Central Audio/Video Distribution

Okay, I finally sat down tonight and figured out what I *think* I need (at least it’s a start so the experts have something to start with) to do centrally distributed audio/video for the house.


So I’m thinking every room (minus bathrooms, except for master) should be an audio “zone” as well as the pool house and then 3 zones for audio outside (front yard, back yard and golf area). That works out to 20 audio zones. Three of those should be 7.1 surround (living room, home theatre and master bedroom) with everything else being 2 channel stereo. So after figuring that out, now what in the hell sort of equipment do I need to make all this work? Maybe this (this is all Crestron stuff)…

  • CNX-BIPAD8 (3 of them) – CAT5 24×8 distributor (24 possible sources in, 8 rooms out) any room could be on any source so 3 of these will cover 24 “rooms/zones”
  • CNAMPX-16X60 (2 of them) – 16 channels x 60 watts each (8 rooms per amp, 16 rooms total)
  • CNAMPX-2X60 (1 of them) – 2 channels x 60 watts each (1 room)
  • CNAMPX-7×200 (3 of them) – 7 channel x 200 watts surround sound amp (3 of them for the 3 rooms I want 7.1 in)
  • C2N-DAP8 (3 of them) – 7.1 surround sound processor
  • AAS-4 – Digital Audio Server (250GB of MP3s, able to output 4 independent streams as sources to the distributors)
  • CEN-IPOD – iPod dock

So in the end what would that give me? I would have the ability to pipe any of the 5 sources (4 unique streams of MP3 and music from an iPod) to any specific zone, plus with the ability to hook up 11 additional sources, you could pick up the audio output of a computer for example and use it as another source.


So this is where it gets even more complicated. I want all TVs to be running digital signals (HDMI/HDCP) where possible. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Crestron has any equipment to run HDMI signals. Another problem is the HDMI signals are going to be coming from the server room, so you start to run into a cable length issue. So… enter Gefen.

  • EXT-HDMI-444 (2 of them) – 4×4 HDMI switch (4 sources switchable between 4 outputs. 2 of them should give 4 sources switchable between 8 outputs)
  • EXT-HDMI-244 (2 of them) – 2×4 HDMI splitter (2 sources switchable between 4 outputs. Need this to split the 4 master sources to the 2 4×4 switchers.)
  • EXT-HDMI-1000HD150B (3 of them) – 150′ HDMI fiber extender
  • EXT-HDMI-1000HD100B (4 of them) – 100′ HDMI fiber extender

The lengths are just guesses, but that setup would let me run HDMI signals over fiber at full 1080p resolutions (1920×1080).

What would really simplify this would be if there was a 4×8 HDMI switcher available. But I couldn’t find a company that offers a HDMI switcher/matix except for Gefen. I didn’t even attempt to go digging for a dual link (Type B) HDMI switcher. hehe

At least this gives me something to start with when dealing with the home automation guys… now I don’t have to meet when them and just be like, “Duuuuhhhhhhh… I don’t know what I want/need.”

It also made me realize I want conduit running to every place a TV could be.

13 thoughts on “Central Audio/Video Distribution”

  1. Wiring HDMI cables throughout the house seems an expensive way of distributing video – You’d be much better off wiring Cat-5 around the house, carrying video signals over ethernet from a central location and then having a client/decoder unit in each locale.

    Cat-5 is more than fast enough for even HD streaming, this way you futureproof yourself against a change in the HDMI standard and save a bundle of cash.

    Wire a few cat-5s to every location and you can also use them for audio/internet etc…

    Ben Hobbs

  2. I am a Crestron Dealer and I have been in the business for many years. There are major flaws with your idea of distributing HDMI throughout the house. First of all, every television would have to have to be the exact same model because the resolution and encryption key is different between tvs. Secondly, there would be major syncing issues between your video and audio…in other words you would hear the voices seconds before the picture would catch up. Currently the best way to distribute video throughout the home is via Cat5, Cat5E or Cat6 cable using a PVID8x3 or PVID8x4 with corresponding local source boxes at each tv location. You are correct that this will not pass 1080p but then again, how many 1080p tvs do you have and furthermore, how many 1080;p sources do you have? There are no DVD servers other than those based on Windows Media Center that can provide a 1080p output and there are no 1080p downloadable movies on the net yet to watch anyway. I understand the idea of futureproofing and I am as interested in finding a solution to this issue as you are but don’t waste your money on Gefen HDMI switchers, extenders, etc. just yet. If I were you I would use that money to install flexible conduit and a pair of CAT6 cables to each tv location instead.

  3. I’ve been researching doing digital audio/video distribution and switching systems also for my house.

    One system I’ve started to narrow down to is Audio Authority. They claim to be able to transmit DVI and component signals up to 1000′ via dual Cat 5 wires with resolutions up to 1080p. It will carry the video, audio and IR control signals all through the two Cat 5’s.


    So far, I’m impressed with what they offer.

  4. You’re on the right track. Actually I’d stay far away from the PVID’s right now. They were the right solution years back, but they are bound to be replaced soon. They can’t handle 10080p and the room solution boxes that they feed to are limited as well. So you’re stuck with 720p/1080i for the forseeable future.

    It isn’t just in terms of content. If you run any computer/video game signals, you’ll have 1080p or higher signals. Blu-ray can feed a 1080p signal as well as PS3 and pretty soon more.

    Stephen is also incorrect about the display signal. I believe the Gefen will provide the hdmi/hdcp resolution handshake back to the source. There are some issues with hdmi distribution (name limited), but Crestron will always be a bit behind on the cutting edge waiting for the industry to shake out a bit.

    There are cat5/6 solutions that can handle high resolutions. Magenta research comes to mind as well as several others.

    Be careful with the HDMIX cables. They are directional and do need to be powered if they are coming out of HDMI matrix switchers as the gefens do not provide power through the hdmi cable (at least not enough to drive it long distances).

  5. I just finished an installation where we used Extron HDMI->2x CAT5 boxes so we could do long runs. The extron boxes can do 1080p up to 100′ on cat5 and I think up to 200′ on cat7. For us, we only had 720p sources so cat5 was good enough. It works just fine, but all it really does is make your cable runs easier, they are not exactly groundbreaking. However they are capable of doing 1080p. Playstation3 is 1080p as well as the blu-ray disc movies you put in, so there is a definite NEED for this technology now. It is not future proofing, 1080p is abundant.

  6. I’m curious as to what you ended up doing. I’m about to move into a new home and have the need to distribute my HD signal to 2 rooms. I have 3 available Cat5e cables, but I’m unsure as to what device to use for sending the signal to those rooms.

    I wouldn’t spend $5K on the Creston solution, but I’d be willing to spend $400 on the Gefen HDMI CAT-5 Extreme Extender . It claims the ability to do 1080p up to 150 ft. and HDCP compliant.

  7. I just picked up a new toy that may help you. It is an HDMI to VGA adapter box. It takes an HDMI signal, all the way up to 1080p, and outputs VGA on the other side. The audio is converted to 3.5mm stereo output. You do lose digital sound, however you can now use an inexpensive VGA 4×8 to distribute the video. These boxes aren’t openly available because of the potential copyright infringement capabilities. Let me know if you are interested I will point you in the right direction. Down with HDCP!

  8. Can you point me in the direction for the HDMI to VGA adapter box? I would like to distribute the signal throughout my home to multiple HDTV’s.

  9. Rotel seem to have a great way of distributing video at a very cost effective price. Its not 1080p but coax can do IR A/V to other rooms. All other “new technology” ideas are expensive and don’t do what they say they do. Basic Cat 6 (cat 5 is now redundant after doing austel licence) and coax is good . Im am going to run 1 RG6 coax, 2 *cat6 and one balanced audio cable to each bedroom. I can send audio from the TV to the preamp, or my audio ( 2 sources in bedroom)

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