After reading their MacWorld ads for several months, I called up Hagai Gefen at Gefen Inc., and ordered a quantity of what I’ve jokingly referred to as “Gefen Gizmos” – large and small black and silver boxes and rack units with orange lettering. After they arrived, I spent an entire weekend moving all my DAW equipment down to the basement machine room located directly beneath my control room, and running the Gefen cables through precut holes in the floor between the two rooms. I also removed all my CRT monitors, leaving only the 22-inch Apple Cinema Display and 18.1-inch NEC 1850X perched on the same Roland master keyboard I used in Tennessee. Some things didn’t have to change!
So what exactly did Gefen send me, and did I connect it? First, I’ll list the equipment I told Hagai I needed to interface. My MOTU/TC PowerCore DAW #1 resides in a Quicksilver dual-gig Mac, and it is that system to which the two LCD monitors, Apple keyboard and Kensington wireless mouse were originally connected. But then there’s DAW #2 – my vintage ’92 Dyaxis II setup with its own collection of hard disks. The Dyaxis processor presently runs on a Mac 9600 to which I’ve recently added a Sonnet Crescendo 800 MHz G4 accelerator. By simply adding a modern ATI dual-head video card to the 9600, that Mac became capable of driving two large LCD monitors.
My third DAW is a Merging Pyramix PC, with its own collection of hard disks. It also is capable of dual-head video output to large LCD monitors.
Gefen first suggested one of their “ex-tend-it” series, the 2×2 DVI Switcher ($799) – a single rack-space unit about five inches deep. Its rear panel is completely populated with connectors, enough on its input side to connect the dual-video outputs from two computers, along with their USB and stereo audio ports and, on its output side, connectors for the two monitors, two duplicate USB ports for keyboards/mice, and 1/8-inch stereo audio. From my point of view, the single most important connector on back is a little RJ-type female on the end of the right side, to which one connects a tiny wired remote control which duplicates the two front panel switches (labeled ‘1’ and ‘2’). Thus, I can now switch between two computer systems either down at the switcher unit, or upstairs which, of course, was my goal.
After a little telephone troubleshooting help from Gefen’s support staff, I was up and running. The 2×2 DVI Switcher was able to take, via appropriate adapter cables, my Apple ADC outputs, strip them of their USB connections in order to become plain and simple DVI signals, send them along their way upstairs to the Cinema Display and, through another tiny unit called the “ex-tend-it DVI to ADC Conversion Box” ($149), output a signal which pleased the Apple monitor. The USB was sent separately; all I lost was the ability to power on the G4 from the Cinema Display’s switch – a small loss considering all that I gained!
The VGA output from the other sides of my two Macs’ video cards was similarly adapted to pass through the Gefen switcher’s DVI-A connector as analog video, through the switcher, and upstairs where it entered the VGA connector side of my dual-input NEC 1850X LCD monitor. It didn’t matter what format the original video signal was in, everything could pass through the Gefen switcher and, eventually, mate back up with my two dissimilar monitors.
Now what about Pyramix, my third DAW? No sweat! I sent its DVI video output directly upstairs to the NEC’s second (DVI-style) input, while sending its VGA output up to another little Gefen peripheral located in the control room, this time their “ex-tend-it VGA to ADC Conversion Box” ($299). Gefen also sent me one of the ex-tend-it 4×1 VGA Switchers ($499), which is another one rack-space box similar to their 2×2 DVI Switcher. Why? Well, it just so happens that I also own two laptops (a Toshiba Satellite and a new 12-inch G4 Mac PowerBook), as well as an old mongrel Pentium III PC in the basement, which I occasionally use for “PC stuff.” With this Gefen box installed upstairs, I succeeded in running VGA lines from all of them to my NEC monitor, and by switching the Gefen’s four front panel switches between 1 to 4, can switch mirror or extended desktop displays from each of them in turn, as well as from the main VGA output from the downstairs 2×2 DVI Switcher and share a single keyboard/mouse and stereo audio channel between them.
Are you kidding? Send this stuff back? No way! I’m completely spoiled. Gefen gizmos are great!
Prices: 2×2 DVI Switcher ($799), DVI to ADC Conversion Box ($149), VGA to ADC Conversion Box ($299), 4×1 VGA Switcher ($499), ADC Switcher ($449)
Contact: Gefen Inc. at 800-545-6900, www.gefen.com.