I never thought I’d be sitting here writing a product review for an HDMI balun (those little black boxes which magically transport HD video over long distances). That’s always ranked right up there with watching paint dry or listening to the sweet music of nails on a chalkboard. Yet here I am, about to tell you about the AVPro Edge AC-EX40-444-KIT. I know what you’re thinking; “That’s got to be some story…” You’d be right.
For years, I’ve lived with an intermittent video issue in the Clifford family room. I chased the gremlin up and down the hardware and software stack with the intensity of a madman. My own family would lovingly encourage my efforts, reminding me that I own a custom AV business and why didn’t anything ever work in our house?
Cheered on by their confidence-inspiring exhortations, I trudged through replacing the Apple TV, HDMI cables between the AV receiver, TV, and the baluns, not to mention throwing in various prayers, chants, and incantations and sprinkling holy water on everything for good measure.
Each time I made a change, the issue vanished for a time, only to resurface precisely when the entire family sat down to watch a movie. The opening credits would start and, without fail, the screen would go black. A collective groan would surface from my wife, son, two daughters, mother-in-law, and the dog. I would get up, go to the AV closet and start disconnecting and reconnecting cables. Sometimes that would do it; sometimes it took more.
Toward the end of my rope I started putting ice packs on the various components figuring that heat was causing the issue. That was my most successful effort, but still required a lot of babysitting throughout the movie with fresh ice on standby. Enough was enough. I decided to do the unthinkable. I decided to ask for help.
I rang up my buddy Tim Painter. He’s a manufacturer’s rep for a bunch of product lines but above all else is a really smart guy who will come and bleed with you in the field. I’m not sure if they include “bleeding with you in the field” in rep school, but they damn well should.
“Tim,” I said. “My wife is about to leave me, and my kids aren’t far behind.” Needless to say, the irony of my predicament was exquisite. Who else but the owner of a CI business, someone with access to any electronics product he wanted, would be having an issue like this? Tim listened politely to my story and thought a minute before asking me if I’d heard of AVPro Edge. I vaguely recalled the name. Our installers run into thorny issues all the time and I’ve heard them use certain products as a fix all. I was pretty sure AVPro Edge gear was one of these brands.
“They’re not cheap,” Tim said. I didn’t care. I was at the point I might imagine one reaches when considering an $8 bottle of water after wandering in the desert for a few days. The money had ceased to matter. “Will it work?” I asked. “Oh yes,” Tim confirmed.
The next thing I know I’m standing in my family room holding a box from AVPro Edge in my sweaty hands. Baluns all follow a fairly consistent pattern. There’s a transmitter, receiver and usually one or both ends are powered. In this case, the AC-EX40-444-KIT is powered at the transmit end. I replaced the existing baluns one at a time and reused the existing unshielded Cat-5e cable already in the wall. Tim said he would’ve liked to see me upgrade to Cat-6 and I committed to doing so down the road.
I wish I had a more exciting end to the story other than “it just started working,” but I don’t. I didn’t let my guard down for a few days, but, ever so slowly my tightly coiled stress started unwinding. The AC-EX40-444-KIT had saved the day. My family started using the family room again and I could feel domestic harmony slowly returning. I let Tim know about my experience and thanked him profusely for fixing my family.
I didn’t want to let the AC-EX40-444-KIT off that easily, so I decided to throw it a variety of signals to see how things would fare. I’m happy to report it handled everything I volleyed over including 4K60 HDR10 and Dolby Vision. My overall cable length ran around 75 feet, but the AC-EX40-444-KIT is capable of handling HDR up to 110 feet. It can also handle control from a variety of different platforms, 2-channel audio extraction, and downscaling for matrix applications. In short, I was blown away.
The AC-EX40-444-KIT retails for around $1,000. While that may sound like a lot of money for steady HDR 4K video to your wall mounted TV, consider what you’d spend if your TV only worked properly 90% of the time. Unfortunately, watchable video isn’t a 90% game. We’ve all become used to lightning fast internet and things that work properly every time. That’s the bar. Hopefully you’ll learn from my mistakes and choose the AC-EX40-444-KIT for your TV the first time around.