Mega AMP 1.2 Review

The Mega Amp 1.2

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.

A Mega Amp in a PAL Megadrive 2.

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!

DIY Mega Amp kits are available directly from Helder in the USA by using this link. For details of our fitting service, click here.


7 thoughts on “Mega AMP 1.2 Review

  1. Lance says:

    I know this is terribly out of date, but I have one of these boards. I’m considering using it on my Nomad. My question is, what is the unlabeled switch for. One is for “filtered and unfiltered”, but what is the other one for?

  2. Ace says:

    Pardon me for barging in, but you have not credited the people behind the Mega Amp properly.
    I’m the same Ace who wrote that big guide on Genesis hardware revisions in 2010. I am also the person responsible for designing the Mega Amp with fellow Sega-16 user Villahed94 and releasing the circuit schematic on January 1st, 2014. A dedicated thread is present on the site:
    I ask that you review who you credit for having made this circuit. Helder made the PCB (and mangled the design, I do not support his circuit and will not offer support for it either), but Villahed and myself worked throughout 2013 to get to the final design.

      • Ace says:

        Well I do have a better design than even the one I put out in 2014, the Mega Amp 2.0, which I made public this year:!

        I received several complaints from people regarding the lack of Sega CD passthrough support from the original design and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how the original Mega Amp turned out (couldn’t get the gain high enough to match a Genesis Model 1’s headphone output and the extra transistors for giving the original Mega Amp headphone support were added in rather sloppily), so I decided to go back to the drawing board and came up with the Mega Amp 2.0. The Pro version is the complete package as this one can pass audio to the Sega CD and with its multi-stage setup, the circuit can be made in a way to deliver unfiltered sound via the Sega CD (or an upcoming amplifier dongle I’m going to make for those who don’t have a Sega CD) and filtered sound via the Genesis’ own audio output. I don’t support new installations of the old Mega Amp anymore, but I will still provide support for those who already have the old design. The new one is a drop-in replacement, with the Pro version requiring a little more work for the Sega CD passthrough to work.

          • Ace says:

            I know Helder has a cut-down version of the Mega Amp 2.0 (pretty much the base design that has no Sega CD passthrough support), but he seems to have a tendency to alter the designs without my consent using components that I don’t approve of. He did that with the original Mega Amp (ceramic capacitors everywhere and incorrect capacitor values for the audio output) and he’s done it again for the Mega Amp 2.0 (ceramic capacitors at the audio inputs, which isn’t as bad as what I did for the original Mega Amp, but is still not a modification I consent to).
            There is another Sega-16 user working on a PCB design of his own (Pro version without Mono mixing), though I don’t think his design is available yet. I have a design for the full-featured Pro version ready to go, all I have to do is to order a batch of boards, op-amps and capacitors/resistors/transistors, and I’ll be able to put some boards together.

            • BuckoA51 says:

              Nice, well Helder’s board was definitely an improvement on the stock Megadrive, but I’d rather work using your original design if possible, so let me know if you manage to start selling them and I’ll recommend them to any potential customers.

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