Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Sony PVM 1342Q - A High Quality Display for Consoles and Computers

Sony PVMs and BVMs are probably the most desired CRT displays for all retro gaming. They were high end monitors and cost a lot of money to purchase when they were sold. I recently acquired one of them, a PVM 1342Q, at reasonable cost. This monitor is very versatile in that it has both Analog and Digital RGB inputs as well as Composite and S-Video inputs. Let's take a focused look at what this PVM can do.

Rear Top

The Sony PVM 1342Q is a PVM originally released in 1988 and is part of the 134x series. There are several models in the 134x range of the PVM Q-Series, the 1354Q, 1344Q, the 1343MD, 1342Q, the 1341 and the 1340. These all have a 14"/13" viewable CRT. The chief difference between the 1354Q and 1344Q on one side and the 1343MD and 1342Q on the other is that the former support YPbPr Component Video and the latter support Digital RGB. Analog RGB and Composite Video use BNC connectors. Despite its high quality inputs, it is still a 240p/480i 15KHz standard definition display.

Rear Bottom with Connectors

Analog Video

Analogue Super Nt RGB

The 1342Q has two inputs and outputs for Composite Video and an input and output for Analog RGB Video. This allows you to use the monitor and send the video signals out to another device at the same time. For modern purposes, this simplifies capturing video to a capture card tremendously. Playing a retro console on a system designed for CRTs (essentially anything without an HDMI port) allows you to play the game with no added lag while you are streaming or capturing video of your gameplay. One time I posted a video with particularly inept gameplay due to the lag I encountered by playing it through a capture card. Unfortunately there is no corresponding S-Video output for the S-Video input.

A long time ago, I was given a cable with five BNC male connectors on one end and a male HD-15 (VGA) connector on the other end. At the time I had no use for the cable and it stayed at the bottom of my cable bin. I have of course wanted a PVM for a long time, like many other retro gamers, so when I saw this PVM for sale on Facebook Marketplace for a reasonable (for PVMs) price, at least I knew I would have cables to connect to it.

Analogue Super Nt RGB

The five conductor VGA to BNC cables from Monoprice (which ironically do not appear to be sold by Monoprice anymore) appear to be quality cables but are a little more expensive than other similar Monoprice cables. These conductors are connected to the red, green, blue, h-sync and v-sync lines of the HD-15 connector. No original home console used a VGA connector for output (except the Dreamcast VGA box and the Xbox 360) and the 1342Q cannot handle a 31KHz VGA signal. The Analogue Nt, Nt Mini, Nt Mini Noir, Super Nt and Mega Sg support analog video outputs (Super Nt and Mega Sg require Analogue DAC, Nt Mini Noir optionally supports it) and use an HD-15 connector designed for use with the Monoprice adapters. 

The MiSTer FPGA with the Analog I/O Board can support the BNC to VGA cable. The MiSTer.ini file requires composite_sync=1, ypbpr=0 and (maybe) vga_mode=rgb.

Analogue Super Nt RGB

Connecting an Analogue console or a MiSTer Analogue I/O Board via the BNC cable is not difficult. BNC connectors use a twist locking mechanism to keep cables firmly attached to the monitor. You connect the Red Wire to the R In, the Green Wire to the G In, the Blue Wire to the B In and the Gray Wire to the Ext Sync In. If your cable has a black wire, leave it unconnected.

While the S-Video connector is the standard 4-pin min-DIN, the composite inputs also use BNC cables. A cheap composite to BNC adapter will let you use RCA connector cables with your PVM. There is no RF input, these were monitors, not TVs, so you should use a VCR or an RF Demodulator to convert an RF signal into composite video and audio which the monitor will accept. The 1342 automatically terminates unused outputs internally with 75 Ohm termination, so BNC terminator plugs should not be used. 

Analogue Nt Mini Noir RGB

When you have connected your cable to the console and to the PVM, turn on the power to both and press the RGB and analog buttons on the front panel. If you have set the analog settings of your FPGA console properly, you should see an image on the screen.

The VTR port was not seen in consumer equipment and was usually used to connect certain professional VCRs which are hard to come by these days. The port accepts composite video and audio, so it is not exciting and there is no passthrough on this connector.

Analogue Nt Mini Noir RGB with Under Scan enabled

Composite and S-Video sources can use all the controls on the front of the monitor (Phase/Tint is exclusive to NTSC content.) RGB can use Under Scan, Bright and Contrast. Blue only removes all color from the signal, H-V delay is used for observing the sync areas. Analog/Digital should be set to Digital/Internal Sync for Digital RGB, Composite or S-Video inputs, counterintuitive as the latter two may be. Analog/External Sync must be used for Analog RGB Video input. Under Scan shrinks the image, you should be able to see almost the entire visible image, including border colors for certain devices. You may also see some unsightly sync lines at the top of the screen, so this is not a setting which should be kept on.

Analogue Nt Mini Noir Composite

The display officially supports NTSC, PAL, SECAM and NTSC 4.43 and will autodetect the signal. A friend of mine informed me that his 1344Q, released alongside the 1342Q, supports the PAL-M standard used by Brazil. This one should too but I do not have PAL-M devices with which to test. While multi-standard consumer TVs were common in Europe, TVs in North America which supported PAL color video are exceedingly rare.

Digital Video

Tandy 1000 TX Text Mode

The 1342Q and some other PVMs have a 9-pin digital video input connector. No Sony PVM that I know of has both Component Video and Digital RGB Video support, it is either one or the other. The Digital RGB Video is intended to support IBM CGA pinout, sometimes known as RGBI or TTL RGB, and is compatible with the IBM PCjr. (9-pin converter needed), the Tandy 1000 line, the Plantronics ColorPlus and the IBM EGA (200-line modes only). Clone cards should work as well. The Digital RGB Video port is also compatible with the 80-column video connector of the Commodore 128. The BBC Micro's TTL RGB should work but you will need to split the sync, so you might want to use the analog inputs instead. This PVM's Digital RGB Video supports 16 colors and shows brown, not dark yellow, as color #6.

Tandy 1000 Graphics Prince of Persia

The Apple II had a number of digital RGB cards. Apple even released its own digital RGB monitor, the AppleColor Monitor 100.  Apple also released a special Extended 80-Column/RGB card for the Apple IIe to make use of the monitor. Apple's monitor assigns different color values to the 4-bit digital input compared to a CGA monitor, so the colors will not look correct on anything other than Apple's monitor. Applied Engineering released the Digital Prism and Color Link add-on daughterboards for its RAMWorks cards that are compatible with a CGA monitor and match the CGA color assignments to Apple II colors as best they can, so those cards should work with the 1342Q. 

The 1342Q's Digital RGB Video is not compatible with MDA or Hercules cards, you will get a garbled rolling screen. The system will not lock onto the 18KHz refresh rate these adapters output. These cards use Pin 7 of the connector for their video signal and the 1342Q leaves this pin unconnected. 350-line EGA mode may show legible text but the screen will constantly scroll. The V-Hold dial on the back of the system can slow the scrolling but cannot stop it. Also, the 350-line color EGA mode reassigns the pins on the connector, so colors will not look right on the 1342Q even if you were willing to put up with a slowly rolling screen.

Tandy 1000 Graphics - Space Quest I (note the gray fringing around Roger's hair)

A serial cable with a male connector on one end and a female connector on the other end is all that is needed to connect these graphics adaptersto the 1342Q. Make sure you are not using a null-modem cable and do not go beyond 6' in cable length. Press the RGB button in on the front panel but press the Analog/Digital button out to see the Digital RGB Video input. You will need a powered external splitter box if you want to use the monitor and stream or capture video at the same time.

IBM PCjr. Boot Screen

The H-Cent(er) control on the back only works with Digital RGB video input. It is especially useful with the IBM PCjr., as its default horizontal active picture starting position in graphics mode is often so far to the right that the rightmost portions of the screen are cutoff by a monitor's bezel. To adjust the center of the display for Analog modes, you must adjust a potentiometer inside the TV which is located dangerously deep inside the mainboard. 

Video Passthrough and Capture

The Datapath VisionRGB E1s capture card will capture RGB (and Component) Video signals from its DVI-I connector (the one with the analog video pins) with appropriate adapters and cables. The Monoprice cable BNC to VGA cable will allow a Datapath VisionRGB E1s capture card to capture video from Analogue's supported consoles with either Composite Synch or Separate Synch options of the DAC. 

I had thought until I acquired the PVM-1432Q that the Composite Synch option of the Analogue consoles simply was not compatible with the Datapath because it would never show a video signal in the capturing window.  When I tried the RGB video passthrough of the PVM the capture card would show the image without issue on the Datapath's viewing window. But the same cable, when connected directly from the Analogue DAC to a BNC to VGA adapter would not show an image. I learned that the trick is to connect only the gray synch line on the BNC connector for Composite Synch and both the gray and black synch lines for Separate Synch. A VGA to DVI cable connects both synch lines, a BNC cable can connect one or both. The Datapath will detect Composite Synch but will only do so if the one synch line is connected.

When I first got my Datapath, the colors looked a bit dim and washed out. As the RGB inputs are stated in the manual to be 0.7v peak to peak, this seemed odd. I learned that the signal is attenuated to an extent when using the passthrough option. When the RGB outs were not connected, the picture became brighter and no longer had contrast issues. I found the 1mV option of the Analogue DAC and Nt Mini Noir helpful here, the stronger signal counteracted the attenuation caused by the passthrough. Colors will be more saturated in the Datapath's capture than they should be with the 1mV even through the passthrough, the levels must be calibrated in the capture card software to bring them to proper levels. 

When it comes to RGB Sync, all the systems and cables to which I have access to RGB BNC cables offer pure Composite Sync. RGB Sync can be offered in many forms, Separate H & V Sync, Composite Sync, Sync on Green, Sync over Luma and Sync over Composite Video. According to the CRT Database, this monitor supports all sync types for analog RGB except separate sync. A relatively simple circuit can be constructed in the cable to combine H & V sync for a system which outputs that like the Atari ST. The PlayStation 2 supports Sync on Green but only in 480p mode, so it is incompatible with the 1342Q.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Apple II Karateka (note ground texture)

The 1342 has many good qualities. With Analog or Digital RGB Video or S-Video it produces a beautiful image. The NES, SNES, SMS, Genesis, PSX, N64 and other consoles will look their best. As mentioned previously, streaming and capturing video without lag is especially valuable. At 600 TVL the high resolution screen of this monitor is excellent at displaying text, especially 80-column computer text and colored text. The monitor displays monochrome text equally well via analog RGB, digital RGB or composite inputs.

VHS and DVDs of videotaped material are a pleasure to watch on this display. (Film should be left to flat panels in my opinion). Auto detection for NTSC and PAL obviates the need to use the V-Hold control most of the time. 

King's Quest I IBM PCjr, Composite

There is a switch at the back for setting the color temperature of the screen to 9300K and 6500K, giving the monitor a bluer and redder cast, respectively. Japanese monitors tended to use 9300K, US monitors preferred 6500K, so you have either option.

IBM PC Old CGA Composite

The PVM line of monitor had aesthetics that are not particularly distinctive. Most of them, including this one, are heavy gray boxes. They were designed for TV broadcast stations, factory and medical environments, not living rooms. Their boxy nature allowed them to be fit within racks, but as a consequence their flat tops allow you to put most gaming consoles on top of the monitor. So while they take up a fair bit of space on a desk, they offer most of it back thanks to their flat top surface.

Onn. DVD Player Menu (NTSC)

The speaker in the PVM-1342Q is not the loudest and stereo support is not present. The 1342Q is not designed to output audio when either RGB input is being used. There is a mod illustrated at the CRT Database which requires opening the TV and pulling a pin from a connector to allow audio to be output when RGB is the active input. The location of the connector is not the most accessible unless you breakdown the rear PCBs, so it is not as easy as that link may suggest. If you perform this mod, open the PVM via the screws on the sides and the back with the arrows pointing to them, do not touch the plastic rivets on the back of the monitor. My speaker gets buzzy past a certain volume level but my device may need some replacement caps. The owner and service manuals for the 1432Q can also be downloaded from that page. 

After performing the mod, I found a reason to reverse it. After the mod is done, I found that the horizontal digital RGB control dial on the back of the monitor stopped working. More concerning was that an IBM CGA card would not show a stable sync unless a composite video cable was also plugged into the Line A input from the CGA's RCA jack. This provided sync for the picture, and while the IBM CGA, PCjr. and early Tandy 1000s have a composite video output port, the later Tandy 1000s do not. Many other CGA cards and adapters also lack a composite video port and most EGA cards do not have functional composite video outputs. When the mod was reversed and the wire was reconnected to the connector, these issues went away. In conclusion, if the digital RGB capabilities of this monitor are of any interest to you, don't perform that mod.

Onn. DVD Player Menu (PAL)

The controls offer little feedback on their range. When you press one of the picture controls, the red LED over the reset button will flash as the setting increases and decreases. When the setting gets to the maximum or minimum, the LED will stay a solid red instead of blinking. There is range to the controls, but unlike a knob that stops on each end, these controls have no way of telling you where on the range you when you are not pressing them. The reset button does not affect the contrast setting for some strange reason.

Apple II Composite

The Bias and Gain controls on the front require a small Phillips head screwdriver to manipulate. This may seem like a bad thing, but unless you have calibration equipment, you should not touch them. There is no On Screen Display (OSD) with this monitor, other controls for manipulating the picture positioning and geometry are located inside the TV, which makes it a pain to adjust and for some controls, not without danger of electric shock from the flyback transformer. Have the scan of the service manual handy before you touch a pot inside the computer, and for safety reasons take a photograph of the pot before you start adjusting it.

IBM PCjr. Composite

Unfortunately, this monitor is not the best choice for consoles and color home computers which rely on NTSC Composite Video. The issue is with the PVM's comb filter, which cannot be disabled. The comb filter, combined with the high resolution screen, makes consoles which rely on composite video ugly. In Super Mario Bros, instead of seeing solid colors, you will observe ugly chroma dots in larger areas of single colors. Sega consoles and Artifact colors look especially stripey and thus less than great. Think of the PVM-1342Q as an AppleColor Composite Monitor IIe or IIc with a comb filter. Old IBM CGA cards will need a way to knock down the voltage from its composite video connector, the composite inputs will not accept the signal as it comes from the RCA jack. PAL composite video looks OK.

If you open this monitor, you should be aware that there is additional danger that must be guarded against even compared to many other CRT monitors. Many Sony PVMs, including this one, and some, mostly older TVs have "live chassis" (a.k.a. "hot chassis") where the CRT chassis is connected directly to mains voltage. If you plug the monitor in and touch some metal bits, you might as well be touching the hot wire of the AC socket. Touch a ground point and the circuit will be going through your body instead of the TV. Unplug the unit, discharge the anode and keep one hand in your pocket as much as possible helps. If you must work with the TV when turned on, you should use an isolation transformer. These precautions apply to any TV, but with the large metal pieces inside a PVM holding the CRT in place it is especially important to be safe.

RGB Cabling

As the PVM uses BNC connectors, direct connections between most original gaming consoles is not going to happen with original cables. Systems which support RGB natively include the Master System (full-size), Genesis (1 & 2), SNES (full-size), PlayStation 1-3, Saturn, Dreamcast, GameCube (PAL only). Other systems require mods. Getting RGB out of these consoles requires special cables with BNC connectors. You will not find first party cables with BNC connectors on them. Retro Gaming Cables and Retro Access offer quality console cables with BNC connectors.

You may also consider a Component to RGB transcoder (with SCART to BNC adapter) for consoles which output Component Video (NTSC GameCube) or if you have HD RetroVision cables which convert RGB to Component Video (almost everything else). There are Amiga, Atari ST  and Apple IIgs to SCART cables and they work with the Sony PVMs with a SCART to BNC adapter. The Amstrad CPC and Tandy Color Computer 3 are among the few 8-bit computers with analog RGB connections. The CPC should work with a pin adapter but the CoCo 3 requires a sync combiner because it has separate H and V sync outputs.

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