N64 RGB Mod - Basic Amp Install

Warning:  Before starting this mod, make sure your N64 can be modded for RGB and that this is the correct mod for your system!: http://www.retrorgb.com/n64rgbcompatible.html. If your system is an NTSC N64 with the proper VDC-NUS chip, you can proceed:

 

RGB Amp:
This guide shows RGB mod instructions using a pre-made RGB amp. There are a few different ones available now (some examples shown above), but the installation is similar for all. Any specific differences will be mentioned below.

Voultar's THS7374 amp with built-in sync stripper

Retrofixes THS7314 Amplifier Board 

DIY THS7314 board

 

RGB Cable / Sync:
This page describes the cables you'd need for use with an N64 RGB mod, as well as discusses sync requirements: http://www.retrorgb.com/n64cablecsync.html

 

Tools:
You'll need a few tools for this mod (more info on the tools can be found in the tools section):

- An RGB cable
- Soldering skills! 
- The 4.5mm tool that opens the N64

- Philips head screwdriver
- Soldering iron / solder
- Thin gauge wire
- Flux or flux pen; Not required, but strongly recommended!

 

Modding Service:
If after reading this guide, you decide you'd rather have a professional do it for you, try these services:

USA:
Retrofixes N64 RGB Mod Service

Voultar's Mod Shop

 

Canada (Toronto):
Leon Kiriliuk's Console Mods and restorations

 

Installation Video:
This is a video demonstrating everything shown in this guide.  It may help in your installation:

 

RGB Mod:

- First, remove the memory module, then unbolt the plastic cover using the 4.5mm game tool.  Then, unbolt only the screws that are circled in the picture below.  After removing just those, the entire metal heat shielding will lift off as one piece, exposing the motherboard:


 

- Once it’s disassembled, look for a chip that says "VDC-NUS" or "VDC-NUS A" (pictured below).  If you find it, you can proceed with the RGB mod.  If not, please see the N64 RGB mods page for other options, as your console is not compatible:

 

Flip the motherboard over and look for the RGB via's (holes) labeled R8, R9 and R10.  Add a bit of flux to each hole, then solder a wire to each.  Here's the pinout:
R8 = Red    R9 = Green    R10 = Blue
Warning:  Make sure the stripped wire going through the holes is extremely short!!!  If the wire sticks out past the other side of the motherboard, it will actually touch the VDC-NUS chip and possibly hit one of the pins!:

Here's an example of what happens if you feed the RGB cables in too far.  Luckily this person's N64 wasn't permanently damaged and I was able to fix it, but it was shorting pins together and could have potentially ruined the system:

 

- Next, prepare the pre-made amp by adding a piece of non-conductive tape to the bottom, just to make sure no connections touch the motherboard.  Some boards don't require it, but I'd rather not take the chance:

 

- Then, slide the amp over the multi-out and solder the pins. I also like to run the RGB wires through a bit of heat shrink tubing to keep them neat, then cut them to size and solder them to the RGB board (click for full-sized):

 

- Next, test the installation by launching an N64 game. I like using Mario 64, since you can clearly see the red, green and blue colors right at the title screen, both in the letters and on Mario. DON'T FORGET - You need to plug the memory module back in, or the N64 won't boot! A few times I forgot and thought I may have done the mod wrong. Also, don't leave it powered on too long if you have the heatsink off, or you can damage the chips:

 

- If the installation didn't work properly, it's most likely the connection to the via's:

Double check that your wires aren't sticking through to the other side of the board. Also, if you didn't use flux, go back and use some...this fixes about 90% of all installation issues.

As a last resort, you can try soldering directly to the VDC-NUS chip, instead of using the via's. Use pins 17 (Red), 19 (Green) and 21 (Blue). Then, make sure to run the wires cleanly around the board, so that no wires will be pinched when you re-assemble the metal casing. I find this method to be much more of a pain then using the via's, but it will work:

 

Sync Stripper (not all boards have this option)

If your RGB board has a built-in sync stripper, then you can enable clean csync output and use a typical SNES csync cable!  First and most importantly, make SURE there isn't a signal traveling to pin 3 (csync) on the multi-out!!!  The easiest and safest way to do this, is simply by removing the three SMD components pictured below that are connected to pin 3:

Capacitor "C22"  /  Resistor "R1"  /  Resistor "R14"

Alternatively, you can cut the trace on the motherboard, but removing the capacitor is safer, reversible and in my opinion, easier.  Either way, verify the connection has been severed by testing with a multimeter.  Click for full-sized:

Then, simply short the CSYNC_JP jumper by adding solder to both pads and dragging them together.  Once again, verify the connection with a multimeter.

That's it!  A super easy way to add noise-free csync to an N64!

 

Reassembly / Shielding Mods:

- If the installation tested fine, start replacing all the metal shielding (and if any cables are run along the side, make sure they're not getting pinched).  If you're using a longer amp board, you'll need to bend the tab on the bottom metal shield, so it doesn't hit the board.  I just used a pair of pliers and it left plenty of room between the metal and the chips:

The smaller pre-made amps should allow just enough space so the metal isn't touching the board and the wires aren't pinched (please ignore the blue wire in the pic, that was from a csync mod).  If you wanted to be safe, you could bend the shield as shown above:

 

- Lastly, bolt everything else back in the order you removed it and give it another try.  Remember, the memory module has to be plugged in, or the N64 won't boot.

 

Some quick tips:

- If you have any trouble, test with a composite video cable to see if the issues occur on composite, or just RGB.

- I've seen people just connect the RGB pins to the multi-out with no amp.  While technically it would work on some RGB monitors, it will most likely damage your console.  Definitely don't try it!  Here's an example comparing with and without the amp:

 


Well, that's it! Feel free to go back to the main N64 page. If you'd like info on mods for other systems, head to the Getting RGB From Each System page or check out the main page for more retro-awesomeness.