Creating a DC Power Hub for your Retro Systems
Disclaimer: I am not liable for any damage you may cause to your consoles or yourself when attempting this project. If you do not correctly follow the polarity portion of my guide then you could easily fry your systems.
Have you ever wished you could consolidate those piles of power bricks you need when hooking up multiple retro systems? You can with a bit of work. This guide assumes you at least have mild experience with soldering, cutting plastic, at at least vaguely know how to use a multimeter..
Materials and Tools Needed:
Soldering iron (and solder)
Dremel tool (or another tool for cutting plastic)
Hot glue gun
Project box (I got one at radioshack)
“Replacement” power brick
DC power ends (male)
1.) Selecting your replacement AC adapter.
This tutorial is only intended for consoles that use the same or similar voltage. For instance, the original power bricks for all the consoles I wanted to hook up with this were 9V or 10V. Nearly all if not all of them will bring the power down to 5V internally, so difference of a volt on two on the power supply isn’t going to matter. To summarize:
a.) Make sure the original power bricks for all of your systems use nearly the same voltage
b.) Make sure your replacement power supply has about the same voltage (if all of your power bricks you’re replacing are 9V and 10V, then a 9V or 10V AC adapter will work)
c.) Find the one most power hungry console you will be running. For me it was a Genesis + Sega CD + 32X combo. Now look at the power brick or bricks used to run this and look for the amperage. It will be listed as mA (milliamps) or just A (amps). For reference, 1000mA = 1A. Your replacement AC adapter will need at least the same amperage as that. For instance, let’s say you’re running a combo system and it’s AC adapter(s) come out to a total of 3A. Your replacement AC adapter will need to be 3A or more. This also means only one system needs to be powered on at a time. For instance, I don’t power on another system running on my DC power hub while my Gen+SCD+32X combo is running. I could probably run 2 or so other systems at the same time, but to be safe I only run one at a time.
d.) Take note of the polarity on your replacement AC adapter. You don’t need a specific polarity when selecting the replacement, but you WILL need to know it when making the power cables running to your consoles later in the tutorial. You will find it on the original power brick of each system and it will look like this:
For instance, positive polarity means the center ‘rod’ in the DC barrel connector is the positive end/connector and the outside metal cylinder is the negative end.
2.) Making the actual DC power hub
There’s not a specific way this has to be laid out, so I will just go through the steps the way I did them. I used this project box from Radioshack:
It has a metal and plastic “lid” that can be screwed on. I chose the plastic one. I decided I wanted 4 DC jacks on both of the long sides (for a total of 8 outputs) and 1 DC jack on one of the short sides (for the input). I cut out the excess plastic on the inside and slots on the outside for the DC jacks, hot glued them into place and came up with this:
Not the prettiest cuts, but it’ll work.
As for the actual wiring inside, here is a diagram of how I did it:
On the particular DC jacks I bought, there were 3 pins on the bottom. Two connected to the same point, so only 2 of the 3 pins were unique. You can use a multimeter to see which pin connects to what and cut off or ignore the redundant pin. With this you will have a pin connecting to the small “rod” in the DC jack and flat-ish metal piece on the bottom of the inside. These will be your negative and positive connections depending on what you’re eventually plugging into the jacks. I’ll just refer to the red connections as X and the blue connections as Y
Basically you just solder some wire to connect all of the X points together, and all of the Y points together. DO NOT connect X and Y together in anyway. I guess this would be considered connecting in series. After confirming everything was wired correctly, I hot glued everything down extremely well to insure it stays in place when plugging and unplugging cables.
3.) Making Power Cables
Basically, you will be making double ended DC barrel power cables. One end of each cable will plug into the DC power hub, and the other end will plug into a console. However, you will want to pay extreme attention to the polarity to make sure you don’t fry your consoles. I’ll break down things down:
a.) The basics - When making the cables there’s a few ways you can go about things. You could cut the cords off of junk AC adapters you have and splice them together to be double ended, cut the cords off of your original AC adapters (I wouldn’t recommend this option), or buy individual ends at radioshack or online and solder the wires to them yourself. I harvested most of my ends from unneeded AC adapters and had to buy 1 remaining one. You’ll have to see for yourself what size ends fit into the consoles since I don’t know the exact sizes (hint: most of them are the same, with Genesis 2 and 32X being exceptions).
b.) Polarity (PAY ATTENTION) - There’s only two ways to wire up the polarity for each console: the right way and the wrong way. If you do it the wrong way and plug it into your console while power is supplied, you will fry something. You will need to look at the console’s original AC adapter to determine what the polarity of each console is. Many of them are negative polarity, but don’t assume that means all of them are.
Polarity is a little hard to explain if you’re not familiar with DC power, but I’ll try. With DC power you have a positive end (+) and a negative end (-). The way they are hooked up determines which way the power flows and is called polarity. If a console is expecting positive polarity and you hook it up with negative polarity then it will fry something, and vice versa. A good way to figure out polarity if you’re not sure is to use a multimeter.
Let’s say you have an AC adapter with the label ripped off so you have no idea what voltage or polarity it is. Set the multimeter to measure the voltage. The red probe is the positive and the black probe is the negative. Say you assume the AC adapter is positive polarity (center positive) so you put the red probe in the center of the barrel connector and the black probe on the outside and it turns out to be 9V. If it only tells you 9V then were correct in your assumption that it is positive polarity. However, if it says -9V then it is negative polarity. Essentially, if your red (positive) probe doesn’t match the positive on the AC adapter when measuring, then you will measure a negative voltage.
Earlier I said to take note what polarity your replacement AC adapter is. This now comes into play when making your power cables that connect the DC power hub to the consoles. I’ll explain through example. My replacement AC adapter is negative polarity (center negative). That means when I made my power cables, if I made a cable where the center of both ends of a cable are wired together, then it would be negative polarity since my replacement AC adapter is supplying negative polarity to all of the jacks on the DC power hub. A Genesis model 1 is negative polarity so this would be fine for it, but a model 2 is positive polarity. This means when making the cable for the model 2 I would connect the center of one end of the cable to the outer of the other end of the cable, thus making the power going to the model 2 positive polarity so it doesn’t fry it.
I would always do a final test on each cable after I made it before plugging it into the console. I would plug the replacement AC adapter into the wall socket to get power, then plug the DC barrel end into the DC power hub to provide power to it. I would then plug one end of the console power cable into the power hub while leaving the other end unplugged. I would then measure the voltage like I mentioned above checking for 9V or -9V to see if I had the polarity correct according to what the console was expecting. After I verified this was correct I would label both end of the cable with a piece of tape and sharpie so I wouldn’t get it mixed up with another console’s cable.
If you don’t feel like you have a complete grasp on polarity at this point then please do further research and/or get help from someone who is knowledgeable. Do not do this blindly hoping you just happen to wire the polarity correctly unless you just don’t care about frying some of your consoles.
This should provide you with a solid background for doing this project, however it might require further research on your part on DC power if you only have a very weak grasp on it or don’t understand the concepts I presented. You can be weary of soldering and using a dremel tool, but you need to be confident that you know what you’re doing when wiring things up (polarity!), and most importantly that you can double check your work with a multimeter before plugging it into a console.