PAL MD v1/HDG - Jailbars

Discussion in 'Repair, Restoration, Conservation and Preservation' started by AN1, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    Hi all,

    I just got my Mega Drive! From what I can tell it functions beautifully, controllers all work, cartridges all boot up instantly and play fine, sound is great.

    I was planning on installing a region switch and then go EverDrive + NTSC ROMs, but seems like I should look into another issue first. I got some pretty severe jailbars. Federal prison strength bars even, I'd say.

    What's the consensus / state-of-the-art opinion on this subject? I remember reading about various fixes. I'd love to get rid of this artifact.

    Thanks! ;-)
     
  2. andynumbers

    andynumbers Active Member

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    If it's jailbars in the blue only over an RGB connection, it's a well-documented case of the Sony encoder interfering with the blue channel. The quick fix is to lift pin 6 of the encoder and tie it to ground, or lift pin 50 (I think?) of the VDP. Of course, you lose your composite video if you do this.
     
  3. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    I'm using a quality SCART RGB cable, but the jailabars are in most colors, perhaps strongest in blue/purple hues. I tried to take some pictures. As always, it's incredibly obvious in person but sometimes downright invisible trough a smartphone camera. But here:

    https://imgur.com/a/4v8Tq

    Most obvious in Steel Empire, those hues/large colored blocks really make the visible.

    Not sure if it's the RGB interference thing. It's not just in blue and the pattern is also different than what I've seen in other pictures it's two bars and then a space.

    I'd be grateful for any suggestions or anything else I can do to diagnose.
     
  4. rama

    rama Gutsy Member

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    The problem is that several fast digital signals radiate into the analog RGB.
    Earlier MD models suffer the most from it, while later models (MD2) had improvements but are still affected.

    There are 2 ways you can go about it:
    - RGB bypass mod
    - shielding the RGB lines + disconnecting the color carrier clock (pin 6 mod) + better power supply bypassing

    I recommend the bypass mod. It's far easier :)
     
  5. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    I would've gotten a model 2 but the ones with good sound were too difficult to find :/

    You mean this bypass mod:

    http://retrorgb.com/genesis1rgbbypass.html

    ?

    That doesn't seem easy at all! ;-) Certainly beyond my skills.

    So just doing the pin 6 mod is not enough? What's the power supply bypassing thing?
     
  6. rama

    rama Gutsy Member

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    There's no easy way to explain it all. Look up some guides for the color carrier disconnect mod and try that.
    Hopefully it's enough for your setup. You will loose composite video though!
     
  7. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    I haven't found any detailed guides. Basically, disconnect pin 6 on the video encoder or the connected pin on the graphics chip. Somewhere I've also read to connect pin 6 to ground. Never heard about the PSU bypass :/

    Any detailed instructions/references would be very helpful!

    I'd consider the RGB bypass with a separate amp, but that mod is labeled 'experts only' and as usual the board is sold out everywhere.

    I won't miss composite / S-video / RF ;-)
     
  8. AndehX

    AndehX You got boost power!

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    if you're gonna disconnect any pins, go with pin 50 of the VDP chip. I tried disconnecting pin 6 of the sony encoder chip and it made no difference at all. Apparently the interference is happening in the traces on the board and not just in the encoder chip, so stopping that clock signal before it's even left the VDP chip is apparently much better, although I've yet to try it on mine.
     
  9. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    So, yesterday I gave it a shot and disconnected the trace of VDP pin 50 on the top side right next to the leg. Unfortunately, while it did have some effect, but not much. Here's a before & after:

    https://i.imgur.com/547TkKB.jpg
    https://i.imgur.com/YnbvYHl.jpg

    It looks a lot worse in person and is still quite bad for certain color / picture combinations like Steel Empire here. It's certainly different, those doubled up lines changed into a more regular pattern.

    This is not from my MD, but it now looks exactly like that:

    https://imgur.com/a/QENR6

    Notice that the bars seem to fade in and out with a sine wave like intensity along the horizontal axis, very apparent in the blue strip at the top.

    It seems this fix is confirmed to work on a VA2, but I have a VA4 board revision that looks quite different. Any other suggestions for what to do about those jail bars much appreciated ;-)
     
  10. nuclear7

    nuclear7 Member

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    Did you have any luck friend?
    Disconecting Pin 6 did nothing to two VA5 I own, I suppose this fix only works for VA6.

    I get my composite sync straight from Pin 11 of the CXA1145, but there's was no difference from getting the sync from Pin 20 (composite) or Pin 16 (svideo sync).

    Not only I disconeccted Pin 6 but i also disconnected Pin 5 to cut off the oscilator completely, and guess what happened to the RGB?
    Nothing. Absolutely no difference :D

    One thing i noticed from one of my boards, is that disconnecting Pin 20, the video game stopped turning on entirely. but when i tried to re-solder the Pin i broke it, and now i have a dead board :(

    This jailbars have to be coming from the color signals, i also get my RGB straight from their Pins 21, 22 and 23, I adjusted the RGB color potentiometers on my converter board to see if its tied to a particular color but doesnt looks like it is. Only thing that makes a difference in hiding the jailbars is lowering the brightness.
     
  11. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    No, no idea what else I could do to improve things. There's the option to do an RGB bypass, but the boards are not available and like you unfortunately just noticed yourself lifting & soldering chip legs is tricky. Not even attempting to do that :/ I also noticed that the RGB on this VA4 console has bad black levels. Black's just not black. I have this a little bit on my AES as well, not nearly as bad, though. Can be fixed with the gain & bias settings on the OSSC, though. I guess I'll just have to live with how this console looks or maybe get a US Genesis that can be fixed easier.
     
  12. nuclear7

    nuclear7 Member

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    The PIN 6 is pretty safe to destroy, but it doesnt do anything on VA5, dunno about VA4.
    I ordered another MD, dunno what board revision it is(seller is just a ordinary guy).
    I hope it is a VA6 so i can check if this PIN 6 thing is real.
    VA5 black is also pretty weak.
     
  13. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    The analog gain/bias controls on the OSSC are amazing for correcting black level / brightness issues. I have an early model AES that's just incredibly dim due to some wrong resistor values, but that can be 100% corrected with the OSSC.

    I think if you're a perfectionist about your MD picture it's probably no big loss that you broke yours, you probably wouldn't have had any good options to fix the picture anyway. I don't play my MD that much and the jailbars are less visible after the subcarrier disconnect. Only certain brightness + color combos. In some games they are completely invisible, in others quite pronounced. So I can live with what I got ;-)

    For me the best option is probably to try to get one of the Genesis models that are easily fixed. I'd still be curious about your results, the more confirmed-working fixes we have for the plethora of MD revisions the better!
     
  14. nuclear7

    nuclear7 Member

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    My new Mega Drive arrived and surprise: It's a Japanese VA7.
    It's a VA7 with a CXA1145 decoder and EXT port(!)
    The sound is definetely worse than VA5's but not that bad. Lost that "live" feel.
    But the jailbars are gone!!!

    Another interessing thing, I own a GBS8200 and with my VA5 the image randomly goes out of sync for a split second.
    This also doesnt happen with this VA7, 100% stable image.

    Its a totaly different board with several different components, a model 2 in a model 1 form. Pretty hard to guess what was the improvement..
    I do miss the better sound quality, but those jailbars are so strong... I guess we can't have everything.
    I once read a RGB test with different models and the winner was a model 3, the worst sound of all.
    Maybe its the audio that mess up everything, lol.

    Or its the power regulator. This VA7 have only one 7805, and it heats less even with a smaller heatsink.
     
  15. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    All these MD revisions are such a mess ;-) But great that you could solve the jailbar issue. I'd probably pick the MD with the better sound, though. I simply love the MD sounds more than the MD visuals ;-)

    Mine sounds really good, so I didn't look to deeply into improving the MD audio, but from what I remember there are several options and various models had rather straightforward fixes. So maybe you could improve the audio on your new machine and have the best of both worlds? Power regulators are easy to obtain and a simple solder job, could give it a try.

    I heard about wonky MD sync, but never had an issue myself.
     
  16. nuclear7

    nuclear7 Member

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    Now i'm tempted in getting one of those board mods, but thats probably too expensive to me.
    Do you know any cheaper or simpler alternative? What botter most in the sound is the unbalanced volume of the instruments.
     
  17. AN1

    AN1 Active Member

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    I didn't research it much as my MD doesn't have audio issues, but I've seen talk about simpler fixes for certain problems and models. I guess the RGB and audio bypass mods are the nuclear option, completely circumventing the original circuitry with a know-good replacement. In many situations you can probably just replace a cap or route around some source of interference to mitigate the problem.
     

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