I actually like Microsoft. Microsoft, for example, brought affordable computer networks to the masses, dramatically improving productivity (and gaming). Vista, like Windows ME before it, is a complete pile of very unpleasant substances, but in the meantime we have Windows XP, the best Windows-based operating system to ever grace the planet. (Now, don’t get all tech-bashy on me; I like the look of OS X as well, use Linux systems on occasion, and program in Java.)
However, in a capitalist society, caveat emptor is still worthy of being heeded. Such is the case with the newer Xbox 360s and HDMI output that uses digital optical for audio.
In a perfect world, one wouldn’t need to output both digital audio and HDMI. HDMI includes digital audio output. One would just plug the HDMI cable into a receiver, run the receiver HDMI output to the television, and the receiver would take care of everything, including the video switching. Sadly, such a perfect world requires far more pictures of dead Presidents than I am willing to part with, especially since it would involve replacing a receiver that I am very happy with.
The standard Microsoft Xbox 360 currently ships with a component video cable for HDTV or standard TV that also outputs surround-separated stereo. That cable also has a plug for digital optical audio output, which is ideal. Unfortunately, if one plugs in the supplied cable, due to its size and shape it completely covers the HDMI port on the 360, which precludes using HDMI for video at the same time as optical 5.1 Dolby Digital. (Note that some older 360s do not have an on-board HDMI port, but that any recently purchased one should.)
Enter the product pictured above. This $45 item is designed to provide the ability to output both HDMI and digital optical out simultaneously. Problem solved! Beautiful, isn’t it? It would be, if it weren’t a case of manipulative engineering. (I am reminded of an old “Monkees” episode, in which a computer designs toys to break almost immediately, so parents will enrich the toy company by continually buying replacements.)
If both an HDMI and the A/V cable could be plugged in simultaneously, there would be no need for this extra cable.
Enter the hack saw, and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. (A better way to do this would be to use a Dremel tool, but I do not happen to own one.) By carefully cutting into and removing the plastic on the Xbox 360’s included adapter, one can easily make enough room to plug in an HDMI cable. It will be a snug fit, but it should work without any difficulty. Embedded in the A/V cable’s plastic body is a metal shield that protects the connector and helps eliminate electromagnetic interference. Although it is acceptable to scratch it, be careful not to cut through it. Also watch out for the cord itself. The picture above should provide all the guidance you need.
As one might expect, there’s always the slight risk that you’ll damage the A/V cable while cutting it, in which case, you’re going to be spending that $45 anyway. Hey, I told you to be careful.