How To Buy a Component Video Switch

Component video, also labeled YPbPr, is a set of three RCA cables (red, green, and blue) that are capable of carrying a high-definition video signal. Most TV's today will give you 2-4 inputs, but in some cases you will have more sources to hook up than inputs on the TV. Another issue is that your TV is far enough away from your equipment, that it isn't an affordable option to run multiple sets of YPbPr over long distances. Here is how you can remedy that without breaking the bank.

Step 1

Do you have a surround sound system?  The first thing to address is whether or not you have a surround sound system. The reason you should do this first is that you may be able to kill two birds with one stone. Most A/V receivers today offer the option of video switching. This will allow you to not only run your audio signals through the receiver to your speakers, but your video signals to a common output as well. In most cases, you will get three inputs and one output. This is a great way to remedy the issue of having equipment far away. You can run all of your sources to the receiver, and run one common output to the TV. In your settings, you can assign which video input corresponds to which audio input. Not only will this make your system more economical, but it will make it easier to use as well. Your TV stays on the same input all the time so all you have to do is switch the receiver to change what you're watching.

If three inputs is still not enough, or you are happy with your current non-HD video switching receiver, check out the following steps.

Step 2

Buy a component video switcher.  A relatively simple component you can buy is actually called a component video switcher, so it shouldn't be confusing as to what it's for. It is a device about the same size as a DVD player that sits in with all your other equipment. It works the same way as a receiver would in Step 1, but it doesn't control any speakers, a radio tuner, or any of the other processing features. It is simply a gateway allowing you to have multiple inputs with one common output. Models for these will run anywhere from $75 to $300. In my experience, the only reason to get a higher end switcher is if you want digital audio switching as well. The unit I have and use for installs not only has component video ins/outs, but also composite video (yellow), digital coax (orange RCA for digital audio) and digital optical (fiber optic digital audio). It is not essential to get such a unit if your current A/V receiver as enough audio inputs, but as before, it can make using your system easier.

Step 3

Check out the remote control that comes with it.  The last thing I recommend to people who are looking for a component video switcher is to take notice of the remote control that comes with it. Almost all of these units will have remote control function, but some are discreet and some are toggle. Discreet means you have a button for each input that will go directly to it, regardless of which one you are currently at. A toggle remote usually features one input button that simply goes to the next one. This can become a huge headache if you plan to use a universal remote with your system (See How To Buy a Universal Remote).

If you're remote will have macros to set up activities, it needs to have discreet codes to be able to switch to a desired activity regardless of what you were previously doing.

The best thing I have found is that the price of the unit does not reflect the type of remote you get, so even if you opt for a less expensive model, you can still find one that gives you this option.

Remember when hooking it up, stick to your color codes and make sure to run your sources to inputs and the output to your TV.


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