Product Review (June 2004) - Zektor HDS4.2
4 input / 2 output HDTV Component Video Switcher
with Digital Audio

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.

Design
Front panel buttons control power as well as selection of the video inputs. The front indicators can be configured for bright, dim or auto modes. The Auto mode starts bright and dims down after selecting the input. There are two sets of outputs on the HDS4.2 with one being completely passive (OUT1) while the other having active buffers (OUT2) for sending video signals over longer cables. Since there are no active components in the OUT1 signal path, not even 75 ohm termination, the unit must terminate the incoming video signals. That's why Zektor includes three 75 ohm terminator plugs for the OUT1 connectors when using the OUT2 connections. The fully passive design used to switch the OUT1 interface allows the unit to act as a 4:1 or 1:4 video switcher (bi-directional). This excludes the unidirectional digital interfaces. The unit automatically detects the optical (Toslink) and coaxial (S/PDIF) inputs and sends the selected digital signal to both the coaxial and optical outputs. When using the OUT2 interface, the OUT1 interface must have 75 ohm termination which can be another display or the termination caps provided with the unit. We opt for the second option as it helps reduce reflections in the signals. Since passive switching relies solely on the display to terminate the video signals when using the OUT1 connections, poor cable impedance could cause unwanted reflections and they may become apparent at the other output (OUT2). The user needs to be aware of this when configuring his or her system. OUT1 connections should only be used if the switcher is located relatively close to the display.

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.

Performance
Our sources consisted of two high definition and several standard definition sources. Our reference video source comes from our Marantz MV8300 D-VHS D-Theater VCR. We also included our Sony Vaio HTPC (Home Theater PC) fitted with the Macro Image Technology high-definition ATSC tuner. We also connected our Sony DVP-NS900V multi-channel SACD player and Kenwood DV-5900M 5.1 DVD-Audio player. Our video selections included The Fast and the Furious and The Mummy primarily because there are many dark scenes that make it easier to see noise in the picture. If you happen to forget to terminate the OUT1 connections when using the OUT2 connections, you'll see video that is over-saturated with poor black levels. Why? Because the video levels are twice as high as they should be. It should be fairly obvious when this occurs as we tried it and noticed it immediately.

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.

Conclusion
The HDS4.2 is certainly an impressive product that seamlessly integrates multiple component video sources to one or two display devices. The high-resolution video signals we used in our setup didn't encounter any noticeable degradation, even over a fairly long cable run to our projector. We liked the full control of inputs using the remote or optional RS232 board. Aside from the issue we encountered with our Parasound remote, the unit operated flawlessly for us. High performance video products are not easy to design, especially with the high-bandwidth requirements necessary to maintain truly transparent image quality with high-definition sources. The HDS4.2 does a great job at video switching and adds the features needed in today's home theater systems.

- Kevin Nakano





OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Projector: Panasonic PT-AE500U High-Definition LCD Projector
Screen:
Da-Lite 92" Cinema Contour Frame with High Contrast Cinema Vision Screen
Display:Mitsubishi - LT-3020 High-Definition LCD Display
Preamplifier/Processor:
Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 TripoleŽ Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Mitsubishi HD-5000 Receiver
D-VHS VCR #1: Marantz MV8300 D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer


Review - At a Glance

Zektor - HDS4.2 4 input / 2 output
HDTV Component Video Switcher

Features:

  • 4 Inputs, 2 Outputs: Up to four sources of HD component vide
  • High-bandwidth design
  • Passive switching for video and audio signals
  • Optical (Toslink) and Coaxial digital inputs converted to Optical and Coaxial digital outputs
  • Controllable using any Universal remote
  • Optional RS232 Interface Card
  • Auto Dimming Display
  • Available in Black or Silver
  • Rack Mountable, 1RU
  • Gold-plated connectors

    Download Brochure


  • Company Information
    ZEKTOR, LLC
    12675 Danielson Ct.
    Suite 401
    Poway, CA 92064
    Phone: (858)748-8250
    Fax:(858)748-8224

    Pre-Sales: questions@zektor.com

    Post Sales Customer Service: customerservice@zektor.com

    Source: Manufacture loan
    Model Number: HDS4.2-BLK (HDS4.2-SLV also available)
    MSRP: $499

    Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

    URL: www.zektor.com

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