Information on how to improve the picture and sound quality on ones ColecoVision and ADAM system
This information might be common knowledge for those that have owned their ColecoVision or ADAM for decades. However, this brief post contains some useful information on what needs to be done to improve the picture and sound quality on a ColecoVision and ADAM system. After years of using a ColecoVision/ADAM emulation program on a desktop PC with a HDMI output. I finally got around to digging my old 1982 ColecoVision and 1983 ADAM computer out of storage. To my surprise both systems after around 35 years work perfectly fine.
How to improve the existing RF channel 3 and 4 output on the ColecoVision and ADAM computer
The original RCA to RCA cable with TV switch box that came with both the ColecoVision and standalone ADAM computer is poor quality. The cable is not shielded and the cable is too long (Some video RF interference and scratchy audio can occur). Many people have complained over the years about the poor quality of the RF channel 3 and channel 4 output. However, there is a solution to improve the picture and sound quality over RF channel 3 and 4. The solution is to stop using the original TV switch box and original Coleco long unshielded cable and to switch to a very short shielded cable. The shorter the cable the better the picture quality will be in the analog world. Almost 100% of all modern TV’s since the 90’s use a standard 75 ohm F antenna connector. A F-type Coax Plug to RCA female jack adapter and a high quality 3 foot shielded RG-6U cable with two RCA male connectors on the end will greatly improve the RF modulators channel 3 and 4 output quality. One can use longer cable lengths like 6 or 12 feet if needed, however again the shorter the cable the better the picture and sound quality. My original ColecoVision with its RF channel 3 and 4 output looks and sounds much better with the solution mentioned above. However, the composite video output on the standalone ADAM looks much better then RF channel 3 and 4.
Using the native composite video and audio output on the standalone ADAM computer
The ColecoVision which was released in August of 1982 only came with a RF channel 3 and 4 output and with no composite video outputs. This was the norm for all or most videogame systems in 1982 since composite video jacks on TV sets were rare. Around October of 1983, both the Expansion module #3 ADAM computer and the standalone ADAM computer was released (The Expansion module #3 ADAM computer became available a few months before the standalone ADAM computer was released at Montgomery Wards). Since the ColecoVision only has a RF channel 3 and 4 output, that also means the Expansion module #3 ADAM also only offers RF channel 3 and 4 output. Around the 1983 or 1984 time period there was at least one third party company that started offering a composite video with audio upgrade kit for the ColecoVision (Might have been between $30-$50 if one installed it themselves using their own soldering skills). I use to have a ColecoVision in the 80’s with this composite video modification that matched the picture quality of the standalone ADAM computer (However, I sold that ColecoVision to someone in the late 80’s). The standalone ADAM computer has RF channel 3 and 4 output, and two composite video outputs. The one composite video output uses a standard RCA video cable that is easy to find and purchase. However to get both composite video with audio on the standalone ADAM computer Coleco decided to use a 7 pin DIN connector which required a special Coleco composite video and audio cable. Back in 1983-1985 this cable was rare and consumers were just starting to buy television sets with composite video inputs. Shortly after 1985 many third party companies started making a Coleco ADAM compatible video and audio DIN cable. It would have been better if Coleco would have just placed a standard audio RCA jack on the back of the ADAM instead of going with the 7 pin DIN plug design (I believe that only 4 pins are used on the 7 pin din connector). Coleco already had a RCA video output on the back of the ADAM, and it would have been really easy to place a RCA audio jack on the back instead of the DIN jack. The RF channel 3 and 4 output, composite video RCA output, and composite video with audio over a DIN cable can be used at the exact same time (Its nice that all 3 outputs are active at the exact same time). I do remember going to a Library in the 80’s where the local ADAM computer groups met every month. At that Library they had two 27 inch NEC TV/monitors with composite video input jacks. When setting up the standalone ADAM computer for the monthly ADAM group I would wire both TV’s for composite video output since the standalone ADAM has two separate composite video outputs (Then audio would go to one of the monitors audio inputs and with the monitors audio output jack the speakers in the second monitor in the room would receive the audio signal also). There are ADAM dealers like ADAM House and others that make a special DIN composite video cable with audio. However if one is having a hard time finding these special Coleco ADAM Video/Audio cables, then there are websites that show people how to make this unique cable. For the RCA composite video output with no audio a high quality 3 foot shielded RG-6U cable with two RCA male connectors on the end will offer the best picture quality (6 and 12 feet will also work but in the analog world the longer the cable, the potential for a lower quality picture becomes a reality, so one should keep the cable length as short as possible).
Some additional tips when using the twp separate composite video outputs on the standalone ADAM computer
I noticed a nice improvement in both picture and audio quality on the standalone ADAM computer when using the special ADAM DIN composite video with audio cable when compared to the RF channel 3 and 4 output. However, for some reason I got an improved composite video quality on the dedicated ADAM composite monitor video output jack when compared to the Aux Video DIN jack. I tried around six different ADAM House brand video and audio DIN cables and with all six cables I got a very small faint horizontal scrolling video noise line that was not present on the ADAM’s dedicated RCA composite video output jack. I tried more than one standalone ADAM computer and was able to duplicate the results. In the future, I might purchase another brand of Audio/Video DIN cable just in case the ADAM’s House cables are lower quality. However, it appears that the ADAM’s RCA composite video output when used with a high quality RG6 shielded cable, offers a better picture quality when compared to the Coleco ADAM’s DIN plug option. Therefore I currently have my standalone ADAM computer hooked up to a 27 inch 4:3 1080i HDTV using the audio from the DIN cable and I am getting the video from the better quality composite RCA output, which ends up producing the best possible video and audio from a unmodified 1983 standalone ADAM computer.
Verified problems using the Expansion module #1 Atari 2600 adapter on a standalone ADAM computer
When using the Expansion module #1 ATARI 2600 adapter on the ColecoVision and the standalone ADAM computer system, both the audio level and clarity is perfectly fine coming out of RF channel 3 and 4. However as soon as one uses the dedicated higher quality composite video with audio output located on the standalone ADAM computer, the picture quality is improved, however the audio quality is terrible for ATARI 2600 games. To hear the audio I literally needed to turn the audio on the CRT TV all the way up to maximum volume, but then the audio was distorted. The distortion was not coming from the TV, I turned the audio down on the TV a few notches so that I could barely hear the audio coming out of the speakers, but the audio was still distorted. On some lower end CRT’s with lower quality speakers the audio can hardly be heard at all. I know this is a technical problem that Coleco has on all the standalone ADAM’s when using the ATARI 2600 adapter, however I also remember someone mentioning that there was a 21st Century hardware modification that could be made to the circuit board so that the audio level and distortion issue can be completely fixed. I think it has something to do about de-soldering the DIN plug audio wire on the circuit board, and then moving and soldering the audio wire to the exact same audio path where the RF modulator receives the audio (It’s too bad Coleco never fixed this bug during the ADAM computers brief 1983-1985 production life).
My future plans is to improve the picture quality on the ColecoVision/ADAM using a third party hardware modification with or without a professional upgrade service
So far I have never experienced an actual real ColecoVision or ADAM computer with anything better than composite video (Using an emulation program with HDMI on a Windows PC does not count, but that is the type of picture quality I would like to achieve one day from an actual Coleco system). At the time of this post, the only two upgrade kits available for the ColecoVision is composite video and a S-Video upgrade option. S-Video is an improvement over composite video and I do have an old 27 inch 1080i CRT from around the year 2005 with two S-Video inputs. However, that TV also has two 1080i component video inputs (plus many old CRT SDTV’s from the early 21st Century have 480i component video inputs). Therefore, on that TV, getting the ColecoVision upgraded to component video would be an improvement over the S-Video upgrade option. However, the problem is the component video kit is now out of production and the same company that offers the S-Video upgrade is planning on sometime coming out with a component video option for the ColecoVision. I also have an old CRT computer monitor that accepts RGB input, however the RGB video option does not exist yet on the ColecoVision. The same company that makes the S-Video upgrade kit might in the future also start offering a RGB video upgrade kit (And possible one kit that puts out everything like RGB, Component Video, and S-Video). The best quality upgrade option is the F18A video board that allows the ColecoVision and standalone ADAM to have a high quality VGA and HDMI output. However, the problem is the F18A video board is out of stock and people are waiting for another batch to be made. I like the following website where one can get their ColecoVision modified for HDMI and with composite video for ATARI 2600 games. Therefore, one day if the F18a video board sees another run, I might seriously spend $270 to get my ColecoVision modified for both HDMI and composite video for the ATARI 2600 games (S-Video if it’s offered). They might also offer an ADAM computer HDMI upgrade option one day.
So the reality is as of October 11th 2017, the HDMI video conversion, VGA video conversion, RGB video conversion, and component video conversion is not a reality for the ColecoVision/ADAM for various reasons (out of stock, out of production, or a future upgrade kit that is released in the future). Now I could spend $55 for the S-Video conversion for the ColecoVision, however I am patient and would rather wait for the HDMI conversion option to become a reality.
Edited by HDTV1080P, Wed Oct 11, 2017 8:10 PM.