The Nintendo 64 doesn’t officially support RGB. It can be added to some models of the console, it has to be an NTSC console (although there is an early French Secam model that is also compatible), be careful though – as there are a couple of different NTSC versions, only the earliest ones are compatible.
Unfortunately there isn’t a easy way of identifying if a console is compatible without actually opening it up (some people say that the later limited edition coloured consoles are generally not compatible). You have to take your console apart (Gamebit needed), remove all of the heat sinks and shielding etc until you can see the upper side of the motherboard. If your console can be modified then the chip at location U1 will have “VDC-NUS BU9801F” printed on it, if it can’t be modified then the chip at location U4 will have “MAV-NUS RS5C282 (or RS5C382)” written on it.
UPDATE – some extra info from Link83 about serial numbers, motherboard revisions and a whole heap of stuff here, this chap knows his stuff!! Getting the serial number is now a good way of finding if it’s RGB’able!
In case those forums go offline, here’s an extract of the info we’re after.
Some clever people are still making new RGB mods and Amps and for the NTSC N64, I saw this on GamesX, which in turn links back to another site which has two RGB Amp mods. AND, I’ve just heard that Lin83 is working on another RGB mod, looking forward to it :-)
I wanted to try one out and decided to go with the one that uses the least amount of components. And now, thanks to this mod, I can use my official Gamecube RGB Lead not only with my SFC, but also my RGB N64, this makes me happy for some silly reason!!
This mod uses an SMD chip, that means it’s small, about 5mm long. So it’s a bit fiddly, but not impossible. It’s the THS7314, an amplifier with 3 inputs and outputs – very handy for RGB. Here it is, my photo editing skills used to the max combining a diagram and photo showing the pinout and orientation!
This mod is so simple, it doesn’t really take much explaining. There’s a couple of options for installing this, you can solder directly to the chip legs or you can mount the chip on a circuit board (either a purchased one, or a DIY one). The easiest is probably is the purchased circuit board, so I’ll show that first.
This is a neat little board, I just searched eBay for SOC to DIP8 adapter and bought a couple to experiment with. Here’s a quick overview of the components next to a soldered up board (gamebit screw for size comparison).
I started by sticking the board down with a piece of double sided tape to stop it sliding around the place. Then added a small about of solder to each pad (photo shows half of them done), I just hold the soldering iron on the pad, whilst then adding some solder to the pad too.
Once they are all done, hold the chip in place and heat up each leg, probably best to do a leg in each corner first to help keep it lined up.
Now you can see I’ve soldered all the legs, I’ve also added solder to the other contact points for the wires and resistors etc. I’ve also added the capacitor between the power and ground contact points. If you’re adapter board is different to mine, make sure you know which way around the contact points link up to the relevant chip legs.
I probably skipped a few steps here! But you can see I’ve added the resistors and wired the whole thing up
The Red, Green and Blue wires are self explantory, here’s the rest
- Black is soldered to a nearby Ground spot – any will do, you could choose the one of the ones labelled G on the AV out socket
- White is soldered to a 5v source, you could choose the one labelled +5v on the AV out socket
- Purple is for another guide!
I started off with a small piece of Stripboard, and made some cuts with my scalpel. Take a look at the photos below and you’ll see the cuts and how they seperate the chips legs.
So above you can see I seperated the left and right sides of the board. Then cut along the middle copper track twice, and picked a small strip out. Here’s how the chip looks when I test fit it. You can see each chip leg now has it’s own copper track to attach onto
Now just add some solder to the ends of the copper tracks to solder wires and resistors onto.
Now I’ve added the 75 ohm resistors (I removed these later! So that I could put them on at a different angle). The resistors are on the ouput side of the Amplifying chip. Then wires are soldered into place – Red, Green, Blue talk for themselves, Yellow will be for +5v and Black – Ground. The round disk, that’s the 0.1 uF Capacitor, doesn’t matter which way around it goes, it bridges the power and ground.
Now the fiddly bit, attaching that TINY chip. Again, add some solder to the copper tracks to solder the chip legs onto…
Okay, carefully turn your chip upside down, with a small, very small amount of solder on your iron, tap the underside of each of your chips legs. Top up the small amount of solder on your iron every couple of legs. You want a tiny amount on the chip leg, not a blob.
Now hold the chip in place, and quickly touch each leg with your soldering iron. It should be just quick enough to heat up the solder on the leg AND the solder on the board and melt them together. Perhaps do two opposite corners first so that the chip can’t shift around as you’re solder.
That’s the board finished. I then test fitted it to the N64 motherboard and decided to change the resistors so that they are bent at a right angle. And swap the order of the RGB wires so that the correct colour goes to the correct point on the board (not strictly necessary, it’s just so that my photo’s show the correct signal, I can of course use any colour wire I want!!) I’ve used C124, C125 and C126 here, but you can use the R8, R9, R10 points if you prefer, both lots connect to the video chip on the other side of the board.
I stuck the board to a flat bit of motherboard with a piece of insulation tape rolled back on itself to make it double sided stickey (very professional!), I also added stuck of strip of tape to cover the board underneath the resistors. I forgot to photo the insulation tape that I put on the metal shielding where the RGB Amp will be near it.
Solder Directly to Chip
For this method, I just stuck the chip upside down to the motherboard with double sided tape, and solder directly to it. Used enough double sided foam tape to hold the resistors in place. I also used it as an excuse to use my newly purchased Kapton tape, really thin insulation tape that’s a disgusting yellow colour, handy for guides though as you can see through it, you can of course use any insulation tape.
It’s not easy taking photo’s of the TV, but here’s a couple (the LCD doesn’t have those vertical lines in the image, it’s just the photo).
You can see the points I used for the RGB inputs for the chip from the photos above.
I bought a bunch of these chips from bitsbox, they weren’t on their site, but they ordered them in for me and only cost around £1 each.
Here’s a diagram I found on my computer showing the AV socket points. Some nice person has labelled the RGB points (sorry if I’ve pinched your photo, let me know and I’ll credit you). You can also see Ground points (G) and the +5v point.
Remove these screws if you want quick access to the bottom of your N64 motherboard (where all the soldering is done from this guide)
John emailed me after he had some issues with cross-hatching on the screen after doing this mod and then updated me with some extra info after he had a play around, he pointed me to this forum thread.
Here’s a copy of what’s needed to be done:
i) Amplify the RGB lines with the THS7314 chip
ii) Then to get rid of the awful X pattern hatch effect on the screen, I cut the composite video sync trace (PIN9 on the multiout marked V) and ran a wire from PIN7 on the multi out (marked Y) to PIN9. Note: This is almost like the guide here, but linking Pins 7 and 9 instead of 3 and 9)
iii) Once completed, you can use either the PAL SNES Scart cable or the PAL Gamecube Scart cable. The most important point to make is that since you do not need to tap the C-sync from Pin 3, there is no need to rebuild the C-sync circuit on REV04 mother boards.
Thanks John :-)
RGB for All N64 Consoles
We already know that it’s possible to add RGB to some early French PAL Consoles. Now, thanks to the talented Tim Worthington, you can add it to ANY N64.
Ready made RGB Amp for sale!
You also have the option of buying a very neatly designed circuit board that fits over the relevant pins on the underside of the motherboard – designed and sold by RetroRGB in America, also sold by Videogameperfection in the UK. So simple, it’s genius.
Summary of Components
- 3 x 75 ohm resistors
- 1 x THS7314 chip
- 1 x 0.1 uF Capacitor
- Wire – I used Kynar