Review (June 2004) - Zektor HDS4.2
By Kevin Nakano
Not long ago it was fairly simple to connect video equipment to your television. After all, you had a VCR and maybe a laserdisc player if you were blessed. Then came DVD players and you were transformed into the new Millennium. Just when you thought it might settle down, set-top boxes start to appear to support satellite and over-the air high-definition content. Soon D-VHS VCRs roll out with the backing of four major Hollywood studios offering movies encrypted with the D-Theater format for unbelievable high-definition movies on tape.
Dealing with all these video sources can be a real problem, especially if you happen to own several of the new technologies and want to use them with your one display. Many high quality video sources within a system need to be controlled and switched without degrading the picture. A company called Zektor LLC has introduced the new HDS4.2, an impressive HDTV audio and video switcher. Earlier this year Zektor sent us their MAS3 5.1 audio switcher, so obviously we were excited to see how well the new HDS4.2 video switcher performed in our system. The HDS4.2 is capable of switching component video, digital audio (coax and toslink) and two-channel analog audio from four different sources. The design allows the unit to drive up to two component video displays. The Zektor HDS4.2 is an attractive looking full-size chassis and is designed to fit nicely into a standard 19" rack system or on the shelf. It's available in black or silver, making it easy to blend in well with the rest of your system. The HDS4.2 has the unique ability to learn new remote commands from your existing remote or can respond to a preexisting set of codes that are available in most universal remotes.
The rear panel of the HDS4.2 is fairly busy with four sets of inputs and two sets of outputs. Also included is a slot for the optional RS232 interface card, which allows users to control the video switcher using serial commands from an external controller. The Setup button on the rear places the HDS4.2 in a programming mode so that the user can program IR commands into the switcher from their remote. Practically any universal remote can be used to control the switcher. The HDS4.2 can also learn to respond to new IR remote commands. The power input jack is located at the bottom right corner to accommodate the provided AC adapter. Each set of inputs is designed to accept either component video (3 RCA jacks) with left and right analog audio or full RGB/HV signals. Either configuration still has full digital audio (coaxial and toslink) switching capability.
The upside to having both the OUT1 and OUT2 connections is that the user can have two displays connected at once. We tested this configuration in our system by sending the OUT1 signals to our Mitsubishi LT-3020 high-definition LCD flat panel display. The buffered OUT2 signals were sent to our Panasonic PT-AE500U ceiling mounted high-definition projector. Video looked very good in this setup. However, we did notice a slight improvement in video quality when we used the 75 ohm termination caps. The slight difference we observed may have been due to the component video cables we used with the flat panel display during our tests.
According to Zektor, video bandwidth on the HDS4.2 drops only 0.1dB at 37MHz and only -3dB at 100 MHz. All of the inactive video inputs are terminated with 75 ohm resistors to reduce potential crosstalk thanks to the large number of relays working inside of the HDS4.2 unit. All signals pass through relay contacts that are made from a silver alloy with gold plating. In addition, all connectors are gold-plated on the rear panel.
The HDS4.2 design uses an Atmel AVR 8-bit RISC-based microcontroller to read the front panel buttons and control the relay logic. This small, yet powerful and flexible processor allows the unit to have capabilities far beyond any typical switcher. Nonvolatile memory within the processor stores remote code information received during setup. The processor also provides communications to the optional RS232 card.
We began testing with the Marantz MV8300 D-VHS VCR, which is basically the same model as the JVC HM-DH40000U. The resolution offered with the D-VHS format makes it difficult for any product lacking good video bandwidth to go unnoticed. The sheer resolution we saw with this product using D-VHS as a source was jaw-dropping. While the D-VHS tapes we used produced 1080i (1920x1080) to our screen, we were limited to 1280x768 on the Mitsubishi LT-3020. Even with the limitation in resolution, the picture was stunningly detailed and certainly engaging to watch. We saw no significant change in image quality between straight cables and routing it through the HDS4.2 switcher. We had similar results with our HTPC as a high-definition video source. Whether it was Crime Scene Investigation or Judging Amy on KABC or Las Vegas, Law & Order, or The Tonight Show on KNBC, the picture was superb.
We also took a look at several of our reference quality DVDs. Shakespeare in Love produced the smooth and accurate colors that we are accustomed to seeing with this disc. U-571 also revealed excellent black level detail in the picture. The bandwidth requirement for DVD video is significantly lower than high-definition video, so we would expect the quality to be equal or better with DVD. The results were excellent as expected with both DVD players we used in our system.
The only issue we encountered with this unit was a problem with programming the IR codes from our Parasound AVC-2500u processor remote. We wanted to have the video input selection buttons on the remote also control the video selection on the HDS4.2 unit. For some reason only three of the four codes worked reliably. This may have to do with the algorithm they use to read the IR commands. It's possible that some of the codes in our Parasound remote were not quite unique enough for the switcher to recognize. However, we tried a different remote and it worked perfectly. Therefore, your mileage may vary from remote to remote.
- Kevin Nakano
High-Definition LCD Projector
|Review - At a Glance|
Zektor - HDS4.2 4 input / 2
Post Sales Customer Service: firstname.lastname@example.orgSource: Manufacture loan
Model Number: HDS4.2-BLK (HDS4.2-SLV also available)
Warranty: 1 year parts and labor
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