SCART Switch Roundup

When it comes to getting the best picture from your retro-consoles, you all should know that RGB is the way to go and that SCART is the easiest way to get RGB from most retro consoles. If you’ve not already read our gamers guide to SCART, you might want to go there first to see why it’s worth going to all the trouble of getting SCART and SCART switching to work correctly. In that article we talked about the different types of SCART switch and established that there are only two types (which I’ve named passive manual and auto with manual override) that are generally compatible with games consoles. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to find a fully compatible SCART switch as it should be, it seems that manufacturers cut corners on SCART switching to save money. While these deficiencies don’t usually show up when using video recorders or DVD players, they can play havoc with the specially built SCART cables that many older games consoles require.

SCART switching – why so many issues?

As explained in our gamers guide to SCART, SCART is a 21 pin connector. For a switch to be fully compatible with all possible configurations, a SCART switch should switch and isolate all 21 pins. In practise, most configurations will work if only the pins for Red, Green, Blue, Sync, Audio Left and Audio Right are included in the switching. Furthermore, many switches do not fully isolate one socket from the other. Again, this is fine in the majority of cases, but what tends to happen is that the signal becomes degraded as it passes through the switching matrix, usually losing brightness.

Testing SCART switches

Note:- SCART is not strictly speaking, a hot-plug standard. That means that, really, you shouldn’t disconnect and reconnect equipment without powering it down first. While writing this article, however, that is exactly what I did, and I managed to get away without breaking anything, although I still wouldn’t recommend it.

To fully test SCART equipment, you should look at several factors:-

Brightness/picture noise:- The most common degradation when using bad SCART switches is loss of brightness, followed by picture noise. When testing a SCART switch for these problems, make sure that you fully populate the switch (in other words, make sure every socket on the switch has a SCART plug in it). Then, compare the brightness of the picture on at least two of the inputs, versus what you see when you plug the SCART cable directly into the display/processor. Check for any added picture noise too.

Isolation test:- This one’s easy, fully populate your SCART switch and switch it over to the first input. Now, power on every other input on the switch. A properly made SCART switch should not be affected by this, but the more cheaply made ones will show a picture degraded by the other inputs, or even a picture made up of the signal from several inputs.

Tested SCART switches

Below are some quick reviews of the SCART switches I’ve personally tested. If you have your own SCART switch that works well with games consoles, please leave a comment so that other people can benefit from your experiences.

Auto SCART switch with no manual overrideBlueDelta Smart SCART

Availability – Discontinued

I have perhaps been a little too critical of the BlueDelta Smart SCART in the past. Nevertheless the caveat remains that this is an auto switch with no manual override. If you try to use this switch with a SCART cable that’s not wired to spec (for instance on a typical PC Engine RGB conversion) you are likely to run into problems. Better SCART cable suppliers, such as the brilliant Retro Console Accessories on E-bay, do wire their cables correctly however. The appeal of a small, fully automatic switch is obvious of course, it can be tucked away behind the TV and forgotten, saving on clutter. Unlike the manual switches, you will need to find somewhere to connect the devices power supply to. If you switch on two connected devices at once, the Smart SCART will keep the input on the first connected device, this allows for this switch to be tested with the same criteria as the others:-

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- The Smart SCART actually produces a very nice, noise free image. Being powered and grounded it can improve on the image you might get through a fully manual switch. Nevertheless, careful testing is necessary and if you find that the picture degrades while playing or disappears unexpectedly, you may have a console or cable that’s simply not compatible. There are also concerns about the reliability of this device, with several users reporting that theirs ceased to function. A few months after starting to use mine again, the unit died on me, so keep this in mind if you buy one second hand.

Hama AV Selector 100S

Availability – Still widely available on the web.

Hama’s wedge shaped AV Selector 100s certainly wouldn’t win any prizes for aesthetics. Offering three SCART inputs, one SCART output and two composite video and stereo audio outputs, this switch is designed with VCR users in mind. The switch offers the option of passing one of the SCART inputs over to another for recording, but of course this is useless to you when just trying to play games. Fortunately we can just ignore these features, as long as the RGB button on the far left is pushed in, we’re good to go.

The buttons on the unit make a satisfying clunk when pushed and feel as if they are good quality. The audio from the composite video outputs can also be used to route to an external amplifier if necessary. Since output is via a SCART socket rather than a moulded wire, you can use any cable of your choosing with the unit and the sockets are spaced sufficiently apart that using more bulky SCART plugs will not be a problem.

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- Despite being told to avoid this switch by a poster on the Shmups forum, the AV Selector 100s actually passed all our tests easily. If placed next to your TV with cables spewing up from it, it’s unlikely to please spouses or girlfriends, but performance wise there’s no faulting it. It’s just a shame Hama don’t make a model with more inputs.

Hama SCART Switchbox 4/1 Model 42957

Availability – Check Amazon and other web retailers, often ships from Germany.

Hama have a reputation for producing high quality, no-frills AV equipment and the somewhat drably named 42957 certainly feels high quality. One of the more expensive manual switches, the switch has a weighty feel to it. The four available inputs are selected by a dial, which has a heavy, quality resistance to it as you turn it. There’s a space next to each input on the dial which is ideal for placing an identification sticker. Unlike a lot of other switches, this one does not have a SCART cable directly wired into the output, meaning you can use a cable of your own choosing to connect it to the display or to another switch.

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture. Some brightness loss is evident in our capture card picture quality tests (see below). Some users report some sharpness loss.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- Although it can be expensive (you may need to import it from Germany), this switch is good quality and generally recommended. Considering the small drop in picture brightness under more careful scrutiny with the capture card, you should probably consider other switches available at cheaper price points.

This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.

Keene SCART commander

Availability – Still sold on Keene.co.uk.

Keene’s AV gear always tends to be of a high standard and pleasingly the Keene SCART Commander is no exception to this. The Keene SCART Commander is packed with advanced features yet still comes in a small footprint. The SCART Commander is an automatic switch, but for those troublesome consoles there’s a remote that offers a full manual override. If you want to hide the switch away somewhere behind your TV, the remote control receiver thoughtfully comes on an extension wire, allowing the switch itself to be tucked anywhere while the IR receiver can peek out at the front.

If four SCART sockets aren’t enough for you, it’s possible to daisy chan two SCART Commanders together and control them from the same remote. There’s even a RGBHV output and support for switching 31khz signals (pins 10 and 12 on the SCART plug are used for horizontal and vertical sync).

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion – A high quality, robust and versatile product. Keene are now selling these for around £50 each. At that price they represent excellent value for money, highly recommended.

This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.

Mad Katz SCART switchMad Katz Universal RGB SCART System Selector

Availability:- Seems to be discontinued, keep an eye on E-bay or Amazon marketplace for a bargain.

Mad Katz are a well known third party peripheral manufacturer, making everything from controllers to cables for all kinds of consoles. The quality of their peripherals varies widely, but their Universeal SCART selector is cream of the crop.

Offering four inputs, the device is housed in plastic with the Mad Katz logo on the front and a simple 4 way sliding switch to select the input. The switch looks a little small when seen on a picture, but in practise it works well and feels solid. The unit also has four suction-cups on the underside, which stick relatively well to smooth surfaces (apply a little water for best effect). Output is via a moulded SCART cable and plug, so no using your own cables this time. The cable is only 1 meter long, but you can always use a SCART coupler and another cable if the supplied cable just won’t reach.

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- A real little bargain, cheap but engineered with videogames in mind, this little switch outperforms many more expensive switching solutions. Highly recommended, if you can find one snap it up.

This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.

SCART Switch Manual Push Button 5 Way (also similar models with 3 or 4 inputs and/or phono/BNC connectors)

Availability – Widely available from E-bay and online.

This often unbranded switch goes by several names, including “Nedis Silver Scart Switch Box 5 Way”, “5 Way SCART Selector SLX Gold”, “Professional 4 Way Scart Switching Box” and probably several others. It’s easily identified by its black or silver case and push button switches. To select an input you press in the button, to deselect it you simply release the button. Like most other budget switches, output is via a moulded cable with a SCART plug on the end.

Brightness/noise test:- Failed. Significant noise added to the picture, picture significantly dimmed.

Isolation test:- Failed, deselected inputs were not isolated from current input at all.

Conclusion:- Not suitable for videogamers or anyone concerned with picture quality.

1_SB-5525Shinybow/Skytronic 6:2 SCART Matrix Switcher (SB-5525)

Availability – Still available online, but getting harder to find.

Big thanks to Srrae from the Sega Saturn UK forums for lending me one of these SCART switches to review. In the UK, Shinybow’s switches are often re-branded and sold as Skytronic, though the hardware itself is the same, right down to the packaging, which simply has a yellow Skytronic sticker added to the side of the box.

The Shinybow switches have an excellent reputation around the web. The unit itself is constructed from sturdy metal and has a quality feel to it. The SCART plugs on the back of the unit are positioned vertically. This means the unit can look untidy when fully populated, but the sockets are well spaced, meaning no problems fitting fatter SCART cables/plugs next to each other. Switching between inputs is done either via a push button on the front, which cycles through the available inputs, or via a remote control. The unit has two SCART outputs, each output is independent and can be assigned to any of the six inputs. For instance, if you had a dual display setup you could route console 1 to TV 1 and console 2 to TV 2 through the Shinybow.

Brightness/noise test:- Failed, no noticeable brightness lost from picture but picture instability/wobble added, but ONLY on the Sega Megadrive (see below for more details).

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Given the units excellent reputation, it came as a little bit of a surprise that I had some issues with it. I normally test using the Sega Megadrive and the pack-a-punched SCART cable I reviewed here. In this setup, the Shinybow caused significant picture instability. There was a noticeable wobble to the picture. Strangely this was eliminated by switching back to a standard, composite video for sync SCART cable, but of course when using something like an XRGB3, the raw sync cable is essential. I also tested the Sega Saturn with a raw sync SCART cable and had no issues with that system, so the Megadrive seems to be an anomaly. Srrae also reported issues when using a Shinybow 4:2 switch with a Commodore Amiga computer (which has raw sync as standard).

Conclusion:- A quality switch, but not without issues. Go for the Keene SCART Commander unless you need the 2 way SCART outputs.

This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.

Trilogy 1 Auto SCART hubSilverscreen Trilogy 1

Availability – Discontinued, but worth hunting for

The Trilogy 1 is an auto switch with push button manual override. It’s features put it in a class above most SCART switches and a full review of the device could cover an entire article in its own right. It’s the kind of high quality SCART switchbox that used to be readily available before most high-end AV equipment changed over to HDMI. The Trilogy has five SCART inputs and can even output the same signal to two displays at once, ideal for more complex setups (the XRGB3 and DVDO Edge tandem set-up for instance). Switching is automatic, or by push button on the front or remote control where a manual override is needed. There’s also a separate analogue audio output connector for routing the audio to an amplifier.

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- I’ve personally owned a Trilogy 1 for many years. In my games setup it forms the central hub from which all my other switches are chained. I even use it to route component video (480p and 720p) via a simple adaptor. The device has always been flawless in operation (as long as the cables at the back are properly seated) up until recently, when it developed a fault with the matrix switching (basically, it would no longer function as a 4 in 2 out device). If I had to pick a fault, it’s that the SCART sockets at the back are quite close together, meaning that bulkier SCART cables tend not to fit. Find yourself some quality flat headed cables however and this problem is solved. Highly recommended.

Thor AV Control Centre AVC-100/28570T

Availability – Possibly discontinued

Easily the most aesthetically pleasing switch in our roundup, the Thor AV Control Centre is a completely superb bit of AV kit. Housed in an attractive metal chassis, measuring 47.5cm long, 25.5cm deep and 4.5cm high, the most striking thing on the switch is the super-bright LCD on the front of the unit. When I first got the switch in to review, I actually thought it was faulty. What I didn’t realize was it was powered off, the LCD goes from bright to really bright when you actually power it on.

The neat thing about the LCD is that it’s programmable and rather than displaying which number input is selected, you can actually change it to DVD, XBOX, GAME and a number of other things. Sadly you can’t enter your own names for devices, but it’s still a very neat feature. Note that these presets, as well as the LCD clock on the unit, are lost if the unit is powered down, so keep it plugged in if you want to maintain them. The SCART sockets on the back are all RGB enabled and the switch will work as a 5 in 1 out or 4 in 2 out switch (though I have not tested it in this mode). Over on the far right there’s even a couple of analogue audio outputs so that audio can be routed directly to an amplifier.

Brightness/noise test:- Passed, no noticeable noise added, no noticeable brightness lost from picture.

Isolation test:- Passed, zero crosstalk from other inputs.

Conclusion:- The Thor switch is fantastic, no two ways about it. It supports every kind of signal you might want to throw down a SCART cable (including component video). Quality wise the switch is faultless. On equipment that is very noise-prone, such as component video from the PS2, the Thor outperformed other powered switches and produced an image that was almost completely noise free. Even chaining other switches from the unit resulted in no quality loss whatsoever, making this an excellent choice for a central hub in more complex switching set-ups. If I had to pick a fault with the unit, it would be that the sockets are quite close together, meaning that more bulky SCART connectors may have difficulty connecting next to each other. In practice however I don’t see this being a problem for most users and the Thor is still absolutely 100% recommended.

This switch has now been tested for picture quality using a capture card, click here to see how it performed.

Cypress SC-AMP-2 Active Scart Splitter

Availability – Try here (UK) or here (AUS)

This isn’t a SCART switch, but it might be of help in certain setups. Perhaps you own an XRGB3 and a DVDO Edge or other processor. You might want to use the DVDO’s deinterlacing for 480i material and the XRGB3′s upscaling for all 240p material. Of course, it all comes down the same SCART wire which means a cable swap unless you have a switch with multiple outputs (like the Shinybow for instance). Adding a SC-AMP2 to the setup is an easy solution. You feed in one SCART signal and get two identical ones out. There’s no perceivable loss of quality (the splitter requires power, of course) and both RGB and Component video is supported. Sadly it seems as if the SC-AMP2 may be  discontinued, if you need a SCART splitter and you can find this model, it will work perfectly. Keene Electronics also make a similar SCART splitter (and a 4 way model) but I have not tested them and cannot comment on how well they work.

SCART switches tested by other gamers

I’ll list any SCART switches that have been tested by other gamers down here. I have not tested most of these devices personally so cannot comment on the accuracy of the reviews.

5 way SCART switcher splitter switch box (black, push button, looks like a door step, as sold by Oakfield Leisure on E-bay) – Not recommended – picture significantly dimmed (XRGB3 user ‘Rock Man’).

Bandridge Premium Performance 5-Way SCART Selector – Recommended (User Thomago in shmups forum).

Joytech AV Control Center JS965 – Recommended (Konsolkongen from Shmups forum).

Logik Audio/Video 4 in 1 Multi SCART Adaptor – Not recommended (Sega Saturn UK forum) (no manual override?).

Marmitek Connect 236 Scart Switcher – Not recommended – Picture shapmess degraded, colours degraded, additional outputs appear to be composite only. (Blizzz from the Shmups forum)

Shinybow SCART Matrix 6:2 Switch – Recommended (shmups forum).

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