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The curse of the Saturn horizontal lines!


CrossBow

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This story starts a few years ago when I powered on my model 1 Sega Saturn and played a game for a bit and then powered the console off and back on to switch to a different game. But to my horror I discovered some strange horizontal white lines scrolling upwards on the screen? I powered the console off/on again and the lines were still there only now there were a lot more of them and they were scrolling much faster. Additional power off/on cycles would only cause the lines to change thickness and motion and scrolling rate. I don't have a picture of my actual console doing this, but here is one on youtube that demonstrates the issue very well. It is best to see it in motion anyway to get an idea of how annoying it really is..

 

Reading up on the issue you find a few different fixes for the issue or no fixes at all. The most common fix thought to correct it, is to replace the caps in the PSU board. Saturn consoles have their PSUs internal inside them. Luckily they are all throug hole caps to not that big a deal to replace. But you have to make sure when ordering a cap kit, that you order the right one for your Saturn as it seems there over a half dozen different PSUs used on the various Saturn models and they all have different component layouts, different amount of caps needed, and of course different values of caps used. So that was the first thing I did was to recap my PSU. And at first I thought things were good... but nope. The issue would happen after about 10min of playing a game and when powering cycling the console again to change games, the white lines would be back?! Keep in mind the actual console continues to play normally but visually it is less than ideal.

The next common fix for this issue that has worked for a few people, is to replace the main PWM switcher that is on the PSU boards. There were two main types used in the Saturns depending on the country it was being used in. For instance in Japan and NA. The PWM could handle between 100 - 120v. In Europe it was for their 220-240v ranges. The exact PWMs used are difficult to find but I did some sleuthing on this over a year ago and found a modern drop in replacement that can be used in all regions as it can handle between 100 - 240v by itself. These can be purchased from console5 if needed here:

https://console5.com/store/top224yn-saturn-power-supply-pwm-75w-voltage-regulator-replacement-for-top102yai.html

But sadly once again in my case, it was not to be the fix for mine. So I've just kinda lived with the issue now. Until last night when I remembered something and then tested it a bit.

Remember when I said that powering off/on would cause the lines to be different each time on my console? Well, I also discovered that if I could quickly turn the console off/on enough to cause the screen to dim for a sec but not enough to cause the saturn or the game to actually shut off, that sometimes those lines would go away?! That got me to thinking... which, in all honesty can be a bad idea for me sometimes.

The power switch changes the conditions depending on how quickly I'm actuating it. Or maybe the force used to power it on and off? So...

I decided to take the switch apart. This was NOT an easy task. The switches used on these earlier model 1 units I believe are different than later made models. It has an additional power protection component soldered onto the AC input wires on the side of the switch. Wrapped with a bit of yellow electrical tape, and then a blue/green translucent colored rubber cap that was draped over it to protect everything. Once you carefully remove all of this (As you will want to reuse at least the rubber cap). Then you have to pry apart the steel housing that covers the top portion of the switch. Once you have done this, you have to be careful of 2 things. Both of which are springs that will do what springs do best. They will likely shoot out somewhere and you won't find them again if you aren't careful. My wife may or may not have a non functioning ball point pin in her pen holder as I type this...

Once I got this figured out and was able to study the switch. I then found old yellowed colored grease inside the switch along with a bit of black carbon residue mixed into the grease. Similar to what we see on colecovision and atari toggle switches. I cleaned all of this gunk out and put it back together with some new dielectric grease. Once I got that switch back together. I crossed my fingers and turned on the Saturn. No white lines! But I couldn't get excited about it just yet because what I didn't mention is that most of the time on the first power on, the Saturn doesn't have those lines. It is only after it has been on for a bit and then I power cycle it that the lines would appear. So I played some Bulk Slash and got through a few missions and powered the console off to switch games. Turned it back on... and still no white lines?! This is a good sign. I continued to play several different games for at least another hour and half power cycling the console well over a dozen times in the process and those pesky white lines have not come back.

So it would seem that power switches are another potential source for the white lines issue on Saturn consoles. I'm not sure why the first power on would always be good and it was only successive power on attempts after that would cause this, but for now it seems those issues might finally be corrected. I will have to play a bit more Saturn games to find out. What a chore... 😉 hehe.

Here are some pics of the insides of my Saturn for those that might be curious. I recapped the entire thing several years ago and at the time only radial caps were in the kits so I had to install them in a similar manner to how it is done on Gamegears when replacing surface mount like caps with through hole radial type. And, it has a Hi-Saturn region free BIOS installed as well. Even with the Rhea configured to report every game as being NA/US, the Japanese games still wouldn't load right and would require me to use my Acton Replay cart to bypass. But as that cart becomes more and more finicky to use, I opted to just install the region free since in this model Saturn, it is literally a drop in replacement chip.

MB_Overview.jpg.3726a1f8c0440b77739fc3ebec3d441d.jpg

 

RF_BIOS.jpg.5c89594a96588bdc9883b768efce7f50.jpg

 

RHEA_Overview.jpg.a5318ec3150da2def6500e8c7fb29746.jpg

Edited by CrossBow

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This is an awesome post.  Thank you for sharing this very important information.

I had a similar issue on my Vectrex.  After not using it for about a day, it would take about 10 minutes to power on.  Turn the switch on, wait 10 minutes, and them BOOM, the console comes to life.  After that (within the same play session), it would turn off/on normally.  I found that leaving the switch ON and not touching it and using a power strip to turn the console on/off solved the issue, but that was a temporary fix.  So I found a local expert to change out all the caps and also had them disassemble and clean out the switch.  Now it works just right. 

 

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Thanks for the comment Rick! I should have stated that in many cases, one can usually get away with just spraying a bunch of contact cleaner into a switch and follow that up with some IPA and then the dielectric without having to completely gut a switch apart. But in the case of these va0 Saturn model 1 units like mine. The switch is essentially an enclosed housing. And the way the switch is oriented when installed, means that hitting it with contact cleaner and IPA will just cause it to pool up and not actually drain out properly. That would be an issue all on its own as the gunk doesn't get removed and just ends up drying up over time and still in the way.

It also doesn't help that the switches used in these earlier models are near unobtanium to get these days. I've only found on selling on the internet that has replacement switches exactly like what was used, and they want about $55 Aussie bucks for them. Yeah... Australia appears to be the one place the switches can be purchased. I'm sure a modern replacement could be used and installed in a 3D printed bracket or something, but yeah... like the Veccy as you mentioned, the power switches aren't common on these earlier models so if you can clean and repair them, it is best to do so.

Here is what it looks like btw. model 1 va0 power switch assembly.

Edited by CrossBow
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