How to Buy Cables and Adapters for Retro Consoles

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How to Buy Cables and Adapters for Retro Consoles

Believe it or not, even game consoles that were released in the late 1980s and early 1990s are considered retro games. The 1990s saw the introduction of fourth generation games, and any that were made before that period are deemed retro. Surprisingly, it is not too difficult to find cables and adapters for retro consoles as long as the buyer knows what they are looking for. The good news is that most retro consoles, especially fourth generation items, are made with a standard set of cable attachments. The SCART cable standards were already introduced for those consoles to standardise the connection of audio visual equipment.

Finding retro adapters can be a little trickier, as it depends on what the buyer wants to adapt and which consoles they are using. The regular mains adapters are fairly easy to find, but adapters for special purposes may take a little more time. For instance, a buyer may need a Sega SD card adapter that can be used to load homebrew and emulators on a Sega console, or an adapter than can play one console's game on another console. Buyers looking to purchase retro console cables and adapters should know which consoles are considered "retro", and the necessary cables that are needed. They should also consider the available adapters that may save them from buying additional accessories.

Retro Game Consoles

"Retro", when discussing game consoles, refers to anything considered aged or outdated. It is not about how long ago it was manufactured or released, but rather the upgrades that it has received since its inception. This is especially true with game consoles and other technology inclined items. As technology develops and new machines are created, a machine that was built less than a decade ago can quickly become "retro".

Thus, with regard to game consoles, everything that was manufactured and released before the first PlayStation console can be considered retro. This list would mainly include the various Sega and Nintendo releases such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Sega Dreamcast and anything else that is no longer being actively sold by the manufacturers. Other less popular retro consoles include the Atari 7800 and the Amstrad GX4000. However some people believe that even the first PlayStation and Xbox consoles are retro.

Retro Console Cables

It can be argued that in order to achieve the best possible display from retro consoles including anything from the first PlayStation and earlier, SCART cables are needed. These cables can provide and support RGB in its pictures. SCART is derived from a French standard, and it stands for "Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radio et Televiseurs". It can be a mouthful, so SCART is the term used by most.

SCART cables are single AV cables that aggregate all the analogue signals with 21-pin connectors. Most European TVs are equipped with SCART sockets, so buyers can get an idea of what the sockets look like before buying the cable. The fact is using SCART cables is probably the easiest way to achieve RGB from most retro game consoles. There are a number of things that buyers need to consider before buying SCART cables, which include knowledge on the various socket and cable types.

SCART Socket Types

There are basically three main types of SCART sockets that should be considered in reference to game consoles. Other socket types may come up, but only the three listed below or minor variations of them should be noted.

S-Video Socket

This SCART cable was made to serve multiple purposes where it is able to support the S-Video signal as well as the RGB. However this cannot be done at the same. The fact is, if an RGB Scart cable is used with this socket, only a composite video picture is produced.

RGB Socket

RGB sockets supports complete RGB signals, but this may not guarantee a picture perfect video output, because the television used. However, buyers can rest assured that the picture is an improvement over composite. Buyers should note that some of these SCART sockets may accept all three signals including composite, so it would be best to check the manuals and documents of the TV set to confirm the accepted signal types.

Jap RGB 21-pin

These Japanese sockets are not very common, but they use the same connector that the European cables use. However, their pins may fall in different places.

 SCART Cable Types

Given that there are diverse socket types, it is only logical that there are different cable types as well. It is always best to get RGB SCART cables for game consoles, but buyers may find more abundance of the more economical composite only type. Some sellers may bundle the composite cable with an SCART adapter, but it still does not provide RGB quality pictures.

Raw Composite Synchronisation or Composite Video Synchronisation

RGB analogue video requires a wire for each colour component in addition to a separate wire for the sync signal. Most, if not all console SCART cables support composite pin-20 video. The signal is represents a composite synchronisation signal when RGB is being used. This works well with many applications and these cables are generally backwards compatible, allowing them to work with commposite-only SCART equipment. Players who use XRGB type video processors should consider raw sync for best results. Rarely, a user may need to source a composite sync RGB SCART cable for XRGB components like with the Sega Saturn.

SCART Connector Chart

SCART connectors can be used to make different cables based on their individual purposes. However, the standard for connection dictates that the pins be used in a specific manner. The chart below highlights a 21-pin SCART connector. Input/Output represents symmetrical links, while up/down represents links to or from the television.

Pin Location


Pin Location


Audio output (R)



Audio input (Rt)



Audio output (L/mono)



Audio ground



RGB Blue ground (pin 7 ground)



Audio input (L/mono)



RGB Blue up

S-Video C down



Status (CVBS)



Green Ground



Data D2B (Inverted)



RGB Green up

Component Y up



Data D2B



Red Ground



D2B Ground



RGB Red up

S-Video C up

Component PR up



RGB Status/Fast Blanking



CVBS Video Ground



RGB Status Ground



Composite Video Output



Composite Video Input



Case Shield


Pin number 7 is rarely supported. Pin 21 is actually integrated in the casing of the male connector. The cheap cables generally have it connected to the overall screen. However, it should have separate connection to the chassis, although it is generally just connected to the rest of the ground pins.

Retro Console Adapters

Buyers looking for power adapters for their retro consoles simply need to find a good retail source and search for a replacement adapter that matches their console. Unfortunately, many adaptors are sold as bundles with other cables or console parts and accessories that may not be needed at the time. It would probably be a good idea to buy the SCART cables and the AC adapter from the same source if possible, if not, try to converse with the sellers to confirm compatibility. Additionally, the adapters that are generally bundled with the consoles do not produce RGB picture, so that should be taken into consideration when buying both items.

How to Buy Cables and Adapters for Retro Consoles on eBay

There are a number of ways to start your search for retro console cables and adapters on eBay. You can perform a general search for console cables and adapters, or simply search for a specific item from the eBay home page. If you decide to go with a general search, you can always narrow down the results by activating one or a combination of various filters. You can filter the items by type, platform, model, brand, and condition.

Also, if you are working within a budget, you can enter a price range to keep the items in line with what you can afford. However, if you plan to search to perform specific searches, you may want to input your console brand and model. For instance, a search for "Sega Mega Drive adaptors" should filter out all other brands and models, to minimise the searching and browsing time.

When the necessary cables and adapters are found, you should contact the seller to dispel any lingering doubts before making a payment. If the items are used, find out about any guarantee or warrantee that may be available before making a final decision.


Cables and adapters for retro consoles seems like a simple concept, yet buyers need to find a store with a wide variety of cables and adapters to even have a chance of sourcing what they need. eBay is an excellent choice for such buyers because the website is affiliated with many sellers of both new and used items, which increases the likelihood of finding retro items and accessories. There are numerous cable and adapter types for consoles such as AV Cables/Adapters, Power Cables/Adapters, Wireless Network Adapters, USB Cables, and Link Cables. However, retro consoles are not really concerned with network, USB, and Link cables and adapters.

With regard to audio/video cables, SCART is the way to go, but buyers should ensure that they learn more about the cables to get the right one for their console and TV. Additionally, buyers should source power cables that are made specifically for their console. This information is often listed by the sellers, but buyers can ask to be certain. All other adapters for retro consoles are basically made to allow the retro consoles to work with newer technology, PCs, or other equipment with which they would otherwise be rendered useless.

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