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Is RF always a lower quality video output than composite? Not in my world

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I have the option of RF or composite but I prefer the picture quality I get out of my Colecovision and Intellivision II RF and it's not nostalgia and I'm not alone. This video is a good example of RF over Composite on this particular SNES / TV set up. The RF image is unquestionably sharper and more detailed. 

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So what is the explanation for it? If it's actually true, that is, because you can't really tell anything from this shaky cam video.

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I've been using RF on a small (14" or so) Trinitron at work and have been very surprised at the quality of the image. However, this is a set from the '90s with a curved screen. RF on my newer Trinitrons (early 2000's, much larger sets, flat screens, up to 32 inches) looks bad and composite is preferred.

 

I find it interesting that many of us have shunned RF for so long, but the reality is that it can look good on the right kind of TV.

Edited by Austin
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I am going to try this tonight with my turbografx.  I've been using that sketchy AV Booster from hyperkin that people keep saying will mess up your console (though I haven't had any issues) and if RF works great then I might just use that.

 

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This is something I've noticed a few times.  I have a suspicion that earlier composite ports/wiring/cables could have been very low quality at times.  My newer systems (90's) seem to be fine using composite even on my flatscreen.   One example, my Model 1 Genesis seems to look more crisp/better via RF than my Model 2 Genesis using its Composite. It is a subtle thing and may be related to the flatscreen I'm using. Who knows. 

 

One example I can remember - my Atari 800XL.  On RF it is as you'd expect, but using the composite cable, there are smears and the colors are worse. 

 

Mind you, when I use RF these days, it is from game console ==> input into a VCR ==>  then using the VCR's composite output to feed my HDTV, which works very well. My flatscreens do not work well with direct RF from old consoles! 

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In the case of the CV and Intellivision systems the RF is usually just as good and in some cases (Especially the Intellivision) better. At least from the Intellivision side of things, part of the reason for this is that the Intellivision has a pretty wonky video signal to begin with and makes it difficult to get proper results from the current solutions on offer. 

 

With the CV it depends. My daily driver CV has horrid RF with a lot of noise etc in the picture. But when I first got it, it didn't produce any picture at all until I tuned it in. I've tried to replace the RF modulator completely and other fixes and it just seems to produce bad RF. So the composite upgrade on it was a much better overall picture for me. My other CV is still all stock because the RF on it is actually really good and I'm fine with it that way. Now that we have a good and available RGB solution for the CV, that is how I've been playing it now because it is amazing to see how clear it really can be.

 

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Unfortunately I don't have any way to output RGB. I already have 3 CRTs, a 36" Wega, 27" RCA for Light gun games, a Compaq 19" VGA for the Dreamcast) and a 32" OLED 4k all in the same room. I have all my CRT era systems hooked up to CRTs and only use the OLED for the original Xbox, MAME, Xbox 360 and PS3. RGB does seem to be the gold standard. 

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It depends on the quality of a specific rf modulator or composite mod but technically there is little difference between the two signal types; they are both ntsc composite video.  S-video on the other hand splitting the video signal does make a difference.

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Build your own video mixing for composite (or svideo) and you'll see a difference, some people like trippin out to the psychedelic emi, over stable crisp video, also add age to the parts, over time like a vhs they get old and wear out....🙃

Edited by universal2600

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The problem here is that you're comparing, for the Intellivision and Colecovision factory-made video output (RF) with unofficials mods made years later, that might have been poorly conceived, poorly executed, or both.

Also in your comparison video, you aren't showing the video on the same television.

Your second television may have a poor composite input or even a whole video issue.

There's no way that composite can be worse than RF since RF is composite video, "degraded" to fit on a television signal canal (composite video out of the SNES should have 480 visible lines; RF video signals, from consoles or even television broadcast, rarely goes over 400 lines)

Now, does it look "more nostalgic" to you? Maybe, it is a matter of personnal taste. Like how I prefer to play on low-to-middle consumer grade TV from the 80's and 90 rather than on professionnal -grade Sony or JVC monitors from the 90's/2000's.

But that doesn't make your choice, or mine, inherently "better".

Edited by CatPix
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171170261_avmod(1).thumb.JPG.572a26e5441e6b613500d8f012ded2fb.JPGBy the way that's called an rca to type-f adapter or connector,  it looks better because you have much less in the way of interference, compared to conveters/switch boxes

 

I thought anyone using rf would be using these by now, you can get em from ebay for a few dollars

 

Go composite or svideo, rgb/component for the newer stuff, ditch rf

 

Turn on some led or florescent lights

 

Also rf out depends on the unit, they do not transmit the picture using the same erp (power level)

 

You can still see emi interference (grainy wobbly picture) while not heavy still there,

 

 

Remember rf is literally just a small extremely low power analog  tv transmitter, if you took this and ran it through an rf amplifier and antenna you'll have an analog "tv station" (fcc unlicensed however), with all the same issues why that's not used anymore

Edited by universal2600
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I don't use composite video primarily because it would generate a better image, but because it is easier to switch to that mode if you're using multiple systems. Set the TV to AV etc and you should be able to plug in anything without going through settings, tuner, channels, waiting 5 minutes before you found the right frequency etc. In particular if you're hosting an exhibition and have 10-20 systems to set up, with various TV's that you didn't specifically align for each system on beforehand, you probably save at least a half hour of work with composite video even if the image quality would be equal to RF.

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18 hours ago, CatPix said:

There's no way that composite can be worse than RF since RF is composite video, "degraded" to fit on a television signal canal (composite video out of the SNES should have 480 visible lines; RF video signals, from consoles or even television broadcast, rarely goes over 400 lines)

Now, does it look "more nostalgic" to you? Maybe, it is a matter of personnal taste. Like how I prefer to play on low-to-middle consumer grade TV from the 80's and 90 rather than on professionnal -grade Sony or JVC monitors from the 90's/2000's.

But that doesn't make your choice, or mine, inherently "better".

That's what I wanted to hear, if it's technically possible for RF to be actually better in some cases. From what I know it's indeed not possible, but old tech is full of surprises, so...So far I was unconvinced by both the poor quality video and anecdotal evidence.

 

That's not to say that RF can't be considered "okay" way to display, just as composite is often demonised by the onlyRBGonPVM!!1! zealots.

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It's not impossible that some odd video system out there use different techniques that result in piss-poor composite and decent RF, but I do not know of it.

The reason why, on systems like the SNES that has bog RF and composite out, RF can't be better than composite is because the RF is made from the composite signal; as a result, if the composite circuitry is bad then the RF wo'nt be any better.

 

Now, on an individual machine, or on a series of machines, there may be a design or part issue after the point where composite and RF signal split (from the composite source to the composite pins on the back of the console) where a break or an issue cause a signal degradation that will appear only on the composite and not RF. But it would be an exception (for a manufacture issue) or a problem limited on one machine (broken part).

On RF-only system, the issue is that mods are not equal, they may be made for ease of use (importing a PAL machine to the US for example) with only a minimum of parts, or made by hobbyist with more passion that skills.

 

One common problem in RF-only system is that while the video signal feeding the RF unit may be "composite" it may not (will not, in most cases) be a standard TV composite signal. Tapping into it with no or mimimal circuitry to make it a proper, clean signal may result in a weak, dark image with crosstalk or other issues.

It's why most "good" A/V mod those days usually goes directly tapping the signal from the video chip directly, or out of the DAC (Digital Analog Converter, the chip that convert digital video signals to analog). In both cases, the idea is to bypass most of the console's own circuitry. (it also usually allow to keep using the original video output, something that older mods usually don't allow).

 

And there's also, as I mentionned, the TV display itself may be at fault.

Now again I think most TV use the same composite circuit for RF and composite input but some TV may use different circuits to reduce crosstalk (I hadd a cheap TV where, when switching to AV, you could still faintly see the RF channel - or snow - behind, as if the A/V was layered over the RF signal, but it probably was the video signal bleeding over the composite input).

 

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5 hours ago, carlsson said:

I don't use composite video primarily because it would generate a better image, but because it is easier to switch to that mode if you're using multiple systems. Set the TV to AV etc and you should be able to plug in anything without going through settings, tuner, channels, waiting 5 minutes before you found the right frequency etc. In particular if you're hosting an exhibition and have 10-20 systems to set up, with various TV's that you didn't specifically align for each system on beforehand, you probably save at least a half hour of work with composite video even if the image quality would be equal to RF.

Only to be that guy...couldn't you also get a screw on F type connector for the TV itself...then just switch each cable between RF out on the consoles? Seems to me I used something like this to do that for quick switches on my RF systems.

Ancable 2-Pack F-Type Male Plug to RCA Female Jack RF Video TV Cable Adapter for Atari 2600/7800 Sega/Coleco/Commodore Game System

probably there is something I am missing, as I never need to individually tune my RFs, so I am thinking you are running some fun JP consoles that have to come in on channel 86 or whatever it is?

 

(I know probably this I bad juju....I have also used coaxial combiners to "flow" three RF systems into one cable into a TV. As long as you don't turn two on at once, that works pretty well, I think...)

 

JM2Cs generally.....there are games I actually like RF for. Atari 7800 Joust on RF? Awesome phosphorescent trails (ghosting, I assume)on the birds on my CRT. Composite? No blur. And that silly blur somehow adds to the action for that game, for me.

 

My big beef with RF back int he day was static if it was jostled! but as a kid, I can 100% say I did not care HOW I got to play my games...only that there was an available port on the TV, and for a brief period, that usually meant RF (either through a VCR or as a secondary when your cable box is using the one set of those new fangled RCA connectors your TV came with)

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Well, my TV already has a Belling-Lee connector for RF that matches any antenna cables my systems have, so an adapter to another type of cable would not make any difference.

 

Certainly as long as every system broadcasts on channel 3 or 4 (which in US terms would equal exactly 61.25 respective 67.25 MHz in NTSC-M), you don't need to tune. You could also set up multiple programs so you have 1 = Atari 2600, 2 = Intellivision, 3 = C64 etc, but it would mean in my case I would have to prepare 10 or 20 different TVs with the exact same program setup, and memorize which system matches which configuration.

 

At least over here, it wasn't uncommon that some systems would broadcast on VHF 3 or 4 (which equal 55.25 respective 62.25 MHz in PAL-B) or UHF 32-40 which is a band between 559.25 and 623.25 MHz. If you don't know if your system broadcasts on VHF or UHF, you have quite a bit of tuning to do. Sure, again you can prepare that in advance and spend perhaps a full working day just to tune in old CRT TVs, or put stickers on each TV which goes with which system and then have the people who are short in time to mix and match all your 20 systems onto 10 tables at 7 AM in the morning, carefully combine the right TV with the right console or computer.

 

By using composite video, I am eliminating both spending a full day in advance on tuning a lot of TVs and the need to carefully match TV with system. Just make sure the composite video cable is packed with the console/computer, possibly equip the TV with a SCART adapter depending on how your composite video cable looks like, have one or a few remote controls that work with all TVs (same brand is beneficial, but using a programmable multi system remote also works well) and everything will be up and running within minutes. You can assign almost anyone to help you with the setup, they only need to know where to plug in the cable. No thinking twice what works with what or which program each system broadcasts on.

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Just to complete what Carlson said :

 

On European TV since the mid 60's, "channels" aren't selected with a big rotary knob with pre-tuned channels, but would come with (depending on the era) 2 to 8 switches, each with their own mechanical tuner (or digital for later TV)

 

7xEqMV3.jpg

(no, this TV doesn't only go form VHF 1 to 8 )

9IYZMja.jpg

On this pic, you can see the "tuner" with the red bar used for tuning)

 

 

And those tuners would be tuned like a radio; both because I assume making them pretuned would be horribly complex but also because OTA TV was the rule or a good part of broadcast way in the 80's, and over long distances, as most channels would be State owned, and the State would want the greatest coverage possible; signal drifting happens when you try to get OTA signal from far away; this also allowed emitters to have some "tolerance" in their own tuning.

 

And you can add, that due to this fact, consoles using RF, especially US ones, sometime simply used the US tuner. Why not? maybe tune it up a bit more so it falls withing the PAL VHF band.

Some systems used UHF; many European countries moved TV up to UHF quickly because it's a less interference-heavy band, less prone to erratic propagation (VHF signals from the UK TV system could be picked on the US coast quite often, and as far as Australia in the right conditions) and also, for France and the UK, because VHF was used by their "legacy" TV system (405 lines System A in the UK, 819 lines System E in France - I think Italy and Belgium might also have kept a legacy TV system running on the VHF band). As such UHF RF consoles were required, because in Germany for example, newer color TV may only have an UHF tuner, and British and French TV wouldn't be able to tune on a PAL/SECAM signal on the VHF band  at all, for most of them.

 

Now I didn't got enough German and UK consoles to test it, but for the French consoles, the UHF tuners were all over the place, with a console being tuned exactly on canal 35 or 36 a rarity, and usually more being in the middle.

That mean that even if your own PAL (or SECAM) consoles that are all VHF or UHF, it's almost impossible to expect all of them to be tuned on the same frequency, so you practically have to tune a channel of your TV for ONE system and only one; and remember which consoles goes where, what Carlson described as "1 = Atari 2600, 2 = Intellivision, 3 = C64 etc,"

Edited by CatPix
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Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never needed to tune a console to run before (aside from toggling between channel 3 & 4.) I honestly didn't know you could!

 

I have an a/b switch & f-plug adapters for the RF systems. NES top loader always connected, set up the others as needed. The switch means the connection is always easy to reach.

 

For composite it's even simpler- everything's plugged into a switchbox, I just push a button.

 

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On 2/24/2021 at 3:56 PM, universal2600 said:

171170261_avmod(1).thumb.JPG.572a26e5441e6b613500d8f012ded2fb.JPGBy the way that's called an rca to type-f adapter or connector,  it looks better because you have much less in the way of interference, compared to conveters/switch boxes

 

I thought anyone using rf would be using these by now, you can get em from ebay for a few dollars

 

Go composite or svideo, rgb/component for the newer stuff, ditch rf

 

Turn on some led or florescent lights

 

Also rf out depends on the unit, they do not transmit the picture using the same erp (power level)

 

You can still see emi interference (grainy wobbly picture) while not heavy still there,

 

 

Remember rf is literally just a small extremely low power analog  tv transmitter, if you took this and ran it through an rf amplifier and antenna you'll have an analog "tv station" (fcc unlicensed however), with all the same issues why that's not used anymore

I just looked up the rca/f-type adapter. I didnt even know these existed. But don't you lose sound with this adapter? 

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On 2/24/2021 at 7:44 AM, -^CrossBow^- said:

In the case of the CV and Intellivision systems the RF is usually just as good and in some cases (Especially the Intellivision) better. At least from the Intellivision side of things, part of the reason for this is that the Intellivision has a pretty wonky video signal to begin with and makes it difficult to get proper results from the current solutions on offer. 

 

With the CV it depends. My daily driver CV has horrid RF with a lot of noise etc in the picture. But when I first got it, it didn't produce any picture at all until I tuned it in. I've tried to replace the RF modulator completely and other fixes and it just seems to produce bad RF. So the composite upgrade on it was a much better overall picture for me. My other CV is still all stock because the RF on it is actually really good and I'm fine with it that way. Now that we have a good and available RGB solution for the CV, that is how I've been playing it now because it is amazing to see how clear it really can be.

 

Crossbow states "In the case of the CV and Intellivision systems the RF is usually just as good and in some cases (Especially the Intellivision) better.' But apparently there are others on this forum who think that this is untrue or technically not possible. Seeing is believing and the YouTube video is not mine, it simple demonstrates my point. Interesting, but I'll go with Crossbows opinion and my own eyes and experience.

Edited by cedropoole

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55 minutes ago, cedropoole said:

 Seeing is believing and the YouTube video is not mine, it simple demonstrates my point.

Sorry, but the only thing it demonstrates is how not to make a comparison video. A handheld, low-resolution camera used in a poorly lit room with 2 TVs on a different level will never produce an informative result (especially with CRTs, which are notoriously difficult to capture properly). Using this method I could prove that RF looks better than RGB.

 

Here's how it should be done:

 

That aside from the stuff mentioned by CatPix: that the mods could be botched or of questionable quality, TVs are different, etc...

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Sorry, but the only thing your comment demonstrates is how you seem to not understand that my experiences or Crossbow's experiences can not be disproved by your experiences. You are aware that my post and experience is with CRT/RF quality and not old technology on modern LED TVS or that the YouTube video is a random one that simply demostates that it is possible for RF to look better that composite in some cases  and in some worlds. 

Edited by cedropoole
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Right, whatever mate. There indeed is no arguing with beliefs and "experiences".

 

The funny thing is that the guy in this vid says he wouldn't use RF over CV himself, merely that RF quality isn't that bad (but nobody's disputing that) :)

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Let me jump in here and state that on the Intellivison and on one of my CVs the RF looks good. However, I can't use the RF from Intellivisions because while the colors and image look good, I only use flat panel displays for gaming and do NOT use CRTs. I have them on hand for color adjustments on the consoles and that is really all I use them for.

 

EVERY single intellivison that I have worked on across all the variants, will have a constantly jumping image on my flatpanel displays. It isn't playable given how distracting it is. So in the case of the Intellivision, if you plan to play on something other than a CRT, then I would advise at least a composite video upgrade to be done. The composite kits have their issues and you do NOT get consistent results from it, but it does work and at least for me an my clients, provides a stable image that can be used more easily vs RF through CRTs alone.

 

My CV that looks good on RF is a rare beast. And I will say that in all cases of the composite mods I've installed into CVs over the past few years, the composite looked better overall than the RF did on those systems I worked on. Composite and anything better signal wise, will actually bring out the faults of the original signal out more and you see much of what was otherwise hidden through the fuzzy RF that was in place on CRTs.

 

So my stance officially here, is that on some consoles, RF on a CRT will look good for most people and if you plan to stick with a CRT, then RF is likely good enough. If you want to use something more modern, then you will need to go with composite at minimum to start to get better results.

 

 

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5 hours ago, HoshiChiri said:

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never needed to tune a console to run before (aside from toggling between channel 3 & 4.) I honestly didn't know you could!

 

Me and Carlson meant that in Europe in general, RF is more of a PITA to use because the console or computers tuners are rarely tuned to match a channel frequency.

Tho your comment make me think that "console tuning" does exist, and indeed mostly appears on European machines.

Cons0041a.JPG

Partial example only but you can adjust the sound offset here.

 

console-tele-sioel-de-philips-616x413.jp

 

Here the control is quite prominent (Kanal) I assume that the idea was that people would rather tune the console than the television.

 

An interesting example is also found on the C64 :

On NTSC versions, you have a L-H (Low-High) switch to select between channel 3 and 4.

 

http://dunfield.classiccmp.org/c64/h/back.jpg

 

In Europe, the switch is replaced with an adjustable tuner screw :

IMG_7568.jpg

Edited by CatPix
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