Back when the NES was current, I got one for my birthday. I connected it using the RF thingie to my cheap noname 14" CRT TV bought a couple of years earlier, in the late 1980s or 1990 or so.

The picture was always quite "noisy", meaning it looked like when you were looking at a television broadcast with bad antenna reception.

But now, when I have a different (but identical) NES, also with an original RF thingie, hooked up to my 1989 JVC TV, it's basically impossible to tell it apart from when I use the RCA/composite cable instead. There is certainly no "noise" at all; the artifacts are more like bleeding colours and distortions of a different kind, just like with a composite signal.

What does this mean? The TVs are from the same era, albeit one was clearly much cheaper than the other. I doubt the NES was damaged in any way, nor its RF thing.

What could explain the difference in picture?

Neither now, nor then, was there an actual antenna cable plugged into the TV at the same time, so we can rule out that possibility (that it interfered).

If it matters, both TVs and both NESes are/were PAL.

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    Look who is here again :))
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 19:01
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    @MarkWilliams The implication is that Raffzahn's "Look who is here again" is referring to some aspect of this question that identifies N. Sertich as a previous user. Whether that is true or not (Raffzahn's intent or N. Sertich's identity), I have no idea. I see a reasonable question and posted a reasonable answer. Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 19:46
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact The question got the same vibe as many other thin covered rants the site received from 'new users' over the last year - and the harsch reaction to noting it is rather proving it, isn't it?
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 20:10
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Oh. no, this is not about you or your answer. While I do think it's fruitless to feed trolls, I believe it's up to everyone to decide if he want's to answer an otherwise bad researched Question missing basic common sense. Further aggressive replies involving personal attacks are a perfect proof that it's likely the very same person playing this game since late 2020. Including BTW almost the same question/story in variation. Quite some 'fun'
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 20:42
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    I think the tone and wording of @N.Sertich's comment above demonstrates clearly that he's who we think he is.
    – dave
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


Two possibilities:

  • cheap noname vs. JVC

Not all TVs are created equal.

I read many years ago about Madman Muntz (thanks to Geo... for the reference) who would go to the engineering department and ask "what's this part do?" and the engineer would tell him. He'd say "well, what if we remove it?" and the engineer would do so - and the TV would still work. Lather, rinse, repeat until he got to parts that actually did affect picture quality. End result would be a cheaper box that would be just barely good enough but able to sell for less than other manufacturers.

It is also possible to have a cheap TV with all the right parts, but with shielding (typically metal in the right places) not as good as the name brands. Or parts not specified to the same tolerance so some sets end up not quite as good as others.

A lot of possibilities, but if "cheap" was as good as the big name brands, the big name brands would sell their sets at the same price. They didn't - for reasons.

  • Outside interference

Even without an antenna, there is some interference from regular broadcasts. In the US (PAL = outside the US, so this may not apply exactly the same way), the typical setup was RF modulator on channel 3 or 4 (switchable). If you had channel 3 locally you would use channel 4 and if you had channel 4 locally (as I did, WRC, still channel 4 today, but now digital) then you would use channel 3. But even with the correct setting, there could still be some interference, particularly if you were between two major cities where one had channel 3 and the other had channel 4. Today's digital broadcasts are entirely different, so even if you are in the same city you may find that there is simply less interference than there was 30 years ago.

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    The TV story is true, you are thinking of Madman Muntz - visit wikipedia for all the glorious details! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madman_Muntz
    – Geo...
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 19:25
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    Are there analog broadcasts any more anywhere? Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 5:29
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen - you can still to slow scan TV over amateur radio frequencies, but you likely mean commercial TV stations...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 12:51
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen - yes, there are a number of analog full-power commercial broadcasts in Canada. The reason is that analog VHF has wider distribution than UHF digital so it's still useful in sparsely populated areas. The cost of upgrading in these areas is simply not worth it. In my area, the closest example is CICI-TV on VHF-lo channel 5 in northern Ontario. These are in the process of shutting down, as they "did not generate any incremental revenue and generally attracted little to no added viewership". Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 13:32
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    Most 1980s television sets were designed to accept a balanced RF input with a 300 ohm characteristic impedance, but video games were designed to output a 75 ohm unbalanced signal. For that reason, "switch boxes" would include not only a switch, but also a 300-ohm to 75-ohm balun "BALanced/UNbalanced" transformer, which was often of rather mediocre quality. Nearly all television sets made in the last 25 years have switched to using a 75 ohm unbalanced input, eliminating the need to use a crummy balun.
    – supercat
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 15:29

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