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I am part of a community charity, GeekZone, that collects retro consoles, including but not limited to the NES, Megadrive, Atari 2600 and N64, for example. Unfortunately, many games were not made available to us in Britain, so we need to get hold of US and Japanese units. Consequently, we also need some way to power these consoles, and the CRT TVs to display them, on the voltage and frequency that they were designed for.

As far as I can see, most of the frequency converters out there appear to be for industrial or military use. We do not need something that is bullet proof, just something that can power a TV and a games console.

Do you know of a product that can help us?

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    A travel adapter only allows you to plug the device into a different socket, it does not convert voltage. While many (not all) devices support voltage ranges from 100V to 240V, not all do and those that don't, won't work correctly or will even get damaged by the wrong voltage (especially giving 220V (in Britain) to a 110V device (USA and Japan(?))). Before using a travel adapter, make sure you check the specifications on the power adapters of your devices.
    – Elise
    Dec 18 '17 at 10:55
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    A lot of older devices don't have built-in transformers. You might need to buy a separate one.
    – Pyritie
    Dec 18 '17 at 11:23
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    When i brought an NTSC PS2 to play .hack//G.U, because i lived in Australia i needed a Step Down Transformer which i could buy from an electronics store (after taking the PS2 in for them to check out the power usage info underneath). don't know about US/Aus to UK
    – Memor-X
    Dec 18 '17 at 11:49
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    We are looking for a gaming specific solution, I just gave bad examples. Dec 21 '17 at 12:35
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    We are looking at driving games consoles and their NTSC TVs. I meant "general" in terms of more than one console. Dec 21 '17 at 15:57
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You shouldn't need anything additional to power your N64 in Britain. I've found a few sources to back this up https://forums.the-elite.net/index.php?topic=19934.0 and https://forum.speeddemosarchive.com/post/running_ntsc_consoles_in_europe.html (you can find more by searching "EU N64 Power".

Essentially, they are powered by an external PSU that converts the AC voltage to a D.C. voltage for the console. Just make sure the PSU is rated for the socket you're using (should be rated for both EU and NA standard power).

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  • We will be using US and Japanese consoles and games. Surely we will need to provide them with the power that they were designed for, right? Dec 18 '17 at 15:18
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    @JamesGeddes You shouldn't have to, no. The N64 has a power supply that has to convert the alternating current to a direct current. The power supply is able to do this with standard EU and NA alternating current. To be sure; check the power information on the N64. It should say it accepts between a range of voltages and frequencies.
    – JMac
    Dec 18 '17 at 15:20
  • @JamesGeddes, the N64 was developed right around the time that universal power supplies (ones that could handle anything from 100V-250V, 50Hz-60Hz) became common. A universal power supply just needs a socket adapter, not a voltage or frequency converter.
    – Mark
    Dec 22 '17 at 2:03
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As far as i know, you would need a step down transformer of some kind in order to get the voltage from 220v to 110v or lower.

Depending on what sort of power you need will change the price of the transformer for example, a 300w device (Should be more power than most retro consoles need) will cost around £40 from maplin.

The best example i can find is here. It seems as though it is specifically for the UK to USA switch as it goes from a 3 pin plug to a 2 pin plug.

As far as japanese systems are concerned, they seem to use 100v and 50-60hz which will work with an american plug without damaging the device.

The only thing i would advise would be research how much each one of your devices uses in watts and see if a 300w converter is really necessary (As far as i can see most consoles range between 18w -> 175w)

Maplin is a reliable source for electronics based stuff and i would suggest looking for devices on there or another retailer you trust.

Hope this helps.

Edit: Included this link from a comment by @Memor-x to give guidelines on what transformer to buy LINK HERE

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  • How would we go about converting the frequencies? Dec 18 '17 at 14:55
  • @JamesGeddes i dont know if the games have different frequencies but the powers all use 50-60hz which are supported by a lot of step down transformers. I added a part into the answer above which may help. you can thank memor-x for that part.
    – Branch
    Dec 18 '17 at 15:01
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The Japanese mains voltage is 100 V, 50 or 60 Hz (depending on the region).
The US mains voltage is 110 V, 60 Hz.
The UK’s is 230 V, 50 Hz.

The frequency should not matter for consoles. As far as I am informed, all consoles sold in Japan we sold with the same PSU regardless of whether they were sold in West Japan (60 Hz) or North/East Japan (50 Hz). The voltage does matter.

If you are looking for a one-size-fits-all device, you need a step-down transformer that will take 230 V and transform it down to 110 V. (The difference between the Japanese and US voltages are small enough to be within tolerance; transformers aimed at making US products usable are more frequent.) The consoles don’t need much power so your average low-end transformer will do the job. Here is a link to a sample from amazon.co.uk. Note that I am not specifically recommending this model over any other model, just pointing out one that will work.

For every console there is also an option of powering it with either the first-party local PSU or a third-party local power supply. However, each console is different and you want a general one-size-fits-all. (For example, the EU N64 PSU can be used to power a JP N64 in Europe but the EU SNES PSU should not be used to power the Japanese SFC equivalent as the former outputs AC while the latter gives DC.)

The TV thing is easier. Most European CRTs from somewhere in the mid 90’s were able to display the Japanese/US NTSC standard. As you get to CRTs that were produced towards the very end of the CRT era, you can pretty much assume they can cope with NTSC signals. The console video signal will typically be supplied with composite connecters (yellow/red/white RCA connectors); just plug this into the TV. If the TV only has a SCART socket, use an adaptor. This will serve you a picture in an acceptable quality.

For some consoles, acquiring an RGB cable for better picture quality is really easy since they output RGB natively (e.g. SNES/SFC). There are even more European TVs that can take RGB than those that can take NTSC. RGB is usually supplied with Scart cables.

If you happen to be really unlucky and have a TV that can only display PAL colour (the European standard except for France), the picture will still be there but in greyscale.

Furthermore, most modern flat-screen TVs will also accept a composite cable and will likely be capable of displaying the NTSC signal. However, lag may be an issue.

So to sum up:

  • Simple step-down converter from 230 V to 110 V for the console
  • A UK CRT TV as a TV set.
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    My research has found that consoles such as the Atari 2600 were shipped with different varients for the different markets, so a US unit does need a 60hz supply. Is this wrong? Additionally, NTSC CRT TVs will also require a 60hz supply, right? Dec 20 '17 at 16:32
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    @JamesGeddes Atari 2600 is older than what I know about but at least for NES and onwards the mains frequency does not matter. And as I tried to say, most late PAL CRTs would be able to display NTSC signals, so no connection there either. I would really advise against the trouble of getting US or Japanese TVs just for the consoles when home ones will do fine.
    – Jan
    Dec 20 '17 at 16:38
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    We are all about the authenticity, so would want the full authentic environment Dec 20 '17 at 16:40
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    @JamesGeddes I guess suit yourself, but note that speedrunners are fine with European TV sets, so if you hide away label and remote you won’t be able to tell the difference. (I know I once got a card stating which devices were fine with the wrong frequency from my Japanese electricity provider but I seem to have thrown that away, unfortunately :()
    – Jan
    Dec 20 '17 at 16:58
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    The frequency matters for the power supply. If you feed 50Hz into a 60Hz transformer, it'll overheat and catch fire. (Going the other way is usually safe.)
    – Mark
    Dec 22 '17 at 2:04
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Techmoan provided a pretty good solution;

  • Get a variable DC power supply
  • Use it to power a US inverter
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    I really suggest checking the console first. It should have a DC power supply rated for common US and EU circuits. I'm not sure why everyone is suggesting buying things when it's already included with the system.
    – JMac
    Dec 19 '17 at 16:34
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    Could someone explain why this perfectly valid answer was so bad that it got a down vote, please? Dec 20 '17 at 2:51
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    @JMac Not all consoles do, particularly the older ones. We have several consoles that are older than the examples I listed. Dec 20 '17 at 2:52
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    Just thinking about this a bit more; my original question was "How can I provide US or JP voltage and frequency?" This answer provides that solution; whether or not specific consoles require it is irrelevant. I therefore think the down vote on this answer is pretty unfair, particularly since I took a lot of time researching it, and then took the time to share my findings. Dec 20 '17 at 3:00
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    I didn't vote on this; but if I had to venture a guess; I'd say the lack of detail doesn't help either. You don't really explain how these work or how you would set up the system. You don't say what devices require it and what may not. It honestly seems lacking compared to the other answers. It probably doesn't help that you've accepted your own answer; even though other answers suggested similar setups and included more detail.
    – JMac
    Dec 21 '17 at 16:53

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