Aton HDR44 HD over Cat5 - A Quick Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 108 Old 05-10-2009, 10:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I thought I'd write a quick review of the Aton HDR44 (KT - "kit") system, a 4x4 matrix HD component video switcher, which uses Cat5 distribution and includes IR repeating.

Short answer - awesome product, especially at the price point compared to other solutions.

While there are several very good Cat5-based HDTV distribution systems available, I chose the Aton for a couple of reasons:

1) Single-gang, in-wall receivers for each (remote) zone
2) Price
3) IR remote repeating built-in, with source routing and local repeating
4) Expandable to 8 zones for a 4x8 matrix system

Quickly, for anyone still reading that are unfamiliar with the basics of this type of product, the Aton HDR44 is a 4 input, 4 output matrix switcher that supports up to 1080p on component video with both analog and (coax) digital audio. The 4 output "zones" are fed by 2 Cat5 cables per zone, which can travel up to 500 feet to a single-gang receiving wall plate. At the wall plate, connections are available for component video, analog and digital audio, as well as an IR input for the included IR receiver and an IR output jack for local repeating.

As with any product correctly calling itself a 'matrix' switch, the Aton HDR44 allows each of the 4 zones to watch any one of the 4 sources, in any combination (all watch the same, all watch a different source, etc.).

Set up of the product is very straightforward (once you have the requisite Cat5 cables in the walls!) - with clearly labeled jacks on the back of the 1U high unit for each source and zone output. Simply connect each source's component video, RCA audio and coax digital audio to the unit, and plug the dual Cat5 cables for each output.

Of note here is the source-specific (1-4) IR repeater ouptuts (and the "all zones" broadcast output). that allow you to connect several identical source components without running into conflicts with the remote control. Without this feature (not unique to the Aton, but still an excellent implementation), conflicts arise when two (or more) identical components receive IR commands intended for only one. Real world example - in my case I have 3 DirecTV receivers that all share the same remote codes - if the IR signal was just 'broadcast', anyone changing a channel in one room would change the channel on 3 different receivers! [yes, DirecTV receivers have alternate remote codes to alieviate this issue - but the source routing makes it easy to solve this problem and simplified remote control macros/learning] But with the routing feature, the IR remote signal received from a particular zone is repeated *only* to the source component currently selected for that zone. Aton not only includes a set of IR repeaters for this task, but even includes nice black plastic sheilds to ensure the repeaters don't 'leak' signals to adjacent components.

Video and audio performance, from my brief testing so far, is excellent. My runs are ~75 feet of Cat5 (monoprice!) cable from the central closet location that houses the equipment. I have not adjusted the gain on the wall plates, but would still have great difficulty in detecting any quality difference between the DirecTV HD recever being fed as an Aton Cat5 source and an identical unit directly connected to my 61" Samsung LED DLP via HDMI.

The other feature to note here is the local IR repeating function - each wall plate has both an IR in (for the included IR receiver - which is comparable to a Xantech Dinky Link in size, but with a blue talk-back LED) and a local IR output. The IR ouput jack allows you to attach an emitter to repeat the IR signals received by the Aton receiver. I've effectively used this as a "Hidden Link" local repeater for the audio equipment located in a cabinet below the main TV. Just a nice integration feature that saved me both time and money...

This is the first 'real' product review I've written for AVSForum, so instead of just rambling on - if anyone has questions, I'll be happy to answer based on my experience.

On price - I won't post pricing information (I believe MSRP is $1795 for the kit), but Google is your friend. Make sure when pricing or ordering that you get the "KT" (kit) version (part # HDR44KT), which includes 4 wall plates making it a complete system in one box.

UPDATE (Dec 2010): I have since expanded my system using a second HDR44 that results in a 4x8 matrix. Still a great system 18 months later...

Jeff
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post #2 of 108 Old 05-11-2009, 12:10 PM
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Great review! Thanks for taking them time to post it.

One question I had:
With the AVAtrix system, one of the outputs is via component rather than Cat5. I assume this is the one that is typically run to the projector or the closest television to the box.

In my case, my equipment will sit in the theater room and I ran component, hdmi & cat6 to my projector, and cat6 to all other TV locations. Can one of the component outputs on the back of the Aton unit be used to output to the projector? Or do I need to use the Cat5 baluns for that as well?

Thanks,
-haZZard
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post #3 of 108 Old 05-11-2009, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haZZardUNL View Post

Great review! Thanks for taking them time to post it.

One question I had:
With the AVAtrix system, one of the outputs is via component rather than Cat5. I assume this is the one that is typically run to the projector or the closest television to the box.

In my case, my equipment will sit in the theater room and I ran component, hdmi & cat6 to my projector, and cat6 to all other TV locations. Can one of the component outputs on the back of the Aton unit be used to output to the projector? Or do I need to use the Cat5 baluns for that as well?

Thanks,
-haZZard

There are component loop outputs (unswitched), but for your purpose, you'd have to use one of the Cat5 output zones to feed the projector. There is no "local output" as there is on the AVAtrix.

Jeff


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post #4 of 108 Old 06-04-2009, 07:58 PM
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jautor,

I was waiting to see your review of this product. I have had my eye on it and wanted to see a "real world" review.

My wife and I are starting to build our house soon so this will be on the top of my A/V list.

Did you run any COAX to any of your rooms? I know the Aton does not use coax, so I'm wondering why I would even need to run it? Maybe for an antenna feed if I needed it. Did you go with CAT5E from monoprice?

Great review!
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post #5 of 108 Old 06-04-2009, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Yes, I still ran coax to all the TV outlets - in most cases, 2 coax runs. And yes, all of it is sitting there unused. I did it for two reasons. #1 - never know about the future, I could always *choke* move back to cable. #2 - resale.

And yes, I ordered all the Cat5e from Monoprice. I have a mix of what the contractor had, and then 3000 feet of Monoprice. I doubt on my runs of 50-75 feet that I'd have issues with anything, though. Also the reason I didn't put in cat6...

One other thing to note on the Aton - the receivers have a cable length compensation setting switch bank. While my runs are longer than the lowest (default) setting, I didn't mess with these, and don't see any reason to as the picture looks perfect.

My next step is to program some universal remotes for the zones. I'm using the Universal WR7 for the remote zones, as for $30, that remote is both learning and macro-capable, so I can learn the (new/rare) Aton codes for source selection, and program a power on/off macro to turn the switcher off when it's not in use. I currently leave the switcher on all the time, and the unit gets a bit warm (not hot), and it certainly doesn't need to consume power all day and night with no one around.

I haven't measured power consumption yet - I've asked Aton for the zone on/ all off numbers, and I may hook up a meter this weekend to check for myself...

Jeff


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post #6 of 108 Old 06-04-2009, 09:02 PM
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One more question about the Cat5 cable. Is it the "Cat5e UTP Solid, Riser Rated (CMR)"? I am thinking about getting 2 boxes of 1000' cat5, different colors to make the connections easier. Did you use patch panels in the equipment closet?

The big attraction to the Aton system for me is that I will not have to hook up my Xantech IR system. Although it worked, I ran into the IR blasting issues where I was not able to control 2 identical Scientific Atlanta DVR's that can't change the IR codes. It sounds like the Aton system will solve this problem.

I just picked up a Vizio 32" LCD so I am very anxious to get going with our house and to try the Aton system out.

One concern I have is that a couple of my sources only have optical audio, so I might have to get some converters. Not sure how that will perform.
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post #7 of 108 Old 06-05-2009, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Steely,

Yes, I used the Cat5e solid, riser-rated (no need for plenum!). I used one color for both of the HD cable runs and different colors for other runs. Since my equipment rack is in the closet with the distribution panel, I just have the HD cable runs coming out of a bulk-entry wall plate and terminated directly with RJ45 ends. Adding a patch panel for those connection seemed like a waste. The rest of the Cat5's, though, do go to patch panel blocks in the wiring panel.

On the IR, yes, that was definitely one of the key selling points for me too. I was using a Xantech XtraLink2 system, and just getting rid of the wall warts at the remote zone end was helpful. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the Aton IR receivers aren't "LCD proof". One of my new Samsung (non-LED) sets blinds the receiver for ~30 seconds after power up. Once the backlight "settles down?", it works fine. I may swap that one out for an expensive Xantech "plasma-proof" receiver I have laying around now to see if that helps.

And yes, one of my sources also had just optical out (no coax digital), so I just used one of the $20 converters readily available on eBay to hook that up. Works just fine...

Jeff


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post #8 of 108 Old 06-20-2009, 04:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Just a quick addition to my review above. While deciding how much macro programming to undertake in the remote video zones (to turn the Aton unit on/off with the TV, for example), I plopped a WattsUpPro meter to check standby vs. active power consumption.

The consumption with all zones OFF (aka standby) is 42W. That seems a bit on the high side, but not horrible (I was hoping to see something more like 10-15W). The surprising measurement, however is that with all 4 zones ON, consumption DROPS to 39W. It's a linear drop of about ~.8W/zone.

So I won't be adding those macros to the zones! Less work, and saves power!!!

But I'm still really, really happy with the performance of this unit, and see that there's some additional online sources for it now at very competitive prices...

Jeff


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post #9 of 108 Old 07-30-2009, 01:01 PM
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Just wondering if there are anymore updates to this post about the ATON HDR44KT. I am building a house and thinking about getting this system. I see jautor left some good information but wanted to know how it was going with anyone else that made the purchase.
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post #10 of 108 Old 08-14-2009, 08:17 AM
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I'm also curious if anyone else has used this product. I'm about done with my construction and am starting to research my A/V distribution options a little more seriously.

For the price, I can't find anything so far that beats the features the HDR44 has.

Can anybody recommend any other products?

Thanks,
-haZZard
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post #11 of 108 Old 09-05-2009, 05:39 AM
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I installed mine last night and am noticing faint horizontal white bands scrolling from the bottom of the screen to the top. I tested with multiple sources and display devices and cables (store bought Cat5e and self-terminated Cat6). Did you eve notice anything like that with yours?

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post #12 of 108 Old 09-05-2009, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbroome View Post

I installed mine last night and am noticing faint horizontal white bands scrolling from the bottom of the screen to the top. I tested with multiple sources and display devices and cables (store bought Cat5e and self-terminated Cat6). Did you eve notice anything like that with yours?

Nope, I've never seen any interference or other distortions on the output. Have you tried bench testing the unit on a different circuit? It sounds like powerline interference. If it still happens, sounds like time to call Aton for support...

Jeff


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post #13 of 108 Old 09-06-2009, 06:37 PM
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That's a good idea. I've tried it on two outlets, but they are on the same phase. I'll move the pj around to see if I can find an outlet where the interference lessens or changes. I did send them an email, but with it being a holiday, I doubt I'll hear back until Tuesday or Wednesday...

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post #14 of 108 Old 09-07-2009, 10:38 AM
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dbroome, keep us posted on your testing. Framing of our house will be done the end of next week so I will be looking to order this matrix switch soon.

Dan
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post #15 of 108 Old 09-07-2009, 01:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey Steely, don't forget to warm up your digital camera and document every square foot of that framing right before the sheetrock goes on... I've used my photo bank at least a half-dozen times already - and never for the reasons I would have expected!

Jeff


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post #16 of 108 Old 09-07-2009, 02:01 PM
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Thanks for the tip. I have heard that from others as well. I have been taking lots of pictures, but I need to go through each room methodically and photograph every wall. I got my Monoprice CAT5E, coax, and speaker wire so I am ready to wire.
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post #17 of 108 Old 09-08-2009, 12:05 PM
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You are in the same place I was three weeks ago. It was long and hot running all the wire, but now that it is done (and terminated into a patch panel and keystone jacks, and tested with a cable tester), I'm very pleased. I took plenty of pictures and will be heading over to do a video before they start drywall at the end of the week.

I spoke with Aton tech support about the problem and they are recommending that I return it for unit from a later manufacturing run. If you look at the first four digits of the serial number, they give you the year and week number of manufacture. Mine was 0832 (32nd week of 2008). He recommended that I get a unit from 2009 week 16 or later. I am contacting the distributor I bought mine from to arrange a swap.

From playing with the unit in testing, I can tell I will really like it (wish they had an 8 source version, actually). Here's hoping the swap out goes efficiently...

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post #18 of 108 Old 09-20-2009, 01:19 PM
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Hi jautor,

Got most of my wiring done this weekend, but have a question about the depth of the R44WP receiver. I tried to find the dimensions of the R44WP receiver on Aton's web site, but no go. I will be running an extra coax for antenna hookup to the TV and will run in through the same bracket as the R44WP receiver. The coax will pass through the bracket holes and come out of the wall above the R44WP receiver.

Here is the bracket...
http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1...atalogId=10053

I will be using a Monoprice recessed outlet/low voltage wall plate (4006) directly above the R44WP receiver so I can run the antenna cable out of the wall plate. I'm just worried that the depth of the R44WP receiver will run into my coax cable.

Can you shed some light as to the size of the receiver? Do you think this will be a problem.

Dan
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post #19 of 108 Old 09-20-2009, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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The receiver is an open circuit board, so I don't think you'll have much trouble getting a coax cable around it. Note that the Cat5's connect vertically to minimize the total depth as well... Here's a photo of the receiver before I installed mine - I don't have dimensions, but you can gauge them from the height of the decora-sized front plate.

Jeff

EDIT: I've also updated the original review post to attach the product photos I took. Duh, why did I take those if I wasn't going to attach them...
LL


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post #20 of 108 Old 09-20-2009, 04:27 PM
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Thanks for the picture. That helps.

I'm worried that the dip switches will hit the tubing adapters that I am also using.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1...atalogId=10053

As you can see the adapter comes into the bracket ~1/2".

I emailed Aton asking for the actual dimensions.
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post #21 of 108 Old 09-20-2009, 05:34 PM
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Here is one of the receptacles where you can see the adapter coming through the bottom opening. Don't mind the water pipe behind the box.
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post #22 of 108 Old 09-20-2009, 08:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Steely,

I'm guessing it will clear, as there's a gap between the mounting screw and the decora outline. Also, I had some obstruction (can't remember exactly what it was) in one of my receiver locations. But since it was going to be behind a TV anyway, I just mounted the Aton receiver upside down. Looking at my picture, there looks to be more clearance on the top side than the bottom, so you could try the same thing...


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post #23 of 108 Old 09-21-2009, 06:16 AM
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Good idea mounting upside down. The top will definitely be free and clear.
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post #24 of 108 Old 03-15-2010, 08:55 AM
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Is is possible to daisy chain within a zone? ie. kitchen and family room tv are in an open area and would always be playing the same source. I would like to not have to burn a zone just to handle the kitchen tv.
thanks
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post #25 of 108 Old 03-15-2010, 10:20 AM - Thread Starter
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No, I wouldn't expect that to work. Can you run cables from one of those TVs to the other? Meaning split the output once it arrives at the zone... But remote control would also need a solution. I assume you must be at 5 TV's total, then?

I've been in the same boat, and solved it by using a CE Labs Cat5TX/RX for the one "zone" that really only needed one source. Kept me from having to buy two units then. Although I'll likely buy another Aton unit when I light up yet another zone soon...


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post #26 of 108 Old 03-15-2010, 12:28 PM
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I am just in the building stage, trying to plan out if I can economically centralize directv. Looking at my plans, if I put a TV everywhere I want/need one I might even bust the two unit limit of 8. Once I get in the house though, I know that I should be able to get a better feel for our needs.
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post #27 of 108 Old 03-15-2010, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jparry View Post

I am just in the building stage, trying to plan out if I can economically centralize directv. Looking at my plans, if I put a TV everywhere I want/need one I might even bust the two unit limit of 8. Once I get in the house though, I know that I should be able to get a better feel for our needs.

I feel your pain... The important thing at that stage is to make sure you put enough Cat5e/Cat6 in the walls, so you *can* centralize. I've got several places in the house with hidden Cat5e in the walls (with digital photos to find them later!) ready for that purpose, and several more that have blank plates. The blank plates were the obvious places (bedrooms), the hidden wires less likely but still possible (master bathroom).


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post #28 of 108 Old 08-29-2010, 08:33 AM
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I apologize for reviving an old thread, but it sounds like there is a lot of experience with the Aton unit here.

I am wiring up my house currently with a composite cable of 2xRG6 and 2xCat5e and am ready to purchase the Aton HDR44 KT. I need 4 zones so this works perfect.

One question I have is, can the same source be displayed in all 4 zones?

Thanks
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post #29 of 108 Old 08-29-2010, 10:30 AM
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sure can!

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post #30 of 108 Old 08-29-2010, 11:55 AM
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Thanks dbroome. How did ur swap out go?
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