Over the years I'd purchased various audio/video switchboxes from RadioShack, all of which had functioned reliably. Thus, when I bought the subject of this review—RadioShack’s Composite A/V Selector Switch Model 15-312—I expected no untoward surprises.
However, about a year ago, when I initially tried using this current model as a replacement for my older (circa-2006) switchbox—RadioShack’s discontinued Model 15-1982—this newer model 15-312 totally disappointed me by (I hypothesize) failing to conduct audio signals adequately. [Note: This model 15-312’s included “User’s Guide” (fold-open booklet) states: "For best performance, use high-quality cables.” (The boldfacing is mine.) All I can say is that the quality and conductivity of the pertinent cabling in that setup has long been—and still is—sufficient for my other, earlier RadioShack switchbox model (the above-mentioned 15-1982) to function satisfactorily.]
Whatever the actual cause of the snafu may have been, the bottom line was that I couldn’t obtain any perceptible level of audio whatsoever! (I phoned the folks at the local RadioShack store where I’d bought this item; but they were likewise at a loss regarding why this unit didn’t work in that initial setup, which I’d carefully described to them.)
You see, I’d long been using RadioShack’s earlier Model 15-1982 to switch between a Durabrand portable CD player and a pair of Sony model CDP-CX455 400-disc CD/MP3 players (the latter two Sony units being connected to each other via Sony's proprietary—and evidently now discontinued—"CONTROL A1II" system). Thus I’d only used that circa-2006 switchbox for audio, not video, switching. It had functioned dependably in that mode, allowing me easily and quickly to switch between my cheapo Durabrand and costlier Sony disc players.
But this current model 15-312 switchbox was worthless to me in that particular setup. Hence, I proceeded to try it, instead, in my upstairs billiard room, where I had a couple of video-game consoles: a Nintendo Wii and a white, slim-line, vertical Sony PlayStation 2.
Eureka! Installed in that setup, this RadioShack A/V switchbox suddenly worked fully splendidly. Not only did it conduct basic composite-video signals with no visible loss of resolution, but also it conducted basic stereo-audio signals with no perceptible loss of clarity.
Price. Not including sales tax, I paid $18.99 (at a local, brick-and-mortar RadioShack store) for this product.
Dimensions and weight. This agreeably compact, two-way switchbox measures approximately 4 & 1/8 inches (width) by 2.5 inches (front-to-back depth) by 1.5 inches (height). Though I confessedly don’t presently feel like unplugging this already installed switchbox’s cables and toting it downstairs for precise weighing on my kitchen scale, suffice it to say this unit’s trifling heft feels closely comparable to that of my other, analogous RadioShack switchbox model (the aforementioned “15-1982”)—i.e., about 5 ounces. [After tentatively penning the prior sentence, I proceeded to double-check at RadioShack's website, which states this product weighs 4.96 ounces!]
Construction and styling. This mostly black, suitably stylish switchbox’s housing is subtly textured—not glossy—and is fashioned of reasonably durable, impact-resistant plastic. Its tastefully beveled, slightly convex top should harmonize pleasingly with most contemporary entertainment centers' gear. The two slightly protruding pushbuttons are molded of hard (not rubbery), medium-gray plastic. The familiar RadioShack logo is nicely printed in gray characters at the upper-center area of the top surface.
Main panel. To switch instantly between my connected Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 2 video-game consoles, all I need do is press downward either of this switchbox's (1 & 1/16-inch wide by 1/2-inch deep) top-mounted buttons, which are themselves unmarked but readily distinguishable via the respective "A" and "B" labels attached slightly "behind and above" them. When either button is pressed fully downward, it audibly clicks, and a narrow, color-coded strip (above the "A" or "B" label) changes from "black" to "green" to indicate that that channel is "active."
Unfortunately, in contrast with the aforementioned silvery model 15-1982 switchbox, this black model 15-312’s “A/B-indicator slits” (openings) are at least marginally narrower (and the underlying green strips are just enough recessed) such that—if your installation location’s ambient lighting is at all subdued—those underlying green "A" or "B" activation indicators are virtually indiscernible unless you peer unusually closely into the slits. [Regarding those underlying strips of green, against this stylistically "updated" switchbox model's adjacent black housing, some brighter hue (e.g., white or silver) should have replaced green, so as to enhance the noticeability of the A/B-activation indicators.] Fortunately, however, the typical user doesn’t actually need to rely on those greenish indicators to ascertain that the “A,” or the “B,” button has been pushed sufficiently downward to achieve the pertinent signal switchover. For, not only can you fairly adequately discern the extended (“up”) or depressed (“down”) position of either black-plastic button itself (vis-à-vis the alternative, adjacent button), but also you can fairly loudly hear—and palpably feel—that the button has fully clicked into (or out of) your selected setting.
Rear panel. The rear of this unit comprises two sets of color-coded, gold-plated input (VIDEO/AUDIO-LEFT/AUDIO-RIGHT) and one set of analogous output (VIDEO/AUDIO-LEFT/AUDIO-RIGHT) "RCA" jacks. All the respective jacks are legibly labeled and easily distinguishable. Video jacks are yellow; and audio jacks are red (right channel) and white (left channel).
The base. The underside of this unit has four round, glued-on rubber feet. After a full year of use, all four feet remain intact; however, I wouldn't be surprised if one or more feet could come detached after a decade or more of continual use. But even if one or more of those feet were missing, those rubbery appendages are so trivially shallow that it wouldn't unduly hamper the unit's tabletop stability.
Stickers and instructions. This product comes packaged inside a colorfully illustrated box (made of extra-durable, corrugated cardboard) in which you can conveniently store its associated enclosures, comprising the following items (some or all of which, methinks, many consumers could safely opt to ignore or discard—considering the obvious simplicity of this two-way, manually operated switchbox):
1. A sheet of 60 removable, self-adhesive "device stickers" for replacing the aforementioned (already attached) "A" and "B" labels to designate this switchbox's (two) buttons' respective functions. For example, you could replace one or both of the already attached "A" and "B" labels with any of the following pre-printed, self-adhesive labels (all of which are in gray, uppercase characters, and which I'll list in the order of their occurrence on the sheet): "AUX," "CD," "CABLE," "SATELLITE," "CD-R," "TV," "VCR," "CASSETTE," "VCR 2," "DVD," "DVD 2," "AUDIO 2," "DVD 2," "AUDIO 2," "AUDIO," "HM. THEATER," "CAMCORDER," "GAME," "GAME 2," GAME 3," "CBL/SAT," "CAMERA," "A," "B," "C," "D," "E." [Note that there are also six blank stickers allowing you to write your own designations on them.]
2. Two sheets of 50 (for a total of 100) removable, self-adhesive “cable labels” to give your hookups identities. [Note: These include all of the device designations that I listed in “Section 1” (immediately above), not to mention numerous blank stickers allowing you to write your own designations on them.]
3. A multi-folded sheet of paper comprising the “User’s Guide.” One side includes English text, and the opposite side Spanish. Several straightforward, black-and-white photos and line drawings make it easy for even the greenest user to connect this switchbox to his audio/video devices.
4. An additional multi-folded sheet comprising a “Quick Start” guide whose simplicity is even more pronounced than that of the above “User’s Guide.”
Again, this product is so easy to connect and operate that the majority of consumers should find it quite unnecessary to resort to any of the above enclosures. Merely glancing at the unit's unambiguously labeled top and rear could suffice.
Note: Although the following additional instructions don’t appear on this product’s documentation (as they did with RadioShack’s analogous, aforementioned, circa-2006 model 15-1982 two-way switchbox), I figure they could still apply with this current model 15-312:
"Do not use audio cables for video."
"For best results, do not place [the unit] on top of your TV; electromagnetic interference from the TV might distort the sound from any devices connected to the selector."
"... wipe [the unit] with a damp cloth occasionally to keep it looking new."
Presumably this Chinese-made switchbox will work satisfactorily for the majority of consumers and installations. However, it initially failed to work for me as an audio switch (in the first installation that I described above).
Fortunately, this product does work perfectly—switching both composite video and audio signals—within the second aforementioned installation where I tried it, After one full year of moderate use in that setup, this Model 15-312 continues to prove itself not only a reliably functional switchbox but an appealingly configured component, what with its updated (i.e., lower-profile, more compact, gently convex, and mostly black) design.
In any case, all of my experiences with numerous purchases at RadioShack stores suggest that if you return an unusable product reasonably promptly—along with the original sales receipt—you'll have absolutely no trouble obtaining a quick and "courteous" refund.
For my present purposes RadioShack’s Composite A/V Selector Switch Model 15-312 is pretty much an easy-to-use, well-styled, well-constructed product that works satisfyingly. I won’t be surprised if it ends up providing two or more decades of trouble-free service. [My two earliest, comparable RadioShack "Archer" switchbox models have actually lasted that long.] In light of that expectation, this unit's included three-month warranty seems more laughable than noteworthy.
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