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Selecting the Right Extenders and Line Drivers

What are Extenders and Line Drivers?

Extron Extenders and Line Drivers enable long distance signal transmission between one source and one destination. They are similar to distribution amplifiers in many respects, but where DAs have multiple outputs, extenders and line drivers have only one. Digital signals lose their integrity over long distances, and analog video signals normally lose amplitude and high frequency response over long cable runs. Extenders and line drivers help preserve signal quality by manipulating these signals using a variety of methods.

Digital Extenders

Extenders work as transmitter and receiver pairs to facilitate long distance transmission of digital signals via shielded or unshielded twisted pair or fiber optic cable. Some of the benefits of twisted pair are its low cost, light weight, and fast installation characteristics, Benefits with fiber include its small size, long haul transmission, zero signal degradation, and immunity to outside interference. Signals sent via fiber are also inherently secure, making fiber-based transmission the preferred choice in government, military, and medical applications. Twisted pair and fiber optic cables are ideally suited for mid- to long-haul transmission of low and high resolution digital video signals as well as audio. In some cases, transmissions include control signals and remote power.

Digital Cable Equalizers and Signal Regenerators

Digital cable equalizers and signal regenerators ensure signal integrity over long cable runs. Cable equalizers provide active equalization to compensate for signal loss when using long cables, low quality cables, or source devices with poor signal output. Typically, they are placed near the end of the cable run to recover a degraded signal. Signal regenerators reshape and retime marginal or noisy signals at the output of the source to enable a strong, stable digital signal from the beginning of the run. Cable equalizers and signal regenerators can be used in conjunction to ensure optimal picture quality over very long runs and to improve system performance.

Line Drivers

Line drivers are available for a wide variety of analog video signal types as well as audio. The variable gain control feature allows the video signal level to be boosted, thus compensating for an overall drop in signal voltage caused by cable resistance. Peaking control is used to improve image sharpness by compensating for high frequency roll-off caused by cable capacitance. Most Extron line drivers also support stereo audio by providing active audio buffering. Unbalanced audio signals are converted to balanced line level audio signals to increase the distance that audio signals can travel as well as minimizes interference.

Why are Extenders and Line Drivers needed?

Extenders and line drivers are needed to extend digital or analog signals far beyond the standard limitation of the source signal. Let’s look at how far the different types of signals can be sent.

Digital Signals

Although HDMI and DVI are popular interface standards for high resolution digital video in AV systems, supported distances vary with signal resolution and cable quality. The technology specifications do not list distances; however, the industry-understood maximum transmission range is within 25 feet (7.6 meters). This limitation is due to support of extremely high data rates, which degrade quickly over long cable lengths. For AV system applications where the display must be located at a greater distance from the source, the transmission is often insufficient without compensation. Extron offers digital extenders, signal regenerators, and cable equalizers that are specifically designed to extend the transmission capability of HDMI and DVI signals up to 330 feet (100 meters).

Designed primarily for communication between a computer and display device, DisplayPort technology supports data rates up to 10.8 Gbps at a distance of about six feet (two meters) for full bandwidth transmissions. For reduced bandwidth signals such as 1080p/60, transmission over DisplayPort cable is extended up to 50 feet (15.2 meters). While DisplayPort is not directly compatible with HDMI or DVI, adding an Extron adapter allows a DisplayPort connector to pass these signals. Also, the standard does provide an emulation mode for ease of integration with HDMI or DVI-equipped products. Distance depends on the selected transmission technology.

Because of its ubiquity, USB poses a host of unique challenges for AV system designers and integrators. A primary concern is the inherent distance limitations of the technology. USB specifications limit cable length to approximately 16 feet (4.9 meters) for full speed transmission and 10 feet (3 meters) for low speed devices. Extron USB extenders are specifically engineered for professional AV applications to enable USB peripheral devices to be located long distances from the host computer. Once again, distance depends on the selected transmission technology. For example, USB signals can be sent up to 450 feet (135 meters) over twisted pair cable, up to 2 km (1.25 miles) over multimode fiber, or up to 30 km (18.75 miles) over singlemode fiber optic cabling.

SDI is a set of video standards, defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers or SMPTE, for serial transmission of video and audio signals over standard coaxial cable. Commercial AV presentation system designs utilizing SDI standards run the gamut from venue-driven installations with a limited number of devices to comprehensive operations centers with a vast number of sources, displays, and satellite locations. SDI is  popular due to the benefits of inexpensive or existing cabling, ease of termination, and transmission distance capabilities of up to 330 feet (100 meters) for high definition signals. Extron 3G-SDI and HD-SDI extenders and cable equalizers support data rates up to 2.97 Gbps, providing convenient extension of 3G-SDI, HD-SDI, and SDI signals.

Analog Signals

There are several factors which can affect analog video, such as the quality of the cable being used and the output characteristics of the video signal. Taking these and other factors into account, composite video and S-video signals can typically run up to 100 feet on high quality cable, such as Extron RG59 High Resolution Cable, without degradation. Beyond 100 feet though, signal loss causes picture quality to suffer. Line drivers apply a voltage boost to the source signal so that when the signal reaches the point where degradation normally would occur, the signal still has plenty of gain to carry on to its destination.

Under normal conditions, VGA signals have a distance limitation of about 25 feet (7.6 meters). Beyond this, signal attenuation causes picture degradation in the forms of ghosting, smearing, loss of image detail, and so on. Extron VGA extenders and line drivers send high resolution computer-video signals up to 250 feet (75 meters) through high quality cable, such as Extron MHR-5 Mini High Resolution Cable.

Unbalanced audio is limited in distance to about 15 feet (4.5 meters). It is susceptible to interference in terms of common mode noise and hum. Balanced audio signals can be sent 250 feet or more, and by their very nature are much more resistant to interference.

How are they used?

Cable equalizers, signal regenerators, and line drivers are convenient, economical, solutions for extending digital and analog video and audio signals. HDMI and DVI cable equalizers and signal regenerators extend video signals up to 200 feet (60 meters) on standard HDMI or DVI cables, respectively. Using standard Extron cables, VGA line drivers can extend video and audio signals up to 250 feet (77 meters) and RGB line drivers can send signals up to 1,000 feet (300 meters). These products are ideal for permanent or temporary systems to restore signal integrity, while extending the transmission well beyond the typical distance of the signal format. Applications can range from classrooms and meeting rooms to broadcast studios and presentation spaces.

Digital twisted pair transmitters and receivers can extend high resolution video, audio, and control signals up to 330 feet (100 meters) over a single CATx cable. These extenders can be used as point-to-point solutions or integrated with a switching and distribution system to extend inputs or outputs to remote locations. They are well suited to locations where cabling is routed through conduit or within plenum air spaces. Permanent applications include collaboration rooms, control centers, lecture halls, conference areas, and digital signage. The cable size, ease of termination in the field, and the other conveniences of twisted pair technology make these extenders ideal for temporary installations as well, including rental and staging events.

Fiber optic transmitter and receiver extenders allow multiple AV signals to be sent over extreme distances. The technology is efficient and inherently secure, using light to transmit pixel-for-pixel images, audio, and control signals. The small, lightweight cable is strong and easy to pull, and can be used for a complete AV cabling infrastructure or to augment a twisted pair or standard cabling installation. Fiber optic extenders are ideal for an enterprise-wide system within a building with transmission distances up to 2 km (1.25 miles). They are also used to connect multiple locations at a large venue, such as at an airport, stadium, military complex, corporate headquarters, or university campus, at distances up to 30 km (18.75 miles).

Choosing an Extender or Line Driver

Extenders and line drivers are essential for applications where one signal source needs to be extended to one display. To select the right product for your application, begin by identifying the key requirements necessary to support the design. For example:

  1. Is the signal Digital or Analog?
  2. What type of signal needs to be extended: video, audio, control, combination?
  3. How far is the signal being extended?
  4. Where does the unit need to be mounted?
  5. What are the space requirements?

Categories

Extron offers a variety of extenders and line drivers designed to support the common digital and analog signal formats. When selecting an extender or line driver, first define your signal and system requirements as described in the previous section. Then, pick the product category that best fits your needs.

HDMI Extenders

Extron HDMI extenders, including HDMI cable equalizers, are designed to extend the distance capability of HDMI signals significantly beyond the capabilities of standard HDMI cables. Transmitter and receiver pairs facilitate long distance transmission of HDMI signals via twisted pair or fiber optic cabling. To simply restore signal integrity, a cable equalizer can be placed at the end of a long cable run to equalize the incoming signal and reclock the outgoing signal. Extenders are available in a wide variety of form factors, including Decorator-Style Wall Mount, AAP - Architectural Adapter Plate, MAAP - Mini Architectural Adapter Plate, modular design, and stand-alone units. The HDMI extenders are ideal for a wide range of applications requiring long distance transmission of high resolution content with the highest quality. View HDMI Extenders

DVI Extenders

Extron DVI extenders, including the DVI signal regenerator and cable equalizers, are designed to extend the distance capability of DVI signals significantly beyond the capabilities of standard DVI cables. The transmitter and receiver pairs facilitate long distance transmission of DVI signals via twisted pair or fiber optic cabling. To simply restore signal integrity, a signal regenerator can be placed by the source or a cable equalizer can be placed by the destination. They work by equalizing the incoming signal and reclocking the outgoing signal, and can be used together for applications with a poor quality infrastructure. DVI extenders are available in a wide variety of form factors, including Decorator-Style Wall Mount, AAP - Architectural Adapter Plate, MAAP - Mini Architectural Adapter Plate, modular design, and stand-alone units. The DVI extenders are ideal for a wide range of applications requiring long distance transmission of high resolution video with the highest quality. View DVI Extenders

DisplayPort Extenders

Extron DisplayPort extenders are specifically engineered for Professional AV applications, enabling long haul delivery of HDCP-compliant DisplayPort video, multi-channel audio, and control signals over fiber optic cabling. They include many integrator-friendly features such as Key Minder®, EDID Minder®, audio embedding, audio gain and attenuation, an audio return channel, and real-time system monitoring. Available as multimode or singlemode models, DisplayPort extenders are ideal for applications that require long haul transmission of high resolution DisplayPort signals. View DisplayPort Extenders

3G-SDI Extenders

Extron 3G-SDI extenders are convenient, economical solutions for optimizing 3G-SDI, HD-SDI, and SDI digital video signals up to 2.97 Gbps. These extenders also pass embedded audio and metadata, as allowed by SMPTE and ITU standard specifications, over coaxial or fiber optic cabling. All models include automatic input cable equalization and output reclocking to ensure signal integrity, and one model also provides immunity to pathological signal patterns. They are available in modular and stand-alone form factors. The 3G-SDI extenders offer convenient, economical solutions for extending 3G-SDI signals long distances. View 3G-SDI Extenders

USB Extenders

Extron USB extenders work as transmitter and receiver pairs to extend the transmission distance capability of USB data significantly beyond the 15 feet (5 meter) standard limitation. These extenders facilitate long distance transmission of USB signals via standard CATx twisted pair or fiber optic cabling. For increased flexibility, the models also feature integrated USB hubs for sharing peripherals located hundreds to thousands of feet from the host computer. The extenders are available in a variety of form factors that can be mixed and matched for ease of integration, including Decorator-Style Wall Mount, AAP - Architectural Adapter Plate, and stand-alone units. USB extenders are specifically engineered for professional AV applications to enable remote operation of USB peripheral devices over extreme distances. View USB Extenders

VGA & RGB Extenders & Line Drivers

Extron VGA extenders and line drivers deliver high resolution computer-video signals to a single display. Specific models also provide enhanced features such as selectable gain and peaking, active PC audio buffering, and selectable input and output sync impedance. These VGA devices come in a variety of convenient form factors, including Decorator-Style Wall Mount, AAP - Architectural Adapter Plate, MAAP - Mini Architectural Adapter Plate, modular design, and stand-alone units. For extreme distances, select models enable signal transmission over fiber optic cabling. The VGA extenders and line drivers are ideal for applications that require high performance routing of computer-video and audio signals. View VGA & RGB Extenders & Line Drivers

AV Extenders & Line Drivers

Extron AV extenders and line drivers are capable of driving S-video and composite video long distances, and specific models also provide extension of stereo audio signals. All are equipped with gain and equalization controls which compensate for signal losses due to long cable runs, and offer optimum signal quality regardless of cable length. These products are available in a variety of convenient form factors, including Decorator-Style Wall Mount, AAP - Architectural Adapter Plate, MAAP - Mini Architectural Adapter Plate, modular design, and stand-alone units. For extreme distances, select models enable signal transmission over fiber optic cabling. The AV extenders and line drivers are ideal for applications that require high performance routing of video and audio signals. View AV Extenders & Line Drivers

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