Not all consoles are created equal. Even amongst the same model of machine, differences in manufacturing processes and cost saving measures mean that certain revisions of one console are more desirable than another. Many retro gamers believe, for example, that the Model 1 Sega Saturn has a slightly sharper picture than the Model 2. While claims like this are often disputed, there can be little dispute over the difference between sound quality of early Megadrive consoles and later Megadrive consoles. Flat, lifeless, lacking in treble and clarity, the later models sound like a badly compressed MP3 file compared to the crisp output of the earlier consoles.
Finding a Megadrive/Genesis console with a good quality sound output isn’t always easy, there’s a guide here that has some pointers on what to look for. Alternatively, rather than trying to get lucky on eBay, you can now simply mod your Megadrive/Genesis console with the new Mega Amp 1.2. This mod promises to restore high quality sound to all Megadrive/Genesis consoles, but does it work?
Shipping as a small blue PCB from US supplier Helder, the Mega Amp requires some soldering skills to install. Around 11 wires need to be soldered into place and you will need to know your consoles PCB revision before ordering the part. If this is too daunting, you can send your Megadrive/Genesis console to us and we’ll then be able to advise you which part to order as well as fit it for you. A switch on the Mega Amp PCB allows you to toggle between filtered and unfiltered audio. This choice is really a matter of preference and makes only a small, subtle difference to the sound.
Does the Mega Amp make an appreciable difference to the audio quality of the console? We installed the unit in a Megadrive 2 unit and compared it to our Mark 1 Japanese Megadrive (VA5). The difference between the stock Megadrive 2 and the Mega Amp was remarkable and easily recognisable. Compared with the VA5 Megadrive, a couple of our test subjects said they preferred the Mega Amp, but were uncertain if they’d be able to tell the difference in a blind test. On our Megadrive 2 console there was still some noticeable buzzing in the analogue audio on particularly bright scenes and this still needs to be mitigated with the use of high quality SCART/RGB cables.
If you’re curious to hear the improvement for yourself, Helder has very kindly provided some MP3 files you can download and compare. To listen to a stock Megadrive 2, follow this link and download the MP3 file. To listen to a console that has been modified, follow this link and download the MP3 file.
Overall then this is a highly recommended mod for anyone with a muffled Megadrive. At $25 + $8 international shipping, it won’t break the bank either. MegaAmp your Megadrive today!