Selecting Matrix Switchers: What You Need to Know

Many cords plugged into a switcher

Situations often arise where multiple audio and visual inputs will need to be routed to multiple audio and visual outputs. This is necessary in corporate boardrooms, sports bars, classrooms, security systems, and plenty of other situations. Despite the variety of these situations, they all have one thing in common: the use of a matrix switcher. 

So, what is a matrix switcher? How do they work, and when are they necessary? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and plenty more!

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What Are Matrix Switchers? 

Matrix switchers are an essential part of many AV setups. This is because they sit at the influx of multiple audio/visual input and output sources. They will route these signals from the input sources to the proper output sources. 

The input sources can come from almost anything capable of providing a signal. This includes computers, video players, streaming devices, cameras, and more. The output sources are just as diverse and include projectors, televisions, computer monitors, and more. 

How Are Matrix Switchers Used? 

Matrix switchers are used in a variety of different situations. In fact, you’ve probably been in many situations where a matrix switcher was in use and just didn’t realize it. 

A relatively simple example exists as a workplace technology solution in corporate boardrooms. Here, the signal from a few different computers may need to be displayed through a projector in the center of the room. The matrix switcher takes in the inputs from all of these computers and outputs them through the projector in the center of the room. 

A more complex yet incredibly common example is found in a sports bar. Here, dozens of TVs may be present in the same room. Each of these TVs is usually hooked up to a live broadcast of some sort, and, usually, many of the TVs are hooked up to different broadcasts. The matrix switcher takes in the inputs from cable boxes, streaming devices, or digital antennas. Then, it delivers these inputs to all of the TVs in the room. Typically, it also needs to deliver the audio from at least one of the streams to the room’s sound system as well. 

Another complex example exists in some classrooms. Teachers may have a projector or monitor that needs to switch between displaying inputs from multiple laptops and a Blu-ray player. This display will need to be output through a projector and, often, a loudspeaker in that classroom or multiple classrooms. There may even be a touch panel device, used for various learning features, connected to the projector, which then needs to connect back to the input devices. All of this needs to be run through the matrix switcher. 

Various a/v inputs on a device

Matrix Switcher Options

Matrix switchers need to serve many different purposes, too many for most switchers to handle on their own. Thus, multiple types of matrix switchers exist, all of which have different options. 

The variety of options out there can make it difficult to choose one. However, carefully considering the options and then considering the needs of the situation makes this possible. 

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Types of Matrix Switchers

There are a few different types of matrix switcher types out there. These mostly boil down to the type of ports that the switcher uses. 

HDMI Matrix Switchers are, by far, some of the most common types of matrix switchers. This is because HDMI is an incredibly popular and versatile input and output cable for both audio and visual. In most cases, people actively search for TVs that have at least 3 HDMI ports, so it is clear there is a demand for these connections. 

A good HDMI matrix switcher will provide HDMI switching with a high level of performance. This means high data rates, Deep Color of up to 12-bit, and HD lossless audio formats. 

Many HDMI switchers will use optional systems to accomplish similar goals. These include HDMI switchers that use CAT5/CAT6 cabling or HDMI over IP matrix switchers. 

Outside of HDMI switchers, there are other options. These include fiber optic matrix switchers, DVI matrix switchers, VGA & stereo audio matrix switchers, and more. 

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Number of Inputs/Outputs

The other big difference between various types of matrix switchers is the number of inputs and outputs that the switcher will have. These vary from switchers that have two to four ports to some with well over a dozen different ports. 

How many input and output ports are required depends on what the switcher is going to be used for. One that simply changes inputs for a personal TV in someone’s household may not need many ports at all, as the person may only juggle between a cable box and a video game system for inputs. Meanwhile, a matrix switcher responsible for bringing together all of the feeds in a building’s security system may require dozens of different ports and may still end up requiring multiple matrix switchers to run properly. 

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Control Options

All matrix switchers will require something to run the controls. These controls will decide what input signal is being sent where. This is necessary, or else the signals will end up crossed, and the audio and visual from one source could be sent to an output device that shouldn’t receive it. In addition, the controls need to be accessible in a way that makes operating the device possible for whoever needs to operate it. 

This leads to a few different types of control options. Very basic switches need to be physically operated and, thus, are best in situations where the settings don’t need to be changed very often. Others will operate with remote controls and, therefore, are great in situations where quickly changing the settings is helpful. Still, others operate with IP control, allowing the switches to occur remotely. 

People sitting at a bar with a row of tvs in front of them

Selecting Matrix Switchers

Matrix switchers are powerful devices that form an essential piece of many unique audio/visual setups. In some situations, they are entirely necessary for running the system that an individual, business, or other organization requires. With this in mind, understanding the difference between matrix switchers can help someone make a more informed purchase.

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Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Josh Mahan

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