There are lots of reasons why you might want to send the video signal from your retro-gaming setup into several different devices at once. Perhaps you have a capture card setup that either doesn’t have a video pass-through or that has one that introduces input lag. Perhaps you have both an XRGB Mini and an OSSC and want to use them both, without having to swap cables, depending on the particular software title you’re using. Whatever the reason, various solutions exist that can take an RGB or component signal and split and duplicate it. In this review, we’ll take a look at the Keene KPDA, a component video splitter from those enthusiastic AV resellers, Keene electronics.
Our KPDA arrived courtesy of Keene electronics in a sturdy white cardboard box. Apart from the unit itself, the box contains a standard power supply and a set of photocopied instructions. The unit itself has a metal enclosure and appears sturdy and well built. The KPDA supports both standard and high definition video, meaning those occasional 720p and 1080i Xbox games won’t be an issue for the unit. In operation, the unit is entirely silent and is pretty much plug and play, with no settings or DIP switches to configure.
Welcome to the jungle
Connecting up the KPDA is either extremely easy or frustratingly hard depending on what kind of signal you are using. For component video (as in YPbPr), it’s obviously a breeze. Connect your component video input cable, then use a standard component video cable to connect to each of your screens, processors or capture cards.
For RGB/SCART sources, the situation is an order of magnitude more difficult. First of all, you will need some way to get the signal from SCART into separate red, green, blue, audio left and right and sync cables. To achieve this, you could use a SCART to BNC adapter, such as those that Retro Gaming Cables sells. Be sure to get one that’s wired for SCART input, not output, otherwise of course it won’t work. You will also need some BNC to RCA adapters.
Another option is to use a SCART breakout block, such as the one available here. You will probably need a SCART gender changer too. That will allow you to connect standard RCA cables from the adapter to the unit. Need audio too?, better find yet another breakout adapter.
Things get even more messy on the output side. The same solutions can be used here to go back from RCA cables to SCART, but if you want to connect to a standard consumer SCART TV, you may find that you get a composite only signal because there’s simply no voltage on SCART pin 16 any more. Many TVs need at least 1 volt to be present on pin 16 in order to switch to RGB mode. There’s no easy solution to this problem, so think carefully before adding the KPDA to your setup if you’re using a consumer CRT.
Compared to Keene’s now sadly discontinued 1×5 SCART Distribution Amp, cabling up the KPDA for RGB is really a chore. If you’re determined, it certainly works, but be prepared for a cable jungle.
Remember, the KPDA doesn’t transcode, if you feed in RGBc you will get RGBc out, not component/YPbPr.
No complaints on picture quality
If you do go to the trouble of getting everything cabled up, you should find no grounds for complaint regarding the picture quality from the KPDA. We tested the unit with a multi-chip SNES, connected to our PEXHDCAP equipped PC running AmaRec. We took several screenshots and found there to be no perceptible difference in quality between connecting the console directly versus connecting through the KPDA.
Ideally we’d have liked to do a few more tests, particularly with several outputs being driven at once and some more thorough tests of the units sound quality. Unfortunately, getting everything cabled up to test this was too much of a challenge.
The Keene KPDA is a high quality AV distribution amp that does not degrade or compromise on picture quality. Keene now sell these units for just £45, making them excellent value for money too. Realistically we’d only recommend the KPDA for those of you wanting to split/duplicate a component video signal. If you really want to connect SCART, be prepared to jump through a few hoops and particularly watch out for the RGB signal voltage problem. If you get around the cable problem (or only want to connect YPbPr component video), the KPDA is a fine choice. If SCART is a must, check the second hand market for a Keene 1×5 SCART Distribution Amp before redistributing your money.
The Keene KPDA is available now from Keene.co.uk.