Classic gaming consoles in a home theater environment

Started by zedrein, June 01, 2009, 06:30:38 AM

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zedrein

Preface: I know this isn't an audio mod for consoles, but this forum was as close as to the subject that I could find.

I was wondering which classic gaming consoles (NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and PS1 for example) Could actually benefit being in a proper home theater sound system? I wouldn't necessarily think that a console like the Atari 2600 or NES could gain really anything from being heard through a quality receiver and speakers but perhaps I'm wrong? It seems like consoles in the 16 and 32 bit era would be more suited for that sort of thing, but maybe even they don't benefit significantly either? Should I just stick to my televisions standard speakers, or look for something a little bit better?

Thanks for your help. First hand experience would be nice of you to share!

Ocelot85

PlayStation 1 would certainly benefit from a good quality stereo connected to it.

PS1 CDs hold about 650 MB of data, most of this space is taken up with video and good quality sound (in most games).

Also the early PS1's (SCPH-1000\1001\1002) have incredibly good audio CD playback quality. It seems to have some "equalizer" enhancement setting by default and audio clarity is amazing.  This is because these models have extra audio chips.

According to some audiophiles, the PS1 (SCPH-100X's)  has equivalent sound of a $6000 CD player.  And all I payed was $40 for mine :-)

panzeroceania

September 03, 2009, 06:03:05 PM #2 Last Edit: September 03, 2009, 06:14:00 PM by panzeroceania
Quote from: zedrein on June 01, 2009, 06:30:38 AM
I was wondering which classic gaming consoles (NES, SNES, Sega Genesis and PS1 for example) Could actually benefit being in a proper home theater sound system? I wouldn't necessarily think that a console like the Atari 2600 or NES could gain really anything from being heard through a quality receiver and speakers but perhaps I'm wrong? It seems like consoles in the 16 and 32 bit era would be more suited for that sort of thing, but maybe even they don't benefit significantly either? Should I just stick to my televisions standard speakers, or look for something a little bit better?

Thanks for your help. First hand experience would be nice of you to share!

absolutely!

One of the biggest pluses for me (although I'm sure stereo purists will disagree) is on the fly surround sound. My Onkyo TX-SR806 A/V Reciever when set to a surround sound setting, will take a mono or stereo source and send parts of it out to the surround speakers depending on what is playing. Most games sound fuller in general, but will play mainly out of your left right and center speaker. Some however really work with my reciever because of the way the music is written.


For example, Wonder Boy in Monster World for the Sega Genesis is jaw dropping incredible in a surround sound mode and really puts my 7.1 system to use, in fact I can't wait till I can upgrade to a 9.2 Reciever with Audyssey DSX for even better surround. If you have an A/V Reciever or Pre/Pro and Power Amp setup that allows you to create surround sound from mono or stereo I highly recommend you play Wonder Boy in Monster World for the Genesis.

But you don't need surround to sound great. Honestly I think that these old systems were capable of a lot more than an old tv with tv speakers could provide. Any good set of speakers is going to make these games sound a lot better and I'm speaking from personal experience.

Hojo_Norem

I completely agree with panzeroceania on this one.  All my audio is routed through my now somewhat aged Sony digital surround AV receiver.  Even completely mono sources like my C64 gain a benefit from the hi-fi reproduction.  Mono-moddable-to-stereo machines like the NES and the Spectrum 128 also get a upgrade as the Dolby Prologic 2 processing just makes the sound wrap around rather pleasently.

When you get to the native stereo machines you will find that games not marked as surround compatible gain a more authentic sounding surround experience, as  one of the tricks used by musicians and SFX designers to make selected effects sound 'wide' actually gets interpreted as surround information by DPLII. Good examples are the ring sound from Sonic on the MD (with a stereo connection) and a decent number of SNES games like StarWing.

The main thing tho is whatever the machine, go the the absolute best method of connection you can.  Most machines don't have that many options in this regard, not including modding of course  (eg, the SNES SPDIF mod ;D ) and don't scrimp on the system.  If you can afford it do for a separate AV receiver and separate speakers, stay away from all in one kits.  If you are on a budget (like I was when I built mine) and aren't to bothered about looking around then concentrate your budget a bit more on the receiver then have a good rummage around your local charity shops and car boot sales.  Usually you don't need to be super lucky to find some half decent Hi-Fi speakers for your system.

There are many different ways you can build a system.  For example my system has just 4 decent sized 3 way hi-fi speakers (not those tiny surround satellite speakers), no sub and no centre.  My 2 front speakers came from a old Aiwa hi-fi system while the rear pair is a set a kenwood separates that were rescued from one of my local charity shops... they were just going to throw em out!  A subwoofer isn't needed in this setup because my speakers are proper hi-fi ones, not crappy little surround ones and can deal with the low frequency bass sounds just fine.  As a result my system deals with music (which TBO games contain a lot of) quite competently.  I don't have a centre speaker as I find I just don't like the sound when I tried one for a while.  Speech didn't sound as natural.
Formerly 'butter_pat_head'

panzeroceania

I had my brother come over today with his Genesis and we hooked it up to the tv with the RF port.

Then we compared it with mine hooked up to my sound system with RCA.

then results were staggering (obviously) but it had been so long since I had heard just the RF mono through a tv.

We then hooked them both up with RCA but one to my tv speakers (not bad) and one to my sound system, the difference was still pretty staggering.

I would highly advise you if you have to money and are a gaming enthusist to go get at least some quality stereo speakers and a decent A/V Reciever, the results are awesome.

Especially if you have modded your systems to output better sound, you should really take advantage of it!

Tiido Priim├Ągi

Mida sa loed ? Nagunii aru ei saa ;)

panzeroceania


zedrein

I hate to resurrect this old topic, but I didn't want to start a completely new thread just for the sake of this one question, which is: what A/V receivers are you people using? (especially you, Mr. Butter Pat Head, since you have done the Super NES digital audio mod). I am currently on the market for a new receiver and I've narrowed my search down to either the Pioneer VSX-820-K or the Onkyo TX-SR608. My only concern is that I don't know if either one will decode and amplify a 32 kHz sample rate (which the Super NES uses). I've read the specs for both of these units and I can't find details besides that they'll receive the newest sample rates 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, and 192 kHz. Obviously the Super NES is spec'd at 32 kHz but in reality, because of an inexpensive clock apparently, it does a deviation of that rate, so if the receiver will not accept anything but a perfect 32 kHz signal I'm screwed! One of the biggest reasons I am even buying a A/V receiver is for my gaming consoles, and if I can't use my favorite console, which is obviously the Super NES - with digital audio capabilities - it wouldn't be worth it to me! Please help me find out what to shop for so I don't make a regrettable purchase!

Hojo_Norem

My receiver is a ~5 year old Sony STR-DE495.  The manual says it accepts 32, 44.1,48Khz sample rates with the Pro Logic turned on and 96Khz in 2ch stereo.  I suppose I'm lucky that the snes mod works with this unit.  If you can see you choices of receiver it may be worth taking your snes with you and testing it.  If the store workers won't let you then they obviously don't want your money. ^_^
Formerly 'butter_pat_head'

zedrein

Quote from: butter_pat_head on November 29, 2010, 04:41:44 AM
My receiver is a ~5 year old Sony STR-DE495.  The manual says it accepts 32, 44.1,48Khz sample rates with the Pro Logic turned on and 96Khz in 2ch stereo.  I suppose I'm lucky that the snes mod works with this unit.  If you can see you choices of receiver it may be worth taking your snes with you and testing it.  If the store workers won't let you then they obviously don't want your money. ^_^

That's what I was thinking of doing, simply bringing in my SNES and plugging it into the receiver, however I don't have an electronics store nearby that carries either of the receivers I was thinking of buying. The nearest brick-and-mortar store that sales either of these products in Salt Lake City, Utah. Which is a several hour drive from my home here in Southeast Idaho. I suppose I could wait for the thaw or just take a chance and buy this unit online, but I'd be really bummed if this thing somehow didn't accept a 32 kHz signal (or technically any slight variation of that signal)...Man, I am obsessed with the Super NES, eh?  ;)

People?

I wouldn't recommend getting a modern surround receiver for your video games (or for anything, for that matter).

If you want quality sound, especially for old games, you should have a vintage amp, for example, this beautiful Marantz:



You will not get sound like this from a modern amp, especially not a cheap (and by cheap, I mean less than 1000 dollars) surround receiver made with the worst possible components from China. You need a stereo amp, with warm sound that fits the games. The Marantz I posted earlier can be had for 100 dollars.

Hojo_Norem

Putting the problems of ageing components aside I am inclined to agree with you and if it was a decent 2ch setup I was wanting I would have kept my 2ch setup but after a while I decided to upgrade to surround sound.  One of the main advantages of going with a decent AV receiver is you get those digital audio inputs on them, something which is lost on the older gear, on which you at the mercy of the analogue output stage in the various consoles which aren't usually designed with hi-fi in mind. (50/60Hz hum anybody?)

 
Formerly 'butter_pat_head'

Midori

Although this might be a bit rock'n roll but wouldn't it be better if one could build their own DAC and then connect it to a decent two channel amp instead of using inferior surround recievers? The only real point with a surround reciever is the surround sound and most of these machines only output stereo anyway.

It's strange that these DACs in the machines do not produce good results, perhaps modifications like tiidos Crystal Clear mod is a better way to go rather than trying to get completely new DACs(for machines that uses DACs of course, the Mega Drive has analog outputs on the chips).

davizonshay

hi guys, why not consider a different approach... getting a separate DAC and using it with a decent or a good receiver (or even better a great amplifier or surround processsor). I've been using for a while now my old Cambridge audio DAC magic 3 connected to my modded Yamaha DSP, amazing sound in stereo and pro-logic and they aren't that pricey now days, I use a separate Denon digital decoder for all my Dolby digital sources, that way at least in my opinion you get the best of both worlds in the digital domain.
for analog stereo or pro-logic i would suggest depending on the budget and individual taste a good old school Yamaha, Denon or Onkyo receiver/processor.

Hojo_Norem

Quote from: Midori on December 05, 2010, 08:23:05 AM
inferior surround recievers
Are you talking about those cheap supermarket branded ones or are all AV receivers in general inferior?  Technically what davizonshay has got is a AV receiver but built from separate parts.  I'd like to go that way but I just don't have the money or space for such a setup.

Quote from: Midori on December 05, 2010, 08:23:05 AM
The only real point with a surround reciever is the surround sound and most of these machines only output stereo anyway.
Stereo can carry surround information.  Even games that weren't designed with surround in mind benefit from the likes of Dolby ProLogic II and DTS Neo:6.
A good example would be Starwing.  As you fly along things pass you from behind and my surround receiver picks up on the way the SFX programmer made the game generate sounds from behind.  Doesn't work 100% of the time but more often than you think.

Quote from: Midori on December 05, 2010, 08:23:05 AM
tiidos Crystal Clear mod is a better way to go
As long as all you do is remove the noise introduced and not any of the filtering that was built in to remove artefacts in the audio then I agree but I'd rather solder one IC and a extra connector than have a nest of discrete components that relies on shielding and so on. (Not that I'm trying to put down that mod.  It takes a lot of effort and smarts to come up with something like that.)
Formerly 'butter_pat_head'

imparanoic

any amplified video game source will sound better than TV speakers, even a decent mini system will challenge all most every apart really high end tvs for sound.

I note that a hifi amp  (using marantz pm66-se amp and tannoys  m1, reasonable priced audiophilic amp and speakers) picks and melodically transfers all music sound tracks to very listenable quality (even cartridge music), while home cinema amp ( using a nakamichi av-10, previously used a sony str-db930) brings out the more impressive sound effects, but can sometimes sound a bit brash for cartridge based music, far better for cd-based mediums  consoles such as ps1 onwards (though pc engine cd rom seems to pretty good on an av amp), the symphonic and magically dark soundtrack of castlevania -symphony of the night is a turn point for video game music and very impressive on an av amp as well as music based amp.

imparanoic

has anyone modded their console with an digital audio output as this will benefit home cinema amps users ? which is the worst sounding console for each generation?

davizonshay

all modern day TV's suffer from bad acoustics, especially the new LED ones, due to the fact that they keep getting thinner and thinner, there is really no excuse using the built in speakers for anything and even the manufacturers take it into consideration while designing. some models offer external speaker units that handle sound a bit better but all in all its a given that you should use an external amp. in my experience every source will benefit from a good sound system, cart or otherwise, it's all about getting the best possible quality and reproduction from the original material.
a good audio system makes games all that more enjoyable i can't even begin to imagine playing something like rez, halo or god of war (to name a few...) using my tin can internal speakers, that would be so wrong...  :)

zedrein

Well on the most part I would agree that a classic unit such as that very sweet looking Marantz will probably be some of the best units to go for in terms of nice, warm sound, unfortunately my budget can't extend an investment in a good quality working unit like that ($valves) especially since they are still technically limited in that they can't decode high bitrate digital stuff. That's why I've been watching the reviews on modern gear and most of the units are stellar for the price. The current AV systems out there seem to have really taken a bold leap in sound and are often actually compared to much more expensive models. Small IC's that could already do alot in the past can do even more in 2010 and getting ahold of a good surround sound receiver that will cleanly amplify audio from many sources is not a pipe dream anymore. That's where my fascination for modding a console like the Super NES -with it's very classic SPC700 sound chip- comes into play; I can hear every nuance of that natively digital signal being cleanly reproduced by a great receiver unit and some current hi-fi speakers (Think of the Donkey Kong Country and EarthBound soundtracks!). One Mr. PatHead seems to share my audiophile tendencies as well, especially in a classic gaming context which is every bit awesome as it is increasingly obscure...you rock, dude!

panzeroceania

I've learned a lot from my earlier post here.

I would certainly go with an outboard DAC. To reduce jitter you can even go with I2S (I squared S) which carries several clocks over seperate wires rather than putting it all through one which is what sp/dif does. I2S is typically only used on the inside of gear, and it will reduce your options on DACs but it's something to consider. I plan to attempt some I2S mods for the dreamcast, saturn, and SNES when I have more time to do so.

from there you have two choices. If you want to keep it simple with stereo, I'd output from the DAC (preferebly a fully balanced one) over XLR outputs to a fully balanced preamp/line stage and then from there to either a stereo power amp or two mono amps.

If you would like to attempt artificial surround then there is another route. It's true that most surround A/V receives are of a lower quality because all the amps they have to hold are small. I would stay away from 7.1 Recievers as they typically will have lower quality amps than a 5.1 Reciever. Most all movie soundtracks were originally mixed in 5.1 for movies, practically none were mixed for 7.1 for the theater and were only done after the fact, and usually not by the original audio engineer.

On top of that, Dolby Pro Logic II mixes stereo up to 5.1 IIRC, not 7.1 so if you just have a stereo source then 5.1 is the way to go. A lot of games it won't really make a difference but some games were really well crafted so that they absolutely sing when put through Pro Logic to 5.1

Wonder Boy in Monster World for the Sega Genesis is a perfect example of this. The melody and percussion just pop in surround and really seemed to take better advantage of my surround sound system then my modern games do.

A step even higher would to be to pick up one of the few Onkyo, Denon, or Integra recievers/ preamps that are capable of outputting Audyssey DSX which is similar to Dolby Pro Logic only it converts 5.1 movie soundtracks to a staggering 11.1 signal (an addition two hight channels and an additional two width channels)

you'd have to drop some serious cash for thsi set up but then you could take something like Wonder Boy in Monster World from 5.1 to an astounding 11.1 or 11.2 (not really an additional channel, it just means you have two subs running instead of one)

just some food for thought.

zedrein

WHOA! All that I am seeking is a nice hi-fi stereo mix. I am the kind of guy that gets all giddy and excitable about wide frequency responses, impossibly pristine highs, rich mids, velvety lows, and extremely low signal-to-noise ratios, not necessarily fully immersive retro games in 11.2 channels of surround sound (even though that obviously is a very cool practice and I may experiment with it in the future). One idea that does interest me is using a separate DAC and then from there go to a classic analog stereo unit. That way you get a quality conversion job and the warm reproduction of a classic unit such as those previously mentioned.

I think the I2S solution wouldn't necessarily be wise for a console like the Super NES because when you implement your own clock on a game system like that you run the risk of dropping more samples than you would by just using the unit's own master clock. Again, I can't really immerse myself in the awesome world of audiophilia completely ($) but I do want a nice amp and nice speakers and nice methods of transmitting audio signals from my media players, PC, and retro game consoles to said amp...Thank you for your advice, everyone, and please continue to share your thoughts on what it takes to build a great sound system inexpensively!

zedrein

And btw, Panzer, I know you put that post up just for an exciting option to consider. Just to clarify I wasn't trying to suggest that you shouldn't of posted it with my little "WHOA! all I am seeking is..." comment. I just am trying to really understand more or less what goes into a nice sound system and it seems as though getting ahold of any decent amp and especially good speakers is the preferred route to go. Which is why -assuming this unit conforms to my unique needs- I am going to purchase the Pioneer VSX-820-K 5.1 surround receiver and a pair of Energy CB-5 bookshelf speakers...I'd imagine that I will get some great sounds for my little apartment from this setup!

panzeroceania

December 16, 2010, 03:53:48 PM #22 Last Edit: December 16, 2010, 03:57:11 PM by panzeroceania
no problem.

Also if you'll reread my post I gave two roads that lead to two different kinds of beauty, so I wasn't suggesting that a surround setup is the only solution, or even the best.

Over the years I plan to have a surround theater in my living room and a pure stereo hifi setup in my den. I believe their is certainly something classy and even better about a stereo hifi setup if all you have is a stereo source (only a few select SNES titles output Dolby Surround)

as for I2S, it's just a cabling system. The clock is not in the cables or in the DAC, the clock is in the transport.

In this situation the SNES is the transport and so it provides the clock data as far as I understand it. The benefit is seperating the different data types in the digital stream and allowing optional two way communication but I could be wrong as I am new in the study of that field.

one of the main advantages in using this with a particular DAC I'm looking at is that ability to bypass any sort of upsampling and play audio at its native rate which is ideal for systems with abnormal rates.