Radiient Select-4 HDMI Switcher/Repeater - AVRev.com
Radiient Select-4 HDMI Switcher/Repeater 
Home Theater Video Processors & Switchers Video Switchers
Written by Andrew Robinson   
Tuesday, 01 August 2006

Introduction
I think Ferris Bueller said it best when he said, “Life moves pretty fast.” I must admit, Ferris’ statement was a bit lost on my then young ears; however, more than a decade later, his words ring true. Especially when it comes to the world of consumer electronics. It seems like just the other day I was being sold on EDTV technology and insanely long runs of component cable. High definition was just a dream that was still years away. Then the days of yore turned into yesterday and high definition was no longer just a dream. It was a whole different animal, a beast really, and it was now walking among us. All of a sudden, my once state-of-the-art system was nothing more than a really expensive picture frame. Well, I upgraded and joined the HD revolution. I bought the plasma. I got the digital cable. And with my trusty component cables in hand, I prepared to enjoy all that HD had to offer. That is, until I learned of HDMI.

But I was happy with component cables (at the time) and invested heavily into equipment that was component-compatible. I bought a component-compatible receiver that would not only switch between multiple component capable sources, but even up-convert the once mighty composite and S-Video signals to component as well. My DVD player had a component video output, my VCR (yes, I said VCR) had a component output – hell, everything I owned was component-compatible. I was dialed in … at least for a minute. Sure, component cables tended to be bulky and a bit unruly in tight spaces, but I didn’t care, because I had just shelled out a whole lot of money for them, and now this new HDMI cable shows up and I’m supposed to just ditch my trusty red, green and blue friends? Making matters worse, none of my other gear, minus my new HD plasma, was HDMI-compatible, either. I was at a loss. One simple cable was single-handedly tearing my entire system, and world, apart. Before I went to change everything, again, I took a closer look at this new “dream” cable they called HDMI.

HDMI or High Definition Multimedia Interface cables, once a thing of lore, are now an industry-supported digital standard capable of passing a truly uncompressed digital signal (both picture and sound) to any number of modern digital audio/video components. It can handle all current HD video signals and resolutions up to 1080p, as well as pass uncompressed multi-channel music data simultaneously through a single cable. HDMI is currently in its type A form (19-pin connector); however, there are designs for a type B (29-pin connector) version that will allow for higher than 1080p signals to be passed. But that’s for another day, because many consumers haven’t even taken the leap to HDMI, let alone 1080p-capable sets. One of the benefits of HDMI is that it will keep the signal completely digital from start to finish, resulting in a much clearer picture and/or surround sound experience. A downside to this is technology is that it allows for the software and entertainment companies to put harsher copy protection protocols on their wares that at times can cause serious issues between various HDMI-capable devices, resulting in a degraded experience or, worse, no experience at all. These “handshake” or HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) issues have plagued a number of digital connectors over the years, even the great HDMI, but it is getting better and over time should be eliminated altogether.

Once I knew a little more about HDMI, it seemed worth it to me to upgrade. So I did. I upgraded everything. While this might have made sense to me, though my wallet begged to differ, I can’t imagine it making sense to a lot of consumers who may have just spent hundreds if not thousands on, say, a receiver or surround sound controller with no HDMI compatibility. It’s a much more realistic expectation for consumers to upgrade to HDMI components over time, starting with the easiest and/or most inexpensive options first, mainly digital set-top boxes and/or DVD players. However, if your current HD set only has one HDMI input, this leaves you in quite a pickle, unless of course you invest in an HDMI switcher.

Video switchers are nothing new. For years they have evolved from composite video to S-video to even component-compatible. HDMI switching was the next logical step. A few companies have stepped up to the plate by creating such a device. One such manufacturer is Radiient. Radiient’s HDMI switcher, the Select-4, has a few more things going for it than the competition, mainly being designed by one of the very men who helped pioneer and design HDMI itself, Jano Banks. It doesn’t hurt that the Select-4 is also the brainchild of former DVDO Chairman and video engineer David Buuck. Together, Buuck and Banks founded Radiient in 2005 and have been creating numerous products, mainly loudspeakers, for the budget-conscious consumer market ever since.

Features
The Select-4 is a simple device, to say the least. Measuring in at just under eight-and-a-half inches wide by five-and-a-half inches deep and a little shy of two inches tall, there’s no mistaking the Select-4 for anything but a switcher. It’s lightweight, roughly one pound, which makes it even easier to place in an equipment rack. With a retail price of $399.00 direct, it’s also a cost-efficient way to step up to HDMI without having to pawn off the good china. Visually, the Select-4 is pretty basic, while still slick-looking. There is a main power switch off to the far left of the case, with four oval-shaped lights labeled one through four resting below the Select-4’s remote control cradle. Rounding out the Select-4’s faceplate is the toggle switch located in the far right corner, which allows the user to quickly swap between any of the four HDMI inputs. Turning my attention aft, I noticed the Select-4’s RS-232 port, which allows the switcher to be integrated into a bevy of automated control products and/or audio/video systems. Next to the RS-232 port is the Select-4’s four HDMI inputs, with the single HDMI output resting just to the right. Lastly, there is the Select-4’s DC power input, which attaches the switcher to a wall-wart-style plug/power supply that gives potential buyers plenty of leeway when it comes to placing the Select-4 in their respective racks.

Inside, the Select-4 boasts an impressive set of features, most notably full HDCP support for all HD resolutions, including 1080p and UXGA. The Select-4 can also switch between, repeat and/or boost (up to 100 feet) the signal of any HDMI, HDMI/HDCP, DVI and DVI/HDCP-compatible cable. The Select-4 can be used with any HDMI-capable device, ranging from your standard DVD player to your PC.

Something that came as a bit of a surprise was the inclusion of not one but two remotes, which allow the consumer to switch effortlessly between HDMI inputs from the comfort of a favorite listening chair or sofa. Focusing on what Radiient refers to as the “standard” remote, I found it to be rather cute. It actually reminded me of the old Krell remotes in that it’s about the size of a credit card and maybe twice as thick, featuring a simple green on/off switch and a select button. With the standard remote, the user will have to press the select button a few times to get to the appropriate input. However, if you’re looking for a more direct approach, there’s always the “pro” remote. The pro remote is the same size as the standard version, yet it provides a whole new level of control. For starters, each of the four HDMI inputs is directly selectable via the remote’s dedicated buttons. Also, there are two buttons that allow you to cycle through the inputs either left to right or right to left. There are also on/off buttons for the Select-4’s auto-sensing circuit, which oddly enough would negate the need for either of the remotes altogether, unless of course you’re a reviewer and like to switch sources on the fly. There are also buttons to turn your display on and off and, while these will not physically cut the power to your plasma or LCD screen, they will stop the flow of data to your display from the Select-4. Think of it a lot like putting a kink in a garden hose; the water is still flowing, but nothing seems to be coming out. Of the two remotes, I preferred the Select-4’s pro version, but it’s always nice to have a back-up.

Set-up
I tested the Select-4 in my living room system, which features my 50-inch HD plasma from Vizio. For source material, I took advantage of several different components, starting with my Adelphia HD digital cable box. The Adelphia box has a DVI output, which I connected to the Select-4 via a single DVI-to-HDMI cable from Monster Cable. Next up was my long-standing reference DVD player, the Denon 3910, which has a dedicated HDMI output. I connected the Denon 3910 to the Select-4’s second HDMI input via Monster Cable. Lastly, I connected my new Toshiba HD DVD player to the Select-4’s third HDMI input via Monster Cable. I also ran the HDMI out of the Select-4 into my Denon 4806 receiver to test the switcher’s audio capabilities. However, the bulk of the review was spent with it running directly into my Vizio plasma.

Movies
I started my review off with some high-definition source material via my Adelphia digital cable box. Starting with HBO HD’s presentation of “Batman Begins” (Warner Home Video), I was unable to detect any image abnormalities from having the Select-4 in my system, compared to not having it in my system. Black levels were inky yet defined, while the white levels showed little to no signs of blooming. I could detect no signs of added noise or pixilation and I found the color rendering and saturation to be unfazed. Next, I cued up the HD presentation of “Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) with the same results. I switched my cable box between 480p, 720p and 1080i-resolution settings and could not detect any image degradation (apart from the lower resolutions of the signals themselves) through the Select-4. Likewise, the Select-4 had no problem locking onto and passing through my cable box’s digital signal as I rapidly changed them on the fly.

Next, I threw on the director’s cut of “Crimson Tide” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and set my Denon 3910 to 720p and prepared to enjoy the show. Just as with the HD content, the Select-4 didn’t add or subtract anything from the film itself. The steely hues of the sub’s interior were rendered faithfully with excellent detail and sharpness, as if the Denon were connected directly to my Vizio.

Lastly, I cued up the HD DVD release of the Tom Cruise epic “The Last Samurai” (Warner Home Video). For those of you who have not yet experienced HD DVD, you’re in for a real treat. Happily, the Select-4 was able to maintain all of the HD DVD’s stunning picture quality with zero signs of degradation. Even during the film’s climatic battle between the village samurai and the Japanese military, the Select-4 was able to track the action and convey it without incident.

To comment on a product such as the Select-4 is a bit difficult, as you shouldn’t be able to tell that it’s in your system at all. It should be transparent. A video switcher should do nothing more than allow for the consumer to switch between sources and if, for whatever reason, you can sense that there is something amiss, then the switcher itself has failed. I’m happy to report that the Select-4 isn’t one of these products. It is, without a doubt, transparent and seamless in its operation, be it video or audio.

The Downside
I found the Select-4 to be a very well-rounded product. However, no product is perfect and, while I may not be able to fault the Select-4’s performance, I did have a few issues with its design.

First, there is the issue of the Select-4’s weight. While easy to place in my rack and move at will, I found its featherweight status made it a little prone to tipping off my rack when connected to several components via Monster’s somewhat hefty interconnects. Rack-mounting and/or placing it further forward on your rack will most likely eliminate tipping from happening, but it can and will happen if you’re careless. Realistically, the unit should be a more traditional size, as it would require a custom rack shelf and faceplate if it were to go into a highly-designed rack system. (NOTE: Radiient has added one pound of internal ballast weight to the switcher to solve tipping issues for the first mass production run of the unit.)

Lastly, I liked Radiient’s choice to include two remotes. However, their construction made me worry a bit about damage. They are very small and very thin and, if you’re like me and have a tendency to press a little harder on the buttons than you should, I could see some minor damage on the horizon. They aren’t your grandmother’s clickers, but if don’t treat them as such, you should be fine. Also, in regard to the remotes, I found I had to point them directly at the Select-4 for them to work, which could become tricky at times due to my room alignment. (NOTE: Radiient has upgraded the infrared subsystem and performed a re-write of their own IR digital signal processing software to improve the remote's range, with very little directionality.)

Conclusion
With technology changing every time the wind blows, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily, there are companies out there like Radiient that are committed to the consumer and the ongoing quest to stay ahead of the curve by providing real solutions to real problems. For the time being, HDMI seems to be where the market is going and it looks like it could be in it for the long haul, which is good for those of you who were waiting out the storm. However, for those of you already vested in “old” technology, it’s nice to know that products like the Select-4 will allow you to get a little more out of your investment before having to pony up the dough once again at your local electronics retailer. The Select-4 is a wonderful product in that it delivers on its promises and simply works. Sure, it’s not as sexy as, say, a new receiver or surround sound controller, but at the heart of what matters, it’s marriage material.

In the end, the Select-4 is the solution to a problem you may have or will likely have soon. Simply put: how are you going to switch the digital video input from your HD receiver, HD DVD, Blu-ray, Xbox 360 and/or Playstation 3, or even a D-VHS deck? Today’s less expensive receivers seem like a good solution, but not all are created equally in terms of effectively switching HDMI inputs, as we are finding out as these new HD sources and source devices hit the market. With lots of content-protected, digitally-connected sources vying to make it into our systems, and with format changes looming even for HDMI, the Radiient Select-4 is a well-priced, effective solution that gets the job done and gets it done right. Consider it for your system with my enthusiastic endorsement.
Manufacturer Radiient
Model Select-4 HDMI Switcher/Repeater
Reviewer Andrew Robinson





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