You’ve Been Waiting. It’s Here. HDMI Distribution That Works….with a few bonuses! Oh did I mention “The Secret Location” of the 400.00 Dollar Off Exclusive Pre Sale?

This year at Cedia I was Lucky enough to meet the founders of Hydra Connect Llc. David Schanin and Tony Anzelmo. While usually every year I am bombarded by companies who want meet to check out their distribution solution “You know who you are” this small booth hidden in the corner caught my eye and made stop. As I strolled into the booth I scoped a strange looking 2u blue box with 2 large fan vents on the front. I thought to myself a box that ugly has got to have some good stuff inside! “Note the production model is not as ugly and is black.” Me being myself strolled right passed the booth guys and though the maze of wire to see what the back looked like. To my surprise I witnessed 8 HDMI inputs, 8 HDMI outputs, 8 analog audio inputs, 8 analog audio outputs, and a single ethernet connection. Even more curious was the fact that on top of this box was an HC300. After the conversation that followed to this day David, Tony and I have shared a dream. True HDMI distribution for all. After getting the opportunity to get into the nuts and bolts of this device here are the things you need to know.

Here is the Overview (Detailed Description Follows)

True 8X8 video and audio matrix with no HDCP key limitations on number of simultaneous displays

Automatic EDID management ensures maximum video resolution and all audio format support

Integrated CEC control for nearly all sources and displays eliminates most IR blasters and controllers

Integrated IP support for DirecTV receivers to eliminate IR blasters

FlashConnectTM ensures near instantaneous video switching and no picture loss when adding or removing

displays to or from a video stream

Supports HDMI 1.4a – 36/30/24 bit deep color (225 GHz), and EDID and CEC processing

Supports all HDMI 1.4a pass through 3D formats; HDCP 1.4 compliant

HDTV formats supported: 1080p/1080i/720p/576p/480p/576i/480i resolutions

Supports all the latest HDMI audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD

On screen display shows users the shared status of any source

Integrated stereo matrix switch and volume controls require only a low cost amp for whole house audio

Full support for separate audio systems – a theater can support 7.1 while other rooms support 5.1 or stereo

A/V remix allows the viewing of one video source while listening to a separate audio source

Reclocking for both inputs and outputs supports the use of up to 10+ meter HDMI cables (depending on

cable quality and the mating equipment in the system)
Fully integrated Control4 Composer support

 

Rack Mountable – simple installation

 

 

So these are the standard particulars. Now let me tell you about the switch in real life. The first thing to note is there is no front panel or buttons! But who needs buttons! This switch is set up with an easy to use admin menu that is accessed from any web browser. Set up is fairly easy if you follow the directions. As documented Install HSS-1 and all HDMI system devices according to the procedures listed in the HSS-1 Installation Guide. Power up all HDMI devices in the system. Configure all devices as described in the HydraConnect CEC Compatibility Document – very important!! Ensure all sources are displaying HDCP protected content:All content players (BluRay, DVD, Servers, etc.) should be in the PLAY state and playing protected content
such as a commercial DVD or BluRay disc, All cable and satellite boxes should be tuned to pay-per-view channels (you do not have to purchase a
movie, just tune to the channel displaying the purchase screen), All A/V receivers should be configured so that the HDMI input which connects to the HSS-1 is shown on its front panel as the selected input, All displays that have multiple inputs have the input selected which has the HDMI cable connection.

So set up is pretty simple. But now onto the part where Control4 users can rejoice. The points where the magic happens.

The first piece of the magic is the analog audio matrix side. The guys at Hydra listened and noted a major request of most Control4 users. This independant 8×8 audio matrix also provides the 1:1 ratio volume control. This has become pretty common for full analog switches but not so in HDMI switches. Those of us that have been using HDMI switching have been forced to use a 3rd party switch or an amp with built in switching at high price. Finally a company that understands flexibility.

The next trick is the use of CEC in a control system. Most of us integrators make sure CEC is turned off on EVERY device in an HDMI distribution system because of the havoc it can create. Well not so much now. The use of CEC will in a distibution/control system will allow integrators the ability to scrap ugly IR emitters, toss cumbersome RS232, and save a few ports on their network switch by controlling devices with CEC.

Hydra accomplished this by creating some “genric drivers” for Tv, dvd, and Avr. Inside the Switch driver is the ability to create a number of “virtual ir” ports. So the Control4 system thinks it it using IR. All the CEC logic is actually contained in the Hydra switch. Here are my thoughts on each driver type.

Tv Control: Tv Control is a no brainer. In most case we only need on and off. If this is your scenario you are in luck…. go ahead and yack the emitter now. However if you need volume control and mute be care. Currently tested Toshiba sets are one of the few that support volume control and mute over CEC. I have found that the new Sharp 70″ and 80″ also support these functions. So check out the compatibility chart.

DVD /BluRay players: Another good one. Who hates to see those ugly emitters in your high end finished rack? All standard commands are present in most of todays BluRay players. One less connection, One less wire, One cleaner looking rack!

AVR’s: Now here’s where I have a personal opinion. While Some if not most of today’s Avr’s support CEC I do not think it is a viable solution if RS232 or IP control is available. If either of these are available for 2way control there is just to much to lose going the CEC route. Direct commands to specific surround modes is lost, direct jumps to specific types of streaming media as in the new Sony 5700es will be lost, and well true volume feed back to navigation is gone also. So on the Avr side I would have to say CEC is just not ready for the big show. This is not the switched fault, just a limitation of CEC in it’s current state.

So to introduce this awesome new product to the masses has been a privilidge and an honor. This is definately one of the few products I was excited about at Cedia this year. I am also happy to announce that while this product won’t ship till Christmas time an Exculsive Pre-Order can be found at store.thesohoshop.com. This Preorder will run until Christmas and will come with a special holiday 400.00 off!