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My A/V Setup

I have said many times before, I will go to any amount of inconvenience in order to make things convenient for myself in the future. As such, a lot of my hardware and software setups are rather convoluted, with the goal being to make things faster and simpler later on. This sometimes works.

One of my most complicated endeavors in recent years has been my A/V setup. At the most basic level, I have a SNES, an N64, a PS2, a Switch, a record player, a VCR, and a Blu-ray player as inputs, and a TV and two bookshelf speakers as outputs. This already is quite rough, so let me describe the first iteration of my setup. The SNES, N64, PS2, and VCR were all plugged into a passive composite switcher, which went into a composite-to-HMDI converter and into an HDMI switcher, along with my Blu-ray player and Switch. The HDMI switcher outputted to the TV. The record player had exclusive access to the speakers.

I had a few issues with this setup. First, several items could be upgraded past composite video, meaning the composite switcher would not suffice for long. As well, the composite switcher outputted very noisy images, and composite in general is just not most people's preferred video standard for a reason.

The first upgrade I made was to replace the composite-to-HDMI converter with an actual upscaler. Based on online reviews, I went for a RetroTINK, which I've been very happy with. As well, I upgraded the game systems to their highest quality possible output cables, meaning S-Video for the N64 and component cables for the PS2. The SNES is a SNES Jr. (or SNES Mini or New-Style SNES), meaning it can only output composite without a hardware mod. The RetroTINK, however, has a very limited number of inputs, overlapping the component and composite inputs and using the component/composite audio as the S-Video's audio also. As a result, I ended up making probably the most complicated and annoying setup possible: the N64's S-Video video output and two of the three component video cables from the PS2 went into their corresponding ports on the RetroTINK. Everything else went into the composite switcher to cover the overlapping ports. So, for example, if I wanted to play the N64, I would set the composite switcher to the N64's input, which only passed through the N64's audio, and then set the RetroTINK to the S-Video input, which would use the N64's S-Video and the audio from the composite switcher. I don't even know if I've explained this properly, it's very complicated and doesn't even matter.

Obviously, I needed something better. What I really needed was a switcher which could take composite, S-Video, and component, and output onto one or two formats, which could then go into the upscaler. The solution was in fact an A/V receiver from the 2000s, when those three video standards were still in side-by-side use. The one I got is an Onkyo of some kind. At first, I was disappointed, as I had expected the receiver to output all inputs to the component output. However, this turns out to be something of a blessing in disguise, as relying on the receiver to upscale composite to component would actually make the RetroTINK's job harder.

So this is my current setup. SNES, N64, PS2, VCR, and record player are routed into the A/V receiver, which acts as a switcher. The receiver outputs audio for the selected input to the speakers, and outputs video to either S-Video or component depending on the source, which runs through the RetroTINK to an HDMI switcher. This switcher also takes in the Blu-ray player and Switch.

This setup is not perfect by any means. My TV does not play nice with my current HDMI switcher, often losing video when changing inputs until the TV is reset. My Steam Dock (the dock for the Steam Deck) does not work through this switcher and TV pair, and only sometimes works when plugged directly into the TV. I have a Fire Stick that I would like to replace with a dedicated media PC, as the Fire Stick is really only used for VLC Media Player to stream videos from my desktop PC. The TV does not output to the speakers, so there's a disconnect when watching things on HDMI vs things which run through the receiver. There might be a solution to this, as I did try connecting a TOSLINK cable between the TV and receiver, but I haven't been able to get that to actually work yet. I also don't have the remote for the receiver, which would make changing inputs much easier. And, frankly, I really need to make a chart to know what inputs to select for any given device.

If anyone reading this can think of a better setup, please let me know. I don't actually have any contact info on this site yet, so just think about it really hard until I put something up thanks.

Note 1: For those unaware, "passive" video switchers do not require separate power and work using push buttons, whereas "active" video switchers require separate power but as such can be controlled with remotes. Passive video switchers do not have good isolation, causing output signals to be noisy, especially with larger switchers with many inputs.