Introducing the Geek Cave

I think I’ve finally reached a man cave pinnacle and figured I would share my dark side of geekdom.  In the early stages of planning our current home there was serious consideration and design time spent on our bonus room with the full intent to transform it into a theater room.  As a result, a lot of the power, audio wiring, cat6 and component mounts were all put in place as the walls were being constructed.  Once the house was completed, the next steps just involved hooking everything up the way I wanted it.  There has been a few iterations of the configuration as technology was upgraded and new offerings came out for gaming, but this is the current XBox360 layout.  Somewhat embarrassing, it should really be classified more as a Geek Cave (cut me some slack on the image, it took me all of about 2 minutes to crank it out in PaintShop Pro.

If you are having difficulty figuring it out (and I highly doubt that), my game of choice is Rock Band along with the new Rocksmith offering my friends gave me for Christmas.  Since the day I went over to Pakage’s to check out Guitar Hero I’ve been addicted to that type of music themed game and although originally focused on the guitar peripherals, I’ve since become enamored with the drums (for the record I’m running in the top 2% on the Xbox leaderboards for Pro Drums).  A downside to that migration is the atrophying of the plastic guitar skills – Pakage is pretty much our foundation on the guitar and Billy now anchors the vocals which are not depicted since he brings over his professional mic and modified receiver for that functionality.

Assuming a colorform-esq picture isn’t going to satisfy your graphic needs, hit the jump and I’ll take you through all the elements (complete with photos!)

So for starters, the Ion electronic drumkit upgrade to the original fake drums was a must.  During the course of Rock Band I and II we managed to go through two sets of drums thanks to literally shattering the plastic bases of the toms.  There was also a lot of modding going on with the plastic stomp pedal to improve that performance (and double kick speed), but eventually that started running into trouble as well.  Linda was nice enough to get me the Ion set as a Christmas present along with the 3 accessory cymbals.  Since them, all the cymbals have been upgraded with better ones.  Improved Alesis replacement pressure sensitive toms were also acquired.  Looks like there will be another round of improvements on the toms as I’m looking at a set of Roland ones that have a mesh construction that mimics a real drum feel (and hopefully cut down on the banging noise.  Add a nice throne and it’s good to go.

Linda also bought me the metal Rock Band stomp petal which is a real pedal modified with a magnet coil to detect when the pedal is pressed.  This provided an incredible improvement on the double and triple stomps and gave a realistic feel to the bass.  The next upgrade was to move to a Roland bass pad along with the pedal’s hammer (it was not needed with the old magnet sensor).  So now we have a real drum pedal with the full feel of hitting the bass – note, a padding was added to the heel section to make it easier while playing without shoes (have to protect the feet for running season)

With the instrument portion done, the next critical piece was the converter for the XBox signal.  The Ion set came with a converter that worked pretty good, but it was a special unit that took the 1/4″ jacks directly from the toms and cymbals and outputted a USB signal for the Xbox.  This worked pretty good, but required me to split all of my cabling in order to have one signal go to the Xbox converter and the other signal be sent to a drum head when being used as a real drumset (due to Xbox wiring, both ends of the split could not be connected at the same time forcing me to disconnect and reconnect all the wires each time – suckage).  Luckily, Madcatz put out a new Midi XBox Controller that took a midi signal in and converted it to the XBox USB signal.  This works awesome!  Now all the toms and cymbals wire directly to a drum head and then the midi-out is piped through the MadCatz controller to the XBox console.  This allows me to get the real drum signal at the same time as the Xbox! (heaven)

Oh, on the drum head piece I am using the Alesis DM5 unit which works quite well allowing me to dial in whatever sound I want for each of the drum components, vary the output strength and drive out any crosstalk that may occur.  Now I can play the real drums whenever I want or simply turn on the XBox for a little game drumming.

What good is an electronic drumset if you can’t hear it right!  That was addressed by a Simmons DA50 amp which pumps out a rooming filling beat.  When playing I can actually feel a breeze from the speaker (Sorry honey, I can’t hear you hehehe)

Of course we went ahead and purchased the keyboard component.  The original thought was that Linda would be more eager to participate in our little band, but that didn’t happen as expected – the motion of the game play does work well for her and I just think she prefers to mock us.  Billy’s wife is actually our keyboard ace in the hole when she has the opportunity to make it over for Rock Night.

And now let me show you the newest addition to the Rock Band instrument set.  Thanks to Pakage and SiC we now have the MadCatz Fender mustang Pro Guitar.  One word for this and that is “wow”.  This is not the easiest piece of equipment to master and has actually put us back to square one on our guitar scores.  It is definitely a little closer to a real guitar in the sense it has 6 rows of buttons representing the 6 strings of real guitar with 17 frets.  At the bottom are real strings that are then plucked to produce the note.  I have an advantage over Pakage in that I know how to play a real guitar but he’ll catch up soon for sure.  If there is a downside to this guitar, it would be how light it is and the onscreen symbols are  hard to figure out at the speed of the game.

Also new to the band (and again thanks to Linda) is the Fendor Stratocaster.  This does not have the pro features (standard button functionality with a lever for the activation), but looks and feels like a real guitar.   It actually has a very nice cherry red finish and an accessory port to use a stomp box to kick it in overdrive.

As mentioned previously, I now have the new RockSmith game (also from Pakage and SiC).  This allows you to hook a real guitar directly to the Xbox through a special cable that plugs into the standard guitar jack and the other end to the USB input for the XBox.  This game is awesome and finally gives me the ability to use my real guitars in a game setting.  Actually, it isn’t so much a game as it is a trainer providing a tabbed based interface to progress through real songs and challenges.  Beware, the game decides when you are getting better and automatically makes it harder and harder in order to push you.  Now that I’m sweating through the sessions I wish I could have control of when it gets more difficult.  I was not sure what effect it would have on my real guitars, so right now it is hooked up to my least expensive Fendor Scorpion Telecaster.

Of course that doesn’t replace the fun of jacking into a large amp and blowing the doors down.  A Fender DeVille HotRod Deluxe dual input tube amp does the trick!  It actually goes to 12 on the volume dial and it has NEVER been above 5 due to how loud that amp can crank

Of course the preferred game unit is the XBox 360.  Yes, there were two required purchases of this unit thanks to the bouts of “Red Ring of Death” coupled by inconsistent overheating of the DVD drive causing lock ups.  The top one came with a larger hard drive and has been reliable up to this point (knock on wood).  Thanks to liberal purchases of songs that drive is about full so there is now a 250G hard drive just waiting to be installed.  Having built in the boonies are internet options are pretty limited.  Our wired connectivity goes through HughesNet which wreaks havoc on the XBox Marketplace – essentially it will not work at all which is a pain when trying to get your scores uploaded to the leaderboards or purchase songs.  Linda ended up getting me the wireless uplink for the XBox so we can use our Verizon Hotspot.  This works perfectly and we can now sync our scores directly to the leaderboards (and we are definitely making our mark).  The room was designed to have a 7:1 surround speaker system and Onkyo was the peripheral of choice.  Well, to be honest, it was designed for a 7:2 system but I have not found a need to put the second bass in at all!

… and then there is the main feature of the room.  What good is a man cave … sorry geek cave without a big screen to enjoy.  Due to the distance we needed to throw and the size we were striving for, the Panasonic projector was selected.  It took awhile to design the mounting components (it is actually on a slant) but thanks to some forethought extra support was put in behind the wall.

Here is a wider view of the room towards the back so you can see the back/side speakers, the projector and the comfy theater chairs we purchased for the room.  Those babies can essentially lay flat if you want them to.

and the shot to the front shows the front speaker system and the 165″ diagonal screen wall (basically goes slightly inside the front channel speakers and from the crease below the center channel to just above the trim).

This is when I give the Tim Allen man grunt.  From the days of tearing hair out trying to figure out where to run all the wires it is has come a long way.  There are a few tweaks coming (with the new drum parts etc.) but for the most part it matches the vision.  Now all we need to do is find a time when everyone can break free from their busy schedules and jam.

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