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The 10 pin mini-din connector that the Sega Saturn console uses for its AV connections is actually a standard part. However, apart from the Saturn there aren’t an awful lot of consumer electronics devices that ever used it. Because of this, good quality RGB SCART cables for the machine are often in short supply. Over on the Sega Saturn UK forums, hardware expert Zyrobs strongly recommended a cable made by an eBay user called Thefoo.83. In his opinion, these SCART cables are the best quality third party cables he’d ever used. Our curiosity was piqued, so we decided to order a cable for ourselves.
Testing the cable
Thefoo.83 sells the SCART cables as compatible with both NTSC and PAL consoles. To test this, we used the cable with two Saturns – A PAL unit, serial number AD65065932 and a Japanese NTSC unit serial number AC79501648. We used both the venerable XRGB3 and the XRGB Mini in our tests.
The most impressive thing about the cable compared to our old, cheap alternative, was the lack of audio noise. We had to turn our sound system up almost 50% higher before we noticed any audio noise while using the cable. To get any better than this, we’d imagine it would be necessary to perform some kind of digital audio mod on the Saturn.
Picture quality wise the cable performed very well too, though there were a few disappointments. On our NTSC Saturn the picture quality was every bit as good as our Retro Console Accessories clean composite sync cable. On the PAL Saturn however, there was some distortion/waviness to the image on certain colours, especially light blue. This is most noticeable on the Saturn’s CD player screen. The light blue part at the top of the CD player exhibits the wavy interference pattern very clearly. It can also be seen with close inspection on parts of the sky in Sega Rally. This interference pattern is exactly the same as with our cheaper cable. We can only assume this is a problem with certain models of Saturn. Interestingly, the PAL unit we had in for testing with the Rhea recently also exhibited this issue, which goes against the conventional wisdom that Model 1 Saturns always have the best picture quality.
Obviously, with this cable using composite video for sync rather than clean sync, XRGB3 users should steer clear, otherwise you can expect to lose the picture should the image become too bright.
If you’re shopping for a Saturn our advice remains the same, look for a NTSC unit and use a clean sync cable with it. Retro Accessories on eBay still carries these, though they often go out of stock. Clean sync cables do not work on PAL consoles (don’t even try it, instead of csync on pin 1, the PAL console outputs 12 volts and will likely fry your TV or processor!), so if replacing your PAL Saturn is not an option, Thefoo.83 Sega Saturn SCART cable is your best bet.
Below are a couple of screenshots we took using the cable and the XRGB Mini.