Welcome to the Audio/Video Supply section. While most of us remember hooking up our old game systems with an RF Box back in the day, to do so now is doing a great dis-service to the TV and your System. Even though many of the old game systems cant go any higher than RCA / composite cables (Red, White & Yellow) it provides a much better picture. Lets review, shall we?
First, lets cover the basics of video connections.
SEGA RF BOX
(connects to the TV Cable/Antenna: see diagram below)
Almost every game system you purchased before the mid 90’s came with one of these bad boy connections. You simply unscrewed your Cable TV from the back of your Television, screw this in, and then hook your Cable TV onto the RF box. Then just sit back and watch the worst picture you can get on your awesome game system.
RF is the worst connection you can use. Only use it if you have no other input available. If you have an RCA (Red, Yellow & White) Input, by all means, use that instead. The main reason these RF displays a crappy picture is that all the audio and video signals are squeezed into one cable, interfere with each other, and are then broken back apart again at your TV.
RCA or Composite Cable (Red, White & Yellow)
(connects to the Composite Video In: see diagram below)
This is the more common cable you see today. The REAL Name of these type of cables is COMPOSITE. RCA (Radio Corporation of America) is the company that invented these guys way back in the day. Anyway, most of your old systems can use these cables but were probably not shipped with them.
This cable will give you better picture quality as they keep the video and audio signals separated to their own wire. Yellow = Video, Red = Right Audio, White = Left Audio. While this is not the best cable available for every system, for many of the older systems this is as good as it gets.
S-Video or Super Video or Y/C cable
(connects to the S-Video In: see diagram below)
Ahh the S-video cable. One of my favorite connections for the older systems. S-video (created by JVC) improves the picture quality of the yellow composite cable by breaking lumen (luminance) and chroma (color) into their own wires, reducing interference and providing a cleaner signal to the TV.
Now, many people may think the the picture looks “jaggy”, while other describe it as “sharper”. The reason for this is that game systems have a resolution (320 x 224 for the Genesis) that is basically little squares or pixels. So the Genesis is 320 little squares across by 224 squares down (71,680 squares total). The newer the system the better the resolution, the better the picture.
Well when you use an RF or RCA cable. the interference makes the picture a little blurry. So where two squares or pixels sit side by side, their edges are fuzzy and blurred together, which “softens” the look. Well when you start using S-video or better cables, you start to see the edges of each pixel/square better. Now on newer systems, DVDs and such the picture just looks better. On the older (lower resolution) systems, it may be considered “blockier”, but you are beginning to see exactly what the designer of the game was working with.
SCART or CSYNC RBG SCART
This bad boy cable isn’t as well know in the States, but is commonly used in Europe. This cable basically takes the straight RGB feed from your system and will give you the absolute cleanest picture you can get from almost all classic consoles. As U.S. TV’s don’t have SCART inputs you have to add a converter box, which will then covert the RGB signal to either Component or even HDMI. This cable set-up will make your system look near pixle perfect and is a must for the video/image snob (like myself).
Standard TV AV Connections
While there are better video connections available (HDMI and such), you can almost forget about them when your talking about “Classic Game Systems”. Your goal should be to get every system you have to either RCA or S-Video and you’ll be in good shape.