SCART Switches

Posted May 31, 2014

Thought I’d write a quick post about my experience with SCART switches, maybe an overlooked part of a multi-console setup that really helps simplify a potential mess (especially with a bag of these). I was only vaguely aware of the SCART standard before fiddling with old game systems. I knew the UK had it and we didn’t and that it was old and clunky which could mean it’s good, and it is. I was first forced to deal with it after buying an XRGB-mini, which comes with a Japanese SCART-to-mini-DIN adapter; SCART comes in two flavors, Japanese/RGB21 and Euro SCART. They’re really one in the same, just with differently wired pins. I replaced that adapter with a Euro-wired version from retro_console_accessories, which incidentally has a LM1881 sync stripper chip inside of it. Important to note since this little thing, while allowing maximum compatibility with various consoles, has caused a few snags along the way.

As I slowly realized many of the old game consoles could more or less send an RGB signal out natively with the right cable — in my case, the Genesis, SNES, and Saturn — I suddenly had three SCART cables I needed to swap in and out of the mini. Then I added two more: an Omega Neo Geo and an RGB-modded TurboGrafx-16. And once the Hanzo/Kenzei arrived for the Dreamcast there was now a total of 6 SCART leads to swap. It may be a hearty plug but those 21 pins probably wouldn’t survive years of swapping without some wear, plus pressing a button certainly seemed preferably lazy.

Initial switch research left me disappointed with conflicting reviews and availability. I started with Video Game Perfection’s list and then what RetroRGB put together, and sorted through forum threads for hours reading debates between one switch vs. another. It really came down to quality, compatibility and can you find the damn thing. After dropping good coin on the tasty riches that the Omega Neo Geo renders, I really didn’t want to pass it through crap technology that would diminish the image, like slapping a $5 filter on a Leica lens. But I couldn’t seem to find the good stuff, or it was no longer being made, or was overly priced on eBay.

Finally I settled on ordering a Bandridge from Amazon UK thinking it was a good compromise, available new and wasn’t powered, which I considered a plus at the time. It took forever to arrive and the shipping was more than the switch. Once it’s in your hands you realize how cheaply it’s made and certainly looks the part. I put it between a console and the mini, flipped the power bar on and at first it worked, then it didn’t. Some consoles and ports seemed more stable than others, but overall it stunk. A few forum posts helped clarify that being an unpowered switch coupled with that sync stripper in the mini’s adapter just wasn’t a good idea. Likely it could’ve been modified to work (several workarounds were discussed, pick one!), but I worried I’d screw it up having almost no experience or soldering equipment.

Around that time I came across a Neo-Geo Forums post about a US retailer selling the Shinybow SB-5525, a well built, powered switch that I initially dismissed after reading about some sync issues with the Megadrive (which I probably should’ve ignored since I’m using the 60Hz Genesis). It was pricey, but I took that as a good omen. After opening the box I was impressed by how solid it was, built with thick sheets of metal, 6 sturdy SCART ports, a simple remote and even a 6′ SCART cable. This Taiwanese creation made the Bandridge seem like something out of a bubble gum vending machine. This doesn’t really come across in the stock photos (especially since they left the protective plastic coating on the LCD screen), but believe me it’s a beauty. One by one every console fired up on the plasma and looked indistinguishable to my eye from being plugged directly into the mini. It even lessened some of the audio buzz I get from the Omega Neo Geo SCART cable.

The 6 ports are now full, but with images of a PC Engine Duo-R, NTSC-J Xbox 360, and NTSC-J PS2 dancing in my head, I may have to daisy chain a couple Shinybows, which seems stupidly expensive. Anyone want to buy a Bandridge SCART switch? It’s amazing.