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Most of the mods just have one channel of audio. If you're running it into a stereo TV, and want sound to come out of both channels, you'll need one of these although the sound will still be mono.
If you get the CyberTech S-Video mod, you may also want to pick up some female to female couplers. The cables included with that mod are very short, and these allow you to connect to longer cables.
Finally, if you need a something to switch between different game consoles, I highly recommend Pelican's System Selector.
Pelican's System Selector - front and back. Except for the CyberTech mod, the better they work, the harder they are to build although I'm sure Chris Wilkson worked hard enough designing the CyberTech mod.
Ben Heckendorn's mod can probably be built by anyone with even minimal soldering skills. Tackling the CD mod is going to tax your patience, unless you really, really, like to solder.
Hand-wiring one of these is pretty tedious, and not for beginners. It's not really that complex of a circuit - but if you don't have experience with soldering, it's going to be frustrating.
I'm not going to describe how to get an Atari apart. If you can't get that far on your own, a video mod is probably not a good idea.
The CyberTech mod comes with detailed instructions, but be sure to read them carefully - it's easy to overlook steps.
There are schematics for each scratch-built mod available at the links above. If you decide to build a CD mod, there's a diagram of S-Video pin-outs available here.
For the CyberTech mod, it uses an intermediate socket to pull the signals off the TIA chip, so you don't have to solder anything to the itself.
It also includes the necessary cables and wiring information. I've detailed my experience with the CyberTech mod on this page. Alternately, you can pay extra to have Atari This shows the layout of a six-switch board, and where to find the various connection points.
The TIA is the large, socketed chip at the bottom. The cartridge slot is near the top of this picture. Attach to the leads highlighted in blue.
This ground is on the underside of the circuit board. There's a nice, big area there to solder onto, but any common ground will work.
The numbers above are the TIA pins, which the mods will refer to. This shows the layout of a four-switch board, and where to find the various connection points.
Ground can be attached at any common ground location. Not all mods require power, but here it is in case you need it.
The was originally designed to have two built-in speakers, and supposedly stereo sound now you know what those round vents are for in the top. Even though that was abandoned, Rob Mitchell pointed out to me that you can separate out the two audio channels on TIA pins 12 and 13, and get "stereo" audio although originally games weren't designed to take advantage of this, some recent homebrew carts like SynthCart and Skeleton do.
However, for the scratch-built mods, this involves bending up those two pins on the TIA and soldering directly to them, which isn't something I wanted to do, so I just went with mono audio, which was easier.
The CyberTech mod has stereo audio by default. The most direct way to make an audio mod is to connect the Audio point shown in the above pictures to the center pin of an RCA connector, and then connect the 's ground to the RCA's outer sleeve.
Alternately, you could just build the audio portion of the CD mod , which is the same thing, with the addition of a capacitor as a filter.
RF looks terrible on some games, not as bad on others. RF through an adapter looks a little better than with a switchbox. The noise that a switchbox picks up can be terrible, although some contact cleaner can help.
Composite video, whether through an adapter or straight from a mod, suffers from dot crawl - fuzzy edges along some horizontal areas of the picture.
Depending on how good your TV is, you may or may not be bothered by it. The only way around this is by using S-Video. S-Video looks best, by far.
The images are crisp and there's very little color bleeding. There's no dot crawl, and the images have clarity rivaling that of a computer.
If the video signal is unstable, a VCR can stabilize the signal enough for the monitor to achieve proper sync. If you build a mod and it doesn't seem to be working, try running it through a VCR.
The picture below shows the setup I used for testing with the six-switch The circuit board is resting on top of the metal shield that's usually enclosing it.
I put a foam pad under the board, so nothing would short. This allowed me to work on everything "right-side-up".
Somewhere in there, is an Atari In order to not damage my I didn't solder anything to the circuit board. Rather, I used little copper clips available from Radio Shack to hook onto the ends of resistors.
If you're building a mod for a permanent installation, you'll need to solder instead. But this is a good way to test everything before committing to it.
The blue stuff is electrical tape, to keep the clips from contacting each other. When permanently installing a mod, I'd suggest soldering to the resistor leads, instead of trying to solder directly to the TIA socket pins on the bottom of the board.
For one thing, there's less chance of damaging the TIA, but perhaps more important - It's makes soldering easier, since you can hook the wires around the resistor leads before soldering them on.
Since these are directly connected to the TIA pins, it makes no difference where you make the connection. To speed up testing, I used a terminal strip to attach all of the necessary leads from the Atari Then, I could just hook up each mod to the terminals, without having to connect new clips to the circuit board.
That's the S-Video connector on top. Composite video and audio are below it. The mods were tested with S-Video, if it worked.
If not, composite video was used. As a reference, RF was also tested, since this is how the Atari was designed to output signals.
The first round of tests for this site were composite-only, because I couldn't get S-Video to work at the time. Since then, I've gotten it to work thanks to a little help from Rob Mitchell, and all current results reflect this.
Chris Cracknell's mod and Ben Heckendorn's mod were also run through the S-VHS deck using composite in and out , since the signal was too weak without it to get a stable signal.
This depends largely on how forgiving your TV or video monitor is with unstable signals, so you may not require a VCR.
First, I let the system being tested warm up. I've found that the colors shift after awhile, if the unit has been left off.
Then, I used the Color Bar Generator's title screen to calibrate the color using the big potentiometer on the main board - basing the adjustments on the instructions for that cart which can be viewed at AtariAge.
An adjustment potentiometer is placed on the VCS console circuit board to adjust the degree delay so that it is the same as 0 degrees.
Although we do not recommend that you void any warranty on your game console, the potentiometer the only one can be adjusted so that the top half of the colored box is as close to the same color as the bottom half.
The color generation circuits can then correctly produce colors from 0 to degrees. When adjusting this potentiometer, use a small screwdriver in the center.
It's easier to make fine adjustments than if you just grabbed it with your fingers. You can also adjust these through the hole located on the bottom side of the board.
I figured this would give the best idea of which video mod was interpreting the color signals most accurately. That way, I'm testing how each mod works, rather than using the to compensate for each mod, or adjusting the video monitor until it looks good.
Ben's mod required some additional back-and-forth adjustments, since his mod uses two potentiometers for adjustment. The CyberTech mod allows for adjustment of the picture, but it isn't required to get it to work.
This is about the equivalent of digitizing using a DV converter, except it has better image quality than a consumer setup.
I then did a direct FireWire transfer of the video into Final Cut Pro, so there was no signal loss from the digital tape.
Even though DV does use compression for video, there were no noticeable artifacts from the compression present in any of these tests, since there was very little movement happening onscreen.
Below are the carts I tested, listing the still frames I've taken from the captured video. They've been left at x, and interlaced, so it looks the way it does on an NTSC monitor.
I've made notes of why I chose these particular screens for comparison. However, I felt some of them were poor examples or redundant, so I opted for these instead.
This should give a good enough cross section to show the differences in image quality under various conditions. Depending on your particular TV or video monitor, you may have better or worse results.
Some monitors are more forgiving with unstable video signals than others. For a couple of the mods, I had to run them through a VCR to stabilize the signal.
There's some ghosting on the images which appear as faint double images to the left or right , but all of the video mods and RF output exhibit this, and it's more likely something to do with the TIA itself, than something that can be eliminated.
It's less noticeable on an NTSC monitor than it is in these screen captures. The video driver - For the life of me, I couldn't get it to work on either or my I tried various connection points on the s and , double-checked the diagram, and even changed the circuit once to account for a possible ambiguity in the diagram.
I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who has gotten this to work, and could shed some light on the matter.
Chris Cracknell's mod - This is where everything is crunched together with no additional components. Without running it through a VCR, most games would start up very bright, then rapidly fade to almost nothing within seconds.
On other games, the brightness fluctuated a lot, and the image was very unstable. Running it through a VCR helped, but some games lacked color, others had large areas of color flaring across the screen, and nothing was really what I would call acceptable.
RF video - The default video of the , which you've been looking at for over 20 years. It doesn't look too bad, until you have something better to compare it with - then you start seeing how awful it really is.
Indistinct shapes, soft edges, dull colors, and plenty of noise mar the picture. The plus side is that it's easy to hook up.
A direct adapter gives a better picture than a switchbox, but unless you want to live without cable or satellite, you'll have to get some sort of switch for it.
If you must use the old switchbox, hit it with some contact cleaner. A note regarding contact cleaner: I've been told that Radio Shack's cleaner can gum up over time, so I'd avoid theirs.
I've had good luck using this cleaner. Rubbing alcohol is another option. Ben Heckendorn's mod - For being so simple, it works remarkably well.
Initially, the video was extremely unstable on my monitor, which resulted in a very dark and wobbly image. However, by running it through a VCR, the image stabilized, and the picture looked very good and quite bright.
Depending on your particular monitor, you may or may not need to run the signal through a VCR first. The mod requires some tweaking of the two potentiometers on the mod and the one on the to get decent colors, which may be hard to do without a test cart.
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