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6th March 2012 – Another update – I had chance to test a T-Rex Fuel Tank Junior, it is unsuitable for games consoles since it does not have enough ampage to power them on its outputs.
If you run a lot of retro consoles in your games room then one of the problems you will encounter is how to provide enough power sockets for your setup. You can of course buy lots of multi-outlet extension leads. These can even be daisy chained to a sensible degree, as the power requirements of retro-consoles are typically quite slim. However, this usually still leaves you with several bulky power adapters that clutter up your setup.
There are several solutions to this problem. Musicians who operate several electric guitar pedals often use products such as the the T-Rex Fuel tank. This useful little device gives a total of nine 9-volt outputs and one 12 volt output. At around £100 though, its not the cheapest option (and it also may not provide enough ampage for games consoles). There are cheaper products from T-Rex too, but many of them output 12 volts rather than 9. For gamers, 9 volts is the sweet spot and one other potential solution comes in the shape of the Keene DCHUB. I’ve added a DCHUB to my setup and so I’d like to present you all with this little overview of how I got on with it.
The DCHUB is housed in a plastic case with the Keene logo raised on the top. At the front of the unit there’s a Power LED and 5 LED’s that are supposed to light when a DC output is in use. In practice however these LED’s seem to simply stay lit whenever the unit has power, regardless of what’s plugged into the front. At £45 plus shipping without a power supply unit, the DCHUB is not cheap, if you buy Keene’s recommended power supply along with the unit, that will set you back another £30. However, the Keene branded power supply outputs at 15 volts and so is of little use to us.
According to the documentation, the output of the DCHUB will be approximately 1 volt less than the input. This makes the Sega Megadrive/Genesis power supplies an ideal candidate, since they are rated at ten volts rather than the usual nine. Unfortunately the tips on the Sega power supplies are not directly compatible with the DCHUB. To fix this problem, simply cut the tip from the Genesis PSU and then join it to one of the supplied cables that come with the DCHUB. You can solder the wires or (preferably) use a screw terminal block for this. Once done, check the polarity with a multimeter and connect. Your DCHUB should then be providing the correct voltage for your retro consoles.
The next issue with the DCHUB is that the output polarity of the unit is centre positive, where most old games consoles are centre negative. Polarity on the unit cannot be changed itself, and the unit only comes with one cable that allows the tip to be removed and swapped. This means that you will either have to do more chopping and changing wires or simply order more of the switchable tip cables from Keene.
So, having overcome all these limitations, how does the DCHUB perform? I tested the following consoles with the unit:-
Atari Jaguar – No problems here, your Tempest 2000 sessions will work just fine.
Nintendo NES – No problems here.
Nintendo SNES – Again, no problems.
PC Engine SuperGrafx and Super CD-ROM –
There was no tip that I could locate that would fit these units The SuperGrafx console, The Turbo Duo and the Super CD-ROM2 require a 6.3 x 3mm tip, which for some reason Keene do not supply with the DCHUB or the extra wires. If you can obtain one from somewhere else then the SuperGrafx works just fine, I have not tested the Super CD-ROM2 unit however.
Sega Genesis – Once again no problems, even with the slightly reduced voltage going through the DCHUB.
Sega MegaCD 2 – Here I encountered a problem, using the DCHUB produced some bizarre results, including added audio hum and screen blanking during loading. My limited electronics knowledge suggests this was a grounding problem, though I could be completely wrong. Switching the MegaCD back to its original power supply and using the DCHUB for the Genesis only, worked just fine.
The DCHUB is an elegant space saving solution, but one that comes at rather a high premium. Simple splitter cables such as this one cost under three pounds, and may do the job just as well in many cases. For those competent with electronics, wiring and testing your own solution is a feasible alternative too. Keeping in mind the disappointing results I encountered with the MegaCD, it may seem a little hard to justify the price of the DCHUB. The T-Rex product, having been designed for musicians, is unlikely to suffer any grounding issues (assuming this is what caused my problems). Important update! I’ve had chance to inspect the T-Rex fueltank junior and while it provides the correct voltage, it does not have enough ampage on its outputs to function with games consoles. This is probably true of other T-Rex products too.
Nevertheless, the DCHUB is probably the most hassle free way of doing away with multiple power supplies, especially if your budget won’t stretch to the more expensive T-Rex Fueltank. Essentially, until someone comes up with a multi-DC power supply with isolated outputs that provides the correct voltage and ampage, you’re stuck using one regular power brick per system.