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The Game Pad

Les Freed

For the past few months, I’ve spoon-fed you the basics—but no longer! It’s time to stop boring the hell out of you and start getting practical. To get our hands dirty, let’s kick this off with a home project.

Today, we’re breaking into OPM’s home-theater room, where all the magic (and game demos) happens. You’ll see why we chose each product and how much it’ll set you back. More important, though, is that you’ll finally understand how to put all the pieces together and get the damn thing working right. Yep, chuck all those manuals written in Swahili for engineering students. I’m here for you, kids. Speaking of which, lots of people have been writing in with some great questions, and I’m doing my damnedest to answer all of them (which is not easy, between all the Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando I’ve been playing lately in HD). Please, keep asking! Upcoming columns and projects will be based on what you want to know.

The whole point of this mess is that you want to get all your crap (games, DVDs, whatever) from the components to the television and surround sound as quickly and painlessly as possible. In a perfect world, you’d plug ’em all into the back of the television, but we’re never that lucky. Too many gadgets, not enough room. While you may need to add different components, the concept here remains the same. We set everything up with the intention of having to get off our lazy asses as little as possible.

Gettin’ It Done

DVD, PS2, and “other” (ahem) console This is why you need the Pelican switchbox: There are too many components trying to share too few component-video inputs. We plugged all the devices that floss a high-end, component-video signal into the Pelican. Then we ran the component-video outputs leading from the switcher into the back of the TV, Video Input 5. “What about the audio?” you ask. All your audio cabling goes into the System Selector as well. Analog stereo wires from the switchbox go into the TV, along with the other wiring at Video Input 5. Meanwhile, an optical cable leads from the Pelican to the Creative Labs decoder at Optical Input 1.

Problems!!!

PS1 The Pelican System Selector is a straight-up switchbox. That’s great if you have a bunch of devices all using the same video signal—but it becomes a major pain in the butt if, as in this case, you’ve got one device using S-Video (PS1) and another (VCR) going composite. To keep it simple, we decided to go back to the remaining inputs available on the TV. We hooked up the PS1 via S-Video and analog stereo audio into Video Input 1 on the back of the TV. In order to get surround sound out of this, look for a pair of stereo-audio output jacks on the back of the TV. Get some RCA cables and plug them from there into the audio decoder, Analog Audio 1.

VCR Considering the high-definition world we’re living in now, VCRs are fairly low maintenance (and low quality). Just look for any open composite-video slot, in our case Video Input 3, and plug that sucker in. Since we just took care of the audio from the TV for PS1, you’re done!

It’s Showtime!

Watch a DVD or play a PS2 game: Set the TV input to Video 5. Hit the appropriately labeled button on the System Selector. (That’s the only part you need to get off the couch for.) Set the audio source on the decoder to Optical Audio 1, and you’re good to go!

Play with the PS1: Set the TV input to Video 1. Set audio source on the decoder to Analog Audio 1. That’s it.

Watch a videotape: Set the TV input to Video 3. Set audio source on the decoder to Analog Audio 1. Simple, eh? If you’ve wired everything up right, it should all work perfectly!

Our Setup

TV: Sony KF-50XBR800, $3,300 (still available online) When you’ve got money to burn, you go out and get a gorgeous 50-inch TV. We’ve had no burn-in issues, and, y’know, we tend to play a lot of games—so trust us on this one.

A/V switchbox: Pelican Accessories System Selector Pro, $100

There aren’t enough component inputs to go ’round. This is where Pelican’s affordable System Selector Pro comes in. It has every video connection you need, and it serves as a switcher for digital optical audio and Ethernet.

Audio: Creative Labs DDTS-100 and Creative GigaWorks S750, $650 (total) Creative Labs came by recently and blew us away with this demo kit. The speakers are designed to work with a computer, but there’s nothing PC about this gear. Combine a powerful 700-watt 7.1 home-theater kit with a digital decoder, and the results will rock you.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine.





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