How to connect an Amiga to a TV

Amiga monitors aren’t always the easiest thing to come by. Of course just about every Amiga sold was also sold with a monitor. But sadly, many of the monitors weren’t as reliable as the computer. So being able to connect an Amiga to a TV helps.

There are several options, and while some are far from ideal, most of them are suitable for playing video games. And these days I’m sure you’re a lot more interested in Shadow of the Beast than you are in Amiga Word Perfect 4.1.

The Amiga 520 is the classic option to get traditional color composite output from an Amiga.
The Amiga 520 adapter is the most well-known option to get traditional color composite output from an Amiga. Image credit: Wikipedia/Thue

The classic option for an Amiga 500/1000/2000 (A500/A1000/A2000) is Commodore’s own Amiga 520 adapter. Of course they haven’t been made since the early 1990s, but they turn up on eBay from time to time, and the usual going rate is $20-$25.

The Amiga 520 plugs into the Amiga’s 23-pin RGB video port. On the side of the A520 is an RCA connector that outputs color composite video, which virtually any television made since the late 1990s will accept readily. Plug an RCA cable (shielded, ideally) between this side connector and a composite input on your television. That’s the same plug you would use to connect a Playstation or other game system that’s old enough to not use DVI. Plug a pair of RCA cables, like you use to connect a CD player to a stereo receiver, into the Amiga’s audio ports, and plug the other end of those into your television’s audio inputs. You can ignore the audio in port on the A520.

The less ideal option won’t require any extra equipment, but only gives you a black and white display. There’s a composite video connector on the back of the Amiga 500, 1000, and 2000. Plug an RCA cable into that and into a composite in jack on a TV. Then plug a stereo-style pair of RCA cables in between the Amiga’s audio outs and the TV’s audio inputs, and it will work. But color was part of the Amiga’s appeal. So it’s not good for much other than testing an Amiga to see if it works when you don’t have an Amiga monitor or an A520 handy.

Some people modify their A520s to give s-video output. This would give a better picture than straight composite, if you’re willing to do the work.

And yes, there’s a third option. Last and least, the plug on the back of the A520 outputs modulated video. It’s obsolete. But if you want to see some really fuzzy video, it will oblige. Plug an RCA cable into that back plug, plug an RCA-F adapter into the other end of the cable, plug the adapter into a TV’s antenna input and tune in to channel 3. For the coup de grâce, plug the dual end of an RCA Y-connector into the Amiga’s audio outputs, and plug the single end into the A520’s audio in connector. That will add mono sound to your fuzzy video. Back in the 1980s, that was the only option some of us had. Today you can’t give away a 13″ tube TV with composite inputs, so there’s not much reason to use it anymore.

What about the Amiga 600 and 1200? I don’t own either of those machines but I understand the A600 and A1200 composite outputs actually are color. That means they have the equivalent of an A520 built in. So you could plug one of those in straight into a modern TV  and be reasonably happy.

The high-end Amiga 3000 and 4000 models lacked composite output of any kind. That said, there’s no reason they wouldn’t work with an A520 or the modern made-in-Australia replacement. An A3000 has a VGA port. That means you can plug it straight into any VGA monitor, or the VGA connector on a modern TV. That option will yield a far better display than even s-video ever will.

An A4000 can also output a VGA-compatible signal, but there’s a catch. You’ll need to connect it up to something else to load the VGAOnly driver for it to do so. The Amiga 1200 can use the same cable as the A4000 does to connect to VGA. And since the A1200 has a composite output, you can connect it to a TV via composite, load the VGAOnly driver, then connect it up via VGA to get a better picture.

Hopefully one of these options to connect an Amiga to a TV works for you. And if you need some help with some Amiga commands, I hope you’ll check out my post on common AmigaDOS commands.

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