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Product Review - Entech Director AV 4.1 - September, 1998

By Stacey L. Spears

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Entech Director Front Panel (10326 bytes) Entech Director AV 4.1
Audio/Video Switcher
Inputs: 4 Audio, 4 Composite Video, 4 S-Video.
Outputs: 1 Audio, 1 Composite Video, 2 S-Video
Size: 6" W x 2.5" H x 8.25" D
Price: $349.00

 

Entech, 455 Valley Drive, Brisbane, California 94005, Telephone: 415-840-2000; Web http://www.monstercable.com E-Mail entech@monstercable.com

One of the most common questions we get is, "How do I wire my home theater?” For the video signal, we recommend running the cables straight from the source, be it DVD, LD, or VHS, to the TV rather than passing it through the surround sound receiver or processor. This will ensure that you obtain the best possible picture. The problem with this approach is that a lot of TVs today only have one or two S-Video inputs available, and the number of S-Video sources is increasing. Another difficulty is that running several long cables can get to be quite expensive.

The reason we try and avoid using the receiver to switch the video signal is that receivers are designed with VHS in mind. VHS has a bandwidth of approximately 3 MHz (which allows 240 lines of resolution, at 80 lines per MHz).  DSS, LD, and DVD require higher bandwidth (6 MHz), and these signals will be attenuated if passed through receiver switchers. I have seen a perfectly good LD signal come out looking like a VHS picture because of low bandwidth switching inside a receiver.  Some of the new high end receivers will switch 6 MHz bandwidth signals, but the majority do not.

High frequency (4 MHz - 6 MHz) information represents image detail. The $400 and $500 receivers that offer DD built-in (by 1999, they will also have DTS) have video switchers, and even though it is obvious that high bandwidth DVD and/or LD video signals will be used (VHS tape does not offer DD or DTS sound), the manufacturers have to cut costs somewhere, and the video switcher is one of the items that suffers.

Up until now, most video switchers were either too expensive or they degraded the picture quality. Entech has changed the situation by introducing the Director AV 4.1. (Entech is the acronym for Entertainment Technologies, and is a subsidiary of Monster Cable.)

The Director AV 4.1 (DAV from here on out) is the type of product that many of you have been asking for, and I have been impatiently waiting for it myself.

The DAV comes with a nice 30-page manual that is well written with lots of diagrams explaining how to properly wire everything. There is even a
write-up of the four principle individuals responsible for the Entech line. The team consists of Damien Martin, Peter Madnick, Richard Marsh, and Noel Lee. Damien Martin founded the original Entech company back in 1983. They manufactured high-end loudspeakers, CD transports, preamplifiers, and power amplifiers. He is also co-founder of Spectral Audio. Damien is currently Director of Engineering at Monster Cable and also Director of Engineering at Entech.

Peter Madnick is most famous for Audio Alchemy. He now designs the Entech line for Monster Cable.

Richard Marsh is responsible for the development of the DC-Servo feedback concept in power amplifiers (this technology keeps DC from being passed through to the output). He is also a Technical Editor and contributor for several printed hi-fi magazines.

Noel Lee is the founder and President of Monster Cable.

The DAV has four sets of Audio, four composite video and four S-Video inputs. There are also one pair of Audio, one composite, and two S-Video outputs. The S-Video and composite paths are completely separated from each other, allowing the user to run both at the same time. I will have more on this later, as there is something really cool you can do when using the composite and S-Video at the same time. Entech Director Rear Panel (32177 bytes)

The DAV is full of nifty little features that make it a steal for the price! On the front you will notice a small little IR window. The Director
does not come with a remote; instead it learns your remote. Pick a button on an existing remote that you do not use and you can teach the DAV to use it. This remote control button will then cycle through the four inputs. I think it would be great if you could teach it a different button for every input, but that is not available right now. According to Peter Madnick, future versions of the DAV will allow you to select each input with a different remote code.

The entire Entech line of products has a space age look and feel. The DAV is housed in an anodized aluminum chassis with black rubber strips across the top. The front has two buttons, one for select and the other to change between auto and manual source selection. There are four LEDs, one for each input.

The DAV uses broadcast quality parts to ensure that the audio and video signals go unharmed as they are routed. The manual mentions that you can daisy chain multiple DAVs together if you need more inputs.  I only had one DAV on hand so I never attempted that configuration.

I mentioned earlier that you could do something special with the DAV. You can actually use the composite video inputs and outputs to route the digital audio signal! (For example, if you wanted to route the digital audio output of a transport to one of several decoders.) I did a direct comparison with my Meridian 562V A/V switcher, and I could not detect any difference.

The video switching worked flawlessly. I used my Sony DVD player in conjunction with the "Video Essentials" test disc. I performed several A/B comparisons with both test patterns and “real” material (the comparison was between the video signal passed through the DAV and the signal sent direct to the TV monitor without passing through the switcher).  When looking at the multi-burst patterns, I could not discern any differences in quality. This was also the case when using a VHS tape deck or laserdisc player as the source. The image appeared to be unchanged after being switched, as compared to direct.  The picture looked neither better nor worse. This is exactly what I wanted to see. Ergo, I am impressed!

While I did pass my analog audio signals from my VHS and LD through the DAV for testing purposes, in general I still pass the audio directly to the receiver or processor (old habits die hard). I did not notice any difference when using the analog switching, and again, this is what I was hoping for.

Input Composite S-Video
1. DVD Digital Audio Video
2. LD Digtial Audio Video
3. S-VHS   Video

As you can see from the chart above, I passed the digital audio from my LD and DVD through the composite video path, and the analog video signal through the S-Video. Remember when passing the video from the LD, you should find out if your LD player or TV has the better comb filter. In my testing, I actually passed the composite video signal into the Crystal Vision (CV - reviewed previously in Secrets) comb filter, then from the Crystal Vision into the DAV. This allowed me to get the best possible picture. I could have placed the CV after the DAV, but then I would not have been able to switch my digital signal with the DAV.

The DAV is something that I believe will meet everyone’s needs for audio and video switching, with the emphasis on video. If you want high quality switching at a low price, which we all do, then look no further. Entech also has some other inexpensive audio and video products coming down the line, and if they are as good as the DAV (I have a feeling they will be), we are all in for a treat!

Stacey L. Spears


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