Hands-On: Just Add Power 3G Ultra HDIP Includes Down-Conversion, Down-Mixing

Just Add Power’s third generation HD-over-IP switch, the 3G Ultra HDIP, distributes 4K video with down-conversion for 1080 displays and down-mixing for stereo audio. Packaging with Luxul switches creates seamless experience for integrators.

Joe Whitaker

4K UHD has hit this industry faster than many home technology professionals imagined, myself included. While we watched the acceptance of HD, 1080 and HDMI happen gradually over years, 4K has hit us like a storm. This push has caused integrators to scramble for a reliable and solid distribution system for their clients. I have found one jewel that has met my expectations and has even been able to hit those curve balls that UHD can throw.

Just Add Power – known for HD-over-IP switches — showed off their Ultra HDIP 3G products at CEDIA 2015 with quite a few extra bells and whistles that stopped me on the show floor. 

At the booth they showed full UHD distribution, native tiling and video walls, and even a method to play 4K UHD content on that 1080 display that we all have in our system but can’t let go of. 

All of this made me want to take a personal dive into their new UHD/IP products to see how it stacked up against the competition I was already using. The results were hands-down worth the time.

New Network Infrastructure

The options deployed in this third generation (3G) Just Add Power product line are pretty significant. 

The first important change for integrators was J-A-P’s new partnership with Luxul, a leading provider of enterprise-grade networking solutions for the home-tech channel. The two companies teamed up last year to provide an easier HD-over-IP experience for integrators and a richer service for customers.

Packaged with J-A-P products, Luxul’s switchers are more competitively priced with better availability to pros. 

While J-A-P has jumped into some bigger distributors recently my favorite one-stop shop is still Blackwire Designs, which offers both lines and and pre-configures the entire system prior to shipping. 

While the J-A-P 3G devices continue to work with Cisco switches, Luxul is looking to be the new go-to for J-A-P products.

For those familiar with J-A-P and their network requirements, there is a new protocol for 3G devices: The switches must now support jumbo frames to be able to pass UHD data.

3G Compatibility with 2G

I have a lot of clients out there with J-A-P 2G systems, including two large installations that are ready for 4K. Can 3G and 2G work together?

J-A-P CEO Ed Qualls says the two versions do not work “directly” together, but they can play in the same sandbox through a three-step “bridging” process.

For example, in the case of adding an HDMI 2.0 4K Blu-ray player to a video-distribution system, Qualls explains:

Step 1 – The first thing you will need to do is purchase a new 4K-capable display or projector and one of the new 4K Blu-ray or media players. We can add those two new 4K devices to your existing Just Add Power distributed video system with the addition of one 3G Transmitter for the 4K player, and one 3G Receiver for the 4K screen/projector.

Step 2 – Assuming you are interested in still being able to watch all of your existing 2G/2G+ sources on the new 4K screen/projector, that is very easy to do, and quite affordable. All we have to do is plug that 2G Receiver you already own, and were previously using in the theater room with the old projector, into the secondary HDMI-IN port on your new 4K display/projector. (NOTE: If the customer only has 1 CATx cable going to the upgraded 4K zone, our support team can show the integrator how to share that single CATx cable with both of the 2G/3G Receivers using an inexpensive hub).

Step 3 –Because you purchased a Just Add Power system, you have an option to bridge your new 4K player to be an available source to all of your existing TVs in the house, even though they are not 4K HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 capable. All you need to do is purchase one more 3G Receiver which we will configure to output a downscaled 1080p signal compatible with your other displays in the home. Then we plug that second 3G Receiver’s 1080p HDMI-OUT signal into a regular 2G/2G+ Transmitter and simply expand your Just Add Power matrix to make that new downscaled 4K content viewable on every screen in the home. This step all happens in the rack and is invisible to the end user experience.

With all the disruption of 4K, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 … I figured the shift from J-A-P 2G to 3G would complicate the user experience, but that is not the case. 

“It was very importantto keep the HTTP interface and control system drivers for 3G consistent with the standard we established with 2G,” Qualls says. “We have made the installation of the 3G devices and support for 4K an evolutionary experience for Just Add Power dealers vs. coming out with a revolutionary new solution that discards their knowledge base and experience.”

It’s especially nice that we can continue to build on legacy J-A-P products, so existing dealers can install and support 3G with practically no learning curve.

Amazon 4K Fire TV

So Just Add Power down scales, has a method for backwards compatibility, is scalable, and has added new partners for switching. What else is there to talk about? How about that Big Elephant in the room? I am talking about that one device that has given just about every integrator issues with just about every 4K distribution switch. The Amazon 4K Fire TV. 

While some switches have had problems with the other devices out there, they all seem to have issues with this one. 

 “We figured out how to solve their problem and we now understand the Amazon Fire TV 4K box quite well and can give our dealers some tips on how to get the most out of those devices,” Qualls tells me. 

Kudos to Qualls and team for stepping up to off a real solution to this major challenge, even though he’s not a fan of these cheap little 4K streamers, which remind him of “a bunch of late-night infomercials arguing over whose wax makes their Pinto look the shiniest.” 

He says, “Compared to real tangible 4K content like the Sony FMP-X10 or playing video files on a 4K capable computer, there is a world of difference. We are really looking forward to getting our hands on the 4K Blu-ray players, as that will give us something to showcase the 3G system capabilities.” 

I couldn’t agree more; however, the 3G product has helped to make my own Pinto very shiny. 

Pricing a 3G UHD/IP System

The 3G UHD transmitter is $1,099 MSRP and each receiver is $999 MSRP. A compatible Luxul 24-port switch starts at around $1,000.

So, for a fully compliant 10-in / 10-out 4K with 4K-to-1080 down-scaling and Dolby down-mixing at both ends, the end user can expect to pay about $20,000 for a system that works with all available 4K sources and displays.

You might find other solutions that come to about $13,000 for a similar 10×10 but without 4K down-scaling and Dolby down-mixing. Such products ignore the huge installation base of 1080 displays and stereo audio.

To us, the price difference is justified.  

– Joe Whitaker

Video Down-Conversion and Audio Down-Mixing

Down conversion? Yes this is a real thing, and an important thing if your clients want to keep their “legacy” 1080p sets around.

Each 3G receiver has the ability to set its output to 1080p. This means that incoming 4K content can be downscaled to 1080p so that the old displays work with the 3G products, while the new 4K displays can simultaneously render 4K content in full resolution.

There is one more feature I do want to highlight that not many talk about: the audio side of Just Add Power 3G. 

Both the transmitter and the receiver can accomplish Dolby Digital down-mixing to analog stereo for local or rack amplification. This is a big deal that I always consider when spec’ing A/V switches. The feature enables full Dolby surround to be passed to surround receivers while extracting analog stereo for stereo zones. This can then be passed to local or racked matrix amps to create a total package solution without having to mess with external DACs or having to engineer another external solution.

Hands-On with 3G

In the field, the Ultra HDIP 3G is impressive. Timing for source switching was as good or better than what can be expected at this price point. 

We tested multiple Sony 4K displays and projectors, a Samsung UHD display, JVC 4K e-Shift projector, Sony 4K media player, all current 4K streaming devices as well as 1080p sources and displays. 

We pretty much threw everything and the kitchen sink at this. With proper installation and set-up we could not make the 3G UHD/IP ecosystem fail, and believe me we tried. 

Down-scaling and down-mixing tested without a hitch and the switching was phenomenal. I expected to see some delays when changing resolutions but didn’t. Installation is as it has always been with J-A-P. (Design and installation info here.) 

You will be surprised at just how easy it is to deploy Just Add Power. You do not have to be an IT guru.

Just Add Power continues to be compatible with most custom-friendly control systems including Control4, AMX, Crestron, Elan, NetStreams, and RTI. All drivers are tested and certified by the manufacturers so you know they work right from the start. As Just Add Power continues to grow and new players in the control space reach mass, I expect even more drivers in the future.

For now, I have found my go-to video distribution environment for 4K. Just Add Power 3G UHD/IP does everything I need for my clients and more. It not only fits my systems for tomorrow but can be implemented today with room to grow while supporting current devices and structure. 

HDIP 3G Specs:

3G Transmitter (VBS-HDMI-718AVP)

  • 2160P Ultra HD resolutions and HDMI 2.0 devices with HDCP 2.2 supported
  • Instant Seamless switching between any resolution HDMI source
  • 23 ms ultra low latency.
  • Converts 5.1 multichannel audio to Dolby PLII, giving you down-mixing capabilities for stereo zones.
  • Two analog audio inputs that can mix with HDMI audio.
  • Can engage a stereo analog audio output with full variable control from the HDMI audio stream.
  • Enhanced Video Wall functionality- support for portrait and flipped displays, no more tears
  • PoE (but safe to use with almost any DC power supply – DC 4.7~23V.)

3G Receiver (VBS-HDMI-518AVP)

  • 2160P Ultra HD resolutions and HDMI 2.0 devices with HDCP 2.2 supported
  • Instant Seamless switching between any resolution HDMI source
  • 23 ms ultra low latency.
  • Built-in 4K scaler on RX- can downscale from 2160p to 1080p and upscale 1080p to 2160p.
  • Supports Uncompressed and Lossless Multichannel Audio formats including Dolby Atmos
  • Can engage a stereo analog audio output with full variable control from the HDMI audio stream
  • Enhanced Video Wall functionality- support for portrait and flipped displays, no more tears
  • Image Pop:overlay a full color image/logo on top of the HDMI signal with alpha channel transparency.
  • PoE (but safe to use with almost any DC power supply – DC 4.7~23V.)

About the Author

Joe Whitaker:

With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine.


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