Use modulator / RG59 or Zone 2 / baluns off of receiver

Discuss with other members how to distribute and setup whole house audio and video. Let everyone know what combination of products you are using to accomplish this.
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Use modulator / RG59 or Zone 2 / baluns off of receiver

Postby neils » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:28 pm

I have a problem. Up until now, I have been using a 3 channel modulator to send DVD, FTA and SAT throughout the house. The wife loves how easy it is to switch between the sources. The problem now is that I have many flat panel displays and would like better video quality. What I refuse to do is spend $500 on a matrix switcher when my HT receiver is already doing this very well. So my options are to use the HT receiver in 1 of 2 ways.

Forget about watching 2 differnent sources, and buy a component distribution amplifier off of the monitor out, and use baluns to send the component video throughout the house. Requires me to fish Cat 5 up from the basement to the attic for the master bedroom, RG59 only available. Requires me to switch Zone 2 via receiver 2nd remote or ML Commands when choosing source.

Or I can create a 2 zone setup (ideal) using the receiver, but I can only use composite video on Zone 2 out of the receiver. Not sure if I would see a big diiference using composite video over my current modulated signal. Again, would have to use baluns here. Requires me to fish Cat 5 up from the basement to the attic for the master bedroom, RG59 only available. Requires me to switch Zone 2 via receiver 2nd remote or ML Commands when choosing source.

Forget about using the receiver, and just upgrade to a better modulator with more inputs, S-Video inputs and stereo outputs, use existing RG59 cable for distribution currently in place.

Trying to avoid the cost of a matrix swicher here and having to deal with 2 switching devices doing the same thing (HT receiver).

Thanks

Neil

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Postby neils » Wed Jan 24, 2007 9:55 am

To be more specific, I have an EDTV plasma capable of 480P in the bedroom, and the HDTV LCD in the kitchen has it's own dedicated HD box. On top of that, by going out on a modulator, I can feed the Room 2 from the HD PVR in order to watch a different show upstairs.

So knowing all that, if I use the Zone 2 out on the receiver, I might get 480i out onto baluns, which is good enough for the EDTV plasma, and well, I guess OK for the LCD, and I switch to the local HD box whenever I want.

If I go with a full blown component HD distribution amp, I can ditch the HD box upstairs, but I can't watch the Room 2 feed on the HD PVR unless I pipe that into an input on the receiver. And of course having a component feed to the EDTV will be clean, but I won't be able to take advantage of the HD signal..

That is why I was modulating for now....

Any other suggestions other than an expensive switcher?? I would need to feed up to 5 displays, front and rear projection which is fed by my receiver right now, and 3 other flat panels in the housse..

Neil

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Postby bhiga » Wed Jan 24, 2007 1:43 pm

I would run the Cat5.

Modulated signal is the bottom rung of quality, and most ED and HD sets have substandard scalers, adding to the ugliness. But maybe you should forget I said that - it's one of those "Once you notice, you can't not notice it anymore" things.

That'll gives you more possibilities:
a) Run one analog HD signal on one or both lines using baluns
b) Run a network-based HD-capable video-over-network distribution on one or both lines.
c) A combination of the above

Option a)
This one's fairly straightforward. Using baluns, you have a max of 2 HD (4-conductor if you share ground) feeds you can distribute. Alternatively you could run a pair of S-Video feeds and mono audio (S-Video is 3-conductor if you share ground), or some other combination of signals, as long as you don't run out of wires.

Option b)
This would require some kind of encoder side and decoder side, but it also would allow you to run multiple HD feeds over the same cable. It'd be digitized in some manner, but if you think about it, most digital TV signals are digitized at 25 Mbps or less. At that rate you could run up to 30 HD feeds, or better yet, run fewer feeds at higher quality.

The server-side could be a Slingbox if you have a computer on the display-end, or it could be some other set-top video server type device.
Seems there's a good amount of computer-source to set-top-receiver (Roku, Linksys, DVICO, etc), and Slingbox has set-top-source to computer-receiver, but I haven't seen much in the way of set-top-source to set-top-receiver.
If there was a Slingbox receiver, that would be ideal, but I don't think one exists yet.

Hope that helps...
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Postby neils » Wed Jan 24, 2007 7:16 pm

Brandon,

Thanks for taking the time to write back with such detail. Here are my comments about your suggestions.

a) If I use baluns, I would need at least 3 feeds (playroom, kitchen, bedroom), and that's excluding the 2 other feeds taken care of by my receiver (RPTV & projector). Where would I get the main feed from, monitor out (component or s-video), Zone 2 out (composite only). And that would mean having to buy a distribution amplifier, 3 pairs of baluns (1 pair for each display), and of course if I am using monitor out as a feed, will be limited to sending 1 switched source throughout the house.

b) If I use devices like the Slingbox, which is a cool device. all it's doing is taking my HTPC feed, and sending it to 1 display, just like a balun would. I would be spending money for extra unnecessary features on such a box. And that would only take care of giving me my HTPC feed on the displays, which is cool for using xLobby, but then what about the sources, how do you send that. Using a Slingbox, I would have to send the HTPC feed into my receiver, then send the monitor out into the Slingbox over Cat5 to the receiver end, so same setup as example a) above using baluns....

I think the ideal solution hasn't been implemented yet. Have a HT receiver using component out on Zone 2, then pipe that into a component distribution amplifier. This way it's like having 2 matrix switchers in 1, 3 if you coun't Zone 3 (audio only). Bonus would be to have a VGA in on the receiever as well for the HTPC...

I think I might just use a component distribution amplifier and a bunch of baluns with Cat5, then switch using the receiver, monitor out into the DA. Best way. No matter what, even if I was to go with an expensive matrix switcher, I would still need to pass the extra Cat5 to the bedroom and buy some component baluns. so I might as well get started now in setting that up...

Thanks

Neil

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Postby Krumpy » Wed Jan 24, 2007 7:24 pm

How much is your time worth?

With all of your time thinking about this, you may have already spent the money for a distribution system. I'm like you, a lot of time I end up overthinking it when I should have just purchased the hardware solution from the beginning.....

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Postby bhiga » Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:26 pm

The Slingbox (or compressed video) method's advantage over using baluns is that you can carry multiple video feeds over a single Ethernet cable. It's just limited by the available bandwidth on the cable and how much bandwidth each compressed video signal requires - assuming Gigabit Ethernet and reasonable compression, you could a large number.

The Slingbox itself is essentially compressed video over IP. It'd take the output from whatever video device you want, but AFAIK it won't take VGA, so if you want your HTPC interface on your remote panels you'd still have to either output video to the Slingbox (480p, 720p, etc) or use a VGA balun and another line.

Krumpy's right - it's probably best to just to spend the extra money to "do it once, do it right."

I went through a lot of piecemeal and half-rigged solutions to deal with all my video inputs, and in the end I still ended up with a matrix switcher, not to mention a whole lot of excess equipment that it replaced.

I went through the same with my IR distribution - I tried Girder with IR200L, IRCommand2 with IR200L, HERemote with My.tv Blaster, IRCommand2 with My.tv Blaster and in the end, I still ended up with a GC100. It's much less complicated and way more reliable.

Sure, I learned a lot, but it definitely ended up more expensive in both time and dollars!

The fewer components you can get in the mix, the easier things are in the end. That's my mantra now.

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Postby neils » Thu Jan 25, 2007 10:02 am

Your last statement contradicts the reason to install a matrix switcher. The fewer components, the fewer connections, the better. Everyone already has 2-3 matrix switchers built into their HT receiver, that's why there are multiple zone outputs. You use one device, one remote to switch both audio and video to multiple zones. And better yet, go in with only 1 connector since these machines now upscale and upconvert, so you can feed it Composite and S-Video and won't have to worry about matching that connector on the other end...

If I use a matrix switcher, I have removed my receiver from the picture (no pun intended), and now have to worry about supplying a video signal to yet another 2 displays in the cinema room (RPTV & projector), bringing the total output needed to 5 from 3 on the matrix switcher. These 2 displays are now taken care of by the HT receiver, component to the RPTV, and HDMI to the front projector.

And even if I code the switching of the matrix switcher into ML, what's to say that one day the HTPC won't freeze up on me or the wife, then imagine asking her to go downstairs and start punching in a bunch of buttons to choose where to pipe the video on the matrix switcher. A task much easier handled on a HT receiver.

BUT, I do see the need though. You can send quality HD signals throughout the house, and choose what goes where. I guess the decision to make for most of us with flexible HT receivers is if we are willing to live with the S-Video or Composite output on Zone 2, split over a DA into baluns over Cat5, or if the family always sticks together, just use the monitor out of the HT receiever and split that with a DA.

My point is, why buy yet another switching device, sometimes costing more money that a full blown HT receiever, when you already have 2-3 built-in matrix switcher in that device already.

Just out of curiousity, say someone has 6 sources, and needs to feed 5-6 displays, what is out there in terms of matrix switchers that is reasonably priced. I can't possible see where someone would go with a 4X2 matrix switcher, not enough inputs and outputs for the average HT....

Thanks for your time !!

Neil

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Postby neils » Thu Jan 25, 2007 10:04 am

Krumpy,

When you say "I should have purchased the hardware solution from the beginning", which hardware solution is that?? The matrix switcher ?? If so, then see my points above, and challenge it, convince me that the extra connections, extra switching headaches is worth it !!

Thanks for your time !!

Neil

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Postby DavidL » Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:51 pm

Neil,
don't have the time for detail, but there has to be some reason why just about every integrator in the business uses matrix switchers to manage multiple inputs to go out to multiple outputs. That fact along has to have weight.

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Postby neils » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:03 pm

Yup, I hear you guys loud and clear. I was just hoping that life would be simple and the HT receiver with multiple zones out onto baluns and Cat5 would be the solution. I guess until they come out with a receiver that can output HD out component onto Zone 2, that the only other versatile solution would be a matrix switcher. Zone 2 leaves you high and dry with only a composite or S-Video connector at best, and you would still need to buy a distribution amplifier to split zone 2 out to the various baluns and displays.

I think I will most probably sell my HD local box in the kitchen, which should get me enough funds to pick up a Channel plus 6X4 which sells for around $700 on eBay, and also gives me plenty of inputs and outputs and keeps the cost under $1K.

Now I just have to go and fish more Cat 5 and pick up more component baluns...

Thanks

Neil

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Postby bhiga » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:16 pm

Point taken on the AV Receiver's switching. :wink: I wrote off my receiver's switching a long time ago because it simply didn't have enough inputs. Then I went down the AA1154 auto-switch path... but that lacked sufficient control.

Anyway, to address your controlability issue, here's an idea:
If you can do IR repeating over your infrastructure (again, Cat5/Cat6 is your friend), and you get a matrix switcher which responds to both serial and IR, then you can use IR as a backup redundant control mechanism.

If for some reason the computer controlling the switch goes belly-up, the user could still use IR control, or if you have more sophisticated devices on the client end, they could send both the computer control command and the IR.

Just an idea... adds a slight bit of complexity, but it's nice to have backup.

Oh yeah, there are also PC Watchdog devices which can automatically reboot systems - I have a USB watchdog from Berkshire Products.

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Postby DavidL » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:45 pm

neils, how are you going to control the Channel Plus from MainLobby?
I hope that is RS232 (and not IR which is unreliable), but if it is, I am not aware of a RS232 plugin for ChannelPlus equipment. So, not so much of a deal anymore.

Neothings or VideoStorm, or possibly Autopatch (depends on model) are better supported choices. If you are looking to save money, VideoStorm.

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Postby neils » Thu Jan 25, 2007 3:56 pm

Well, it's tough to beat the Channel Plus for many reasons. First of all, hell yeah, I will be controlling it via IR, if it works perfectly for the Sony DVD changer via DVDL, and also for my mororized screen, and Yamaha receiver, then why not for the matrix switxher. And yes, fortuntely enough, my house is wired for IR, with a receiver in every room. So therefore if the HTPC freezes up on me, I would most definitely use the included remote to switch the matrix unit, something I wouldn't be able to do if controlling it via RS232...

As for the product recommendations, nice stuff, but a lot bigger in size than the channel plus unit, and also expensive when you get into the same amount of inputs and outputs compared to the CP.

Video Storm:
In order to get the same 4 outputs as the CP unit, you need to buy the 8X4 model, which costs $1199, $500 more than the CP. Granted it does have the possibility to also switch HDMI and DVI and fiber which is cool if that is what you want, but I believe you pay extra for that option.

Neothings:
Same thing, for the 8X4 model $1299, $600 difference compared to the CP unit. It is a slick looking unit with that Neotouch front panel, a conversation piece for sure.


AutoPatch:
Looks pricey, but like you said, depends on the model.

Either way, if I had to choose on looks alone, it would be the Neothings unit, but if I had to go with most flexibility and bang for the buck, the CP is tough to beat...

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Postby bhiga » Thu Jan 25, 2007 8:30 pm

I bought the CRM84 (VideoStorm) from Cinemar and it's working great so far. Just have to remember what inputs use optical vs coax audio (actually a good thing since it gives you more flexibility, like running secondary audio if you have it).

I agree - the Neothings looks better, but the CRM84 is working to my expectations so far. My AV cabinet (on the way) will have doors, so looks aren't that big a deal to me right now. I guess some clever person might fabricate a nice "faceplate" for it though. That'd be cool.

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