Hacking your NES/Famicom console for better video and audio

famicom_playchoice_ppu_mod

[Dominic] wrote in to share a pretty neat Famicom console mod that improves both the video and audio output of the system. While some of you may be familiar with the PlayChoice 10, we’re guessing that many of you are not. The PlayChoice 10 was an arcade-style machine that allowed you to play up to 10 different NES games. The system’s hardware was quite similar to the Famicom/NES consoles, but the graphics and sound performance was superior to either console.

[Dominic] decided to tweak his Famicom system, and ended up replacing its native Picture Processing Unit (PPU) with one from a PlayChoice 10. This allows the console to output RGB video natively, resulting in a crisper picture with brighter coloring. He didn’t stop there however. His Famicom system also sports an upgraded audio circuit that boasts psuedo-stereo sound as well as increased bass response and better overall audio clarity.

The console looks nearly stock, and performs quite well according to [Dominic]. Be sure to check out the video comparison embedded below to see how the modifications improved his system’s performance.

Comments

  1. MrBishop says:

    Amazing, that sir is a heck of a hack.

  2. Johannes says:

    Is it just me or is he “just” installing a kit available from http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=da&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fhomepage3.nifty.com%2FF-LABO%2F

    It looks like it is exactly the same kit, with minor modifications

  3. Johannes says:

    To view the avaiable products from the website just click “products”

  4. BoKu says:

    I recently upgraded my NES-101 to have AV out, only single channel audio though, figured I wanted to keep as stock as possible, included “classic” retro sounds.

    But this sounds great!

    I wonder did you ever or do you plan to ever overclock the CPU?

  5. BoKu says:

    …but I built my from scratch onto perf board, not from a kit

  6. brandorf says:

    I’ve always liked the idea for this mod, however there are two things I don’t like about it.

    1) For each one of these mods, a Playchoice 10 arcade board has to die.

    2) Because the PC-10 has slightly different color pallets, some games will have different/screwed up colors. (though I have yet to see an example of this).

  7. t&p says:

    this is nice but there are some games made for the crap gfx chip by dithered tiles (blaster master looks better on the crap chip). So what you would basically end up with a RGB hack that has an emulator-like looking screen. With it, all the perfect square pixels making you wish you could now hack in a filter.

  8. zacdee16 says:

    Johannes might be right. Those boards look identical. Either Dominic used a kit or the kit is just a playback 10 repackaged.

  9. Rifleman says:

    I’m sure I’ll be blasted but, I really don’t see the point of modding a NES at this point. Emulators do the same thing as this mod with a lot less effort. I can appreciate it for the workmanship but this would be along the same lines as someone hacking an old bag phone to work with a digital carrier. At the end of the day you still have an old outdated piece of equipment with very limited use.

  10. steaky says:

    erm… he says on the first post in the forum about having the “required money to order the custom kits from japan”.

    I think thats pretty conclusive

  11. z says:

    This is actually a really old mod (people have been doing this for well over a decade now). The problem is that Playchoice boards are not easy to find (compared to demand) and they are not cheap.

    Brandorf is correct about the color palette differences. They are pretty subtle, but there are a handful of games with noticible differences (I’ve seen them detailed on the web). However, I’d say that the benefits of pure RGB video certainly outweigh this in many respects.

    I feel that the bigger problem isn’t necessarily composite video. It’s that modern televisions suck at displaying interlaced video (RGB or composite). I keep an old, but decent quality CRT on-hand for that very reason.

    Emulation isn’t an alternative for many gamers. Sure, the emulation works, but nothing looks or sounds or plays like the real hardware. Some people may consider that a good thing, but I love playing on a real NES, in spite of its quirks. The 10NES mod and a new 72-pin socket are (in my opinion) the best mods that you can perform on an old NES.

  12. blue carbuncle says:

    @ rifleman and z: agreed. The emulators have come along nicely and with the ones on my xbox (minus n64-never found a decent emu for that lol) the output is tweaked for rgb naturally making the pic on my lcd nice and clear. The gradients that made the snes graphics so warm and pleasing are back and such. And also as someone else noted above, at some point the defined pixel blockiness can easily be fixed on an emu filter as opposed to real hardware. Ya kinda end up with a nes picture that looks like a sega :(
    As for the hack/build- good work either way! You figured out what ya wanted and got the desired effect :) It was nice to see those palm trees whipping in the wind again :)
    I would also suggest the good ol “pseudo surround” for NES as it is pretty neat for a budget. Ya basically run the rear set of speakers with the negative wires tied together. Worked great when I was 16 :)

  13. APE says:

    It is a kit, he openly sells NESes that have had the kit installed.

  14. Bill says:

    I want an NES with upscaling and HDMI out…

  15. Chris says:

    It is the kit Johannes linked to.

    I don’t think this should have been featured. We may argue over the definition of a “hack”, but I believe it includes freely sharing information and encouraging people to DIY, neither of which Dominic is doing. He says:

    “Oh and for people looking to order the kit I build and make it themself good luck. The website is only in Japanese. The order form doesn’t have any mention of paypal. The kit instructions are all in japanese. And even if you’re smart enough to figure out the instructions, there’s a lot of very difficult soldering involved, I hope you enjoy surface mount soldering.”

    Dominic has apparently figured out the kit instructions, but *isn’t* sharing; and discourages people from even trying:

    “I’m not refusing the post a “how to” guide on this mod because I want more money for myself. I’m refusing to post these instructions because paying me to do this mod actually is cheaper and a better value than putting in the time and effort to do this mod yourself.”

    Since only an individual can determine what their own time and effort is worth, that leaves only the following interpretations:

    1) He really does want more money for his efforts (that’s ok, but only if you admit it).
    2) He thinks we’re all idiots and will screw it up.
    3) He wants to appear smarter by making it sound harder than it really is.

    Not very nice. Neither is this:

    “Luckily I have a hardware fix for this. I won’t say what it is but it will clean up the jailbars noticably.”

    So what manner of supergenius proprietary hardware hackery has Dominic come up with that he is so reluctant to part with the information? He relents and reveals it two posts later:

    “It’s nothing special it’s just a ceramic cap between a video line and ground.”

    Wow, no one else could have figured that one out. What an arse.

  16. Dominic says:

    Yes that’s right this system is based around the kit from:

    http://homepage3.nifty.com/F-LABO/ProductsList.html

    Feel free to order one and built it yourself I won’t stop anybody. I don’t make these to make huge money otherwise I would have charged much more than I did for the commissions. A lot of “hacking” was involved to get all of the features out of this system. This mod required more work than simply building a kit and installing it.

  17. BoKu says:

    NES easy AV out … http://www.dutchretrogamer.nl/nes2_avmod_eng.html
    no need for another board or kit

  18. Doug says:

    dude boku composite sucks and thats the reasom for this mod learn to read

  19. Andrew says:

    @Chris,

    Yup, I agree completely. The guy just sounds like a dick talking about how he’s not gonna share his knowledge.

    Also, talking about his desoldering skills that he learned in 3 minutes and just spraying solder everywhere? Ridiculous, that’s not the right way. I may be a bit of a dick in thinking this, but anyone who uses a radioshack soldering iron (or that quality of one) by choice must not be very good at soldering, those irons suck. The desoldering irons aren’t the best either, but I haven’t found any other sort of desoldering iron (and I can’t figure out the braid, maybe if I had braid that wasn’t 30 years old and oxidized, and a chisel tip).

    Here’s how I desolder with the iron:
    unless there is already way too much solder on the pins I want to remove, I pile on too much, and use leaded solder that helps the desoldering iron more completely melt the solder. Then I squeeze the desooldering iron, put it on the pin for a second or two, then let it suck, then pull it off and spray it into something (a beer can with the top cut off and folded down is great), then I try again. do this on every pin, then you might have to heat up each joint and move the pins to break the connection they have left on the side. A fair amount of the time I the part I’m desoldering just falls off after this.

  20. JustBrianD says:

    I cant cant believe people are raping Playchoice parts just to mod a Nintendo. What a waste.

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