Just a short while ago, a group of consumer electronics giants got together and decided that the mess of cables behind all of your DVD players, A/V receivers and who knows what else were getting tiresome and tedious, not to mention expensive. So, Hitachi, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Royal Philips Electronics, Silicon Image, Sony Corporation, Thomson, and Toshiba Corporation developed what is now known as High Definition MultiMedia Interface or HDMI. This technology is primarily based on Silicon Image’s high speed serial link specification and allows for high definition video up to 1080p, and high resolution audio, including up to eight channels of 192/24 playback. The HDMI spec has 5 Gbps of bandwidth, so it is truly a forward thinking delivery device and has been widely adopted over the past year into DVD players, D-VHS decks, satellite and cable boxes, TVs, projectors, A/V receivers, and more. To say that the industry is quickly adopting this transmission system would be an understatement.
Problems and Solutions
But with adoption and new direction comes new issues to address. Namely, how in the world do we connect everything to the display? It is no secret that HT enthusiasts of the world like to keep their equipment on the bleeding edge, and staying there means you will probably have more than one HDMI source. Sure you could still connect that new satellite box and DVD player to your receiver or TV with component video but then you wouldn’t be taking advantage of the pure digital transmission system that offers increased video performance and digital audio all in the single cable now would you?
The solution in the past has been the A/V receivers because they tend to get updated almost yearly with new features. Over the past 3-5 years this has mainly been new sound decoding schemes from DTS or Dolby or new room EQ solutions. But the back panels have largely remained the same. Component video switching has become the norm, but now with DVI (Digital Visual Interface) and HDMI being so prevalent, people are looking to get digital video and audio switching in their products. Well, unbelievably the A/V receivers have been a bit slow in adopting these new digital connections, perhaps because they don't have room to put a new type of jack without eliminating some of the old standard ones. DVI came and went for about a year, and I can think of only a handful of receivers or surround sound processors that actually have DVI switching capabilities. HDMI is the name of the game now.
Well, if you have one HDMI source, like a DVD player, and your HDTV has one HDMI input, no problem. But, what if your satellite box also has an HDMI output, and your A/V receiver does not have HDMI switching?
Gefen has always been a front runner when it comes to managing things like this. They are usually one of the first to market with switching solutions and a host of other invaluable options like extenders, converters, and adapters. In fact I remember the buzz on the forums as soon as we started seeing HDMI products out there about Gefen providing some kind of switching solution for them.
And provide they did. Currently Gefen has eleven switching solutions for HDMI in their product line-up. Given the youth of HDMI, that is really incredible. The products range from simple 2x1 (2 HDMI in and 1 out) and 2x2 switchers (2 HDMI in and 2 out, with the ability to send either input to either output, also called a matrix switcher), all the way to 6x2. They even have HDMI switchers that will accept HDMI in, and output DVI for people with DVI-based displays, eliminating the need for adapters and converters (but if you need the adapters, Gefen will provide those too).