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Ok, an update on this. I returned the RT2x in question and Matt tested it only to find it to be working identically to his own unit. That relieved me to troubleshoot elsewhere once I got it back. He sent me a replacement unit anyway to ease any lingering doubts I might have since the initial knee-jerk reaction.
So, the noise
This seems like an issue that is only visible
a) when the screen goes black, like it’s amplifying the signal when there’s nothing there really
b) up close to the TV and certainly not while sitting on the couch
So, while interesting, it’s a non-issue in practical use.
The silence of the Megadrive
This may be an issue with my console but in case anybody else is experiencing the same, I was able to work around it with one of these deleyCON HDMI audio inserters. I’ve used one previously to mirror my computer’s video and audio to the TV without having to switch audio devices (which is a hassle) or software route the audio (which is prone to breaking on its own). So, the deleyCON gets HDMI video from the RT2x and analog audio directly from the YbPbPr switch and mixes the two together to an HDMI out. Plugging this to the TV then works.