KAT5-AVS – Review


What Are They? – As peoples lifestyles and expectations get ever more sophisticated, consumers expect to be able to do cool things like watch a movie in their bedroom from the DVD player in their lounge .

With the advent of the “wired home” for the first time it is possible for people to send high bandwidth signals between their rooms and the goods news is that now the long awaited KAT5 modules are here we can start to do this.

For those of you that have been on planet Zog for the last few years, the KAT5 (Keith’s Automated Technology for CAT5) modules have been created by Keith Doxey, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the UK Home Automation scene. Electronics guru and all round smarty pants, Keith has worked on the design and manufacture of these units for the past 4 years. His vision was to build a circuit that would allow anyone to send these high quality video and audio signals over the standard CAT5 cable that is being used increasingly in contemporary houses while maintaining a price level that the man in the street could afford – commercial offerings are available but are priced out of the reach of all but the the wealthy and the business community. Extensive beta testing has shown that the units are able to carry video at distances of well over 200 metres and early prototypes (that are still in daily use) have proven to be utterly reliable.

The first unit to be manufactured (the KAT5-AVS) allows you to sent S-Video or Composite Video plus stereo audio over a single CAT5 cable.

Operating – The system is pretty much plug-and-play. The units work in a transmitter and receiver pair. For example, you might attach the transmitter to the S-Video out of your DVD player while at the other end of the CAT5 run you’d attach the receiver module and feed its output into your TVs S-Video input. Hey-Presto, the quality pictures you’ve come to expect from your DVD player and stereo sound, all in your bedroom!

On both the transmitter and receiver there are two end plates. On one is the power LED (yellow LED signifies a transmitter and red LED is a receiver) a standard CAT5 RJ45 socket and power connector. On the other end plate is a standard SCART socket. Custom version are available – built to order – that can incorporate connectors other than SCART (3 phonos for example).

The units work by taking the inputs and converting them to balanced line signals. The system is so robust that Keith even did a demonstration where he added in deliberate noise to the signal (using a portable CD player), yet the emerging signal was completely interference-free.

Both the transmitter and receiver modules are active and therefore require a power source. The usual “wall-wart” affair is the order of the day. The units require either a 12 Volt regulated or a 9 Volt un-regulated power supply. These can be picked up in your local electronics store or even some supermarkets. Alternatively Keith can supply them for a very reasonable £6.00.

Initially it was envisaged that the KAT5 modules would include an IR distribution path too. However Keith realised that adding the IR capabilities would restrict the functionality of the modules on the AV side. In the future it may be possible to superimpose an IR signal over the other signals and Keith is investigating this at present.

How They’re Used in My House – I recently built a “Video Server” PC running Windows 2000 Pro and incorporating an ATI All-In-Wonder 128 Pro TV card and a large fast hard drive. I use ShowShifter on this PC to record TV programs. The “TV Out” port on this computer is fed into a KAT5 AVS transmitter. From there the signal travels along a short patch lead to a standard data socket in the wall. The CAT5 run from this socket ends (like all the others in the house) in Node Zero, a small purpose built room off my garage. The KAT5 receiver is plugged into another data socket behind my bedroom TV. Both CAT5s are punched down onto my patch panel in node zero and a short patch lead connects the two ports thereby completing the circuit from the study to the bedroom. Now I can watch all my ShowShifter recordings and DVDs on my bedroom TV, or with some simple re-patching I can have the signals sent to the AV room! I estimate this cable run to be around 30 metres and the quality is indistinguishable from the original source!

Support – There is a terrific quality about these modules, from the design to the PCBs build and documentation. It belies their “cottage industry” origins. As with other small companies developing niche products (like HomeVision for example) you are assured of product support straight from the CEO of the company, who also happens to be the R&D Department, Designer manufacturer and all the steps in between 🙂

The KAT5 FAQ will shortly be available on the official KAT5 website . There is also a KAT5 User Forum at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/kat5-users/ One tip – make sure you use proper CAT5 patch leads that have ALL EIGHT wires connected.

Keith offers a custom build service that has already proved very helpful to several ukha’ers with projectors in their home cinema setup. For example Keith has produced a module for sending component video over CAT5. Another module is available with S-Video and composite (in place of the audio circuits) which is ideal for most projector setups. Future standard unit designs will be built to allow you to send CCTV, VGA, RGBS and Component Video

Eventually Keith aims to build a remote controlled hub/switcher for his KAT5 modules that will allow users to route any source to a room of their choice in their home. Someone could be watching the VCR in the Kitchen while someone else watches the DVD player from the bedroom. At present the concepts and basic designs for this unit are taking shape. However, first things first. KAT5-AVS is here at last.

One word – Rejoice!


Pricing Info

KAT5 AVS-TX S-Video Transmitter @ £40-00
KAT5 AVS-RX S-Video Receiver @ £35-00
KAT5 AVS-VC Video Conference @ £40-00 (Two way video & mono audio)

Dependant on weight, orders would be sent either by First Class Post or Parcel post (up to 3 working days from posting)

WARRANTY on all units is 12 months from the end of the month of supply, eg Supplied 4/4/2001 Warranty Expires 30/4/2002

KAT5.tv for more details   :   Laser.com to order on-line

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