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Romier S

The Retro Gaming bug

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So, the bug has taken a good bite out of me. For the last couple of years, I've had all of my retro consoles in the garage. Stored neatly and tucked away for a rainy day when I felt the need to play them. That day finally came a few weeks ago where I got the worst hankering to play the original Panzer Dragoon on the Saturn. So I went out and grabbed the old Sega beast and hooked it up via composite which is the only available output I had for it and plugged it into the LG B6 and well....good lord its fugly.;)

 

That got me to thinking - is there any way to improve the image quality without me spending big money on a quality PVM/CRT (professional video monitor). That has led me to the wide world of retro gaming enthusiasts and boy is it deep and pricey! 

 

So after much deliberation and research, I settled on picking up a Frameister XRGB Mini from Micromsoft. You can take a gander at it here:

 

framemeister01.jpg 

 

The Frameister functions as a video upscaler and is regarded as the best of the best on the market. That comes with a hefty price of about $350-$400 but this little device does an amazing job of taking the best quality signals from your consoles and outputting them via HDMI at 720p/1080i/1080p depending on the best solution for your television. 


in the case of the Saturn (and a range of other consoles like the SNES, Genesis, and the original PSX), I found the best possible output to be RGB. These older consoles generally support RGB standard but require a European style connector (SCART) for it to work. So I ordered up the XRGB mini along with an RGB to SCART connector for it. I also ordered up SCART cables for the Saturn, SNES and Genesis while I was at it as well. The XRGB Mini arrived but I'm still waiting on the cables so I can't report much on quality as of yet. 

 

I also ordered up the D-Terminal to Component cable for the XRGB mini that will allow me to run the Gamecube and PS2 through it as well. you don't know how ecstatic I was to find my Gamecube component cable nice and wrapped up next to the console!!).

 

So after all of my research, I've got the old consoles out and connected. I'm working through some HDMI switching options as well as SCART and component to make sure I have easy access to each console. I also ordered up a bunch of extension cables for the controllers so I can sit by nice and comfy to play.

 

All in all, this hasn't been an cheap journey. Between the cables, the XRGB Mini and a bit of a shopping spree on some older games - I've probably spent about $800 thus far and I still have more to go. Examples:

 

1. The Dreamcast has a bad ass VGA box out there called the Toro which does incredible things for the image quality. That runs about $80 bucks which I plan to spend soon. I already put in new batteries into my VMU's in preparation!:)

2. The N64 doesn't support RGB by default but there is an extremely fantastic HDMI mod that you can pay to have done for about $180 that even removes the blurry ass anti-aliasing the N64 does to all of its games. I plan to have that done as well.

3. I want to have my NES modded for HDMI as well unless I can find an alternate solution. Frankly, I want to find one of the older top loader consoles to mod first thought.

 

I'll post some shots of the new setup when I get home tonight but I also want to reconnect my PS3 and 360 as well. 


If you want some really good videos on the Frameister, this is a really good start:

 

 

They also do video breakdowns for each respective console as well.

 

Anyone else out there deep into this at the level I am right now or am I just crazy? :D

 

 

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That's pretty deep.

 

Furthest I've gone was building a controller with actual arcade parts for the PC (Mame) to play MK series, SF Series, Turtles, Etc.

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Dude, if you're at the point where you're investigating a Framemeister, you're in the deep end, never mind buying one :)

Congrats. They absolutely rock. 

 

On the topic of RGB/SCART, I found it funny back then, and still do, that we suffered 50Hz on our consoles, but had the best tech to view it (RGB & SCART). Back in Scotland, I had an old monitor from work + a specialized cable for my Saturn, now that I think about, just to get the best picture. I'm too old for that crazy these days ;)
 

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I'd love to do something like this at some point with all my old consoles. I don't have nearly the space for it in my current home theater setup (which resides in our family room). Maybe when we get around to finishing the basement in 10-15 years I can add a dedicated gaming room for all my old toys and update the video output to modern TV standards.

 

 

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I used to have a load, but have since gone back down to only keeping the consoles I've at least got RGB Scart for - my Wii, PS2 and Amiga 1200 with that, plus the Dreamcast on a VGA box. Everything older has to get emulated, as I just can't be putting up with composite video.

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I've looked into it, but haven't gotten far enough down that rabbit hole to actually buy a framemeister.  Sounds like the results are pretty great though.  I do, however, still have a 32" CRT stashed for an eventual retro gaming setup, and I've also got the 27" tube that I built into the MAME cabinet that satisfies most of the retro needs these days.  I've thought about getting USB modded controllers for console emulation (instead of using the arcade sticks), but haven't pulled the trigger yet, since I mostly use the cabinet for arcade stuff anyway.

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I was ecstatic to see my Saturn Scart cable arrived today! I bought the csync and grounded cable from Retro Access who are highly regarded sellers. I hooked everything up and configured the Framemeister and was met with both equal parts elation and disappointment. Elation because the improvement to image quality was immediately apparent. Disappontment because I had this weird jail bar effect across the entirety of the screen.:( Just imagine a faint overlay across the entire screen that looks like a row of jail bars and you’re on the money.

 

So I jumped online and was pleased to find I wasn’t the only one having the issue. It appears to be a side effect if how the Framemeister handles syncing the image when it upscales. Specifically with games at odd resolutions. There are variables though. Options included flashing the Framemeister with older firmware since the issue doesn’t appear on pre 1.10 firmware but then you lose a ton of features so that was a no-no. Another option is that not all Saturns sync the image the same way. Different chipsets may not experience the issue. 

 

So .i went out to my garage and pulled my 2nd Saturn out if storage. I replaced its battery and tested. EUREKA! No jail bars! The IQ from the Framemeister was a damned revelation. I tested an array of titles from Night Warriors and Guardian Heroes to Panzer Dragoon and Sega Rally. I was left slack jawed at how amazing these games looked. It made the $400 I dropped on the XRGB worth it.:) The ability to add proper scanlines adjust their thickness and smoothness is slick as hell (I’m outputting at 720p as scanlines At 1080p look too thin and artificial).

 

Know what’s weird though? Both Saturns I have are Model 2 units with the exact same model number. There must be some differences on the inside because for the life of me I can’t find a difference on the outside.

 

Either way, I’m in love! Now the wait for my SNES and Genesis SCART cables and my D-Terminal top Component connection for the XRGB. Then I can run my GameCube, Xbox and PS2 through it as well. 

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At this kind of expenditure, I think I’d have ditched the idea of getting the Saturn that good, and hunted down the arcade machine of Sega Rally instead...

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Deeper down the rabbit hole I go. I did some perusing on Craigslist and found a guy about 10 minutes away from my place with an almost new condition KV32HS420 Sony FD Trinitron HD CRT. It has some dust and grime that needs to be cleaned on the backside but the screen is pristine and he wants a whopping $0 for it (I like free!). It includes that attached stand. It has an HDMI input along with a two component inputs and supports up to 1080i. 

 

This is not the TV itself but its the exact model with stand for example purposes:

 

3Yo9Omi.jpg

 

 

I'm picking it up on Saturday.:D
 

Framemeister upscaling + high quality CRT........

 

 

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Lol I had that exact tv in the picture at one point. I think our neighbor down the block still has it .

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Congratulations on the free TV. I am so glad I don’t have to help you move it.  Those fuckers are heavy.

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Which is probably why it was free. “It’s all yours if you get it the f*** out of here.”

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12 hours ago, Eldorado said:

Which is probably why it was free. “It’s all yours if you get it the f*** out of here.”

 

Probably. I looked up the specs and found this TV weighs 165 lbs (74.8 KG). My brother had a TV like this a long time ago and I always hated helping him move it. It was one of the worst parts about being related to him. 🙂

 

It could be worse though. Apparently the 36-inch version weighs in at a whopping 230 lbs (104.3 KG)! 😮

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13 hours ago, Eldorado said:

Which is probably why it was free. “It’s all yours if you get it the f*** out of here.”

 

Ha! He actually doesn't. He doesn't want to get rid of it because he uses it for the same reasons I'm picking it up - retro gaming. He's downsizing though and doesn't have the space. I told him it would go to a good home. I needed a CRT that had HDMI and supported HD resolutions though and this one fit the bill. It lets me use the framemeister for upscaling while getting the best of the CRT world. I figure its a low risk proposition. if it doesn't fit, it was free and I can get rid of it easily enough.

 

  43 minutes ago, Angry the Clown said:

Can't yet decide how I feel about there being a videogame discussion thread in 2018 that references scart leads. 

 

It's a fun world to dive into and as amusing as it is to look back on it, SCART/RGB is the bread and butter of the retro gaming world. There's full enthusiast websites out there that sell dedicated SCART cables just for use with the framemeister and other upscalers like the OSSC.

 

OSSC is a good option for folks who don't want to spend framemeister money by the way:

 

https://www.videogameperfection.com/2016/07/08/source-converter-verdict/

 

It usually runs in the $180 ballpark.

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Some of us still have 1080p sets that retain a SCART input, in case you were wondering just how behind I am. It's the only way to get a good output from my Amiga.

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36 minutes ago, Romier S said:

 

It's a fun world to dive into and as amusing as it is to look back on it, SCART/RGB is the bread and butter of the retro gaming world. There's full enthusiast websites out there that sell dedicated SCART cables just for use with the framemeister and other upscalers like the OSSC.

 

Good stuff. In the days where those of us in Europe suffered at the hands of 50hz gaming, we did at least have an upper hand with RGB scart output. My US N64 import had an rgb scart mod done to it. 

 

Retro wise, and all in storage with their games so not easily accessible (I've no place to display this stuff), I still have my original SNES and Megadrive, along with my US N64 and Japanese Gamecube (modded to play US games). Then there's my region free slim PS2, my region free Dreamcast, a Goldstar 3DO and my region free Xbox. Pretty sure I still have a UK Saturn along with a mk2 megadrive that iainl passed on to me as well. There's my original Playstation of course, also region modded, but its laser was getting very fussy back when I last remember using it so I don't know how well it would perform anymore. There's my US Wii that some chump in the US sent me once too. 

 

I sold my Jaguar way back when, and my NES was stolen with all of its games and accessories (I'm still bitter about that loss some twenty years after the fact. I MIGHT stilll have R.O.B. I forget). I also have a Barcode Battler and my old Gameboy though seemed to have lost the battery compartment cover for it. There should be a Gameboy Advance somewhere too, and an SP. I will always regret never buying a Gameboy Micro.

 

Some of my favourite items are some N64 imports that I still have boxed with manuals, notably a Japanese Yoshi's Story (the box art is a delight). I wish I kept the boxes for most of my cartridge era Nintendo games. I have all the manuals at least.

 

 

27 minutes ago, iainl said:

Some of us still have 1080p sets that retain a SCART input, in case you were wondering just how behind I am. It's the only way to get a good output from my Amiga.

 

Last year when I nearly bought the Sony Z9D instead of the LG I was tickled by the fact the European model has a scart input! 

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For all I hate the UI and pitiful black levels, the Samsung downstairs in the spare bedroom / library does have an actual SCART socket on it as well. Plus Component inputs for the 360 / Wii (yes, my Xbox 360 is a pre-HDMI model, and still worked last time I tried it).

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32 minutes ago, Angry the Clown said:

 

Good stuff. In the days where those of us in Europe suffered at the hands of 50hz gaming, we did at least have an upper hand with RGB scart output. My US N64 import had an rgb scart mod done to it. 

 

Retro wise, and all in storage with their games so not easily accessible (I've no place to display this stuff), I still have my original SNES and Megadrive, along with my US N64 and Japanese Gamecube (modded to play US games). Then there's my region free slim PS2, my region free Dreamcast, a Goldstar 3DO and my region free Xbox. Pretty sure I still have a UK Saturn along with a mk2 megadrive that iainl passed on to me as well. There's my original Playstation of course, also region modded, but its laser was getting very fussy back when I last remember using it so I don't know how well it would perform anymore. There's my US Wii that some chump in the US sent me once too. 

 

I sold my Jaguar way back when, and my NES was stolen with all of its games and accessories (I'm still bitter about that loss some twenty years after the fact. I MIGHT stilll have R.O.B. I forget). I also have a Barcode Battler and my old Gameboy though seemed to have lost the battery compartment cover for it. There should be a Gameboy Advance somewhere too, and an SP. I will always regret never buying a Gameboy Micro.

 

Some of my favourite items are some N64 imports that I still have boxed with manuals, notably a Japanese Yoshi's Story (the box art is a delight). I wish I kept the boxes for most of my cartridge era Nintendo games. I have all the manuals at least.

If you're ever looking to offload any of those - let me know.:)

 

That N64 RGB/Scart modded unit in particular.

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I'd like to hold onto them all ideally, as I'd love to do what you're doing someday (I'd love a dedicated gaming room where I can have all these old treasures on display. It's a big reason I am so sad over the theft of my NES. Losing the games was a particularly huge deal, but buying another original NES wouldn't quite feel the same as one that was mine - especially since that was my first console too. Ugh. Getting angry again now). 

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1 hour ago, Angry the Clown said:

I'd like to hold onto them all ideally, as I'd love to do what you're doing someday (I'd love a dedicated gaming room where I can have all these old treasures on display. It's a big reason I am so sad over the theft of my NES. Losing the games was a particularly huge deal, but buying another original NES wouldn't quite feel the same as one that was mine - especially since that was my first console too. Ugh. Getting angry again now). 

 

User name checks out.

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Update:

 

- The Sony Trinitron is home and has been hooked up to my SNES and NES classics. Both are hacked. The NES classic has the entire NES library loaded onto it. I also loaded Retroarch and am making adjustments for any of the games that the standard NES emulator can't deal with. That's a more time consuming affair along with getting game art just the way I want it but I'll get there. 

- The SNES classic has a nice mix of legacy SNES and Genesis titles. All of the game art is in place just how I want it and the there's about 200 total games loaded including all of the big name classics and some smaller harder to find games that I've enjoyed in the past.

- I also tested out the Gamecube and Saturn on it via the Framemeister. The Gamecube caused the screen to really flip out. It would just constantly shake and jump when  not in progressive mode. Once I enabled progressive scan in Eternal Darkness, it was fine. After some research, I found that it's an issue with a specific service menu option in the TV. I got that changed and all is well. The Saturn looked great but I have to say that I enjoy the raw pixel display of those games on the OLED more than the CRT. The scanline filter the Framemeister generates is fantastic and it can be adjusted to not effect overall brightness if I want that more "accurate" CRT image on my OLED. Frankly though, I *LOVE* the look of the Saturn in RGB on the OLED with no scan lines. Especially those old school 2D fighters. I picked up the Action Plus 4MB cart which allows US systems to play Japanese titles and managed to pick up a copy of Marvel Superheroes for $10 bucks and a Japanese copy of X-Men vs Street Fighter for $30 and they look absolutely phenomenal!

- I put in the order for the Dreamcast Toro last night. I also ordered up their recommended SCART cable for the system. The Toro allows proper VGA 480p signal to passthrough its SCART connector and you can disable that signal for Dreamcast games that don't support 480p as well so it's the PERFECT VGA box for the unit. It's pricey at $80 bucks it's the f'ing Dreamcast guys! I look forward to revisiting Shenmue and other classics on the system very soon.

- I'm seriously rethinking my layout now with this new retro bug. I'm considering picking up the TCLP605 set: https://www.rtings.com/tv/reviews/tcl/p-series-2017-p607 (the 5 is basically the same set). It's top budget LCD on the market and has pretty great HDR performance. Now that I've gotten rid of most of my figure collection, I'm getting rid of the cases and want to do a retro/general gaming (including board games) area in the basement. The TCL will be the primary display for most of my retro gaming needs via the Framemeister (I don't like playing 4:3 titles on the OLED as I fear possible burn-in issues that may arise) while the CRT set will be there alongside as the alternative display for some of the consoles I want that true old school experience for.

- I am going to pick this unit up: https://www.cablestogo.com/product/40697/6x2-component-video-stereo-audio-toslink-digital-audio-matrix-selector-switch . It's a matrix component switcher with 2 outputs which means I can feed the Framemeister to the main gaming display (the TCL) and the CRT as well with all of my component based consoles (Gamecube, PS2, Xbox).

- On that note, I got my D terminal to component cable and have been playing the Gamecube and PS2 though the Framemeister. The FM isn't known for what it can do with 480p signals but after some picture adjustments, it does a fine job of scaling those games up to 720p. 480i scaling is superb! Don't even get me started on original PSX games on the PS2 which output properly at their native 240p resolution via the framemeister (:banderas:). The PS3 outputs those titles at 480i which is a no no.

- I am also picking this up: https://www.amazon.com/Bandridge-Premium-Performance-Selector-Switching/dp/B0015YYN1W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522863421&sr=8-1&keywords=bandridge+scart which will provide me a manual SCART switcher. There are auto units out there that work really well but they are super pricey and this suits my needs just fine. 

 

I'll post some picks up as things progress. I need to find a proper shelving/storage solution as well for the consoles and start to think about layout. I need to look into some new sofa's and a table as well for some board gaming.

 

Fun fun fun.

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