Joytech AV Control Center 2   
 

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Test av "AV Control Center 1" i Home Cinema
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One of the drawbacks of all this great new technology we have available to entertain us today is figuring out how to hook it all up. Display devices (or AV receivers if you run your video through them) never have enough inputs, or worst yet enough of the right kind of inputs, to hook up all the different gaming consoles, DVD players, cable boxes, satellite receivers, digital video recorders, etc. that have become commonplace in the modern home. So whatíre you supposed to do? Curl up into the fetal position and remember back to the good olí days when everything connected to the RF input on your TV? No! You need a component switcher!

There are several component switchers available (including the popular Pelican System Selector Pro) but this review will focus on the Control Center Series 240C by Joytech. The 240C is a brand-new component switcher with an IR remote available at Best Buy stores for $89.99 (not yet available from bestbuy.com).

So what do I get for 90 clams?

Well, the box is nicely designed with a high-end look about it, including a convenient carrying handle. The exterior is surprisingly sparse on technical information, although it does include some helpful pictures of the connection points, and of the remote on the back. The outside box does include a few short blurbs covering the different features of the switcher. These blurbs have been translated into enough languages that it immediately qualifies the Joytech switcher as an officially licensed product of the U.N. (we approve!).

Inside the box, the contents were well-protectedóthe switcher itself was wrapped in plastic and held securely by two cardboard egg carton-style spacers, and the smaller pieces were individually wrapped and held in a separate cardboard-divided section to keep them from floating around the box. The contents include:

- 1 switcher
- 1 power supply (brick)
- 1 manual
- 1 remote
- 1 set of batteries for the remote
- 1 set of component cables
- 1 set of S-video cables (with attached RCA stereo cables)
- 1 set of composite cables (with attached RCA stereo cables)
- 1 set of RCA stereo cables
- 1 Ethernet cable
- 1 coaxial cable

The coaxial cable is not for use as a coaxial digital audio output (RCA x 1), as found on many DVD players, but for connecting the switcher to your TV via the RF input. The switcher can transcode the composite video and stereo audio signals and output them via the RF output. I personally have no use for this feature but having more output options is never a bad thing. This must have been a late-minute addition though as the feature is only noted via a sticker on the front of the box. In fact the picture of the connection points on the box and in the manual do not include an RF output. While the included cables will never be confused as high quality, I was a little surprised to see that so many were included. I was also surprised that the remote batteries were Energizers instead of the usual no-name brands that seem to only last a week and then leak shortly thereafter.

The construction of the switcher is solid with some nice heft to it. The body is encased in metal while the front has the usual plastic face found on the front of most A/V components. For those interested in aesthetics, the metal case on the switcher is black but the picture on the front of the box is silver. (No confirmation on whether other colors are available at this time). The connectors are very stiff with no noticeable wiggling. The flip-down door on the front is kind of flimsy but I doubt that would be much of an issue as itís not something you would be opening and closing constantly. Those rack owners and component stackers out there will appreciate that the switcher has a standard 17" width and feels sturdy enough to support the weight of additional components.

Connections, buttons, and panelsÖ oh my!

The back panel contains six sets of inputs, one set of outputs, and the AC connector. The first three inputs are identical and contain component inputs (RCA x 3), a composite input (RCA x 1), an S-video input, stereo audio inputs (RCA x 2), an Ethernet input (RJ-45), and an optical digital audio input. The fourth input is the same as the first three, minus the Ethernet input. The fifth and sixth inputs are the same as the fourth, minus the optical digital audio input. The outputs contain component outputs (RCA x 3), a composite output (RCA x 1), a S-video output, two sets of stereo audio outputs (RCA x 2), an Ethernet output, an optical digital audio output, and a RF output. All inputs/outputs are color-coded and clearly labeled to make your life easier. It should be noted that other than the RF output, no other signals are transcoded or upconverted from one kind of input to a different kind of input. The stereo audio signal is conveniently split into two sets of outputs so that you could have one set routed to your receiver and one set routed to your TV.

Joytech AV Control Center 2The front panel includes a thin vertical button on the left to power on the switcher, a thin vertical button to cycle through the inputs and an IR window on the right. In the middle youíll find a blue LCD display, and a flip-down door that hides the seventh set of inputs (composite/S-video/stereo only) along with the controls to program the display. The blue LCD backlight is quite bright but only turns on when the input is switched (and then quickly turns off). The best part about the LCD display is that it is, as mentioned, programmable (up to 5 characters)-- no more keeping track of those little plastic insert labels, or opening up the unit to change them, or using the ď3DOĒ label for your new Xbox 360 (Iím sure your 360 will be overjoyed!). Behind the flip-down door, there are two buttons to scroll through the character options, (A-Z, 0-9, and a small assortment of symbols) and one multi-function button that will allow you to move to the next character slot, and save the edited label (this button can also be used to toggle the beep sound on/off when an button is pressed). Itís a simple and intuitive process thankfully. Also, it appears as though the switcher is using some kind of non-volatile memory as after I finished programming my custom input labels, I disconnected from for at least an hour and it still retained my custom input labels.

The remote is of a rather uninspiring black design with a power button, left/right buttons to cycle through the inputs, and discrete buttons to jump directly to any of the seven inputs. My learning remote was able to learn all of the IR signals so I can thankfully put the included remote away in my ever-expanding remote graveyard.

Thatís all good but how does it look and sound?

Initially, the switcher did not appear to be completely transparent in regards to passing the video signals-- the contrast and color seemed slightly more muted compared to a direct connection. However, after swapping out the included cables for some higher quality ones, the contrast/color issues were gone.

I also encountered some noticeable rolling diagonal wave distortions on the input my DVD player was connected to via component cables. These distortions did not appear on any other input that I switched to. After some investigating, I pinpointed the problem to my use of the composite input as a coaxial digital audio input (as the switcher does not have discrete inputs for this). Removing the cable immediately got rid of the distortions so perhaps it was creating some kind of feedback/interference loop of some kind. Itís not that big an issue to me as my DVD player also has an optical digital audio output but it may be an issue to those that do not have that option. Unfortunately, switching to some higher quality cables did not resolve this problem.

For Xbox games that support 480p and higher resolutions, I did not notice any difference in video quality between a direct connection and a signal running through the switcher. Unfortunately, I donít have any other HD sources at the moment to test out how well the switcher performs on changing HD signals so I cannot comment on its performance in this regard. The box and website both claim it is HDTV ready/compliant however. I also did not notice any adverse changes in audio quality with the audio routed through the switcher.

This device is not a router/hub so only the currently selected Ethernet input will have an active connection. At first, I could not get either my Xbox or PS2 working online but I was able to trace the problem to the included Ethernet cable (bad cable). After swapping it out, there was no noticeable introduction of lag in any of the online games I sampled.

The actual switching of inputs is fast with little audio/video distortion. I also did not encounter any problems including the switcher in my learning remotesí macros which I set up to perform a series of commands such as switch the projectorís input to component, or change the switcherís input to DVD.

Conclusion

Overall, Iíd have to say Joytech did a very nice job with the quality of the packaging, construction, and operation of the Control Center Series 240C. There are some quality issues with their included cables, but other than that, the 240C is a good value for $89.99, and should be considered if youíre in the market for a relatively inexpensive component switcher to hook up all your gear.

 

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005

Screenshot added December 7, 2005
Australsk modell m.RF-utgang

Screenshot added December 7, 2005


AV Control Center 1 and 2

It's not often we bother with getting our hands dirty with the business of reviewing hardware here on Eurogamer; there are plenty of site devoted to the subject for that. But in this case we're prepared to make an exception for Joytech's rather wonderful AV Control Center range. It's something you could neatly sum up in a couple of ways; an audio-visual switcher box with a difference, or just simply the answer to many gamers' prayers.

Although we've never covered it - or probably even spoken of its existence before - much of Eurogamer's 'nerve central' (in front of the TV, in case youíre wondering) has been ably taken care of over the past 18 months by the original AV Control Center (and now by its enhanced successor, which has just recently been released). Put simply, it's an AV switcher 'hub' roughly the size of a DVD player (and designed to be housed snugly alongside your home entertainment system) that takes care of practically any cable you can throw at it. So why on Earth are we devoting precious time to this instead of, say, getting on with reviewing Conker? Because it'll make any serious gamers' life better: trust us on this if you've never listened to a word we've said before.

Eaten alive

If you're anything like us, your lounge set-up on a bad day roughly resembles a car crash at a console convention. If the health and safety executives had a cursory glance at what was going on near the telly they'd be eaten alive by 2479 cables all having some sort of group hug at a rave. For the Monicas among us, that simply isnít on. A tidy lounge is a happy lounge, or a happy Monica, at the very least.

The main problem which even casual gamers face is that most TVs simply don't cater for the demands of a modern AV set up without all sorts of behind the telly cable fumbling. Most sets barely cater for the standard set up of a DVD, VHS and set-top box, never mind a console. And just try complicating matters with surround sound set-ups, multiple consoles old and new; it's a nightmare that's become unnecessarily complicated by ever-changing standards and general goalpost shifting that would stretch most people's patience to breaking point.

Once, all we had to deal with were RF connectors, then over the past decade and a half the whole thing's become a joke, with Composite, S-Video, SCART and more recently Component. It's not important to know what these standards mean (only that you really ought to be using SCART if possible, or Component if you've got a really high end set up), but it is important to be able to have as much of your Audio-Visual equipment hooked up simultaneously to your TV as possible. Essentially the AV Control Center lets you hook up practically everything you can think of with the minimum of fuss, and puts an end to those hideous forays of death around the back of the snake pit that is your TV.

Cheap and very cheerful
Picture

The cheaper first version of the AV Control Center is a pretty good start (and some might argue, the better option). It has won multiple Home Entertainment-related awards, and for good reason. Allowing you to hook up four devices of multiple connection type, it copes with all four video connector types - including Component, believe it or not. On top of that, each of the four 'channels' on the device has additional stereo phono inputs and a digital optical input. A typical home set up with a DVD, set top box and a console would be taken care of with ease, regardless of what AV connection each device has. With all devices funnelled into one unit, all you need to do is connect the (provided) leads back to the TV (or Amp, etc) and basically switch between the device as and when you require it.

Even better, the unit can cope with multiple video connections in the same channel. Say, for example, you have a console taking up a SCART channel, you can still plug a Composite, S-Video or Component device into the same channel - the signal will still output when you cycle through the various channels on your TV.

For the high-end user, the best bit about Joytech's device is that is also has the hidden ability to act as a switcher box for up to four Component devices. All you do is simply plug the three Component cables into the Composite input and the two RCA phono inputs and Voila, four-way Component switching. We've flagged this as particularly useful, as it's astonishingly hard to actually buy Component switcher boxes at all, and for those of us trying manfully to persuade our PS2s, Xboxes and GameCubes to all output at pin sharp Progressive Scan it's positively a godsend. The presence of four optical inputs alongside four phono inputs also helps us out with almost every possible scenario.

Wired for games
Picture

So, in a gaming context, you can basically have the PS2, Cube and Xbox all wired up next to each other and the set top box/DVD/legacy systems. With a bit of prior thought, it's actually possible to plug in older systems like the Dreamcast and Saturn alongside existing machines by effectively cheating and sharing channels. If you're confused, don't be. For example, if you can track down a component lead for the Xbox and PS2, and also buy digital optical cables for the sound, it's possible to only use two channels for four consoles. While two older consoles may use S-Video or SCART (say Saturn and Dreamcast) you could get away with sharing the same channels by using Component inputs for the PS2 and Xbox. It's not a feature that Joytech has made clear anywhere in its documentation, but once all of this becomes clear, you can see why we reckon it'll be the solution to any gamer's cabling hell.

So if that hasn't frazzled your brain yet, there's even a brand new version now out to buy (for about £20 more). Simply called the AV Control Center 2, it adds a further two channels, throws in two Ethernet ports (to cope with Xbox and PS2 online, for example) and has a programmable LCD display for good measure. But although it sounds like the dream AV switcher, a couple of baffling compromises have been made - namely that there's now only two digital optical inputs instead of four. Quite why Joytech thought it was a good idea to remove one of the things that made the first unit so good is open to question, but it throws in one or two headaches if, for example, you happen to have multiple systems all offering Digital Optical output. Take our set-up, for example. Our Sky box outputs digital sound, as does our DVD, PS2 and Xbox. As will the Xbox 360, PS3 and doubtlessly the Revolution too. To remove the digital sound from the unit at such a crucial time is a real disappointment, and effectively reduces its usefulness as a Component switcher box (as you'll probably have to resort to phono, thus stealing two of the three ports you require for the full Component set).

On the other hand, version 2 is still an amazing piece of kit, sporting no less than five SCART channels, and - thanks to a pop out flap on the front - SIX composite channels, six phono audio inputs and six S-Video. In theory there are still six component inputs offered in total, but the absence of digital audio means you'll have to suss out how to get the audio routed to you sound system or TV.

Picture

In both cases, the all-important signal quality is absolutely top notch. The kind of dot-crawl issues normally associated with AV switcher boxes has been well and truly eradicated. One word of warning, though. We did notice a slight dulling of the colour saturation when we compared the picture when routed via the AV Control Center and plugging the cables in direct to the TV. However, this issue was resolved by simply turning up the colour on the TV itself, and so long as you bear this in mind you'll be fine.

In terms of getting the most out of a box like this, our advice is to use SCART if at all possible, rather than the vastly inferior S-Video or Composite. For those lucky few that have the ability to output in the elusive Progressive Scan, then definitely go for the Component option. Outputting console games in 480p (or even 720p/1080i if you're using a modded or US Xbox) is something you won't regret.

With a remote control bundled (with batteries), as well as Gold plated SCART, S-Video, Composite and Composite to SCART converter block both AV Control Centers come with just about everything any self-respecting gamer could ask for in one package. Our advice is to check both versions out and buy one to suit your needs - either way it's a purchase that will make your life better; and score you points with the Monicas of the world. Any piece of kit that makes our daily lives as gamers as easy as this has to be shouted about as much as possible.

The Joytech AV Control Center and AV Control Center 2 come in Silver and Black, and are available from all good electrical retailers. For more information visit the Joytech Website

9/10

 

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Copyright © 2002 ōyvind Haugland
Sist endret:  17 november 2018
 

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