Posted on May 31, 2009 By Art Feierman
Not everyone is using an AV Receiver to switch their HDMI sources. For those that don’t have switching built into such a device, the solution is to purchase a separate HDMI switcher. Personally, I have been using various HDMI switchers in both my main theater, and my testing room (and 2nd theater). There are a number of issues to be considered with choosing a switcher, and they include:
How many hdmi devices can be hooked up (switched).
How many hdmi outputs are needed (do you have just one display device, or perhaps more, that you want to switch between?
Handling of digital audio
Level of HDMI 1.3 compatibility or compliance
The digital audio aspect of switching is particularly important for us projector folks. The reason, of course is that projectors, unlike, say LCDTVs, lack any speakers. That means a separate audio system, and the need to route video to the projector while sending audio someplace else (receiver). The fact that HDMI does carry the audio signal doesn’t really help in such a case, and, if anything, makes it harder to find what we need, as the vast majority of displays going into homes do have built in audio, and therefore no need for things like a separate Toslink optical digital output. Few switchers even offer that audio output.
The Octava HDMX42 supports four input HDMI sources, and has two HDMI outputs, in addition it has a separate output for digital audio in the form of a TOSLINK fibre-optic output.
It is a long, thin box, and comes with a small credit card remote to switch inputs, outputs and other features. Pricing for an HDMI switcher with its capabilities seems to be well below a lot of commercial competition, but still more than some entry level brands.
Of extreme importance, the Octava HDMX42 is fully HDMI 1.3 compliant and compatible. Many of the other units I considered bringing in for review are “compatible” with HDMI 1.3, but not fully compatible. OK, let me explain. Those others are often HDMI 1.2 compliant. If an HDMI 1.3 signal is sent to those boxes, the switchers reponds to the source, basically, with a “no thanks – I can’t deal with HDMI 1.3 features, so send me HDMI 1.2. The source device will normally be able to do that. An old Gefen switcher I have here works that way, but it means that it doesn’t support CEC, Deep Color, and other HDMI 1.3 features, which can include the newest audio standards.
To best describe these issues, it is easiest to describe my own main theater and how the Octave HDMX42 switcher handles my requirements.
At the moment I have three “permanent” HDMI sources: My PS3, my Motorola DVR/cable box for my Cox cable, and an Oppo standard upscaling DVD player. On occasion, I sometimes have a fourth HDMI device – my MacBook Pro, so having a 4×2 switcher makes more sense to me, than a 3×2.
Unlike most folks in my situation, though, I need two HDMI outputs. One for my own home theater projector (JVC RS20), and one for the projector that I am watching/reviewing. For those just wanting to support a single hdmi display, a 3×1 or perhaps 4×1 switcher should do the job.
All considered, though, the Octava HDMX42 provides me the flexibility I need in my main theater, and should meet the needs of most folks requiring an hdmi switcher in their home theater setup.
The HDMX42, however, because of its second hdmi output, is rather interesting. Not only can you select between any of four sources and feed the output to one display, but this switcher allows you to select one source to output via HDMI output 1, and a second source to output over the HDMI output 2. That means you could control two rooms – watching a sporting event off of cable/satellite in one room, while watching a movie in another. (There’s a certain trade-off, tied to that, which I’ll discuss in the performance section.
The Octava switcher works extremely well. There are some usual issues – how long it takes to switch sources, etc. worth considering, but, overall, the Octava switcher performed as advertised. I should note, however that the manual is very basic and needs some enhancement, which I’ve already suggested to the company.
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