Sega 32X S-Video Mod

While some may say the the 32X is the worst idea to ever come out of Sega, I can’t help but admire the ingenuity and ambition for trying to make an add on to improve the graphics of a console. I know the 32X was one of the key factors in the growing consumer and developer mistrust in Sega during the time, but I have to admit, I kinda like Sega’s quirky little add on for being the weird failure that it was. Oh 32X, your life was too short, and we barely knew ye.

EDIT: Some of the information on this page is incorrect. I have re-done this mod and made a new article, which you can find HERE.

Genesis and 32X
Sega’s 32X, a.k.a. “The Mushroom,” a.k.a. why Sega can’t have nice things.

 

I originally bought my 32X as a way to fix the video on my broken Sega Genesis. The Genesis in the image was the one I grew up with since I was young, but the video started degrading nearly 10 years ago, to the point of only outputting static. I could always replace it, but I really wanted to keep this one if possible. I started researching fixes, and decided that if I wanted good video quality from a model 1 Genesis, a modded 32X would be a good way to go.

From what I understand, the model 1 Genesis (which is what I have) does not have the best video encoder. The video encoder is what takes the image that the Genesis rendered, and converts it into something the TV can understand. However, when a 32X is connected to the Genesis, the video from the genesis is sent to the 32X before it’s encoded. The 32X then does the encoding, and some say it creates a superior picture.

Here’s a video I found showing the Genesis picture quality vs the 32X. Some may actually prefer the slightly brighter colors on the Genesis, but since my Genesis was broken, I would be happy with ANY picture at this point!

Skip to 2:40 to see the actual comparison, including a good example of the notorious “rainbow banding.”

When I got my 32X from eBay, I was happy to see that I was able to play my Genesis again! However, I knew that it was possible to mod the 32X with S-Video, and I wouldn’t be satisfied until I tried it.

I started off with this diagram and the following two sites for some good information.

32X S-Video
32X S-Video schematic

Sega-16 32X S-Video Mod
RetroTimeGames.com 32X S-Video Mod

32X PROTIP: Actually, when I got my 32X in the mail, it didn’t work at first. It produced a strange distorted image. The eBay listing said it worked before it shipped so I did some quick Googling. It turns out that the 2 white cables in the 32X can easily get corroded or bumped. I simply removed the 2 big white ribbon cables and then put them back in, and it worked!

32X Test
Testing the 32X after reseating the cables. Success!

After being reunited with my Genesis games, I got to work on the 32X to add s-video and make them look even better!

32X top removed.
32X with the plastic dome off. Lots of shielding here.

 

32X Shielding
Notice the “IC BD MARS” under the cartridge slot? The 32X codename during development was MARS. The Sega Nomad says “Venus” on the board, and the Sega Saturn says… I forgot what planet that one was…
32X Board
Shielding off. Here are the two “white ribbon cables of death” I mentioned earlier.
32X Encoder
This is my work area. For reference, I think that chip in the middle (the video encoder) is about the size of a nickel.
32X Mod
I soldered the transistor directly to the chip.
S-Video Jack
I insulated the transistor legs with electrical tape. Not the most professional job, but it’ll do just fine. Here I connected an S-Video jack I ripped from an S-Video to composite adapter.
32X top
I drilled a hole for the s-video jack in the top plastic shell. The s-video ground connections were connected directly to the shield.

The 3D games of the 32X don’t benefit that much from s-video (Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter…), but the 2D and Genesis games are really sharp, and really stand out!

Virtua Racing 32X
Success! You can now see every jagged pixel in the 32X version of Virtua Racing!
32X Sonic CD
32X S-Video looks fantastic on Genesis games too!

 

So where is the Genesis/32X now? It’s sitting in my museum next to its old rival the Super Nintendo. It still works just fine, except for the Sega CD that died about a week ago, but that’s a post for a different time 😉

Sega Genesis CD 32X
The Sega Genesis/CD/32X sits next to the Super Nintendo in the Museum.

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