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Review: Matrox Monarch HDX

The Monarch HDX is well featured, easy to use, and reasonably priced, and produced very good quality output. Those seeking a dual-channel hardware encoder should definitely include the product on their short list.

My Tests
As mentioned, I connected Monarch to both YouTube Live and Ustream for several hours, with no issues; if you’ve got the outbound bandwidth, Monarch is a nice tool for connecting to two streaming services simultaneously.

Audio synchronization is always a concern with live streaming encoders. For most tests, I used a repeating talking head video file shot in AVCHD and sent to the Monarch via HD-SDI using a Blackmagic capture card in one of my test computers. It was only a three-minute video, but I cycled it for hours, capturing two longish videos, one 85 minutes long, the other just short of two hours. You can see one of the videos below; if you drag around the video file, you’ll see that audio/video sync remains perfect throughout. You’ll also notice some footage of the movie Elektra, which I interspersed as part of my quality testing.

Speaking of quality, I created two test clips, one from the talking-head video, which was from a recent Sennheiser AVX review, the other of the Elektra clip. To assess quality, I created comparison clips using Sorenson Squeeze and the x264 codec at the same 5 Mbps data rate and measured quality using the SSIMWave’s SQM quality testing software. Briefly, the SQM software compares the encoded clip to the original and renders a score from 0-100, with 100 being perfect, and any score over 80 considered excellent.

I expected Squeeze to be better, since the encoding was in not real time, and it was, but the difference was very slight. Specifically, in the talking head tests, Squeeze outpointed the Monarch 92.63 to 91.91, a difference of .8% percent. In the higher moving Elektra clip, Squeeze posted a score of 95.04 while the Monarch scored 94.89, a difference of .2%. I also ran a stress test at 720p@1 mbps, and the Monarch produced very crisp output with no dropped frames with absolutely no timecode drift. When I inserted both the captured and source file in a Premiere Pro timeline, the time codes matched perfectly.

Overall, the Monarch HDX is well featured, easy to use, and reasonably priced, and produced very good quality output. Those seeking a dual-channel hardware encoder should definitely include the product on their short list.

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