Which Set Top Box Is Right For Me?

Well, they are here.  The local Radio Shack store has a supply.  The big box electronics stores like Best Buy, h h gregg and Circuit City have them in stock.  Wal-Mart’s Blue Lights are a “spinnin’.”    The Digital TV Converters have hit the store shelves.  The good news is that they are, for the most part, moderately priced.  With the $40 coupon available from Uncle Sam, you will have to spend only $20 and tax to take one home.  The question is which one to take home.


For those who may need a refresher: The set top Digital Converter is a device that attaches to your analog TV and allows you to receive the new digital signals without buying a new digital TV.  It is ONLY needed by those who receive their TV programs over-the-air with an antenna.  If you are in that group, you will need to get one no later then midnight, February 17, 2009.  If you have cable (basic or digital) or use a satellite service, or you have a new digital TV set, you can stop reading now, YOU DON’T NEED ONE!


For most of us the basic converter model will do just fine.  It receives all the over-the-air digital signals and displays them on your TV.  It is connected to your old TV in one of two ways.  The simplest is through the TV antenna connection.  Just like many video games, you connect the DTV Converter to the TV antenna plug, connect the TV antenna to the DTV Converter and tune the TV to either Channel 3 or 4.  Voila, the connection is finished.  You have to keep the TV set on channel 3 or 4 and use the new remote that comes with the converter to change channels and set volume.  Even your oldest TV will now be controlled with this snazzy new remote and be able to display all the digital channels being broadcast by your local stations.


The second way to connect the converter to your TV is to use the direct Audio and Video (A/V) inputs.  Many newer analog TVs have these inputs either on the front or the rear of the TV.  They are usually color coded.  Yellow for video and Red and White for audio.  Most of the converters come with both an antenna cable and this special A/V cable.  The only difference when using these audio/video connections is that you will need to set your TV to the proper input.  It is usually called “Video or“Video1” or “Line or Line1” Each TV model is different, but a little trial and error with the TV’s remote should do it.


I mentioned above that there are other “flavors” of these converters.  If you are a viewer of the low-power TV stations in Cincinnati, (e.g. Channel 25 and 38) you will need to make another choice.  These TV stations will not convert to digital in February 2009, so if you want to continue to watch them you will either need to purchase a special DTV set top box or use the audio video option as described above and get a second antenna.


Let me explain.  Some special converter set top boxes pass through the old signals when they are tuned off.  So if you want to watch the old analog programs from the low power stations, you just switch the box off and use your TV tuner as you do now.  When you want to watch the new digital channels, you turn the box back on.  If you connected your new DTV converter using the audio/video cables, you can use the standard DTV converter.  You will need to have a second antenna connected to your TV set for the analog channels.  There is actually a third way using an A/B switch.  For a diagram of that method, send me an email.


All of this can be a bit confusing.  For most of us the simple converter is just fine.  There is a list below of the various DTV converters on my blog if you want to know which one you will need to receive the low power analog stations.


I have tried out several converters and they all deliver a good picture and are very easy to set up.  Most are “Plug & Play” meaning that once connected they search out the local channels, set up the on-screen program guide and give you options for captions.  You must have a converter for each analog TV set.  You don’t have to wait until February 2009.  The digital channels are being broadcast locally right now so it is not too early to convert.  Gee, I sound like a preacher!


These DTV Set Top Converters will pass through the analog signals of the local Low Power stations. ECHOSTAR TR-40 Magnavox TB-100MG9Philco TB100HH9Philco TB150HH9 

Since these converters are not readily available in local stores, you will also be able to receive the low power stations using the info on the attached sheet.  The A/B switch can be purchased at most Radio Shack® stores for about


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