2022 was the year I decided to get serious about my retrogaming setup. I was tired of having a 104lb CRT dominating half my computer desk and a PlayStation 2, MiSTer, and whatever other consoles I was currently interested in always in peripheral vision. After a bit of thought I concluded that the TV and all the consoles would be better off on a wheeled cart. A retro cart, if you would. It could live in my closet, or be wheeled out to wherever seemed fun. So I started speccing that out.
The best form factor ended up having two lower shelves—for the consoles, a smaller TATE-friendly/PAL-compatible PVM-1354Q CRT a friend had recently sold me, and bookshelf speakers—with the big-ass 29” TV up on the third, top tier. Both CRTs could accept RGB or YPbPr/component video…which to standardize on? Component seemed easier for a couple reasons, so I went with that. Then I just needed a switcher to not only flip between MiSTer, PS2, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, Wii, and Xbox, but to route any of those sources to either of the two screens.
That’s six in, two out. I wanted optical audio switching, too, for MiSTer, Xbox, and possibly PS2. Combined, those requirements take us far beyond the feature set of any basic switcher you’ll find on Amazon or Ali these days. Thus I turned to the bright, shining past of the mid-aughts, when component video adoption peaked and specialty A/V products catered to the more esoteric YPbPr-wrangling needs of the era’s home theater enthusiasts.
A few promising candidates surfaced. One high-end mid-2000s switcher was very fancy indeed and could actually transcode between analog and optical audio (wow!). But ultimately I was won over by the still-fancy but slightly more modest Impact Acoustics Deluxe Component Video / Digital Audio 6 In / 2 Out Matrix Switch, aka the “40697". You can see it above. Not only can it route those six inputs to either screen, it can output to both screens simultaneously…the same source, or two different sources. Oh dear, am I blushing?
After a week or two I managed to find a NOS (new old stock) one, and it proved just as performant as hoped: Any console on any display is now just a button-push away. The cart project is still in progress as I seek a working Xbox, look into appropriate Wii hax, and transition to a new display up top (kinda wishing I had gone with RGB now, actually!) but I’ve already been enjoying having all my beloved old games in a single, self-contained, no-compromises tower of power. Even got a beanbag! Hell yeah.
Alexandra Hall, Senior Editor