3x5 Matrix Switcher Complete Review
When I was told that there was a 3x5 Component Video Selector Switch on the way from Impact Acoustics for review, my first reaction was, "Now there's a product in search of a market!" How many home theaters really need to send three inputs to 5 different displays? Not many I'd guess. But this is a pretty common occurrence for professional settings (such as bars) and it is not inconceivable that someone with a bit of money and a large basement to renovate might use such a device. The key, as a reviewer, is not to judge a device on whether or not you perceive there to be a need for it but on its own merits. With that in mind, I cracked open the box and ran the 3x5 switch through its paces.
Build Quality and Setup
Like everything I've ever received from Impact Acoustics, the 3x5 Component Video Matrix Selector Switch (I swear, this is one of those reviews where I wish I was paid by the word) was impeccably packed. It was double boxed though the main box was plenty sturdy enough in my opinion. The switch itself was encased in a plastic sleeve which was then wrapped tightly in bubble wrap. In front of the switch was a piece of cardboard that held the small box for the wall wart power cord and remote. The remote was also wrapped in plastic to protect it from the elements and taped down. Between the switch and the sides of the box were the mounting brackets for rack mounting. The only point of concern was that the four mounting screws were loose and rolling around. They were separated from the well protected switch and there was no visible damage that I could discern.
Taking a closer look at the 3x5 component switch, there is a power and mode button on the front as well as five lights and Input #3. Each input (either front or rear) has a set of component inputs (red, green, blue) for your video and a TOSLink optical input for audio. The two inputs on the back have red and white RCA style inputs for analogue audio and the front input has a 3.5mm jack for analogue stereo input (presumably to save space). All five inputs have component, RCA style analogue audio, and TOSLink digital optical outputs. Lastly, there is an RS-232 serial port on the back for direct control.
The manual is basic and adequate. The remote is of the type that I expect with switches these days - small, plastic, and easy to lose. The remote has dedicated on and off buttons (great for integration into a control system) and a set of three buttons for each output. Each set of three buttons is labeled for each input and color coded - green for one, red for two, and orange for three. The remote has great off axis response and was very quick.
Setting up the 3x5 switch is really as easy as connecting a couple of cables. It is important to note here that the switch does NOT convert analogue audio to digital - only audio switching is supported. This means that you'll need to maintain the proper connections if you are going to change up the types of audio you are sending to the switch. Once you connect up your three sources and five displays (you did remember to write down what went where, right?), it is just a matter of deciding how you want your audio and video routed. Remember that the audio is always tied to the video source so you can't select video from Input 1 and audio from Input 3.
There are two ways (well three if you count the RS-232 port) to control the 3x5 Component Video Selector Switch - from the front or with the remote. If you remember, I mentioned that there were five lights on the front that are assigned to each output. Well, these are not only lights but also buttons. Each time you hit one, it cycles to a different input. Each input is assigned a color on the front of the unit. The colors (you've guessed this by now haven't you) correspond to the colors of the buttons on the remote. So you can tell by looking at the front of the unit which outputs are getting Input 1 by counting the number of green lights, Input 2 by the number of red, and Input 3 by the number of orange. The Mode button cycles all outputs at the same time to the same input starting with the next input after the last time you hit the button. So, if the last time you hit the button all the outputs switched to Input 2, the next time you hit it they will all switch to Input 3. Hit it again and they all flip back to Input 1 - very convenient.
The thing to realize about the 3x5 component switch is that all those individual buttons on the remote translate into discrete codes. That means that you'll be able to integrate this into any automation system including RF and IR-based universal remotes. You'll be able to direct each output to the appropriate input without having to deal with the hassle of a single code that is used to cycle through the inputs. This foresight by Impact Acoustics elevates this device from an "Oh that's nice" to "Wow, I can really see the possibilities of that." Even using the most basic of universal remotes, it would be easy to program in any number of different configurations based on time of day, devices used, and just about anything else. The only real omission here (or on the device in general) is a discrete IR input. RS-232 control is nice, but you are relegated to using an IR flasher if you are going to integrate it into a typical universal remote system.
I tested the 3x5 Component Video Matrix Selector Switch with a variety of sources including but not limited to a Denon DVD-3910 DVD player set to 480p, a Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player set to 1080i, and an Xbox 360 set to both 480i and 1080p. I tested both the analogue and digital audio connections. In all cases, everything worked exactly as advertised. I estimated that it took anywhere from a second to a second and a half to lock on to the new source as I cycled through them. Heck, that's faster than HDCP ever is and pretty much leaves changing digital HD cable channels in the dust. The toughest thing about this unit was keeping all the inputs and outputs straight. Of course, once you set this device, you probably won't be doing much switching but even if you are, the interface (albeit remote or faceplate) is very, very simple. You're not going to have a problem with this device from what I can tell.
You may not need the 3x5 Component Video Matrix Selector Switch (or you may just have a hard time saying it), but there are some that do. I looked around for comparable devices to check the pricing but it was pretty hard to find something. They either didn't have the right number of inputs/outputs or only did video and no audio. The prices ranged from the "Oh my God that thing must be made out of plastic and baling wire" to "For that price it should at least buy me dinner first." The real question is, "Does it work?" The answer is a firm yes. Not only does it perform as advertised, but the interface makes it so easy a… um… well anyone can use it. On top of that, the configuration options are completely open considering that each input can be assigned to each output with a discrete code. So if you have more displays than sources or are thinking of opening up a sports bar, take a close look at the 3x5 Component Video Matrix Selector Switch.
Impact Acoustics 3x5 Component Video Matrix Selector Switch
3555 Kettering Blvd
Moraine, OH 45439
About Impact Acoustics
Impact Acoustics is a division of Lastar, Inc., a leader in the computer connectivity industry since 1984. In 2002 Lastar created Impact Acoustics in order to deliver its expertise in computer and data connectivity products to the consumer and commercial communications electronics industry. For information regarding Impact Acoustics visit www.impactacoustics.com.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
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