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The Sega Genesis (also known as the Mega Drive outside of North America) is one of the most iconic home video game consoles ever made. The 16-bit system was first released in 1988 and went head-to-head against the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 90s.
Even over 30 years later, the Sega Genesis still maintains a strong cult following among retro gaming enthusiasts. However, connecting the aging console to modern HDTVs with HDMI inputs can pose some challenges. With the right accessories, it is possible to get your Genesis working on a new TV.
- Original Genesis models output 240p composite video and mono audio over an AV multi-out port.
- HDMI adapters or upscalers are needed to convert the Genesis outputs to HDMI.
- Alternatives like the Pound HDMI cable or Triple Bypass Mod allow direct digital HDMI output.
- With the right adapters, the original Genesis experience can be faithfully reproduced on modern TVs.
- Settings like disabling scan interpolation and enabling game mode can help optimize the picture and reduce input lag.
Genesis Video and Audio Outputs
All versions of the original Genesis console output an analog 240p composite video signal and mono audio from the standard 7-pin AV Multi-Out port on the back. This port uses three RCA connections:
- Yellow – Composite Video
- Red – Right Audio Channel
- White – Left Audio Channel
This allows the Genesis to be connected directly to CRT TVs using common RCA cables. But modern HDTVs do not have analog composite or RCA inputs. So converters are required to go from the Genesis’ legacy outputs to HDMI.
Later model Genesis 2 and 3 systems also added RF and S-Video outputs. But neither work directly with new TVs either, so converters are still needed to go to HDMI in any case.
Converting Composite to HDMI
The simplest way to connect an original Genesis to a modern TV is by converting the composite video output to HDMI. This can be achieved with an adapter like the Portta PET0301S.
To use a composite to HDMI adapter:
- Connect your Genesis to the adapter using composite (yellow) RCA cable.
- Connect the adapter to your TV’s HDMI port.
- Set TV video input to the HDMI port you connected the adapter to.
- Set the adapter to the correct channel (usually 3 or 4).
- Power on Genesis and enjoy!
This provides a basic analog to digital conversion. However, you will be limited to the composite video quality rather than gaining any enhancement.
Fine for casual play, but enthusiast looking to maximize quality should consider upscalers or mods.
Using HDMI Upscalers
For improved video quality, HDMI upscalers can convert the low 240p Genesis output to 480p, 720p or even 1080p HD resolutions. Popular options are:
- RetroTINK 2X Mini – $100, 480p processing
- RetroTINK 2X Pro – $150, 480p/720p/1080p modes
- OSSC – $200, Open source, highly configurable
Benefits of upscalers:
- Higher resolutions for increased clarity
- Advanced line doubling and scaling algorithms
- Low input lag ideal for retro gaming
- Additional features like scanline generators
Using an upscaler like the RetroTINK results in much sharper pixels and crisper graphics from original hardware. Setup is as easy as plugging the Genesis into the upscaler via composite cables, then connecting the HDMI output to the TV.
Pound HDMI Cables
An alternative to external converters and upscalers is the Pound HDMI cable. This aftermarket cable replaces the Genesis’ AV out to directly output digital HDMI.
Pound cables provide:
- Pure digital video and audio output over HDMI
- Zero input lag since no conversion is being done
- Custom resolution support up to 1080p
- Simpler, all-in-one solution
Simply connect the proprietary end to your Genesis and output goes through the HDMI plug. The cable handles video processing and digital conversion internally. This results in crisp, lag-free HD Genesis gaming!
Triple Bypass Mod
For perfectionists, modifying the Genesis’ internal board to add HDMI output yields the purest results. The Triple Bypass mod involves:
- Installing a new HDMI port in the Genesis case
- Adding circuitry for digital video conversion
- Cleaner RGB video signal splitting
Benefits of the mod:
- Direct HDMI output, no adapters needed
- Negligible input lag
- Stunning video quality in up to 1080p
- Compatible with Genesis 1, 2, and 3
- Also enables RGB SCART output
This hard mod is ideal for Genesis purists who want digital output integrated on original hardware with no compromises or lag. Installation requires proficient soldering skills however.
Getting Optimal Picture Quality
In additional to using HDMI conversion accessories, adjusting settings on your HDTV can further optimize Genesis picture quality:
- Enable game mode to reduce input lag
- Set aspect ratio to 4:3 or original size
- Disable overscan so borders are visible
- Disable noise reduction and edge enhancement
- Avoid stretching by enabling 1:1 pixel mode
Using scanline filters, S-video cables, and other mods can also provide noticeable improvements to fidelity and authenticity.
Genesis Audio Options
Since the original Genesis only output mono sound, audio is limited to a single channel. This can be converted to stereo using:
- Stereo splitter adapters
- HDMI converters with dual channel processing
- Pound HDMI cable audio encoding
Alternatively, many mods can add true stereo sound by tapping into FM synthesis chip channels:
- Triple Bypass Mod enables stereo RGB audio
- Genesis Plus GX HDMI mod uses stereo L+R audio
With the right accessories or modifications, the classic Genesis YM2612 FM synth and PSG sound chips can achieve stereo audio to properly match enhanced HD video outputs.
Can I use RF or S-Video Genesis outputs?
Yes, same converters and upscalers that work for composite also support RF coaxial or S-Video inputs. But you will need the appropriate Genesis cables.
Why does my Genesis look blurry on HDTV?
Low quality adapters combined with the ultra low 240p output can result in scaling artifacts. Try an advanced upscaler like RetroTINK along with optimized TV settings.
Do wireless Genesis controllers work for HDTVs?
Most 2.4G wireless pads designed for the Genesis will work reliably within range of the console. Some may experience latency which wired controllers avoid.
What about connecting a Sega CD or 32X?
With additional wiring, multi-outs, and possible switches, both the Sega CD and 32X addons can be connected along with a Genesis to modern TVs using the same techniques.
Can I play Japanese Genesis consoles on US TVs?
Yes, region does not matter for connectivity. A Japanese Mega Drive works identically; only consideration is handling differences in physical cartridge shape.