PSVR Set

Although we love the PSVR and the PS4 Pro, Sony really dropped the ball when it came to creating the PSVR’s Processing Unit.

For those of you not in the know, the PSVR comes with a breakout box, which has to connect to your PS4 and your TV with a few extra HDMI cables. This is so that a person not wearing the headset can see what’s happening on the TV or see an alternate screen if the PSVR supports multiplayer. It’s a great idea and reduces some of the isolationism that can be felt when using the headset but the breakout box comes with a rather large flaw; it lacks  HDCP 2.2 support.

PSVR processing box
The PSVR processing box

HDCP 2.2 is required for the implementation of High Dynamic Range (HDR) in certain titles. Assuming your TV supports HDR then you’ll be treated to more accurate colour reproduction and more striking lighting effects.

It’s not a deal breaker for most players, some say they can’t even tell the difference, but for AV enthusiasts like myself it’s heartbreaking to have the feature stripped out of my PS4 Pro (HDR is also available on PS4) when I have my PSVR set up too.

The free but highly impractical solution is to get down on your knees and unplug some cables every time you switch between regular games and PSVR, however, not only is this cumbersome and annoying but it could also cause premature wear of the HDMI socket on the PS4/PS4 Pro.

The next solution is to buy a male to female HDMI lead/adapter. Leaving this permanently plugged into the back of your PS4 means that it’s only the connector exposed to wear when you choose to switch.

Neither of these solutions are good enough to me. With a wife who likes tidy, my entertainment setup doesn’t allow for cables to be pulled in and out all of the time, not only are they hard to access, the PS4 Pro and PSVR breakout box skid around our wooden floor every time they’re moved.

Something had to be done.

So myself and the OOC team decided to do some research on switches. There are hundreds out there to choose from. From low-cost 3-port switches to expensive multi-port powered devices, price however does not really come into it, it’s the supported specs that matter.

Looking for a low cost solution we bought five different 3-port switches from Amazon. All of them claimed to support HDCP 2.2, some of them claimed to support 60hz and only one of them claimed to support HDR.

In addition to the switches we bought three Amazon Basics HDMI 2.0+ High Speed HDMI cables.

We won’t run through the different devices or what the results as because there’s no point, in the end only one worked:

A small £15 device made by a company called CSL. The box is around two thirds the size of a deck of playing cards, made of metal with a good weight to it. It allows one input and two outputs however being bi-directional this is rather inconsequential. On the top of the device is a push button which switches between the two outputs, you know which one you’ve selected thanks to a blue LED which becomes active when a signal is detected. It’s a little bright for our liking but a bit of black tape and remembering wether depressed means one device or another soon sorted that.

CSL HDMI Switch
The CSL HDMI Switch we used

It wasn’t plain sailing at first, this device almost got returned with all of the others, no matter what we tried we couldn’t get the device to display anything at all from the PS4 Pro. After talking with the supplier they suggested we use shorter cables, but our brand new Amazon cables were 0.9m and anything smaller would have been impractical. We nearly gave up until we looked at the box of random HDMI cables we had lying around. Instead of going shorter, why not go longer?

Success! In the end it took two 1.5m cables from an old Sky+ box to get it working. As far as we were aware, the cables were only rated for HDCP 1.4 but apparently not, with a bit more testing and switching to make sure it wasn’t a fluke we’d finally found a device that would switch between our PSVR and PS4 Pro while maintaining HDCP  2.2, 60Hz, RGB and the all important HDR on the latter device, all without restarting the system.

So if you’re looking to get a seamless PS4/PSVR HDR setup here is what you need. Firstly the switch. Next you’ll need a lot of HDMI cables. We can’t recommend where to buy the Sky+ cables because we can’t guarantee they’ll be the same as ours but we do know that the supplied PS4/PS4 Pro cable doesn’t work nor do Amazon cables. So what we can suggest is that you try as many different ones as possible, it will work eventually. In some cases you will get a flickering or snowy image, don’t persevere, ditch the cables and move on. You’re also going to need an additional HDMI socket on the TV.

The cables you are focusing on are the two between the PS4, the switch and the TV (highlighted in red in the image below).  The cables for the PSVR are inconsequential and you can use any cables you like.

The whole setup should look like this:

PSVR PS4 Switch Diagram
PSVR to PS4 with HDR switch

 

What is happening is that the PS4 is feeding all of its signal into the switch. If left on standard the original HDR HDCP 2.2 signal will pass straight through to the TV. When you press the button on the switch, the same signal gets sent through to the PSVR box, which, due to it’s limitations, strips out HDMI and converts the signal to HDCP 1.4 and then sends it to the TV. The great thing about this switch we discovered is that it can do this on the fly, some other success stories have resulted in switches that need the PS4 to be rebooted before working on a different setting.

So there we have it, an almost perfect PSVR/PS4 setup. We wish  we could promise you that it’s going to work out of the box but the truth is you’ll be tearing your hair out as you try tens of HDMI cables to get a result, however if you want to swap between glorious 60Hz, RGB, HDR and PSVR with the touch of a button, it’s worth the effort.

 

Did you know that there are still some people out there who watch Sky HD by passing it through their VCR in a SCART loop? Yup.

People often get themselves all tangled up (yes I said it) when it comes to cables. How do we know which is the right one to buy, and once we’ve decided, how much should we spend? Below is a short basic guide to cables from a gaming perspective which will hopefully help you make the right choice when looking to get the best from your retro or modern gaming console.

The RF Lead

A Sega RF Unit
A Sega RF Unit

(bundled with the NES, Sega Master System, Sega Megadrive, Super Nintendo, Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast and many more)

The RF lead is perhaps the lowest quality cable you can use for any system. It was shipped with most consoles in the 90’s because it was pretty much guaranteed to work with any Television set. It plugged directly into the antenna socket and offered a pass-through for your existing Terrestrial TV aerial. It wasn’t a plug and play solution requiring you to tune your TV to the correct frequency in order to see any video output. The quality suffers because both analogue video and sound are compressed into one cable. Additionally all of the video information (Red Green Blue and Brightness) were sent over one channel.

 

Composite

The deceptive Composite cable
The deceptive Composite cable

(Bundled with Playstation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, Microsoft Xbox, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony Playstation 3)

If you were a gamer in the 90’s or early 2000’s and you went for a Composite cable as your solution, you were at the very least stepping in the right direction. The appearance of the cable gave the impression that you were doing your utmost best for you console, with the three separated plugs, satisfyingly snug in the back of the TV, surely this was the bees knees of audio video cables? Wrong. From an audio perspective the Composite cable did a great job. The red and white cables offered full stereo support and could even pass through Dolby Pro-Logic to a dedicated receiver. The downfall however is in the video connection. Only a step up from RF, it offered a cleaner picture but the RGB and Brightness channels were still being fed through one connection compressed and muted.

 

S-Video

The horrendously boring yet capable S-Video cable
The horrendously boring yet capable S-Video cable

Used more internationally than in the UK S-Video is a slight step up from Composite in that the RGB channels and brightness are carried on separate connections, more information to the television made for a better image overall. For people in the states who do not have access to SCART, then this is the go to cable for retro gaming.

SCART/RGB Scart

A wild RGB SCART cable appeared, note the full set of pins
A wild RGB SCART cable appeared, note the full set of pins

(RGB available on: Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive, Neo Geo AES, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox)

SCART was a french/european standard which became a massive success on the continent but failed to make much of an impact in the rest of the world. Although the connectors are big and bulky, a fully wired RGB SCART Cable is without a doubt the best way to play classic consoles on a CRT TV, all of the RGB and Brightness channels are fed independently as is the stereo sound. The picture will be as clean and pure as it can be. There are some things to watch out for. As standard, the Nintendo 64 for example cannot output RGB video and in some circumstances no video will be seen at all when using a fully wired SCART cable, in which case a standard SCART can be used (pins will be missing from the connector) however you’ll essentially be using composite just in a different format. The two different types of SCART cable trip up people on a regular basis so it’s always worth checking the pins before you buy. The Megadrive, SNES, PS1, Neo Geo, Saturn & Dreamcast all support RGB start out of the box so if you own one of these consoles and you’re still using RF or Composite, you’re an idiot.

Component Cables

Component cable without audio leads
Component cable without audio leads

(Compatible with PS2 (certain titles), Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3, Gamecube)

This is where it starts getting interesting. A component cable is one of the few analogue cables capable of transmitting HD quality video to your television. Component cables do not carry any audio and all three leads are dedicated to RGB along with a few other signals that ensure correct fidelity. With a component cable you can get 1080p from a PS3 or an Xbox 360 and even the Gamecube and PS2 can output high quality signal depending on the game (the US version of Gran Turismo 4 is a fine example). The only downsides to component are the price and lack of HDCP support meaning any copy protected HD content (including games) will not display. If component is your only option, or you want to get the absolute best from your early 2000 gen hardware then don’t feel down. They provide fantastic picture quality and more often than not the cables are provided with an audio solution too!

HDMI

Thankfully HDMI is becoming the standard for modern consoles and devices. Providing picture perfect HD video and audio, it’s by far the best solution for connecting a console if it’s available. You needn’t worry on the quality of the cable, as long as it works you’re doing just fine.

Honorable mention: The Dreamcast VGA cable

The Sega Dreamcast was an awesome machine, with pioneering internet capabilities and a fantastic library of games, it’s an Out Of Control favourite. One of its dirty little secrets however is the inclusion of VGA support for some titles. If you can track one down, they’re well worth the effort. The VGA cable will provide a 480p output with an incredibly clear image. This does mean you’ll have to feed the audio into your TV or home cinema in a different way but most of the popular VGA adapters for Dreamcast will provide a myriad of solutions.

A cheap and easy solution such as this can be bought for as little as £11 on Amazon

What if I want to use old consoles on modern TV’s?

A good question. On most TV’s, fully wired RGB SCART will look pretty acceptable, but you’re still going to be stretching the original output to a resolution way beyond what was ever intended. A good solution for this is an Upscaler. These clever little boxes take whatever video you put in and convert them to a high quality HD image using a range of filtering techniques to make the video look as good as possible. They’re not perfect but they can make retro gaming on an HD TV a little more pleasant. Here at OOC we use one of these. It’s cheap and cheerful and although there are better devices out there on the market such as the X-RGB, it does a pretty good job. The only thing you have to ensure is that you’re putting in the highest quality video you can so RGB SCART is always recommended where possible.