV system offerings, with the introduction of more than 800 new parts to select from. The MultiTasker product line is a modular, card-based, and freely configurable AV system. As an alternative to traditional AV system designs with stand-alone AV components, the MultiTasker system facilitates 100 percent flexibility and modularity. Designing an AV system with MultiTasker components is no different than designing an AV system with traditional stand-alone products, with over 70 available plug-in cards from which to choose.
Distribute full 1080p HD video over long distances without signal loss. Crestron DigitalMedia (DM) is a new transport technology that processes, manages and distributes all analog and digital signals, including HDMI 1.3a, composite, S-Video, component, computer, simultaneous stereo and 7.1 surround sound audio, SPDIF, ethernet, USB, control, power, and KVM over Cat-5e or fiber. At the heart of a Crestron DM system is one of the new DM matrix switchers. The DM-MD16x16 is a modular, card-based system that accepts and processes all signals, which can loop through as HDMI to another DM switcher or converted to a Crestron DM signal for distribution.
Kramer Electronics has introduced the VS-66HDMI matrix switcher for HDMI signals. The product is a 6x6 HDMI switcher that re-clocks and equalizes the signal and can route any or all of the six inputs to any or all of the six outputs simultaneously. It is ideal for a wide range of commercial AV and residential applications. The VS-66HDMI matrix switcher features Kramer's re-Klocking and Equalization Technology, which rebuilds the digital signal integrity and enables it to travel longer distances. The unit also offers enhanced EDID handling.
Magenta Research Mondo Matrix
Magenta Research's Mondo Matrix is a full-matrix scalable Cat-5 switch platform that distributes and switches video, audio, and serial signals over a source to a destination of a distance of 1,000-2,000 feet. The Mondo Matrix handles any analog video type at a maximum resolution of WUXGA, with SPDIF digital audio, stereo or left/right mono audio, and/or simplex serial. The Mondo Matrix is available in configurations that will meet the need of any conceivable installation, from 16x16 to 256x512, and is fully compatible with Magenta's full line of MultiView Series transmitters and receivers.
AMX has expanded its AutoPatch matrix switcher family with the launch of Octaire, a new line of 72 fixed matrix switchers. With configurations ranging from 32-64 inputs and outputs, Octaire is engineered specifically to meet the needs of organizations wanting to distribute high-performance analog video throughout large facilities. Over time, the Octaire line will replace the current AutoPatch 8Y series. The Octaire switching platform is built with BNC connectivity for composite, S-Video, component, and RGBHV signal styles in four rack unit enclosure combinations.