|Purelink by Dtrovision HDS-41R HDMI 4x1 Switcher|
|Home Theater Video Processors & Switchers Video Switchers|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Monday, 01 May 2006|
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Home theater enthusiasts are now most certainly in a digital world, both audio and very recently video. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to add new components and switch seamlessly between a wide variety of digital sources. These now include DVI (digital visual interface) and HDMI (high-definition media interface) as an interface, providing a one-cable digital solution for both picture and sound, as opposed to the multiplicity of analog cables required to watch HDTV, such as RGBHV or YPrPb.
Unfortunately, because of a continuing desire by the motion picture and television industries to control the dissemination of their intellectual property (the movie, television show or video game itself), we now are all subject to varying degrees of digital connection irritation brought about by the inclusion of HDCP (high-definition copy protection). This copy management system inhibits the ability of any digital recorder (such as a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD disc recorder) to legally or illegally make copies of copyrighted material. As a music and film producer, I understand and appreciate the issue of offering up a CD or DVD product, which may have taken many years and many millions of dollars to create, only to see bits and pieces of it for sale over the Internet without any permission and without compensation for any effort required to create something worth stealing.
At the same time, I also believe that everyone has a right to enjoy copyrighted material easily and view or copy any software that they own or rent for the sole purpose of their continued enjoyment (with family and, I suppose, friends and acquaintances). In any case, if I spend money on a software product, I think it should be possible to watch, listen to, copy and/or manipulate that purchased software in any way I desire, so long as it does not violate copyright and generate a profit for someone other than the owner of the original work. This includes time-shifting, a concept that still remains a debatable security.
Notwithstanding this HDCP copyrights use issue, an HDMI switcher is of the greatest importance to the home theater owner with a digital display, and these devices must switch quickly and effectively between sources to be desirable. It seems that many new A/V sources have HDMI and/or DVI outputs, but most surround receivers and even new televisions like the Sony 40XBR1 Bravia LCD HDTV (review coming soon to AVRev.com) only feature a single HDMI input. On very high-end equipment like Sony’s $30,000 Qualia 004 projector, there are only two digital inputs available. It is very reasonable to suggest people buying HDTVs today may be currently using HDMI sources such as HD-DVRs and HD Satellite Receivers/Cable Boxes. It is also reasonable to suggest that they will in the next few months be adding sources such as Blu-ray, HD-DVD and Playstation 3. With only one or two inputs and today’s lower-priced receivers not 100 percent reliable for HDMI switching, what are you to do?
Thankfully, along comes the $549 HDS-41R from PureLink. This four HDMI input to one HDMI output switcher is compatible with both DVI sources and HDCP encryption. This new unit is small, 13 inches (W) x 1.5 inches (H) x 4 inches (D), black, sleek and has an input cycling selection button on the front panel, which I found very helpful, in addition to the included miniature remote control.
Equally as interesting is the $949 PureLink Modular OBC-010 DVI Optical Transmission System with a 33-foot fiber optic cable (with an industry-leading maximum possible length of 330 feet with the OBC-100 at an MSRP of $1,649). This system features a pair of optical modules that extend the usable transmission distance for DVI signals well beyond the 15-foot length restriction imposed by conventional copper wire. PureLink's OBC system is HDCP-compliant, so such sources can be used over the very long distances found in many newer home theaters, where the video projector or display can be many meters or more away from the source and/or switching equipment. This can also be the case in a house-wide system, where video sources are frequently placed in a single central control room some distance from the displays they feed.
Finally, for those worried about integrating digital sources into a home theater that features only displays that have an analog HDTV input, the DC-DA1 ($349 MSRP) converts an unprotected and unencrypted DVI input to analog VGA available on a D-Sub 15 connector. I found that HDCP-compliant sources, such as satellite receivers, cable DVRs, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players could be seen on various analog monitors, such as my Sony 40XBR700, which only has analog 1080i inputs, or various HDTV-capable CRT projectors like the Runco DTV 1201 nine-inch front projector.