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Nouns vs Verbs: An English Lesson Regarding the AV Matrix

When I grew up, my mother was a high school English teacher who consistently won the title “wicked witch” in an annual contest voted on by students. Regular readers of mine may notice a certain flair for lexicographical precision. They enjoy a standard of grammar that touches on perfection.

This is because my mother would beat me for confusing “its” and “it’s”.

Whatever does this have to do with the world of AV? Well for starters, this world was my ticket to Canada, where everyone is far too polite to even point out grammar errors. I feel safe here! More importantly, this background helps me see a major distinction that needs to be clarified for the pro AV community.

By age two I could solder an XLR connector. At the same age, mother would whip me with those cables for mismatched subject/verb tense.

Matrix switch vs matrix switching

“Matrix switch” is a noun. The term describes a circuit switch that includes multiple inputs and multiple outputs. A matrix switch includes an interface that allows each output to connect to a particular input, independently. This thing is just a big dumb piece of hardware, totally uninteresting to the user of an AV system. Matrix switches are ubiquitous though – they sit at the center of most AV signal distribution systems ever deployed. They were a necessary evil before it was possible to move high quality video data over a flexible packet network.

“Matrix switching” is a verb. This term refers to the delivering of signals from sources to destinations with minimal impact to the signals themselves. Matrix switching is the function of a matrix switch. It is the core application at the heart of AV signal distribution, and it is what system users care about. Without the ability to deliver image and sound data from sources to destinations, we could not realize any of the broad range of applications that pro AV delivers today.

It is time to separate matrix switching from the matrix switch.

Matrix switches exist only because they are easy to manufacture. They are not well-suited to the job. Matrix switches do not expand or scale well, and they are very expensive. Matrix switching, on the other hand, is a performance requirement. It is a recognition that end user applications demand flexibility and quality from the underlying hardware, at a minimal cost. In fact, end users only care about flexibility, quality, and cost. They don’t care – they probably don’t even know – what hardware is used to deliver it.


When the rubber meets the road in AV, all that matters is that someone using an AV system has a good experience. The system should be easy to use and deliver high quality audio and video every time. For decades we have relied on the matrix switch as the only equipment that could deliver this performance.

Today, we finally have a new approach. SDVoE allows the signal distribution plumbing to be swapped out in a way that maintains the immediate user experience, while improving everything else about the system. The system is easier to design, easier to install, easier to manage, and easier to use. It will grow and evolve with the users of the system. It will save time and cost for the owners of the system. The designer and installers will be more efficient and enjoy more business as a result.

Nouns can be swapped – “SDVoE” for “matrix switch.” Verbs are what stay with us. We still need matrix switching, but we no longer need the matrix switch. SDVoE is the matrix transformed.

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