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Whole House A/V - Best Practices - Video and amplied audio in the same box?
I'm trying to understand the whole house audio/video distribution system a bit better. So I'd like to try to explain what I want to do and see if there is an industry best practice.

I'm going to have 1-n sources, from each source I want to send to 1-x zones. I'm thinking 6-8 sources (probably more towards the 8 than 6) and 6 or so output zones. The signals I want to distribute are
- component video
- composite video
- digital audio (coax)
- stereo audio
- amplifed audio

The reason being if I have the source set to DVD, I know I'll have the outputs to drive my main media room reciever or my various remote tvs via different video and audio options.

To accomplish this I've got a couple of options and wanting to see which one offers the most flexability going forward and is setup to avoid the signals corrupting one and other and any other pitfalls.

I'm excluding control of the gear as it can all be controlled various ways, assuming the amps have a passthough option, and not worrying about distribution at this point.

Option 1 (1 switch, separate amps)
- RGBHV & Stereo Matrix (Kramer, Autopatch, Extron, Teq Gear, etc)
- multi-zone amp or multiple single zone amps

Cable Routing
- Component -> Matrix RGB -> Device
- Composite -> Matrix H -> Device
- Dig Aug -> Matrix V -> Device
- Stereo -> Matrix Audio -> Amp -> Amplified -> Device
-> Pass Through -> Device

Option 2 (2 switches, separate amps)
- Component, Digital Audio Matrix (Neothings, Key Digital, Video Storm)
- A/V Matrix - Various
- multi-zone amp, or mutliple single zone amps

Cable Routing
- Component -> Comp Matrix -> Device
- Composite -> A/V Matrix -> Device
- Dig Aug -> Comp Matrix -> Device
- Stereo -> A/V Matrix -> Amp -> Amplified -> Device
-> Pass Through -> Device

Options 3 (Integrated Amp/AV Switch, Separate Component switch)
- Amp A/V Switch (Russound CAV6.6, Xantech MRC-88, B&K not sure model)
- Component, Digital Audio Matrix (Various, could be same brand as switch)

Cable Routing
- Component -> Comp Matrix -> Device
- Composite -> Amp A/V Matrix -> Device
- Dig Aug -> Comp Matrix -> Device
- Stereo -> Amp A/V Matrix -> Amplified -> Device
-> Pass Through -> Device

So which option is better or worse and why?

I'm not sure I see a lot of difference between #2 and #3 in your list... An A/V matrix switch really is the same thing as the CAV or MRC (which are probably more properly called distributed A/V controllers), unless your meaning is something akin to buying a Kramer switch or something similar that's dedicated to audio and is more of a commercial device without all the controls/keypads/IR/etc... I think you'll be wanting some dimensions of those areas covered if you don't have them address elsewhere in your planning.

I think currently, you've got three realistic options...

  1. A high-def capable distributed A/V switch. This is the all-in-one solution. The Audio Authority product is the only one out there that I know of that does this, however I think this'll leave you short the number of zone/sources you're looking for. There's been a lot of interest, but I'm not sure if anyone on the forums has actually installed one of these yet.

  2. Two switch boxes (one for audio, one for video) that are integrated (i.e., same brand). This is becoming a bit more common. Russound has an add-on HD switch for the CAV line, and Xantech just released an HD switch that integrates with the MRC family. So far, these look to limit the number of zones and sources, although some will let you chain extra units... Can be expensive, but may be a less complex path to getting a full system working. Again, I don't know of anyone who's gone down this road yet.

  3. Two switch boxes, but different brands (e.g., Russound+AutoPatch or Xantech+Kramer). This gives you more flexibility, can be a less expensive route to distributing component video (especially for 4+ component video sources), but can be a bit more work to integrate.

A lot of folks here are using the AutoPatch boxes to switch component video and various types of audio (digital or analog). Some other folks here are using the Kramer switches, including myself. Beezlerob is working on a driver right now, although you may not even need native control of this device from CQC (see below.) While theoretically a box like the Kramer will let you do almost everything you need, there's a lot of other factors to consider. You probably still want some degree of IR control, plus some more intelligent control over your source equipment (IR routing, source power management, paging, etc.). You may also decide you want in-zone keypads in lieu of full CQC touch panels everywhere, and in those situations its nicer having something like CAV or an MRC box that supports all of this at a reasonable cost.

I'm using a Kramer VP88ETH, which will switch component, digital audio, composite video and analog audio (it's RGBHV plus audio). However, my Kramer is controlled exclusively by the Xantech MRC-88 via IR (CQC talks to the Xantech, but doesn't really even know the Kramer's there). I use the Kramer box to switch component and digital audio, and the MRC-88 switches all the audio and composite video. This gives me full 8 source to 8 zone switching of component video, composite video, analog audio, digital audio and six amplified zones of power. Plus, the MRC-88 provides IR/source routing... This is especially handy if you're thinking about controlling two of any device (like say two cable boxes as two of your sources). This sort of thing is another plus for using something like CAV or MRC box to control things...

In hindsight, I'd probably have bought an MRAUDIO88 instead of the MRC88. It's essentially the same controller without the composite video; I'd have had that covered in the Kramer box.

In a nutshell, I'd recommend looking at the Audio Authority product and see if it will fit your needs. If not, you're definitely in the market for a stand alone video switch irregardless. For the audio side, I'd still tell you to look at a dedicated distributed A/V switch like the Xantech or Russound product as your base. Download the manuals for the CAV and MRC products and see what these things do, and think about what you'd have to have in place to duplicate that functionality.

Keep in mind that controlling the switch and your source equipment is a good chunk of your problem... Getting the signals out to your zones is only about half the problem... :-)
Another option would be B&K's CT6xx combined w/ their HD6 to give you 9 inputs (plus 2 radio tuners) and 6 outputs. It has keypads and integrated IR if you need it.

Personally, I'm still at a loss with what the Autopatch switching component with digital and analog audio capability is lacking unless someone were to insist on a new product. Agreeably there's a large number of us trying to eBay these so that makes it more complex. This gives you the ability to go beyond 8 sources and/or outputs. A driver exists so you're set there.

I own a CT610 and I can't see spending more on the HD6 (around $2000). I'm serously considering an Autopatch switch that'll let me switch HD component signals and using RG6 to distribute that to the SD sets and for $200 and dual Cat5s I can put it just about anywhere in the house that requires HD component video with digital or analog audio. Right now the CT610 does a great job for distributing SD composite video. I just don't have a solution to switch HD component at this point.

Once you decide how to do your switching, jscheller is right, your real problem begins in how to control things. Until I get the computers and touchscreens in place, I'm using USB-UIRT receivers and blasters to control the remote equipment and the GC100 to control equipment at the media rack. I happen to have computers in those locations (they're positioned well for IR control but terribly for touchscreens).

The B&K is nice but I think may be a tad spendy.

I guess to better phrase my question. Will I corrupt or have interferance with either my audio or video signal if I'm using a box like the CAV that switches both the composite video while amplifing the audio signal. Wondering if the amps will interfere with the video signal as they are in the same box.

CalypsoCowboy Wrote:I guess to better phrase my question. Will I corrupt or have interferance with either my audio or video signal if I'm using a box like the CAV that switches both the composite video while amplifing the audio signal. Wondering if the amps will interfere with the video signal as they are in the same box.

These devices are designed to do this sort of thing. They probably don't go through some of the audiophile grade steps to isolate the audio and video paths (separate power supplies, etc.) but that's not the market these devices target. And, your dealing with composite video at that level... Not exactly the fine wine of video technology... ;-)

You probably should tailor your concerns given that once the signal gets out of one of these boxes it may travel 100' or more through your walls (near and around 120v power lines) to your actual speakers or display device. You're probably 100x more likely to pick up some sort of interference in the run then you would be with respect to embedded amplifiers in the switch.

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