has introduced their latest A/V switcher that includes advanced switching control
for HDMI, digital audio and analog audio. The MAS7.1 features fully active HDMI
and digital audio switching along with passive analog audio switching for up to
8 channels. This is ideal for the new high resolution 7.1 formats currently available.
Displays often only have a single HDMI input and many audio components only offer
a single set of multi-channel audio inputs. The MAS7.1 solves these problems by
providing a way to use multiple sources on a single set of inputs.
The front panel has a set of three primary buttons and a set of three
secondary buttons. There is also a Sync button that will link the primary
and secondary buttons together so that if button "2" is pressed, "S2"
will also be switched. The MAS7.1 is completely configurable to allow separate
primary and secondary switching groups. The user can configure the input types
to a specific group for maximum flexibility. All front panel buttons can also
be disabled to prevent small children from changing the settings. Best of all,
there are four ways to control the unit. The manual front panel controls, the
IR remote, the hardwired IR input jack, or the RS-232 interface.
MAS7.1 HDMI 1.3 interface supports resolutions up to 1080p and Deep Color
up to 1080i. Analog audio interfaces have excellent bandwidth characteristics
with no distortions due to active components in the signal chain. All analog audio
passes through low impedance, gold-plated relay contacts to preserve signal integrity.
The unit measures 17" W x 6.5" D x 1.75" H, weighs 8 pounds, and
can also be rack mounted.
The back of the MAS7.1 is loaded with connectors for multi-channel
analog audio, digital optical toslink, coaxial digital, and HDMI. Input power
comes from an external 9V, 500mA AC adapter. Any combination of optical and coaxial
digital audio inputs can be used with cross-conversion between the two. A full
duplex RS232 interface is provided for controlling the switcher from a controller
making use of their K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Serial) protocol. The
3.5mm (1/8") jack can be configured to receive a 12V On/Off command (3V-15V,
positive or negative polarity) or an IR input signal. This input signal is completely
optically-isolated from the rest of the MAS7.1 electronics to protect it and prevent
noise from coupling into the unit.
The MAS7.1 is unlike any other switcher we have ever used in our
system. Sure it switches reliably and even has an RS232 interface on the back
to command the unit from a high-end controller. However, what makes the MAS7.1
unique is the ability to adjust a variety of parameters to meet each user's taste
The front panel lights can be adjusted to different levels. Both
dim and bright levels can be set by the user using the programming mode. Once
the levels are set, the user can choose to have the indicators set to dim, bright,
off or smoothly transition from bright to dim 4-seconds after any adjustments
are made. The latter mode is our favorite and allows the user to easily see what
is being changed and then fade to a low enough level not to be distracting while
watching the video in a dark setting.
The MAS7.1 comes with a remote, but it is possible to use your
own remote to program the controls on the unit using the Intelligent IR
Learn Mode. Programming is very simple with only eight buttons (6 input select,
sync, and power) needing assignments. This features also allows users to have
multiple MAS7.1 units with fully independent control of each.
is also a way to program discrete remote commands into the unit for Power On,
Power Off, Sequence Primary, Sequence Secondary, Sync
On, Sync Off, and Breakaway Video. These codes are learned in
this sequential order when set into the Discrete IR Code programming mode.
These commands are powerful when using a controller that is used to configure
an A/V system. Rather than toggling Power or Sync, the discrete
commands place the unit in a known state.
Power On State
There are times when the unit may receive interrupted power
due to the setup in which it is used. The MAS7.1 has a programmable power-on state
that places the unit in a known configuration when power is applied. The user
can select the state and then program it into the unit so that next time power
is interrupted it will return to this configuration. This can be a handy feature
for some installations.
The switching delay time can be adjusted for each set of inputs.
They are grouped as HDMI delay, Digital Audio mute delay, Multi-channel Audio
delay, and Stereo audio delay. Settings can vary between zero seconds to 500ms
in increments of 0 sec, 20ms, 50ms, 100ms, 200ms, or 500ms.
Each set of inputs (HDMI, Digital Coaxial and Optical Audio, Multi-channel
Audio, and Stereo Audio) can be assigned to the Primary or Secondary groups. Once
the groups are defined they can be controlled independently or together using
the Sync button.
linked the HDMI and digital audio into Primary group while the 7.1 analog audio
was assigned to the secondary bank. However, any combination can be used based
on the need of the user. We had three HDMI sources running to the MAS7.1 that
included a Dish Network ViP622 HD receiver, Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD player, and an
OPPO Digital OPDV971H DVD player. All three components also had their corresponding
optical digital interfaces going through the switcher as well. A variety of Atlona
HDMI cables were used to send video to the switcher while a long 20-meter Vizionware
Hi-Wirez HDMI cable made the connection to our Mitsubishi HC5000 projector.
Switching HDMI signals is not a trivial task and requires high
bandwidth components and strict board layout constraints. The MAS7.1 uses a Texas
Instruments (TI) TMDS341A HDMI switching chip to handle the 3:1 HDMI switching
function. The TI chip is compatible with HDMI 1.3a and supports bandwidths as
high as 1.65 Gbps. Care has been taken with the board design (as seen in the picture)
to time align each of the signals within an HDMI link. Trace lengths must be well
matched within each pair and each pair within a given link must be close in length
to time align the channels within a link. Also, they have avoided any 90 degree
bends in the traces to reduce unwanted signal reflection.
The audio switching is fully passive in the MAS7.1 design. Each
input channel passes through low impedance gold contact relays to reach the corresponding
output channel. Because of the flexibility designed into this unit, a total of
24 relays are used to connect the audio sources to the outputs. The switching
and delay times are handled by the onboard processor.
brains of the MAS7.1 HDMI/Audio switcher lies with an Atmel high performance,
low power AVR® 8-Bit Microcontroller. This processor provides basic control
for the MAS7.1 and has an integrated serial port for the RS232 interface. This
cost effective controller give products such as this versatility and a rich set
of features at a low cost. This also allows users to store configurations in nonvolatile
MAS7.1 switching includes a full size remote with the unit. Unlike so many of
the video switchers we have reviewed, the MAS7.1 remote is simple to use and not
easily misplaced. Zektor decided to create a single remote for multiple applications.
Only the second set of buttons are used with the MAS7.1 unit. However, should
the user decide to include more Zektor components into their A/V system, the same
remote can be used to control all of these products. All of the buttons found
on the front panel of the MAS7.1 are also available on the remote. Unfortunately,
the remote offers no backlighting for use in dark or poorly lit areas. The remote
is powered from a single CR2025 3V battery.
MAS7.1 worked well for us from the very beginning and we immediately began programming
our preferences into the unit. Since we typically have a dark room for watching
movies, it was important to be able to dim the front panel display when no activity
was in process. We set the MAS7.1 to fade from bright to dim and having the ability
to control these levels was a great feature. Some users may prefer to turn the
front panel display completely off, which is also an option.
between high definition (Dish ViP622 and HD-DVD) and standard definition (OPPO
DVD player) sources was made simple with the MAS7.1 unit and we saw no degradation
in the video. The digital audio from these sources was also switched in parallel
and worked flawlessly.
had our 5.1 analog sources from our Sony DVP-NS900V SACD player and Kenwood Sovereign
DV-5900M DVD-Audio player assigned to the secondary group. This allowed us to
independently switch the video/digital audio and the multi-channel analog music.
We played a variety of music including DTS 5.1, SACD 5.1 and DVD-Audio 5.1. In
all cases the audio was very transparent with this switcher in the signal path
with no noticeable coloration or noise.
MAS7.1 is more than a simple A/V switcher and can be a great addition to a complex
A/V system. Knowing the features of this switcher is important in order to take
full advantage of the options available. Programming is simple and the manual
provides a clear and concise explanation of the settings. Some experimentation
may be needed to fully experience the capabilities of the MAS7.1. Like other Zektor
products we have seen, build quality is excellent and complements the attractive
design of the unit, which is available in a silver
finish. We plan to add the RS-232 interface control in the near future to provide
direct control of the unit without the need for the IR interface. At $599, the
MAS7.1 is a serious component in your system and you will be hard pressed to find
anything like it. Best of all, installers will finally have a simple switching
solution that can be configured to meet their customer's needs.