If there’s one thing missing from most arcade stick solutions on the market these days, it’s the option for a headset jack, To address this, Brook Design LLC. has come up with a new iteration of their PS4+ Audio Fighting Board that comes with just that. The folks over at Brook were kind enough to send us a sample of this new Fighting Board for me to review.
Now this review was a bit more complicated than most others that I’ve done. Seeing as this was just a PCB and not a complete arcade stick, we had to find an arcade stick to put this in. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that most arcade sticks these days don’t exactly have the holes for a headphone jack. Luckily, I had an old MadCatz Arcade FightStick Korean Edition for the Xbox 360 on hand to use. For some extra help, I turned to local modder Krimpai Mods for some help in getting the build done.
But before that, let’s turn to the basics of this PCB.
The Brook PS4+ Audio Fighting Board consists of two PCBs. A compact main PCB which is the brains of the whole setup, and a smaller PCB that contains the headphone jack.
The main PCB uses screw terminals for wiring up the controls of an arcade stick. Meanwhile, the USB cable and the headphone jack PCB are connected using pin terminals. The headphone jack PCB itself is a unique, T-shaped deal with the pin terminals and headphone jack on a board that bisects a second board. This second board can be used to help mount the headphone jack PCB (more on that later).
Also included in the package is a connector that connects the two PCBs. The connector itself splits into two, with four and five pin connectors plugging into the main PCB, and a single 9 pin one onto the headphone jack PCB.
Putting it all together
Seeing as the PS4+ Audio Fighting Board uses screw terminals, the one thing that many beginning builders tend to be wary of is already taken care of. Yep, no soldering needed here as connecting the controls of an arcade stick is as simple as sticking the wires in to their corresponding holes. The wiring strip on the KE makes this job much easier as well, especially with the stick’s Start and Select (Options and Share on PS4) buttons, since they aren’t arcade buttons, but rather rubber dome deals at the back of the case.
The real trick with this (and similar PCBs) is figuring out how to stick them onto an arcade stick. To help out with this, the PS4+ Audio Fighting Board comes with four screw holes in the corner. These can be used to either screw the board onto an arcade stick (something like the honeycomb screw board on the Razer Panthera comes to mind), or in some builds, tying it down using cable ties and some hot glue.
For the MadCatz Korean Edition, there was enough extra plastic under the top panel to mount the PCB. The PCB’s small size also helps in this regard. For those wondering why we didn’t just mount the PCB on the “floor” of the arcade stick, take note that it is made of metal, and putting the PCB there would cause shorts.
Lego is our friend
For mounting the headphone jack PCB, we had a bit of a problem. While the PCB would line up with the hole, there MadCatz’s internals weren’t really designed to hold anything but their own chips. To get past this, we had to use a rather unique solution – Lego bricks.
Using a Lego brick, our friends at Krimpai Mods, built a makeshift mounting for the headphone jack PCB. Keeping this all together is a generous amount of every modder’s best friend – hot glue.
The result of this, is surprisingly stable. More importantly, it allows us to tear it all apart quite easily should the need ever arise.
How it all comes together
The final build came off beautifully. From the outside, the stick in question looks like a stock MadCatz KE. It’s only when you plug the stick into a PlayStation 4 does one realize the fact that it’s modded.
The headphone jack itself works great. Now take note that we aren’t audiophiles by any degree, so we can’t really make any calls on audio quality. However, the the important thing is that headsets work and that the audio quality is clear enough for us to hear the game being played. Just to be thorough, we tested multiple devices on the board, from a cheap set of earbuds to a pair of Astro Gaming A30 cans.
The only issue we encountered was having to deal with the 8 minute lockout due to a firmware update on PlayStation 4. As Brook’s boards aren’t official Sony licensed products, firmware updates on PlayStation 4 will occasionally break their compatibility and cause them to time out after 8 minutes. Happily, Brook does release updated firmware for their boards quickly, and downloading the latest one for the PS4+ Audio Fighting Board resolved the issue.
We also tried the board out on PC to see if the audio would work, despite not being advertised as such, but sadly it didn’t work. Now while this is something that the board isn’t advertised as being able to do, it would have been a nice bonus if it did work on PC.
Brook has garnered a reputation for quality, unlicensed, controller solutions for modern consoles. They’ve done so with products that tend to address a need that their officially licensed competition does not cover. The PS4+ Audio Fighting Board continues this tradition. Not only does it offer something other retail grade arcade sticks in the market do not (headphone jack support), it does so in a manner that makes it relatively easy to swap into any existing arcade stick or custom build. Combined with Brook’s general quickness in releasing firmware updates whenever Sony’s own firmware causes issues, this is a board we can wholeheartedly recommend.
- Ease of installation (no soldering required)
- Audio component works as advertised on PlayStation
- Firmware updates help defeat the PS4’s 8 minute lockout for unlicensed controllers
- Comes with old firmware. Needs to be updated or else it will suffer from the PS4’s 8 minute lockout for unlicensed controllers.