Use of Digital TV Converter Boxes
in DTV Reception
Digital TV Reception Guide (1)
To enjoy Digital TV programming, you need a TV with a digital TV tuner, also referred to as ATSC tuner. Yet it is still possible to save the millions of old analog TVs still in use today from a premature death as a result of switching to DTV programming. All you have to do is invest in an inexpensive digital TV converter box, or simply a DTV box.
Learn more about DTV converter boxes and related connectivity requirements in this short digital television guide.
Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital TV Converter Box
To receive over-the-air digital TV broadcasts, your television set requires an ATSC tuner. If your TV is the millions of analog sets still in use in many households, you would need a small digital TV converter box, also referred to as DTV set-top box or simple the digital TV box.
The DTV set-top box converts the digital TV signals into signals that an analog TV understands. You need one set-top box per TV since this is serving as the digital TV tuner for your analog television. This may sound like too much of an investment but digital TV converters are relatively inexpensive; the average set-top box sells online at around $30 to $40.
Installing a DTV converter box is simple; it is somewhat similar to connecting an old VCR to a TV. These boxes have all the connections you need to feed an analog TV with the new digital TV signals. These include:
An antenna input which connects to an indoor or outdoor antenna, an RF out for use with TVs which do not support a composite video input, and the standard yellow, red and white composite video/stereo audio outputs. Some digital TV converter boxes also support an S-video connection for a higher quality video feed to your TV.
These DTV set-top boxes come with all the required connection cables and an installation manual which will guide you through the setup process; the latter covers both the hook-up and the automatic tuning process.
A handy easy-to-follow digital TV converter box installation and set-up guide (in PDF format), has also been prepared by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). You can download this guide from here.
DTV boxes will help extend the lifetime of your analog TV in that you will still be able to use your old TV to receive digital TV programming. However, there are a few implications worth taking note of:
TV Remotes: Your TV will be rendered nothing more than a monitor in that to change channels, you have to use the DTV converter box remote control. Nothing serious in that this is more of a nuisance than anything else, yet it may take you some time till you get used to running around with two remotes.
Picture Quality: While an analog TV set connected to a digital TV converter box will be able to display available free over-the-air DTV broadcasts in your area, the displayed image on your old TV need not necessarily be in its full original quality. This depends on the picture quality of your old TV.
DTV Reception: If you have a sufficient reception signal, you will get a picture that is clearer than what you are used to with your old analog connection, but it will not be high definition TV. To watch free over-the air high definition TV content, you need a new digital TV; this will have the required digital tuner built-in and a screen with a high enough native pixel resolution to support high definition programming.
Analog Pass-Through: If you wish to continue watching analog low power TV broadcasts, Class A, or TV translator stations, you should purchase a converter box with 'analog pass-through' capability. This feature allows RF analog broadcast signals to pass through the digital TV converter box, to be tuned by your analog TV. Without analog pass-through, you may have to connect an antenna switch or a signal 'splitter' to bypass the box when viewing low-power analog TV broadcasts.
There are quite a couple of interesting inexpensive DTV converter boxes at a number of online retail sites - including amazon and Best Buy. Prices range from as low as $30 to over a $100. However, basic features are always the same.
Among the best $40 DTV converter boxes you can buy, there is the Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box featured at the top of this page. The Zinwell supports analog pass-through. Its only drawback is that it comes with a rather flimsy remote control but it also supports eight timer events.
A similar good digital television converter box is the STB-T12 from TIVAX; do not expect any fancy features but it comes with analog pass-through and Dolby Digital sound output. Its only drawback is that it is a bit more expensive than the others even though it is still relatively cheap.
An other interesting digital TV converter box is the RCA DTA-800B1. It is rather unique in that the supplied remote controls both the converter and the TV. In addition, it is one of the few DTV boxes that is Smart Antenna-ready; more on the latter in the second part of this DTV Guide.