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Use of display technology to produce the best possible image from the N64
Topic Started: Jan 27 2014, 05:43 PM (8,604 Views)
andyk2003
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Hi, this is a technical question/discussion for those who have a fairly deep understanding of this kind of thing.. This is necessarily a long post so sorry for that!

My aim is to find out is the best type of display for the N64.


Most people will happy just plugging their console into their HDTV or any CRT that they have to hand which is totally fine and understandable. People have different perspectives and tastes on this and I respect the fact that this is all largely subjective - but as I say, my aim is to get the absolute best possible picture out of an N64 console.

I have already done quite a bit of research & experimenting with this & would really value any further wisdom on this.
Here are some things that I've already sussed out:


1: A high quality old fashioned 4:3 CRT TV or CRT monitor that accepts a 50/60Hz signal is essential. Many people are happy to use a flatscreen but we're looking for the absolute best image and LCDs and plasmas are not the way to go in this case. No matter how good a plasma or LCD display is, it still has to internally linedouble (and scale) the N64's 240p output which introduces lag and produces a blocky image. The N64 was designed with a CRT in mind. The NTSC console outputs a progressive 240p (15Khz) image which inherently has scanlines. Without these scanlines, the image would look blocky and unattractive (again, the effect seen on flatscreen TV's). Also, I wouldn't use a 16:9 CRT as I prefer the N64's 4:3 image to fill the screen.


2: It's important that the CRT display hasn't had too many hours of usage. A CRT has a half-life of roughly 10,000 hours (variable). An overly used one will have a soft, blurry output.


3: An RGB mod (preferably with a THS7314 Amp chip) is essential for the best image. Also a high quality RGB scart cable is a must (preferably official) to prevent interference. There are a couple of options being developed that produce an HDMI output via a DAC from an N64, but even these inevitably produce a blocky, linedoubled picture. An incredibly knowledgeable guy galled Viletim has developed (and will hopefully soon be selling) a DAC kit that bypasses the N64's analogue output circuitry and apparently produces an amazing true 240p image via RGB scart - this seems as though it might be the best option so far.


4: High quality scalers like the XRGB series are an excellent (and expensive!) option for getting many retro consoles to look good on a flatscreen TV. To me, this works less well for the N64. You can either have the image linedoubled (blocky) or with emulated scanlines - which look great on 2D consoles like the SNES etc. - but make the N64 output look false and not authentic IMO.


5: The size of the TV being used makes a difference . Some people are happy using 29 inch and above CRT's but in my opinion, these larger screen expose and amplify the negative aspects of the N64's output - namely it's blurry, overly anti-aliased picture. A 21 inch will always be one class better than a 29 inch. I don't find small screens involving enough so for me a 25 inch CRT is a good compromise. (An N64 will look amazing on a 14 inch screen!)


6: The display should not process the output in any way - for the best, truest picture it should be pure RGB in, pure RGB out. Processing of various kinds was introduced into TV's from all manufacturers at varying points during the 90's. All types of processing are generally considered to be detrimental to the output of retro consoles. An example is 100Hz technology which gives a blurry image when there's movement on screen). Other types of processing introduce unwanted artifacts into the picture. Philips started using 100Hz as early as 1988, whereas Sony was still producing larger TVs with no processing as late as the late 90's.


7: The TV would need to be an SDTV (pre-HDTV & EDTV). Even CRT HDTVs/EDTVs linedouble and scale the image (again, blocky and laggy image).


8: There are basically 2 types of CRT TV - Aperture grille (all Sony CRT's were this type) and shadow masks (everyone else). The difference is that although Sonys produce a really excellent bold picture due to their aperture grille, they have really strong, prominent scanlines as the phosphors are perfectly lined up in rows rather than the 'triad' alignment of a shadow mask. As mentioned earlier, these strong scanlines look great on earlier 2D consoles but (in my opinion) not so good on the NTSC N64 as they break up the 3D graphics in a detrimental manner. (On the PAL N64, the scanlines are much less apparent due to the higher resolution, so are not as much of an issue. I'm not into PAL gaming but if you are, this is a non issue). In my opintion, the softer more blended scanlines of a shadow mask TV really complement the NTSC N64s picture. As I said before, scanlines are essential for the N64 to look at it's best, but I think softer, blended ones look better than bold, prominent ones.


9: In terms of CRT monitors, this last point rules out the popular Sony PVM/BVM series which are aperture grilles and have strong scanlines (I had one and didn't like it). Shadow mask monitors include Hantarex (EQ 25/28s amongst others) NEC, Mitzubishi etc. I haven't had much experience with these except for the fact that they seem to be hard to find in good condition with low usage/hours. These are supposed to be very good if found in good condition though. The monitors that are most suitable are generally presentation or broadcast monitors that can produce a true 15Khz (240p) image and not multisync or computer monitors. A good quality CRT TV can match a good CRT monitor, though, and I personally find that a TV gives me a more authentic feel (I always used TV's back in the day)


10: The general quality of the TV - i.e. I would obviously take a Loewe or a Metz over a Bush or a Goodmans .
These CRT TV's are slowly dying out now so I think it's worth making a small collection of high quality little-used CRTs now for when they are mostly gone.


11: There are certain aspects to a CRT display that affect the quality of their picture, such as geometry issues, focus & convergence issues etc. but In mentioning CRTs in this post, I'm assuming that they're well-sourced, little used CRTs that have minimal problems.


12: Whether the N64 is PAL or NTSC region. The jump from an NTSC (240 lines) to a PAL (288 lines) is almost the same jump, relatively, as from PAL standard definition (576 lines) to 720p (720 lines). This means that the PAL N64's image looks quite a bit cleaner (though I prefer the NTSC colours) but we all know the disadvantages of PAL gaming - slower, bordered games - with some exceptions, notably Rare's games. Actually, even though well optimized PAL games run at the same gameplay speed as their NTSC counterparts, they still have lower framerates, topping out at 25/50fps rather than 30/60. In my opinion the higher the framerate the better in terms of gameplay, so PAL is a non-option for me.


I should mention that I'm discounting emulators in all of this - I much prefer the N64 hardware for various reasons.

So does anyone have any further insight into this - or know of a display that pairs particularly well with the N64 to produce a really spectacular picture quality? Any further insight would be well appreciated :)


Cheers!


Edited by andyk2003, Sep 13 2014, 06:48 AM.
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Cabanon
Jan 27 2014, 09:18 PM
I stopped after the first chapter. there were lies concerning the lag. mine has ZERO lag whatsoever. whatever the game/console it is. and even if it did, I could adjust it with amplifier which has a built-in lag adjuster specifically for games.
There is NO external device that can eliminate HDTV lag because the process that introduces it happens internally in the TV. The amplifier that you mentioned here and in another post doesn't decrease lag in the slightest bit. It's circuitry is designed to actually delay the audio part of the signal to compensate for any potential lag between audio and video timing. If you want to decrease lag you would be much better off with a decent scaler like an XRGB mini or XRGB 3.

All HDTV's introduce lag. This is because the image that they receive from an N64 isn't in their native display format, which is either 720p or 1080p - this means that the TV has to do 2 things to convert the image to an image that they can output. One is to linedouble the image and the other is to upscale it to the TV's native resolution. This is done by the internal processor in the TV and always takes a certain amount of time - therefore introduces lag. There are other processes going on in HDTVs that also contribute to this.

Some TV's are much better at it than others. Some Samsung HDTV's have a reputation for horrendous lag - around 100ms - even on 480p material. A very few have extremely low lag (around 20ms) & won't be noticeable unless you're very sensitive. It helps to research this when buying an HDTV. Some TVs have a 'game' mode which turns off some of the processing & cuts the lag down considerably. Some PC monitors also have extremely low lag but you can't connect an N64 directly to them. The SD CRT TVs I mentioned in my post are MUCH faster than any flatscreen TV - in the order of nanoseconds - which is undetectable.

This is subjective though. The vast majority of people aren't bothered - or don't even notice - and it won't really detract from the gaming experience unless you are sensitive to it.
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 28 2014, 09:09 AM.
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kartmaster
Jan 28 2014, 07:52 AM
mjwatts26
Jan 27 2014, 09:18 PM
I intentionally bought the biggest CRT I could find (36" or 37" sony trinitron) and I regret it now. I don't think the picture looks very good for N64 even with s-video. But for all I know it was used a lot so it could very well be the result of heavy use. If you sit really far away it's okay, but I wish I had gone with a 30 inch or so.
I have a 32" Trinitron. I found the picture very acceptable in the center of mine, but noticeably blurrier at the corners. I don't know if that's because of it's age or a drawback of the flat tube. We never could afford one of these fancy TV's back in their prime, so I couldn't tell you what it looked like out of the box!
Nothing to worry about - most consumer grade CRTs will have that to some degree :)
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 28 2014, 09:30 AM.
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Jan 28 2014, 06:19 PM
I can see a 20ms lag no problem (thanks to Guitar Hero & Rock Band), yes it has a game mode but I had to turn it off because it was creating major lag when playing GH/RB. that said, I dont see lag at all when playing nes/snes/n64 on my TV.
Hi - The lag is there but you aren't noticing it. This might be because you have one of the better, lower lag TVs. Also some people just aren't as sensitive to it.

A good way of measuring your TV's lag in it's native resolution and one that I've used in the past is this:

Use a PC/laptop that has an S-video output. Connect the S-video output to a CRT TV that is old enough to be completely free from any image processing and another output to your HDTV. Then find a free PC stopwatch program that will display in milliseconds. Put the TV's next to each other and run the stopwatch program so that it is displaying on both TVs ('clone' your desktop to be displaying on both screens). Make sure you are feeding your HDTV it's native resolution. Then take several photographs of the screens. The video signals will be reaching both displays at the same time, but the CRT will have no lag. Because all HDTVs have lag, in the photo the HDTV's stopwatch reading will be lower than that of the CRT. The average difference between the two numbers is the innate lag of your HDTV in it's native resolution in milliseconds .

This is a more accurate way of measuring than using Rock band but takes a bit more setting up.

The trouble with all of this, though, is that although this resulting figure might possibly be quite low, in this case we're feeding the display it's native resolution so the TV is having to do no extra work to interpolate the image. When we play retro consoles, we're asking the TV to do another round of processing to get the display on the screen. In the case of an N64, the image needs to be linedoubled to 480p and then scaled to the native resolution of the TV. These processes further add to the image processing time and can increase the lag time quite a bit, depending on the display.


This means that a NES/SNES/N64 will inevitably produce MORE lag on your HDTV than the 20ms you recorded in Rock Band and is one of the reasons that CRTs are so appealing for retro console gaming.
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 29 2014, 03:57 AM.
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Cabanon
Jan 29 2014, 06:35 AM
actually, i play GH/RB at 0ms. what I play is what I see and im spot on. I know when I plugged my n64 directly to my TV, it had lag because whenever I tried to play MK64, it would take maybe 20-30ms to do the proper turn (which is VERY VERY bad), but when I plugged it in my amplifier, everything went ok. so yes the TV produce lag (sometimes very little, sometimes alot) but there's solution around it which doesnt include a frikkin CRT
. If you want a decent low-lag retro gaming experience on your HDTV, look into an XRGB-mini.

BTW, I do not recommend that anyone buy that amplifier for HDTV lag reduction purposes. For anyone else, the gold standard for this purpose is the XRGB series of processors, ideally the XRGB3 or XRGB-Mini (Framemeister) from Micomsoft. Not only do they reduce lag, they make 2D retro consoles look a lot nicer on HDTVs.
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As a side note, I just received a Loewe Calida 70 - a fine model of shadow mask TV - but it still doesn't beat my Sony Trinitron for colour and sharpness. I'll collect a few more shadow masks, but I'm getting the feeling that the Trinitrons will eventually win out.
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It would still be awesome to hear from anyone who's experimented specifically with N64s and displays - and found a solution that really works well.

The Shmups forum's great but the N64 is a bit of an enigma with it's very individual blurry, overly antialiased output & this seems like a place to find some experienced N64 veterans who might shed some light on this :)
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Coligion, the best person to contact about these XRGBs is Fudoh from the Shmups forum - he has an awesome amount of knowledge about this. Here's a resource of his on the XRGB mini:

http://retrogaming.hazard-city.de/framemeister.html

The Mini is seriously fast (1-9ms depending on the input). Adding it into the chain should actually decrease the overall lag.

Basically you could break down an HDTV's lag into 2 parts - 1 is a kind of 'baseline' lag that the TV will always have when it's being fed it's native resolution - this can't be changed. Then there is the other part which is caused by the TV's scaler processor upscaling the 240p image from a retro console. The XRGB takes over this task & scales the image much faster than the TV could & then feeds the TV it's native resolution so it doesn't have to do that work (along with scanlines, if needed). Therefore the overall lag should actually be less after you add in the XRGB. Also the Lag Database (http://www.displaylag.com/) and other sites have good info on which TVs are the fastest lagwise.

Fudoh would have more in depth knowledge of how this would work with your particular setup. It'd be great if there was a way for people to test one out before buying it - they're pretty expensive!

Do you find that the Sony has a nice sharp image & does it have prominent scanlines?
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 30 2014, 06:44 PM.
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I know, I would have thought that the VGA port would have been faster too - that's a strange one :/ I've got a panasonic too (g10) & it's generally very fast (not sure about the VGA port tho'). As you say, the Mini is a bit of a gamble especially if you're as sensitive to lag as you are..

I'm really glad you like the Sony - the reason being that at first I just couldn't get used to their strong scanlines on my N64. But I think I just need to forget about it & not let it bother me. I've got some shadow mask TVs (gentle scanlines) but none of them are as sharp as the Sony - I've noticed that the way the scanlines break up the N64s very soft image somehow makes it look more crisp... I'm still interested in finding a really high quality shadow mask that hasn't been used much (in a guest room or something) & seeing how it compares to the Sonys.

If I still end up with a blurrier picture on a great shadow mask then I'll probably just go with the Sonys - sharpness is more important to me than the issue of prominent scanlines & it definitely helps to know that these are a non-issue for you :)
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 31 2014, 04:56 AM.
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Cabanon
Jan 31 2014, 11:26 AM
just curious, are you guys in PAL land ?
Hi, I'm in the UK - but have PAL & NTSC N64s both RGB modded. I got the PAL one to experiment with with well optimized PAL games (mostly by Rare) but nearly always play NTSC :)
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Thought this side-by-side test was a good demonstration of HDTV lag:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoqA_DFIrwE&feature=player_detailpage
Edited by andyk2003, Feb 1 2014, 08:40 AM.
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Hi guys, I have a final conclusion in my search for the perfect N64 display so I thought I'd share it here.

I've been collecting and evaluating displays for a while now and think I have found the answers I was looking for. This is only for the really discerning types who absolutely have to have the best N64 experience - most people won't even care and will be fine with what they have. Also this is all pretty pointless if you don't have your N64 RGB modded.

As I mentioned before, the high quality CRT monitors either have scanlines that are too prominent for the N64 or line double to make a blocky image. Also they are hard to find in 25 inches - the ideal size IMO. Go higher than 25 inches and the picture degrades significantly. Also any TV that frame doubles (100Hz) or line doubles (EDTV/HDTVs) will not do the N64 any favours. Old fashioned (preferably 4:3) 50Hz TVs are the way to go for the absolute best experience.

High quality shadow mask CRTs were virtually non-existent in the UK (apart from Bang & Olufsen, which have a horribly dim output). For us, the Sony Trinitron TV's (aperture grille) were the best of the bunch and produce an amazing, vibrant and sharp image. I've tried lots of other makes from the UK next to the Sony and absolutely none of them come close. This is partly due to the aperture grille technology they used.

The only downside is that Sonys are prone to the image softening and loss of clarity after a lot of use so it's important to get one that hasn't been overly used - ideally one that's been used in a guest room or bedroom instead of as a main TV. I've picked up a lot of Sonys and only one is really sharp - it had been rarely used. If searching on eBay etc. a good clue is how worn the remote is. The numbers wear away with a lot of use so a new looking remote is a good sign.

I wanted to also see if a very high quality shadow mask TV could surpass my Sony but this meant that I had to import from Germany. The Germans made a few brands that were the absolute pinnacle of shadow mask technology - namely Metz, Loewe etc. I decided to go with Loewe as they produced a few 50HZ models as late as the year 2000 while Metz stopped producing them quite early on.

After some research, the very best and last range of models they produced had the E3001 chassis - which has a reputation amongst CRT collectors as being very high quality. After shipping quite a few (5) to the UK, only one still had a really bright, sharp image. This is because although they retain their sharpness a little better than apperture grille TVs, they will lose brightness and contrast with a lot of use.

Although this was a time consuming and expensive process (not too much of a problem for me) I ended up with 2 absolutely brilliant low use TV's - one a shadow mask and one aperture grille. This meant that I could make a good comparison of how the N64 works with both technologies.

As I mentioned before, the only disadvantage to the Sonys are the slightly more prominent scanlines - which complement the 2D consoles but not so much the first gen 3D ones. This problem gets way worse on the larger sets - 29 inch etc. but the scanlines are much milder than that of an apperture grille monitor like the Sony PVM/BVM series - a favourite among retro gamers. Apart from that, and on a 25 inch screen, the N64 looks very sharp, defined, bright and colourful.

As for the Loewe it has an absolutely beautiful, clean sharp image. There is absolutely no colour bleed even at quite high contrast levels. The colours are amazing and as a whole this even slightly tops the Sony. The scanlines are much less prominent than the Sony but the side effect of feeding it a low resolution image like the N64's is that it looks a little 'bitty' in the horizontal plane and not quite as cohesive as the Sony as a result. It turns out that there is no way to feed a 240p image of a first generation 3D console to a really sharp display capable of displaying twice that resolution and not notice some kind of resulting effect.

Also, due to the intrinsically rough nature of the N64's video output (even if it's RGB modded), it will always look much better at a distance of 6 feet as opposed to 3-4 feet no matter how high the quality the display is. Actually, for SD CRT TV's the recommended viewing distance, even for 480i/480p content is 3-4 times the diagonal size of the screen so for a 25 inch screen this translates to a closest viewing distance of 6.25 feet.

Either way, at this distance, the prominent scanlines of the Sony and slightly 'bitty' image of the Loewe completely blend in to the picture and you have a really cohesive image. This, coupled with the fact that the 6 foot distance also negates the N64's rough output, gives a fantastic, sharp image - much better than a TV with a softer image. This is because you end up with the high clarity and sharpness of these TVs but without the imperfections of both the N64's output and the shadow mask/aperture grille - the ideal sweet spot for this console.

My conclusion was that I found that a really sharp, little used, high quality 25 inch CRT at 6 feet distance gives the absolute best picture I've seen from an N64 with the exception of using a quality CRT monitor at 640x480 (31Khz) with PC emulation using a custom VGA to scart cable (or an Arcadeforge UMSA adapter). The PC emulator settings have to be just right to get the perfect image. The Wii virtual console gives a fairly good N64 output as well but only the PAL Wii outputs in RGB Scart (s-video is not good quality wise) so for 60Hz gaming the only route here is using a component compatible CRT monitor/TV.

As you probably know, PC N64 emulation on a flatscreen just looks 'wrong' (i.e. not authentic) due to the low polygon count and other factors such as when 2D sprites are used as a 3D effect in 3D games (Mario 64, Mario kart 64 etc.) The Wii virtual console for the N64 also looks terrible on a flatscreen, even on a high quality plasma (i.e. more forgiving than LCD/LED for SD content). Maybe future Nintendo consoles can improve on this.

Personally I prefer to use the original N64 hardware though. The smaller you go with the CRT, the sharper the image is and the less obvious the drawbacks of the N64's output quality are. As I say, I prefer 25 inch. My N64 looks amazing on my 13 inch CRT but that's too small for me. A 21 inch might be a good compromise for some people.

One word of warning for people looking to buy an XRGB mini for their N64 - these machines are amazing for getting old 2D consoles to look good on large modern TVs but don't play well with the N64. Depending on the settings, they either look much too scanlined and 'artificial' or very blocky. It's best to try one out before purchasing it, although that's easier said than done..

So there we have it - I hope this is useful for obsessive types who are searching for the best there is. For everyone else, their current TV is perfectly fine.
Edited by andyk2003, Jul 6 2014, 12:58 AM.
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Actually I just bought a top of the range Sony BVM-20E1E and if you don't mind a 20 inch screen the image is incredible. It's generally considered to be the best 15Khz (retro) CRT display ever made and cost over $12,000 when it came out - but can now be bought for $200-$300. Ideally, the monitor would need to have low hours and be connected to the N64 using RGB via the monitor's BNC connectors.

Actually the scanlines aren't really overly apparent at a 2-3 feet distance and the image is very bright, sharp and colourful - quite a lot more so than a standard TV (or even a PVM). It's cool to see the N64 on such a phenomenal CRT. The interesting thing is that, for the N64 specifically, a standard Sony TV can be comparatively beneficial in some ways as it's softer, more blurred image gives a kind of anti-aliasing effect which smooths out the low res pixellated output of the N64 whereas the BVM's incredibly sharp image can highlight the N64's drawbacks a little.

So the Sony trinitron TVs are awesome and so are the BVMs - for different reasons. The 4:3 BVMs only go up to 20" but give better image quality (and geometry) and the TVs are fantastic too, give a more genuine 'retro' feel, but are blurrier and a touch smoother as a result (the bigger and more used the TV, the worse the image quality gets).

I have both permanently connected to all my retro consoles so I can switch between the two :)
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 5 2014, 05:12 PM.
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Final conclusion!

Having spent some time with my BVM I'm completely sold. The image is so much bolder and sharper than any CRT I've ever seen - the image really leaps of the screen.

The caveat is that it's a 20" display - which made me reluctant at first - but I now find that the image quality more than makes up for it. A 20" screen will always looks sharper than an equivalent larger screen anyway but combined with the quality of the BVM, there's no going back for me

So there we have it. My mission is over - and for me, a Sony BVM monitor combined with a decent RGB mod gives the best possible N64 image quality :)
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 5 2014, 05:58 PM.
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Did you mean that you bought a BVM monitor? If so that's great, they're generally regarded as the best CRTs ever made for retro gaming. The quality is awesome.

I've been searching for the best display possible because time hasn't been kind to the N64's image quality - I remembered it looking great back in the day but now I generally find it hard to look at. The BVM really changes that & makes playing my N64 a pleasure.

I have one alongside a really nice Sony CRT TV that's had very little use and the BVM is much sharper, clearer & the colours are much better. As I say, the image really leaps of the screen. The TV looks dull and blurred in comparison even though it's a great TV.

Saying that, the Sony TVs are in no way bad - in fact they're very good, it's just that the BVM looks so much better side by side.

Preferably, you'd want to use an RGB modded N64 with this monitor. The video connection uses BNC connectors so you'd need to use custom scart to BNC cables from somewhere like Retrogamingcables.

Which model BVM did you get?
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 6 2014, 05:14 AM.
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Apologies for the double post!


I found a great new CRT display for the N64 :) This has a much larger tube size (29") but without some of the drawbacks that these size screens usually have when used with the N64.

It's one of the super-rare and much sought after (by retro gamers & arcade enthusiasts) line of NEC Pro Multisync CRT presentation monitors - the NEC XV-29 pro.

It's much harder to find than the Sony PVM or BVM monitors but has a shadow mask tube which are kinder to the N64s output as mentioned earlier. This is because the prominent scanlines of the equivalent sized apperture grille monitors (i.e. all the Sony monitors and a few others) break up the N64's image in a way that I personally don't like.

Unlike many other display types, this monitor stays razer sharp throughout it's life. As someone referencing high end gaming monitors on the Neo Geo forum put it:

"The PVM has better control over beam focus than the Mitsubishi Megaview Pro. The pro grade NEC Multisync slap them both down with ease and will retain its razor sharp focus til the death, due to being electro-magnetic focus instead of electro-static. "

Not only is this very sharp, the colours are very nice - bold but never over saturated, even at higher contrast levels. There is never too much colour bleed which is consistent with high end displays.

As with any TV/monitor over 21" (4:3), for a decent image an RGB mod is essential with this monitor. I've tried it with S-video and it looked horrible. RGB mods are simple and cheap to do & a no-brainer for an N64 enthusiast anyway. I'm guessing not very many people around here use composite as it's image quality is so poor.

There are some games that look better on the BVM than on the NEC due to it's small size and extreme quality (I've never seen Wave Race look good on a large screen), but for the first and second party 3D adventures & platformers that I love so much, playing on the bigger screen feels more 'epic' due to the large size. I love to feel that I'm 'absorbed' by the worlds Nintendo & Rare created & the NEC gives me that.

Anyway, there you have it - this monitor looks way better than my best Sony Trinitron TV, is 31Khz (480p) compatible for Gamecube games, has a beautiful sharp image and is a nice complement to the BVM. It's more akin to a high quality arcade screen and it's well worth picking one up - although they are rare.

I have the NEC and BVM permanently hooked up to my N64, SNES & Gamecube for the 2 very different experiences. It's very difficult to take decent photos of CRTs so I apologise for the bad quality. You can see that both are very bright & colourful & put out a ton of light. What can't be shown here is how pin sharp they are - really beautiful to look at in person...

Posted Image

Close up of the shadow mask:

Posted Image

You can see the 'interlocking' nature of the mask. The phosphors of a shadow mask display tend to be in a 'triad' formation which makes them so perfect for the N64. Conversely, the phosphors of an aperture grille are placed next to each other in straight lines which results in heavier 240p scanlines, especially on larger TVs & monitors.
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 28 2014, 05:06 AM.
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Totally understandable & fair point Kobeskillz :)

However there is a great solution to this. There will always be a decent modder in your country & it just takes a bit of research to find someone really good - we have Videogameperfection.com in the UK.

The beauty of the N64 mod is that it doesn't take long and the parts are cheap so as long as you have the right console revision (revision 4 or under for NTSC consoles), you should only expect to pay about 35 for the mod to be done by an expert. This is not a high price to pay, especially if you're going to be spending a lot of time playing your N64. The mod to ask for is the THS7314 amp mod which is the best currently available.

If your console is revision 5 or higher or any PAL console apart from an early French version, the mod is a little more expensive as you'll need the modder to fit the 'RGB for all' chip. In my opinion, it's still worth it if a relatively small one-off payment means having a high quality image for your N64 for many years to come.
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No worries :)

Sorry, it slipped my mind that RGB scart isn't widely available in the US.

I haven't tried it before but to get component you'd need to use an RGB to component transcoder as the signals are too different to just modify a cable. This guy had success with a transcoder for his megadrive but the same would apply to the N64:

http://www.retro-otaku.com/2010/07/getting-component-video-out-of-a-sega-mega-drive-works-for-other-rgb-signals-as-well/

Also, Coligion from this forum uses one so it might be worth asking him about it - I would personally go for one that's as high quality as possible. A good transcoder won't add any lag.

The trouble is that a transcoder costs money - at least $50-$60 (or less on eBay if you're lucky.)

Another solution would be to get an inexpensive professional CRT monitor on eBay, say a Sony PVM of some kind, which will definitely accept RGB via BNC connectors.

Retro enthusiasts tend to go down the pro CRT monitor route in the US as they come up quite regularly on eBay and the TVs don't usually do RGB scart. If you get one, you'll end up with a very nice picture & they can go for as little as $40-$50 - but then you'd need RGB to BNC cables to connect the N64 to the monitor which would be another $30-ish & the cost starts mounting up. Personally I think it's worth it and only use monitors now as the image tends to be much better than the average TV, especially combined with the RGB mod.

The only caveat is that the larger PVMs (25" and above) have very prominent scanlines which I don't personally like when it comes to the N64 - but the 20" models look great if you don't mind a smaller screen. If you want a bigger screen it's best to go with a shadow mask monitor like the NEC.

For everyone in Europe and Australia it's easier as RGB scart TVs are much more common. In fact almost all CRT TVs that were sold here in the UK had it.

One thing to note, however, is that for lower quality displays or an old TV that has a soft image due to being at the end of it's life, the differences between s-video & RGB will be less apparent. In this case, an upgrade to a pro monitor would be a great move.

The Shmups forum would be a good place to ask around for good modders in the US - there's bound to be a few on there:

http://shmups.system11.org/index.php
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 13 2014, 06:32 AM.
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Nice one :) There are a few people who have uploaded Youtube videos of their Sony PVM/BVM monitors that might be worth checking out. This is probably the most in depth one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdnC1mx7E0U

The BVM here is an older analogue version of mine. It's telling that it still looks amazing even though it was made in 1987. If you can find a later BVM (made around 2000) with less than 20,000 hours on it, it will probably outlast us all & still look perfect - they are that well made.


Another video showing someone from the US with an RGB modded N64 on a Sony PVM monitor:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAGf-Hcl9pU

These are both 20 inch monitors that look great with the N64 - the NEC is the only large monitor I've found that I've been happy with though.


Here's some more info on the BVM monitors and others - the BVM showcased here is the one I have:

http://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=43256



One thing I've been pondering recently regarding this, though, is that by going into all this here I really don't want to make people unsatisfied with the setups they have already.

To be honest, all this is just for obsessive types like me who want to get the absolute best image. I'm sure your setup looks great anyway Kobeskillz - the Sony TVs are fantastic and as you say, s-video is much better than composite.

My mission to get a great N64 image has been fun & satisfying and I now have an amazing setup - but it's been very time consuming - and I've found it has sometimes detracted a little from just enjoying the games for what they are and I feel ready to let it go now & just enjoy playing my N64.

I'm glad I've shared my findings here though & I hope it helps people - but I also think there's also something to be said for not getting too bogged down in all this and just enjoying what you have. It's all about the games after all :)
Edited by andyk2003, Sep 14 2014, 03:24 AM.
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Hi guys - it's been a while since I last posted and the dust has settled a bit so I thought I'd update...

I've now tested and owned a lot of high end TVs & monitors and had come to the conclusion that my BVM-20E1E and NEC XV29+ were the best monitors for the NTSC N64. They are indeed very good monitors - however, having spent some time with them, I've wavered on this & now use a different display.

The reason is that these monitors are, in a way, TOO good for the N64's output because they are so sharp, they highlight the flaws in the N64's image, resulting in a pixelly mess at times (ocarina of time particularly). They also have very strong scanlines (not so great for 3D 240p stuff). On the other end of the spectrum, a well-used CRT with a softened image won't have such a visible mask but will also be blurry, which is not for me.

With my 25" and above consumer CRTs (which are low use & still very sharp), these problems are also apparent, but on my (very low hours) 21" 50/60Hz consumer Trinitron (KV-21X5U) the scanlines are virtually gone, the sharpness remains yet the aperture grille is very mellow and actually enhances the image rather than detracts from it. At this smaller TV size, the grille/mask and pixel density is now high enough to properly support the low resolution of the N64.

So there it is; I've tested some of the best retro gaming CRT TVs & monitors around but have come to the conclusion that, personally, a little-used 21" 4:3 50/60Hz, 15Khz (pre-EDTV) consumer Trinitron (or high end 21" shadow mask like the Loewe E3000/E3001 chasis) gives the best image for the N64 - it's really made playing my N64 even more of a pleasure :). This display gives the *perfect* balance of sharpness, subtle scanlines and the gentle CRT 'anti-alias' effect to do the N64's image credit.

The scanlines/shadow mask of the 21" blends in and stops being distracting at about 2.5 feet from the screen. The 25" equivalent would have to be about 5 feet away for this to happen - so even though the 21" is the smaller TV, it still takes up a much larger portion of your field of view when you sit at the ideal distance. The 25" does look good at 5 feet - but I much prefer to sit closer to game so as to be more 'involved' in the gameworld.

People say that in retrospect, the N64's looks worse now than we remember it to be back in the day - the 21" Sony is the only display that, to me, makes the N64 look as good as I remember it to be when I first played it. An RGB mod is still necessarily to get this super clean look. S-video isn't so much worse but the N64 needs as much signal clarity as it can get and using RGB definitely results in a cleaner image.

For the image to be really good, there are a couple of caveats: firstly, the TV needs to be from a really good manufacturer. Just getting a 50Hz/60Hz Sony is a good way to guarantee that - shadow mask (non-Sony) TVs are quite variable in quality. Secondly, the TV has to have had relatively little use in it's lifetime. The trick is to find one that has only been rarely used as it's spent it's life, say, in a guest room or a holiday home. I can't stress enough how much a difference this makes - the image is so much sharper than a well-used TV's. Technical aspects like convergence, focus, geometry etc. tend to still be in good order as well.

I should mention that I've based all of this on NTSC games as I don't play PAL stuff generally - however for people that do, many PAL N64 games look fine on a decent 25" CRT due to the increased resolution - a little blurrier than an NTSC game on a 21" CRT but without the strong scanlines/shadowmask effect produced by an NTSC N64 on a 25" CRT. RGB and a low use CRT are still essential for the best picture. Also, some select NTSC games can still look OK on a 25" from a certain distance (4-5 feet). They tend to be games that have a certain 'clean cut' look like Mario 64 & Mario Kart 64. I might use my 25" CRTs, say, when playing multiplayer MK64 with friends - where people are usually a little further from the screen. On the other end of the spectrum, NTSC Ocarina of time looks awful on anything over 21" due in part to having to portray a natural envirnoment.

Luckily, 21" TVs are the most likely to have been used as secondary TVs as the main living room TV's were usually a size or two bigger. I tend to ask eBay sellers how the TV's been used. A good way to double check this is by looking at the remote - if it's the original remote, looks mint & the numbers haven't been worn away in the slightest then the TV probably hasn't had too much use.

There it is - the end of an obsession. I hope all this is useful to someone :)
Edited by andyk2003, Jan 4 2015, 03:15 PM.
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Thanks Kartmaster :) I know what you mean, learning CRT maintenance/repair might be a good idea - I still want to be able to play N64 on a decent CRT when I'm old!
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Sorry to hear that.. I looked into long term CRT storage a while back & apparently large variations in temperature isn't good as it causes the components/solder to expand & shrink which causes them to deteriorate. Also dampness is a problem & the humidity would ideally be at around 50% (ish.)

I forgot to mention a tip I learned - people tend to have the contrast on their CRTs set much too high - this burns out the phosphors more quickly & shortens the life of the CRT. With a well-used TV, the contrast will probably need to be set high just to get a normal image but on a low-use/new CRT, the image will be quite vibrant at flat brightness & contrast settings.

I like a really vibrant image for gaming & I do set the contrast just a notch above centre (& brightness at centre position), but no more than that. The best way to increase the vibrancy while preserving the CRT's phosphors is to reduce the ambient light rather than turn up the brightness/contrast - by closing the curtains/turning off any lighting etc. - or for an image that really leaps off the screen, playing the dark :)

Edited by andyk2003, Jan 7 2015, 11:28 AM.
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Very last addition - I finally settled on the Loewe E3001 chassis 25" (63cm) TV for my N64. It's shadow mask produces an incredibly sharp, vibrant image - but the difference to the similarly sized Sony consumer CRTs and the professional monitors is that the scanlines are much mellower, producing a smoother image - but at the same time retaining the sharpness and clarity. Very prominent scanlines can look good for 2D 240p consoles, but just look wrong on the N64's image (in my opinion.) These Loewes really are awesome - some of the best 15Khz TVs ever made - but like any CRT, they need to be relatively low use if they are to be sharp - maybe just used as a bedroom or guestroom TV. The picture is breathtaking.

I eventually found the 21" Sony a little small for my N64 gaming - also the mellow but slightly more prominent (being 25") scanlines of the Loewe actually provide a kind of subtle sharpening to the image that I prefer. The ideal viewing distance is about 4 feet from the Loewe. Any closer and the shadow mask gets too obvious (as with any 25" TV). The Loewe's also great with the ealier consoles. The rare 1-chip (sharper) SNES looks just amazing on it.

In the meantime, I found some incredible progressive scan 31Khz (480p) CRTs for the Gamecube era consoles that even make the Wii look stunning. They have VGA inputs that will run a 31Khz image with no processing and look mind blowing. One is the 29" Metz 605G chassis 2005 CRT (Once of the best 4:3 CRTs ever made, but 100Hz so not good for the N64) and the 29" NEC XV29 plus mentioned earlier (just as good for Gamecube etc. but again, very heavily scanlined with the N64). For widescreen, the Loewe Aconda with VGA card and high end Sony XBR TVs are also fantastic.

Happy gaming! :)
Edited by andyk2003, Apr 23 2015, 02:48 PM.
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With all this talk of RF, I got curious & ordered an official RF adapter, just for a laugh really - and to see how so many people were playing N64 back in the day. I upgraded to RGB (NTSC) when the N64 was not long out, but I think my very first N64 must have run RF (there were no composite cables in the UK box) and I thought it looked awesome :)

Anyway, I like the thought of having that little that piece of N64 history in my collection, even though I'll never use it for actual gameplay purposes. I'll get back here with my findings... I would imagine it looks pretty terrible next to a decent RGB mod!
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Cool. Is that a large or smaller Sony? Using a 21/22" or smaller set will look better with a low quality signal than a bigger one. The NES is one of the hardest consoles to get a pure RGB signal from.

A very talented guy called Viletim (also did the N64 DAC mentioned earlier) came out with the solution recently, but it's a pretty complicated install. It looks amazing apparently.
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Yes, I've seen it - that project's looking really good- Kevtris is the guy working on it, I think. So we'll have the options of an HDMI N64 and an HDMI NES, which is awesome for those who don't want a CRT in the house.

The HDMI NES kit uses the NES' own PPU so is pretty authentic and has no lag at all - and both mods will be a huge jump up from using composite on an HDTV. For a lot of people the results will be great - but I have to admit that I'm not really so keen on the type of image that these flat panel mods and scalers produce..

It depends what kind of image you like - if you like your pixels to be very defined and razor sharp, this will be great. The result is an almost clinical looking image - but also quite blocky, especially without introducing scanlines. Luckily - like the XRGB mini - the NES mod has a scanline option in an attempt to mimic a CRT and reduce the blockiness.

But for me, there are a few other aspects that make these games look so good on a (decent) CRT and add up to form the reason why CRTs give that perfect 'anti alias' effect for 240p. These are colour bleed (but not too much), the shadow mask/aperture grille (very important), brightness haloing and the non-linear brightness curve.

All of these combine to form a kind of 'texture' that really complements low-res graphical output and are hard to recreate in hardware at the moment. The basic scanline generators in these mods & the XRGB scalers are the current solution to this, but are relatively crude - all they do is overlay alternate horizontal lines of (ideally variable) density over the image to simulate an aperture grille CRT.

The real aperture grille or shadow mask is much more complex than that in it's makeup, though, & a shadow mask (best for N64) would need at least a 4K TV to approximate well. We're really in the early generations of hardware CRT emulation at the moment & things will be much better in the future, with all aspects of the image being customisable. Even then, though, I wouldn't want to play on a 16:9 screen. The options are to either have the 4:3 image stretched to 16:9 or to have big black borders either side - none of which are attractive to me, although I know lots of people are fine with this.

The real strides that have been taken in this area are in emulation - there are some amazing shaders around that go much further towards producing a CRT-like image especially for 2D games, although people usually overdo the effect. Real hardware just appeals to me more though - Ocarina of time just feels much more epic on a real N64. Funnily enough, from what I've seen the one console that no shader has managed to get right is the elusive N64 .

It obviously goes without saying that this is all just my opinion. A lot of people will be loving these new mods as well as their XRGBs & that's great. It's only the obsessive types who are searching for the absolute best 240p image possible that will care about any of this :)
Edited by andyk2003, May 3 2015, 07:51 AM.
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My god this guy (Marshall) has done it! He's surpassed any existing hardware scaling option available for the N64, including the XRGB mini. Many of us have been waiting for a long time for this but the wait has been worth it. The options in this mod are fantastic. If you like the CRT look, he's actually managed to successfully emulate colour bleed, non-linear brightness curve etc. along with added scanlines and it looks great. The emulation is of the aperture grille rather than shadow mask style CRT.

If you like sharp pixels with no scanlines (not my bag), there's even a de-blur option that applies algorithms to the image to reverse Nintendo's blur filter - all this within one frame (16ms) of lag. I don't think this will ever replace my CRTs for various reasons, but I'm getting one anyway just for fun. If you use a flat panel for N64 gaming, I wouldn't hesitate in buying this.

The release in imminent - check out this review and also this video on Marshall's site...
Edited by andyk2003, Oct 27 2015, 05:38 PM.
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Absolutely.. although I forgot to mention that I asked him about PAL yesterday and says that although PAL consoles will work with the mod, unfortunately as many PAL titles are ports that have 240p images stretched to 288p, they will look pretty rough - so with this particular mod, NTSC remains the superior option....
Edited by andyk2003, Oct 28 2015, 05:37 AM.
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The one caveat is that this won't be cheap. So far, the info is that Marshall is only shipping the mods to specific resellers/installers who will have to order 5+ kits at $127 each. The mod will be fairly complicated to install, so unless you're really good with a soldering iron, the cost of the installation and the reseller's margin will probably increase the cost by a fair amount. He's planning on announcing more info by Nov 1st.

Personally I think that the price seems reasonable, especially considering the amount of time he's put into it, the quality of the mod and the limited market...

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So here's the first installer/reseller I've seen for this mod. You have to send an N64 to them - then they'll perform the mod for $164 plus shipping charges.

I'm fine with that but I'd be really interested to hear what people here think about the price - is it putting anyone off buying this?
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