let's discuss CRT TV ownership


Frank's recent warnings re: CRT ownership have got me all in a tizzy, and now I'm looking online for examples of CRTs being definitively better at projecting all images than so-called "high-definition" displays.

Some stray thoughts:

1) It occurred to me, listening to ep 201, that I watch significantly less TV and play significantly fewer TV-based video games now than I did when I last owned a CRT (2010-2013). Many other life changes have also taken place, but I wonder whether the hardware itself has contributed to that dropoff! It's a fun thing to think about.

2) Is anyone even producing new CRTs anymore? I understand that many (most? all?) of the best CRT makers were Japanese companies. And Japanese companies _sometimes_ continue making products for legacy reasons. But I can't imagine anyone is still making new CRTs in 2021. Therefore, are we living on borrowed time? All material objects have finite lifespans, but is buying a CRT now a fool's errand for hardware maintenance reasons?

3) Up until two years ago, my father owned a glorious 36" Sony Trinitron CRT. I loved it. I still love it, even though it is gone from our lives. The damn thing weighed about one thousand tons, and my father simply _gave_ it away, to a guy who reportedly just dumped it into the back of a pickup truck with no regard for its well-being. The absolute nerve. I would have taken it off of my father's hands in a heartbeat, but I live on the opposite side of the planet, so that seemed like a bad plan. My father now complains that he can't play Mario Strikers (GameCube), a game he got dad-good at (in the sense that dads get good at their one dad game), anymore, because he's playing it on an HD screen. Well, dad, I could have told you that. And I did. What a tragedy.

4) Back when I worked at [The Japan Foundation Toronto](https://jftor.org/), they got rid of an even larger (than 36") widescreen CRT. I asked, Can I have it? The guy in charge of getting rid of it said, Sure, but you have find some way to lug it home. I did not have access to a car at that time, and lived many blocks away. I don't even remember how the hell I got it home, but somehow I did it, and played Super Metroid and Red Dead Redemption (as well as many others) on it.

Also let's remember the best part of Steins;Gate: Mr. Braun, the super buff dude who loves CRTs (braun-kan in Japanese) so much that he runs a shop devoted to them.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/TxzBsfD.png]

Okay, you don't have to, but I will. Forever.

While I do own a CRT, it‘s a 19-inch consumer model (albeit quite an ok one). I do kind of agree that there’s a chance of just becoming a snob and having all TVs ruined forever, so I don‘t want to go down the rabbit hole of getting scalers and DACs and nicer displays. My little Sony is there for my pre-HD consoles and my Raspberry Pi, connected over RGB SCART where possible (it was the norm in Europe for many consoles anyway). I’m getting roughly the intended experience for pre-HD games, and that's fine.

However, I also have a pretty good projector, which actually has ruined TVs for me.

There‘s also a parallel between CRTs and high-end audio. I’ve owned some ridiculously high-end audio equipment (I worked in that industry for a while and through a combination of brainwashing and employee discount I amassed quite a system), but it never made music any better. In fact, when you own the really fancy stuff, you can only really listen to certain types of music, because they‘re the only recordings that will get the most out of your system. If music hasn’t been mixed or recorded with audiophiles in mind (this is most music, regardless of what Apple, Dolby or Spotify tell you), it can sound worse on a £50,000 setup than it does on one that cost £500. In my spell working with and owning that stuff, I gradually fell out of love with music.

It actually took me a few years to get back to 'normal'. I do still appreciate a decent system, but 'decent' is as high-end as I go these days. I have a pretty good surround system to go with my projector and a good-but-not-too-good stereo system in the living room. All is what is generally considered 'mid-range', which is the sweet spot between getting decent performance, reasonable prices and not distracting you from the content itself.

I have a 27“ Trinitron I got off of Craigslist a few years ago and I love it . Although I have to say it‘s just a little too big for me: I have to keep it on the floor of my apartment and whenever I have to move it, I feel like I’m going to injure myself (and the TV). I wish I could trade it for a comparable-quality 24” set, that would be my ideal. I also have a CRT VGA monitor and Apple II monitor, I feel like hooking up an old PC to a flat-panel monitor just feels weird to me. But my CRT is great and it's definitely how I want to play older games!

I feel like the CRT-owning segment of the retrogaming crowd is a little too obsessed with pro-quality video monitors while consumer-quality sets can be pretty excellent. My set doesn't have component video, but I've come to really appreciate the composite video quality for things like Sega Genesis games or S-video for later consoles if I want clearer picture. But still, I admit that there's a kind of dumb part of me that kind of wants a PVM or BVM...

I recently gave my girlfriend a lower-end small 13" CRT with RF-in only. It's not ideal for retrogames, but she hooked it up to an old VCR to watch VHS tapes and I totally get the appeal of that specific kind of nostalgic video quality: it's not any kind of thing that will give you perfect fidelity, but it's unique and can't be replicated with a modern TV.

In response to OP's topic #2: I believe that there are a couple places still making CRTs, though they are absolutely not making them for the consumer market; you would need to be a multimillionaire to buy one.

@“Nemoide”#p42577 WOW! This of course presents the question: what does a made-for-a-multimillionaire 2021 CRT look like?

Now I've got a whole new sub-rabbit sub-hole to go down!


@“whatsarobot”#p42567 My father now complains that he can’t play Mario Strikers

Time to teach dad how to pirate GameCube games and how to set up dolphin; or maybe teach him how to hack a Wii U and use Nintendont (lol)

My dad also likes Mario Strickers but he still prefers Fifa because he is better at it. Last year he was unemployed for like 6 months and he got dad-good at golf in wii sports resort, he couldn't go to his preferred golf course in Chula Vista, CA since the border was closed so wii sports golf was his alternative. I kept joking with my brother that I was going to show him [summonig salt's wii golf video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XkKufyIiAY) to set him on track for the world record.

On his birthday I bought him the golf thing for Wii Sports Club on the Wii U which included 9 more holes which are remakes of the holes from Golf for the NES, apparently you can buy each sport individually on Wii Sports Club (or buy a "day pass" which only lets you play for a day. For some reason it isn't free and now the physical version is worth like 80dlls

I feel like it is under said that CRTs are loud. They squeal constantly in a way you have to learn to simply ignore. Depending on your model and the condition of the unit this squeal might be so loud that it cannot be tolerated by some.

I picked up a CRT on a marketplace for a reasonable price, hooked up my retro consoles to it, and my girlfriend *will not* be in the same room as me when it's on. I'd much rather play these games on a big modern TV with company than an old crisp one by myself.

When I was younger, I could tell whenever a CRT was turned on in the next room usually. They emit a distinctive high frequency whine.

I don't think I can hear it anymore. If I had to guess, it was right up around 21,000Hz or so, which I imagine my hearing has degraded to the point I can't pick up on it anymore.
(I haven't had a test in a long time, but I wouldn't be surprised at learning I top out around 18,000Hz or so these days - to pick a number out of thin air)

edit: some real quick research shows that CRT coil whine is more likely around 15,600Hz, and my high frequency hearing is most likely significantly lower than I imagined

I respectfully, but forcefully and actively reject the current fad that CRTs are some kind of be all end all device for making retrogames enjoyable or better. I also think that there are some serious analogies that can be derived from the audiphile community in that it's a way to provide gatekeeping into a hobby both with knowledge and finances.

I'm going to use the word monitor for convention, but it can also mean a monitor that has either an analog or digital television tuner circuit which we all would call a "TV".

As far as playing old games on modern monitors there are a few issues that didn't exist years ago, but I feel like can be solved to get it absolutely good enough.

The first is latency. Games both old and new run around 60 Hz, so anything that's under 1/60th of a second (16.7 ms) is absolutely playable. If you think that you can react to something that is [faster than Millia's 19-frame overhead, you're straight up lying to yourself](http://www.dustloop.com/forums/index.php?/forums/topic/2878-millia-mixup-blocker-flash-app/).

I had an "OK" 1080p Toshiba from 15 years ago that had a game mode. Turns off a bunch of image processing which is mostly there to get rid of MPEG compression artifacts which was a result of the ATSC (digital) TV broadcast compression standard or low-bitrate DVDs. Added several frames of lag. But if I turned game mode on I could play action games with no perceptible difference vs. the CRT HDTV I had. Point is, this is a reasonably easy problem to solve on the monitor side.

If you're shopping for a monitor for older games, I do recommend you get a gaming monitor. I have an LG brand 32" 1920x1080 gaming monitor. I don't remember the model number, but it's got single-digit refresh/response times which is what you need for games and they don't have a bunch of image-quality stuff.

Obviously, this is ignoring any latency that you're introducing because of analog-to-digital conversions because you've got an old SNES that you want to hook up using a framemeister or something. I'm totally unfamiliar with those.

The second and harder thing to solve is image quality. No, you're not going to get the CRT color bleed you get from connecting composite to a cheap TV with a digital connection. So no, you're probably not going to see the rainbows in Sonic. You'll see the dithered pixels in all the other games that use it to fake alpha blending transparency. You can fart around with filters in emulation if that's your bag. Or you can ignore it.

One thing I do recommend when buying a modern monitor for older games is that you get a 1920x1800 monitor instead of a 1440 or 4K. Especially avoid the 4K monitors. They are designed to assume they are eating 4K content and I haven't seen one that I can get looking good for a low-res source. It's a bad mix of scaling up to 4K res and edge detection which conspires to make everything look gloppy. Even playing _Valhalla_ on Switch looked like garbage on my 4K TV when docked.

I know this is a lot of words and details, but ultimately I want people to realize that emulation is fine, playing on a modern monitor is fine and you're already 30+ years removed from a lot of these games. When contemporary people watch _Citizen Cain_, we watch it on BluRay or Streaming. We're not getting out film projectors. Please go enjoy the games rather than worry you aren't enjoying them properly.

Edit: y’all are too kind to me. This thing was riddled with typos! 😭

@“rejj”#p42605 41-year-old checking in and I can‘t hear the CRT flyback whine anymore, but whooboy my grandparent’s Magnivox sure had that.

My wife the other day was complaining about how the local summer cicadas hurt her ears and I commented how they were pleasant and summery and then realized she being a woman probably hasn't lost that portion of her hearing the way I have!

... WHAT???

I used to watch a lot more stuff than I do now. I don‘t think its CRT related but I do think its lack of physical media related. I turn on netflix, see 4000 things and just turn it off. Could just be I’m busy with other stuff though.

I do think these tech discussions are super interesting. The CRT thing reminds me of polaroid thinking film is dead and discontinuing instant film even though it was a magical product that everyone still wants. Not exactly the same but there's certainly some things lost in the digital view.

@“antillese”#p42608 Lots of good insight here, and I learned a lot from your post. Thank you.

Re: the "whine" coming from CRTs - that is an experience I have lived as well. But when I was a kid, the CRT being on always felt to me like more of a bodily sensation than a sound. Weird.

@“Syzygy”#p42644 Thanks to this post, I feel I have begun to understand the appeal of steampunk fiction.


@“Syzygy”#p42644 CRTs, they’re electronic but have this analogue-like physicality

Well, it's not analogue-like for many of the CRTs being discussed in this thread. They are **literally** analog in their operation.


@“whatsarobot”#p42643 Lots of good insight here, and I learned a lot from your post. Thank you.

Thanks so much! I'm really glad it resonated with you!

Much of my thinking on this is due to my career and background. I've been in the high-tech industry my whole career and have an engineering education. I've spent most of my time as a systems engineer and now I'm in a technical product marketing role so understanding end-user "use cases" and what is "good enough" is critical to your ability to make product tradeoffs.

If you're in that field you have a very low-tolerance for pseudo-tech snake oil. I see some of the CRT discussion becoming fetishized. It's like how a few of the other folks have mentioned in the audio hobby: "You're not really listening to the Beatles unless you've got some scratchy LP and a $2500 tube amp" and "you're not really playing the Sega Master System unless is on a broadcast monitor which was unobtainable for most users in its time".

I seriously doubt that beyond a very small group of subject matter experts, people in a double-blind study would be able to definitively tell you this is on original hardware, vs. this is in an emulation environment. It would be a very very hard study to control for, and yes, there are lots of our Insert Credit friends that can suss out the small details, but I also argue that it's unlikely to make a real difference. Just like how I can tell if I'm watching the 35-year-old movie _Aliens_ on BluRay, or _Aliens_ on VHS, or _Aliens_ on film, ultimately some of it comes down to convenience and how it is presented.

I don't want people to read my posts and feel like I'm shaming them for their choices in how they enjoy their hobby either. I want people to read my posts and feel empowered to enjoy their hobby in the way that best works for them and not feel like they don't have any right to enjoy older games presented in modern ways.

@“antillese”#p42649 I agree that there should be no gatekeeping involved with how people want to (or are able to) experience their visual entertainment, and like you, have never bought into (lol) the idea that there is a definitive “best” way to experience any given game or film. Especially when the “best” way involves spending the most money.

I also think you've added a fair bit of nuance to the conversation, as it's never really as simple as CRT vs non-CRT. There is so much variation on either side of that divide.

If I'm being honest, I find the wealth of options available a bit frustrating, because when something about my viewing or playing experience seems unsatisfying, and I know it's not down to the mechanics, I find myself wondering, "Would this have been more enjoyable with different hardware?" Likely, the answer in most cases would be "No," but the question still presents itself.

This is in fact one reason why I prefer handheld consoles. Generally speaking, the intended experience is the one you're guaranteed to have, outside of hacking, homebrew and various sizes of DS/3DS.

My feelings on CRTs have shifted over time: Back when they were just TVs I was very vocal about RGB SCART (or S-video, as appropriate) because the best quality experience was for most people and most consoles an inexpensive length of cable away. Now CRTs are heavy, bulky, and expensive… play what you want on whatever you‘ve got. CRTs really are wonderful things: They give images a sort of glow that no filter can match and I’m not playing Vampire Night/Virtua Cop/Time Crisis/Gun Survivor on any other type of display in the near future but I'd rather have people playing games and enjoying them than being “authentic” or whatever. TV tech talk loses me the instant it goes any deeper than “Does it work?” and “Are you having fun?”

([I wrote an article about all this too](https://kimimithegameeatingshemonster.com/2021/06/17/in-search-of-the-perfect-display/))

I got lucky and got 4 good Component ready 19 inch CRTs in the last 5 years. And they're a great way to play classic games especially as compared to through Composite. BUT that said. I can feel them dying. So I have made the decision that I will just use them as much as possible. And give them a proper send off. Once they die I will maybe be in a place in life where I can have a huge flat screen taking up a wall in my apartment and then that will be the way I play. Until then CRT glow in a basement studio.



the intended experience

This is it right here, for me. Why I choose to play old games on a CRT. I'm certainly no snob but when I play games I want to experience it the way the developer designed it to be experienced and since HD flat-screen TVs weren't around for the SEGA Genesis to be played on, I want to play it on a CRT. It's also why I prefer not to fuss around with emulators or emulated hardware and try to only play games on legit released hardware. I don't care how everyone else plays their games, that's just how I prefer.

I did used to think the whole PVM scene was all hype... Until I saw one in person at a gaming show. The image was so crisp and was damn near jumping out of the screen. I bought 2 last year from Craigslist, a 12" Trinitron which is my main retro gaming setup (with my Genesis/SCD hooked up through SCART to RGB and stereo speakers) and an 8" which lives on my test bench in the workshop.

Other than that, I've got a 19" magnavox CRT that my friend was gonna take to the dump a few years ago. He was just as confused as I was excited to take it from him. That ones also in the workshop hooked up to my VHS player. I also have a 32" CRT that's in the family game room in the main house that gets used for parties and stuff.

I will say that the more recent your retro console the smaller the returns on a CRT tend to be for me. Playing a Genesis on a CRT really invokes something fun. Playing a Gamecube on a CRT is fine, but not fundamentally that different from playing it on a newer screen. (Unless I guess you‘re a hardcore Melee head, but if so then you don’t need to be sold on CRTs at this point).

The N64 just barely edges over the "nicer on CRT" line for me. Anything after that and the difference is largely not worth the hassle.