Monday, July 15, 2019

Woozle's GBA Consolizer!


The GBA Consolizer is a mod created by homebrew engineer, Woozle, that converts an original GBA to output upscaled 720p HDMI video and audio signals for use on your modern displays.

I've been excited about this device ever since it was first announced, and am ecstatic that I finally got my hands on it. 

The installation is a bit more tedious than say, a GBA backlight kit install, but it's not that bad. Just a bunch of small wires soldered to some tiny pads.


There were a couple things that I messed up on that made me have to spend more time fixing. First, I didn't realize that Jason @ Game-TechUS included thin wires for you to use. I ended up using slightly thicker wires, and while it worked out ok, it's not ideal. The reason I didn't notice he included it in the kit was because there wasn't a list sheet of parts in the package, and also he packaged the wires in the same bag as the mounting parts, which was overlooked because you don't need those parts till the end of the install.
But no matter, it turned out fine. Also, I should mention he doesn't include the double-sided foam tape for mounting the break-out board, so you'll have to get that yourself.

The couple issues I had was, 1. I accidentally knocked a couple of the tiny surface-mount resistors near the clock crystal when I was removing it with my hot-air station. This was a big PITA as they're super tiny resistors, and it took me like an hour to get both of them back on the board. 2. When I put the case back on I didn't realize one of my shoulder button wires slipped onto the position right above the screw hole, so when I screwed the case on the screw put pressure on the wire, ripping the pad it was connected to. I had to go and scrap the trace connected to it to solder the wire back to that line. NOTE: Be very delicate with those pads. They're tiny and very easy to tear off, or overheat. I recommend using a lot of flux and try to be quick about applying heat.

The instructions on Game-TechUS's site is a bit scattered since he's supporting both the LCD kit and the Full Case kit. So some of the info is sort of mix and matched. Be sure to read the instructions very carefully, because you might miss something that is pertaining to one install from the other.
Also, I'd recommend checking out Voultar's full-case install video. For me, there were a couple things he did that relate to the LCD kit install, and his video is very clearly laid out. Game-tech's videos are a bit longer and kinda unorganized, but there is still a lot of the info there. You just got to be patient and watch more of his video to get it. Personally I didn't use Game-tech's videos (i'm impatient), I used his write-up descriptions and images on his site in conjunction with Voultar's install video.

How is the Consolizer, after everything's installed? ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!
Pics from my BenQ Zowie:









The image is super crispy. The menu options are nice, and you can play around with a good amount of settings from colour changes, to different types of scanlines, to setting the output between 4x, 4.5x, and 5x zoom (4.5x sets the image to fill the vertical space while playing GBA games, while 5x is best for running Gameboy and GBC games).
But one of the things I noticed right away was the input lag, or lack of it! It was so responsive, night and day from my GC Gameboy player set-up, even with running the homebrew GBI settings. I didn't get to play much after I installed, but from the few games I loaded up, I instantly felt the difference.

Overall, I'm very happy with the end result!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Vectrex, she lives!

Many many years ago I purchased a Vectrex console from a local for a whoppin' $50 CAD.  The seller mentioned it didn't work, and that it exhibited the common "center dot" issue a lot of these Vectrex's eventually develop.  Looking online for the solution, I read that a simple capacitor replacement of all caps was the way to fix.

Not knowing much about the circuitry of the Vectrex, I tried repairing it myself. Now, I fancy myself as someone who can do intermediate skilled repairs, but I wasn't prepared to fix this machine. I didn't know how delicate the traces were, also dual layered, so I ended up causing more damage to it.

I let the machine sit for many years, until recently I found the urge to get this thing working again.  I found a seller on eBay that offers Vectrex repair services, and after searching on the internet any information about this seller, finding good reviews and success stories of repaired Vectrex's, I took the plunge. I'm so glad I did, because now my Vectrex lives!

I get to play one of my favourite homebrews for it, Moon Lander, which is a clone of the classic arcade game Lunar Lander by Atari.

In the picture below you can also see I'm using a custom built controller that has a buttery-smooth analog stick, arcade buttons and has a bit more comfortable form factor than the original controller.


Those beautiful vectors.


You'll never reach home. That's cold as ice!


Super Gameboy clock speed mod board

I recently installed Qwertymodo's Super Game Boy clock mod board into my SGB. The install was easy; remove a few resistors, solder the board to the exposed pads:


Sure you can do the old method mod of just replacing the oscillating crystal, but that breaks some cool features of the Super Game Boy where it's possible to speed up and slow down the gameplay using the Super Game Boy Commander controller from Hori.

One of the things I really like about the SGB is all the extra custom features they added to the games that support it.  Things like special palettes, custom borders, and in some games a 2-player simultaneous mode without the need of a second linked gameboy. This is particularly cool in some of the fighting games on GBC.  It was just too bad that the stock SGB that was released in North America had a different in clock speed, which introduced frame "hitching" and higher pitched sound.
I'm really happy with Qwertymodo's board and recommend it to anyone looking to do this upgrade to their Super Gameboy's.



Here are a few glory shots from my SNES Jr. running on a Sony PVM:




For Street Fighter 2, the border actually changes based on what stage you're playing!










Terminator 2 - Pinball Backglass

Not too long ago a buddy of mine asked me to create a backglass for his T2 pinball machine. Something that could replace the original (uninspiring) backglass, that also incorporated multiple scenes from the film, in a "movie poster" like look.


The concept was to have multiple characters from the different scenes of the movie, in a collage type layout, with a bit more colour than the original.

It took several months (over a year) of work, on and off, but I'm finally to the point where I can say this is done!

Monday, January 7, 2019

More Hardware related stuff! PC-Engine is awesome.

So I never owned a PC-Engine/TurboGrafx 16 back in the day. It wasn't a system that was mainstream enough for me to have access to back then, but I always admired the games library because it was a really good system for solid Arcade ports and wonderful exclusives from Sega and Hudson Soft.

Since I'm a grown-ass man and can purchase whatever I want now, I decided to dive into the PCE and get myself a cute little Coregrafx.

I ended up purchasing a SSDS3, which attaches to my PCE Coregrafx and outputs RGB and also acts as a flashcart for not only the PCE/TG16 library, but also the CD games too!  Incredible!



The only problem is, the creators messed up with the video and sound circuitry, causing your image to have colour noise, and the CD audio has a lot of hissing when the system is accessing the MicroSD card.  It's been reported everywhere from multiple customers about these problems, which makes this unit less desirable to a majority of people.

Enter the FU-RGB and FirebrandX Audio bypass boards.



These 2 boards make up for the engineering shortcomings and upgrades the video and audio circuitry (bypassing it the SSDS3 altogether) to output clean video and non-hissing audio!  Shouts-out to Voultar and FirebrandX for the creation of these boards, as well as MobiusStripTechnologies for the distribution.

Installation was a bit more advanced, since you have to remove a bunch of SMD's cleanly, so that the solder pads are accessible, but with a trusty heat tool and de-soldering wick you can get it done effectively. FU-RGB on one side, Audio Bypass board on the other:




The final result?  Immaculate!

You can really see the differences when you get up close to the pixels. A lot cleaner, better colour output, no noise:

I don't have a sample of the audio uploaded yet, but here's a bunch of pics (some with scanlines, some not) from my set-up using an OSSC into a Benq Zowie 1080p monitor:






Friday, June 8, 2018

Raiden DX custom Audio IC: HB-45A reproduction


I recently had a chance to test HB-45A’ reproduction chip built by Caius on the KLOV and Arcade-Projects forums.  He also posts regularly on JammaCade.net, check out his repairs and custom chip post!  His works are excellent.

Since he didn't have a working Raiden DX to test this custom on, I offered to test it for him, in hopes that I can have working audio for many more years to come. These Seibu boards are notorious for Audio failures due to these custom IC's failing.

First I de-soldered the old IC, using my new Hakko FR-300. Wonderful tool, made this step of the process go very quickly. I had to de-solder 20 pins which took about 5 mins using the FR-300, which would have normally taken me over an hour with my old soldapullt sucker! It's a hellava lot cleaner and less prone to burning pads/traces!
(de-soldered clean!)

I then installed a new machined socket for the Custom to plug into.


Finally, Caius' HB-45A reproduction was inserted into the socket, and I proceeded to do some testing.

I haven't been able to hear any differences in quality between the old and new chips. Comparing the music at the beginning and end sound identical. The effects also sound the same.  There might be a slight variance if you were to analyze the signals, but that would be the same deal even if you compared to different boards with the original Audio IC's.

Big thanks goes out to Caius and his work on this. It's a beautiful replacement and I hope that the audio will keep working for many, many years to come!


Bonus: Here's a shot of my control panel with matching ship colours!

CPS1 "Dash" & Kick Harness Upgrade

Had a couple projects I needed to finish recently.  This time its more hardware related.


I picked up an old Street Fighter 2: Hyper Fighting (aka Turbo) for a good price, but noticed that this board had a 10mhz oscillating crystal.
(B-21 chip on the C-board, great for conversions!)

BITD the Hyper Fighting version was sold as conversion kits, and was recommended to be installed on the Championship Edition board-set. But CE boards were usually equipped with 12 mhz crystals, hence making them "Dash" versions.

(10mhz oscillating crystal)

I was recommended this crystal (link here) to install on my board, and after de-soldering the old 10mhz Crystal and solding the new one, everything turned out great. Though the new crystal didn’t make much of a difference in the game’s performance, it’s peace of mind having the A-board that Capcom recommends and gives opportunity to convert this to other 12mhz games in the future.
(12mhz crystal installed!)


Afterwards, I wanted to do a Kick Harness adapter to go from the old CPS1 harness, to the CPS2 kick harness. I decided this because most of my kick harness set-up revolves around using CPS2, so it made sense to only support one type of harness.   I could have just got a cable adapter, but I felt it would be cleaner and less parts to handle if I put the CPS2 adapter onto the board itself.
(CPS1 to CPS2 Kick Harness installed)

(Close-up of CPS2 kick harness header)

(How it connects to my Supergun)

I am very happy to how it turned out, and am looking forward to converting this to a multi-CPS1 board whenever those kits are available. For now, I can enjoy a bit of Hyper Fighting!