HDBase-T

I recently got my hands on an HDBase-T device.

Quoi?

HDBaseT supported by the HDBaseT Alliance, is a consumer electronic (CE) connectivity technology for transmission of uncompressed high-definition video (HD), audio, power, home networking, and some control signals, over a common cable with a standard connector.

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In this instance it is a single device which passes an HDMI signal over cat5e (Network Cable) up to 100 meters or 320 feet. Generally devices such as these go for about $200 – $500. So you can imagine how sceptical I was when I saw this nGear branded one for $140 CDN.

There were alternatives out there on Amazon for a lot cheaper, but they weren’t HDBase-T. Which means limited support, and it will not support 3D or DTS 7.1.

What do you get in the package? You get an input and output terminator, you get two power adapters for the terminators, and you get two IR transmitters/receivers. The IR transmitter/receivers are able to pass your remotes signal over the cat5 cable to your connected device.

Initially when I got this device I was worried about the connectivity, I could not get it to work. Then I decided to crimp a new cable. With the new cable in place I was able to watch a 3D movie in 5.1 surround from my PS3 in my bedroom on my home theatre in the living room.

This is not what I intended the device for. I wanted this for my Gaming PC which sits in the bedroom. Now I play my PC games with a controller in the Living room.

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Additionally to the HDBase-T device I had to get a super long USB 2.0 cable which also runs from the gaming PC to the living room. I have connected a USB hub to this cable and a MS Wireless controller adapter so I can play games with my 360 controller. Sports and adventure games. When it comes to first person shooters I play it at my desk on my 3 monitors, mouse, and keyboard. I have both options available.

Switching between the 3 monitors and the Living room is easy, with AMDs Catalyst profiles I either press Ctrl+Alt+F4 (Desk) or Ctrl+Alt+F5 (Living Room). You can set this up yourself with any key combination you desire. Here’s a little visual guide someone put together.

So that was part of the battle the next challenge came in when I was in the living room I could not start and close applications with my controller, I would have to go to the bedroom unplug the mouse and bring it into the living room. That kind of defeated the purpose of the entire convenience. This is where Xpadder came in. Xpadder alows me to setup my controller and map mouse movements and clicks to buttons and joysticks on the controller. I mapped the mouse to my right analog stick and left click to my right trigger. It was a safe bet that it would no interfere with any controls in games. If you play any games the right stick always translates to mouse movements and right trigger always translates to left mouse click on the PC. I was right it really doesn’t interfere much, having payed Tomb Raider and Fifa 12 on the big screen it works pretty well. Now you can download Xpadder from the official site with a donation, or you can find it for free on other sites. Up to you.

At one point the GF saw me playing Tomb Raider on the bis screen, and she was amazed at how realistic the graphics were “movie like” was her comment. I chuckled, because it totally justified my purchase and it reminded me of this.

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As far as lag goes in gaming, there isn’t any that I have noticed. It works very well and I’m happy with it. My next purchase might be a blue-tooth wireless mechanical keyboard to put in the living room that can connect to 9 different devices.

So there you have it HDBase-T by nGear is a very solid and reliable device. I played through Tomb Raider on it and it hasn’t given me any trouble. I supports up to HDMI 1.4 but without ARC support.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

Here is a quick spec sheet:

HDMI version ———————————————    High speed with 3D support
Support HDMI resolution—————–  1080P/1080i/720P/576P/576i/480P/480i
Support video color bit ——————————————  deep color 24bit/36bit
Support audio format———————————   LPCM/Dolby-AC3/DTS7.1/DSD
Input Video signal ————————————————————- 5.0Volts P-P
Output cable distance—————————————————————-  <=5m
Input cable distance——————————————————————- <=5m
Data transfer speed———————————————–  6.75Gbps-10.2Gbps
Operating Humidity range————————–   5 to 90%RH (No Condensation)
Operating Temperature range————————–    -15 to +55C° (5 to 131°F)
Power adapter format——————————-  Input AC(50Hz.60Hz) 100- 240V
Power  Supply———————————————————————–   DC 5V

Pioneer VSX-1123-K

New for 2013 is the VSX-1123-K flagship non Elite series receiver from Pioneer. Airplay, HTC connect, Push Play for Android from the iControlAV2013 app, DLNA, MHL, Pandora and Internet radio. And that’s just scratching the surface. It has a plethora of codecs it can play, lossless audio formats, upconverts sources to HDMI and 4K resolutions, Audio Return Channel and 3D capable. It has two HDMI zones, two Audio zones, 90 watts per channel for 8 ohm impedance speakers and 165 watts per channel for 6 ohm impedance speakers. I would take the wattage with a grain of salt however. This also has the A/B Class amplifiers.

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First before I begin I think I need to cover Pioneer MCACC a bit. MCACC stands for Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System, and it is a piece of software built into the receiver which optimizes the sound for your room. You plug in a mic that comes with the unit and set it up at ear level where you would sit and listen to your music, movies and other audio sources. It will adjust the system sound and generate the best acoustics and listening levels for your room. Your first run you want to run MCACC in Full Auto, ALL CH ADJ, with the following speaker settings, either Normal(SB/FH), Normal (SB/FW), or Speaker B. Unless you have THX speakers set that option to no. Also for the above setting you need to to have at least a 5.1 system. I set my receiver to Speaker B when I ran MCACC. After I ran MCACC and then I copied the results to all 6 memory slots, just so I can have a backup when tweaking the settings. Even though I copied the results I only adjusted the speaker distance and some of the levels on only the first memory slot. Also MCACC will let you know if you have the phase of the speakers crossed, positive going to negative instead of positive going to positive and negative going to negative.

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This receiver has really good ventilation, nice big gaps in the case for heat dissipation. It gives off a lot less heat then my previous unit. Buying an A/B class amplifier that was my biggest concern, that it will generate a lot of heat. Fortunately that is not the case here, you could potentially put something on top of it provided of course that it has enough clearance but I would advise against it. Unlike my previous receiver this one will not cook breakfast.

Crossover or X.Over frequency is the frequency at which the LFE channel or the .1 channel for the subwoofer gets cut off at. Anything above this frequency will not be sent to the subwoofer. Also, apparently when studios mix the soundtracks to accommodate those without subwoofers the LFE gets mixed to the other channels as well. How much I am not sure. When you set the subwoofer to Plus the receiver will ignore the X.Over and all bass will be sent to this channel. If you have set the front speakers to Large and the Sub to just Yes, the full range of the L+R channel will be sent to the Large speakers. For instance my front speakers have a fq response of 37Hz to 20kHz, the sub covers 37Hz to 200Hz, this means that if I have a X.Over of 80Hz and my speakers set to large, the L+R channel will not be cut off below 80Hz and these channels will receive the full spectrum of the soundtrack. The subwoofer however will only receive the LFE (.1) channel at 80Hz and below. LFE channel only goes up to about 120Hz, so why is 80Hz a popular cut off fq? Several reasons, the Dolby LFE is normally 80Hz and below, DTS contains only about 5% of the LFE between 80 – 120Hz and as far as human perception goes anything 80Hz and under becomes non directional to the human ear more or less. You can set your X.Over at 120Hz or rather 150Hz and get the full LFE track. Alternatively setting a crossover for small speakers will send fq’s above this cut off to the small speakers and anything below to the woofer. If you want some more reading in regards to this, pages 132 to 134 of the official MCACC thread on AVS Forum have more detail. http://www.avsforum.com/t/1112470/official-pioneer-mcacc-thread/3930

I think the biggest mistake people make when they buy this receiver is that they do not run the MCACC, they don’t read the Manual, and that they don’t know how to set the receiver to playback the soundtrack properly. Read the manual, there are a lot of settings on this receiver for a reason and going in blindly will only result in your frustration. Personally there are two settings you need to understand AUTO SURROUND, ALC, DIRECT and PURE DIRECT. Here what the Manual says about these. DIRECT – Plays back sound from the source with the least modification next to PURE DIRECT. With DIRECT, the only modifications added to PURE DIRECT playback are calibration of the sound field by the MCACC system and the Phase Control effect. PURE DIRECT – Plays back unmodified sound from source with only minimal digital treatment. Direct mode uses EQ and Standing Wave. Pure Direct does not. Pure Direct only uses the channel level and distance settings gathered from your calibration. ALC (Auto Level Control) is perfect for night viewing, with this setting all channels will output at the same level. AUTO SURROUND, as it specifies picks the best surround mode for you on the receiver.

I generally use Direct for all my listening needs as it applies the MCACC treatment in only a limited manner. I like the way it sounds, in movies it makes it sound lively. This is a subjective preference though. Compared to my AVR 2650 from Harman Kardon this receiver kicks ass. It does not have that boomy sound, and it balances the Highs, Mediums, and Lows quite nicely. Where as my H/K sounded kind of flat. After running MCACC on this Pioneer and tweaking the levels a bit afterwards I feel immersed in the movies. This device gives me that Theater sound experience that I did not know I was lacking with the H/K Avr 2650. Either way I am satisfied with the sound reproduction on this.

The iControlAV2013 app. I use an Android device the Nexus 4, and the app is a convenient way to browse my music library on my DLNA server and phone itself. The Push Player in the input section of the app tries to mimic the Airplay feature from iOS devices, it does a nice job. The Push Player has a nice layout and is very easy to use. Using the volume rocker on my phone will respectively turn the receiver’s volume up and down. When playing music via push player an icon appears in the status bar of the phone for quick and easy access. The fact that I can be lying on my bed and turn on my receiver via the app is very nice, then I can browse and push songs to it. Before you can do that the Network standby feature needs to be turned on in the menu. You can switch zones and sources with the app, control volume, switch inputs, change listening modes, change the balance, phase, emphasize the bass or treble, and many other features. It is a nice visual representation of the controls available for the receiver. Mostly I use the app for playing music, when I’m watching TV or Movies I reach for the remote. Also the App is free for both Android and iOS.

The DLNA server connectivity option is also great, I have a linux media server at home and this device connects to DLNA server perfectly. I use Plex Media Server. I love being able to stream my complete music library to the receiver and with this supporting lossless formats I don’t need to convert anything. One thing to note and I have found this a constant on the net, and even in my past personal experience windows DLNA server which is built into some of Microsoft products is less than stellar and has connectivity issues. Even if you get the device to see the server once that does not necessarily mean it will see it again. Take it from an IT guy, find yourself a third party applications like Plex, TVersity or Twonky. These applications are more reliable and are universal not proprietary to the manufacturer. Microsoft product only works well with microsoft product, avoid like the plague.

IMG_20130512_150852The remote has a ton of buttons, I like options, so the buttons are very welcome. Learn the remote and all it’s functions, it can be a quick and easy way to make changes on your receiver. Also it can be used as a universal remote, it is capable of learning other remote codes effectively eliminating a bluray player, TV remote, or any other IR remote. The remote feels very light and flimsy, however the button presses are very responsive and I like the receiver function button. For anyone with kids this prevents the little ones from making changes to the settings if they decide to pick up and play with the remote.

The OSD is not pretty by any means, but who cares it has to be functional. As far as I’m concerned I care about the functionality of the device and the quality of sound reproduction than a pretty interface.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are available via adapters, unfortunately you have to buy them seperate. Personally I try not to use Wi-Fi where I can, most of my house is wired, I have two gigabit switches sitting in each room that has a TV and network capable devices. I only use Wi-Fi on my phone and laptop. So this receiver is wired. Bluetooth is very lossy, generally I stay away from streaming music via Bluetooth there is too much quality loss. Also it is very susceptible to interference, if you’re an audiophile this is probably not your cup of tea anyways. Now Pioneer says that it has some sort of tech that improves this, the only way I would consider Bluetooth as a streaming option is if the Bluetooth copied the entire digital file and buffered it in memory for playback. This is the only way that I can see the original file retaining it’s quality, unfortunately I can not find any information on the Pioneer Bluetooth streaming except that you require the Air Jam application for android to stream the songs to the Bluetooth device. Also the Pioneer devices are Apple friendly, including AirPlay and such.

With 7 HDMI inputs and analog source to HDMI and 4K up-scaling you can’t go wrong. It has a second HDMI Zone out, so you can have a different sources on two different TV’s add Zone B speakers and this thing is a sure winner. This device will allow HDMI pass through after it has been switched off. It will pass through the last source that was selected on the receiver before it was turned off.

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Zone 2 functionality seems to be somewhat of a mystery to people when it comes to this unit. Don’t worry it was to me as well, but then I did a little digging or rather reading and got it going. Remember, RTFM. Either way it was a non issue after that. Settings for Zone 2 are as follows, in the receiver menu go to 4.System Setup – 4a.Manual SP Setup – 4a1.Speaker System and change to ZONE 2.
Then go to 4f.Other Setup – 4f7.Play ZONE Setup, set Play ZONE to ZONE 2. If you are using the secondary HDMI zone you will need to make changes to the HDZONE settings.

You are able to change the contrast, hue, saturation, etc… on this device. Just like the audio options there are many video adjustments that can be made.

ARC also supported on this receiver, unlike my previous receiver this time around it was pretty much plug and play. On the receiver you need to go to the Sytem Setup – HDMI Setup and turn Control On and ARC On. Once you do this you need to setup your TV on Samsungs it’s called AnyNet+ on LG SIMPLINK… etc. Each manufacturer has their own proprietary ame for the CEC control standard. I tested ARC with Netflix and the receiver was playing back the DD 5.1 soundtrack perfectly. For ARC to work in any setup one needs to user an HDMI 1.4 spec cable, see the chart below taken from Wikipedia.

HDMI version

1.0

1.1

1.2x

1.3

1.3x

1.4x

2.0

sRGB

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

YCbCr

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

8 channel LPCM, 192 kHz, 24-bit audio capability

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD video and audio at full resolution[F]

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Consumer Electronic Control (CEC)[G]

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

DVD-Audio support

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Super Audio CD (DSD) support[H]

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Deep color

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

xvYCC

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Auto lip-sync

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Dolby TrueHD bitstream capable

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

DTS-HD Master Audio bitstream capable

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Updated list of CEC commands[I]

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

3D over HDMI[142]

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Ethernet channel

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Audio return channel (ARC)

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

4K resolution support[143]

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Two things, I read somewhere that ARC puts a strain on the HDMI board on the Receiver and that it is recommended to use the Optical instead. I don’t know how much truth that holds. I also want to add that I am no longer using the Geffen HDMI detective with this receiver, I do not get audio and video flicker anymore. If you’re wondering what that is just have a look see at my previous blog post “The device that saved my home theatre.”. It appears that it was the Harman Kardon receivers fault after all, poor HDMI boards.

A lot of people think that you should be able to plug and play something and it should sound amazing. Unfortunately this is the culture a lot of manufacturers are breeding, specifically Apple. I have to disagree. You are able to get away on this receiver by just running the Advanced MCACC and leave it at that, and the receiver will sound beautiful. However if you want the Maximum out of your experience I suggest you play with some of the sound options. Start with the basic stuff like levels and balance, then perhaps work your way up to adjusting the EQ and seeing what sounds the best for your environment and listening pleasure. One buys a receiver so they can get the best out of their home theatre, take some time and learn the functions if you don’t understand them, play with them see what they do to your sound reproduction.

I have to give a big shout out to the people of AVS Forum in the MCACC thread. While I was figuring out this receiver they were a huge help, and very knowledgeable. A lot of professionals and enthusiasts that have a passion for this stuff. If you ever have any questions about AV stuff I recommend navigating over there and asking some questions. Thanks

I give this receiver 8 out of 10, the instructions could have been much clearer and the X Over settings are very confusing to beginners. However the sound and connectivity of this unit are simply amazing.