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You’ve got lots of games consoles, multiple displays or video processors and you’re sick of consumer grade switches, so what do you do? One solution is to get yourself an Extron Crosspoint switch. If the other SCART switches we reviewed on here were cars, this thing would be a Panzer tank, clearly a step up in build quality and size from any consumer switch.
The switch pictured on the left is the 8 inputs 4 outputs model, but Extron made these with up to 12 inputs and 8 outputs, along with physically bigger sized models with even more connections. Extron actually still supply some of the analogue crosspoint switches, but buying one new is likely to cost thousands. Lucky for us, second hand ones appear on eBay quite frequently, often taken from installations that are upgrading to digital display solutions. Since all models of the switch had the same number of buttons on the front panel, sellers often falsely describe switches like the one above as having all 12 inputs and 8 outputs available, so check the pictures before you buy. Prices vary but if you are prepared to wait they can be very reasonable, with many going for under $100/£80.
Of course, the inputs on the back of the Extron Crosspoint aren’t SCART at all. Commercial grade switches like this use BNC connectors. While this does mean that cabling your setup is somewhat more complex, it does make the Crosspoint extremely versatile. You can switch VGA, SCART and Component all in the same matrix and with up to eight outputs, the switch will suit all but the most complex of setups (and yes, you can easily daisy chain two or more switches if necessary).
So, how do you connect things up? To connect SCART cables, you simply need a SCART to BNC breakout cable, these are readily available online. Notice too that the Extron matrix has an unusual ‘phoenix’ style connector for audio. If you contact Retro Gaming Cables and tell them you need the SCART breakout cable with a phoenix connector to fit an Extron Crosspoint switch, rather than with the standard 2xRCA audio connectors, they will usually do this for you at no extra charge. If you’re ordering multiple cables too it is also worth enquiring about a bulk discount.
One thing you do need to remember when connecting up SCART equipment in particular is that the Extron switches MUST be supplied with a clean sync signal. You can either buy clean/pure/raw sync cables for your consoles, or use an adapter with a built in sync cleaner. If you want to connect VGA (from a Dreamcast or retro PC for instance) or a Component video (YPBPR) source, finding adapters is trivial. VGA to RGBHV BNC cables are readily available and to connect component video, all you typically need are BNC male socket plug to RCA female adapters, which can be bought for pennies from eBay or any other number of stores. S-Video and even composite (if you must) can be routed through the matrix too with the appropriate break-out adapters.
Once you get over the hurdle of cabling your systems up, the Crosspoint switch is extremely easy to use. Simply select an input, select as many outputs as you like, press the Enter button and presto, your sources are routed to your outputs. You can route audio independently of video if necessary too. The Crosspoint switches are true matrix switches, any input to any output. One minor disappointment from a consumer point of view is a lack of remote control. The Crosspoint switches can be remote controlled using an RS232 serial interface, but there’s no infra-red remote control like consumers are typically used to on AV gear. Perhaps someone out there could program an IR bridge using a Raspberry Pi? For anyone that was wondering, there are no auto-switching options either.
The Extron Crosspoint laughed in the face of the usual tests we throw at consumer SCART switches, but just for reference here are the results:-
Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture. Under scrutiny with the capture card (see the link below) there seems to be a tiny bit of brightness lost, but nothing that would affect picture quality.
Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.
Conclusion – The Extron Crosspoint really is a class above the typical SCART switch, but it’s a finicky beast, demanding clean sync input and requiring special breakout cables for all your consoles. If you have a complex setup with multiple displays, processors and/or capture cards, and you’re tired of chaining regular SCART switches together and want a high quality low clutter solution, the Crosspoint could be for you. Just remember to factor in the cost of getting all your systems correctly cabled up.
This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.