Do You Have Your TV Converter Box Yet?

By Linsey Knerl on 27 March 2008 (Updated 18 August 2011) 101 comments

I'm sure everyone is aware that this year is the last year to get an analog signal on your television. As part of a process to improve media, any TVs still using rabbit ears will need to get with the program; and you'll need to get a converter box. By signing up for the Coupon Program, you can get credit towards the purchase of an eligible converter box and avoid much of the cost of the required upgrade to digital. Here's how it works, and what you can expect from the program. (See also: 8 Alternatives to Cable TV That Will Keep You Entertained)

I signed up for the Coupon Program a few months ago via the official link at www.DTV2009.gov (Note that this is the only approved link at this time.) After that, I forgot all about the conversion. Today, however, I received my official "coupons" with directions for redemption. Here's what my envelope contained:

  • Two "coupons" towards the purchase of an eligible converter box. Each household can sign up for a maximum of two boxes. I would recommend you ask for both if you think you will need them. The coupons were actually cards that looked like debit cards, and they cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Coupons

  • A list of stores where you can use your coupons. While many big-box stores like Best Buy, Radioshack, and Walmart are accepting them at most location, there was a computer-generated list of stores close to me that will also take them. This is nice, as it included some mom-and-pop shops near me that I would have never considered.
     
  • Updates and FAQ's. In case you aren't sure what to do with coupon, there is a short explanation of the program included in both English and Spanish. There is also a list of eligible converter boxes by make and model number, and some very interesting FAQ's concerning the coupons. The long and short of it states that the coupons expire within 90 days after they are mailed. They also are only good for one converter box per coupon. (So if you use your $40 credit towards a $30 box, you don't get any cash back.) Additionally, they are good for one use per card. The cards are ready to go, and don't need to be activated.

Any other questions? Direct them to the www.DTV2009.gov website. They can give additional information not included in the brochure, as well as give you instructions concerning low-power stations. Not signed up yet? What are you waiting for? The website will tell you if you need a converter and how to get one before the transition date of February 17, 2009.

Tagged: Deals, converters, tvs
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Guest's picture
Jamie

I got my coupon a couple weeks ago, and after doing some online research, I decided to get the Insignia box from Best Buy. It cost me $20 after the coupon. I read negative reviews of the cheaper Magnovox offered at Walmart. Actually, I bought two, one for me and one for my parents.

Let me tell you: this digital TV ROCKS!!! Before I got maybe 10 or 11 channels over the air, many of them fuzzy due to reception. Now I have 24 channels of perfectly clear digital TV (four of them are audio channels with a weather map for video). I obviously have much more programing to choose from. I also love the program guide that tells you what shows are coming up next. It is in many ways just as good as the kind of service you would get from cable, except for $0/month (not accounting for lost productivity on your part because of your new time-wasting options!)

Anyone in an urban area will greatly appreciate this box - get it NOW. I have heard that if you live on the outskirts of a broadcasting area, you might be screwed - because with digital, it's either all or nothing, so if before you were barely getting anything, now you might just get nothing at all.

I should also say that I shelled out for a high-gain powered antenna a while ago, and I don't know if I could get all these channels without it. It cost about $30.

OK, go on!!! Go order your coupons!!!!

Guest's picture
Guest

What was the name of your high powered antenna? Maybe it's the antennas that add more channels to the different boxes? I haven't bought my box yet but am leaning towards the Insignia or Digital stream or Echostar

Guest's picture
ed

What's a "high gain power antena" that one reader speaks of and where do you purchase them? Please e mail me at "fasteddie50@juno.com" and let me know...Thanks!

Guest's picture
Carolyn

I got my coupons last year, bought my box, set it up and only got 2 channels then. I thought I'd wait until now (December '08) to set it up again and see what channels I would get. Still only two. I get 6 very clearly with my roof antenna.

I did some research on line and found out that not all broadcasters are ready for this and it is very costly for them to make the conversion into rural areas. Millions of people will be totally without TV if they cannot afford to pay for dish or cable.

I live in Northern Arizona and only the Phoenix area will be getting digital stations. I will be watching old reruns of Bonanza for the rest of my life on the 2 local stations I can get with the box.

My PBS station (in Phoenix) shows a map on their website of how far their digital broadcast will go. I'm about 60 miles north of it.

I am really annoyed no one is talking about this on the news!

I am torn between calling a dish company this week or just breaking my TV habits.

Guest's picture
Mary

Jamie, hi my name is Mary from Tenn. I read your post and wanted to ask you what kind of antenna did you purchase? I tried to connect our converter box to our big tv. in the living room and I couldn't get good reception at all, therefore we can't get any channels but maybe 1 or 2, and no regular ones at that, like 5 or 3and 13.

I did get our bdroom tv. connected and with rabbit ears it gave me only 5 channels of which also doesn't include the regular channels that we normally get. I know that I need a better antenna but don't know which one to buy. Thank you for your information on this.
Mary

Guest's picture
Guest

I just had a quesion about the channels.I have three children and I was wondering are there any channels for kids.My kids dont watch alot but I want them to have something.Thanks Wanda

Guest's picture

What do you think about getting these for a really old TV set? Both my TVs -- one of them a hand-me-down and one a tiny portable bought for the office, to watch the antics of a controversial governor who kept everyone entertained until he was impeached (many, many years ago) -- are pretty decrepit. The big one, a gigantic tube that I can't move by myself and so will need to get a male to come in and help attach the box, no longer communicates with the remote and will not connect with ANY universal remote.

If I get a box within 90 days, that's August. Broadcast analog TV goes extinct next February. If one or both of the dinosaurs dies between August and February, the box is just so much wasted money. To say nothing of adding a dust-catcher for me to have to clean.

Don't watch TV much and am not thrilled about having to pony up $400 for something I look at once or twice a week. But maybe it would be more cost-effective to just go ahead and buy a new TV now? I feel in a quandary about this.

Guest's picture
Jamie

My TV is big and heavy and maybe 8 years old, but since I don't watch that much, it's in great shape and still has a lot of life left in it. I couldn't justify throwing it out and buying and expensive new one. But with this new box, it FEELS like a new TV! Your remote problem would be partially solved since you use the converter box remote for all the channel and even volume functions. I was really impressed because my remote also has a power button for the TV that was easy to program, so now with one remote I can turn on the TV, the box, and surf through the channels/program guide.

Guest's picture
Nancy

I just bought the converter for my parents from Walmarts and the antenna is old. They say they are not getting very many channels and they hate that they have two remotes. They have to turn the TV on with the TV remote and it also controls the Volume. The converter remote has to be turned on with the converter remote and also it controls the channels. They are 84 & 83 so this is very confusing to them. How did you get the one remote to work. I need to do this for them, plus what kind of antenna did you buy so they can get more channels.....
Thanks
Nancy

Guest's picture
Regina Zdravich

Did you ever get an answer on this? I have been searching everywhere for an answer to the same question as you....so far I am not finding anything. My mother in law is 83, and is confused with the two remotes -- one for turning on the TV and doing the volume and the other for changing channels. The paperwork with the converter box said that you can program a universal remote to do everything, but when I went to Radio Shack the guy there said the remote that came with the converter box can be programmed to operate the TV, too. I really need to set her up with one remote. If you have a solution, I would really appreciate the info.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am having the same problem. My Dad is 83 also and
he has a problem with one remote let alone two! I thought the remote for the converter box would be able to be programmed to operate the tv also but it doesn't have that option. Please let me know if you find a universal remote.

Guest's picture
Guest

Have you found a remote that works both the TV and the converter box?
I have elderly parents who are struggling with having two remotes and not knowing which remote turns on, which changes channels, which changes volume... Too many buttons for them... Please help.

Guest's picture
UpwardBoundPrecalcTutor

If you can still watch those TV's it is definitely worth it to to put converter boxes on them. If you shop for the boxes at Walmart, you can find them as low as $49.95 and with the $40.00 coupon, they are $9.95. Note add sales tax on the FULL PRICE of the box at your state's and local governments applicable percent rate. The Zenith and digital stream boxes are usually $59.95 which
would be reduced to $19.95 + (sale tax rate)*($59.95)
In fact, you buy it by ringing up at full price, then you swipe your coupon to take away your government $40 .
It takes time for your coupons to arrive after you order them and they expire 90 days after issuance. However, the boxes receive clear static free digital signals.

Only buy a new TV if you genuinely want a new TV. A new TV is nice if you wish to receive true HDTV. However if you are satisfied with the TV you currently receive and do not want to pony up the cost of a new one
then you should definitely get the converter box.

The only exception would be for hand held battery operated sets. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there are no converter boxes for these and all converter boxes I've seen require electricity and are about the size of a small DVD player. That means you will need to buy a new battery operated portable TV after the digital conversion. I hope someone will see an entrepeneural opportunity and offer walkman sized converter boxes that run off AA or perhaps even C or D batteries so we can watch TV in parks, in Doctor's offices with no provided TV or at home during power outages (such as the hurricane IKE windstorm here in Ohio)

Guest's picture
Terry

We just recently received our two coupons and bought our first converter box today -- the Digital Stream DTX9900. We're just thrilled with the results and have had the same experience as Jamie. We bought ours at Radio Shack, which was the only local option for us. We ended up paying $24 out-of-pocket. We plan to use our second coupon to buy one for our other TV that's about 30 years old, but still going strong. I'm so glad I won't have to buy a whole new TV when analog disappears!

Guest's picture
Vince

Yea well I've had mine for 7 months now and I HATE IT. Always getting up to move the antenna, you cant even watch a whole show without missing half the conversation. BLOWS this thing and HARD. Wait til its cloudy or rainy outstide and you can watch 1 whole channel if yer lucky!. Or after you buy a booster antenna and it works good for 3 months and then yer back to 1 channel and this whole digital crap is just that CRAP

Guest's picture
Guest

what kind of TV you have?

Guest's picture
Meoip

I bough two different boxes I bought the Zenith DTT900 from HH Gregg and the Digital Stream DTX9900 from RadioShack. They pick up a few different channels and work differently. Most noticeably the DS picks up 2 more stations and has a higher quality remote. The Zenith has better looking menus and has a few nicer functions (the previous channel button brings you back to the last channel and brings up a menu of the last 5 allowing you to jump around quickly). The Zenith has poor volume (only control for the box volume) control while the DS has buttons to control both the TV volume and the box volume. The EPG (tv guide) on the zenith only shows the current and next show while the DS has several hours listed. While that is important the EPG is usually wrong, under the current daylight savings time everything is off 1 hour and not all channels use the EPG, some channels only have EPG during the day and not at night.

When people ask which they should buy I usually suggest one different than I have so we can trade the boxes amongst friends if we find ones that work better in our houses. Especially since I have friends who are buying them but don't need them.

Guest's picture
Guest

I need to purchase a a "BOX" for our analog rabbit ears TV. I understand from others that you can change the "channels" with the boxes remote however you must use your TV"s remote to change the volume. Is there a "one" unit that I can purchase that changes both volume an channels"
Thanks,

Rich Decker

Linsey Knerl's picture

"Your television has an analog tuner, also called an NTSC tuner, if it is a picture-tube TV bought before 1998, a smaller LCD set (15- to 18-inch screen), or is a set that was sold as HD-ready. If you have an analog TV and are receiving over-the-air broadcasts via an antenna you need to take action to continue to receive broadcast signals after Feb. 17, 2009.

Your television is more likely to have a digital tuner, also called an ATSC tuner, if it is a 25-inch or larger TV purchased since 2005. To confirm that your TV is digital, you should check the instruction manual for a statement that the TV has a digital tuner. If you don’t have the manual handy, look for a menu function that allows you to scan for digital channels; this is typically in a submenu sometimes called “set-up” or “channels.”

This was taken from a VERY good article at consumerreports.org.  See the full text here.

Guest's picture

I got my two $40 coupons, and ended up getting one each of the two $50 converter boxes available at walmart. One of the boxes is a RCA built unit, and the other is Magnavox.

After a couple of days of testing the Magnavox one went back as it just wasn't as effective at tuning in the channels, as well as the remote that came with it not controlling the volume on the TV.

The RCA one, however, was great. It controlled the power on the TV and the converter box, had great reception, nicely designed menus, and a program guide to boot. After returning the magnavox one, we got a second RCA one.

So two old TVs feel like new for only $20 total after the coupons.

Guest's picture
Guest

Can you help me? I bought an RCA converter box also but moved and cannot locate my list of codes that I need to reconnect the TV. Can you share the code list with me? Thanks

Guest's picture
Cynthia Murphy

Still waiting for my coupons and thanks to you all, I know what not to buy. Hope there are a few of the good ones left by the time my coupons come, ha-ha.

Guest's picture
Guest

Are there universal remotes that will control the converter box remotes when they break?

Guest's picture
Guest

Good question. Maybe some universals are now coded to control converter boxes.

Guest's picture
Tom

If I am going to get a convertor box, I would at least like to have one with DVR Digital Video Recorder functionality. I understand that there are some in existence, but that they are ineligible for the coupon discount. While I am disappointed in that, I still want to get one.

Can anyone advise on DVR-Convertor Boxes? What makes and models are out there, how do they compare?

Guest's picture
Guest

Dish Network will have a converter box with DVR functions. Available later in the summer. They have great DVRs, I expect great things with their box.

The government wanted limited functionally for the boxes in the program to keep the prices low.

Dish Network's model ECHOSTAR TR-40* ALSO PASSES THE LOW POWER TV STATIONS ANALOG SIGNALS.

MANY PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT NOT ALL STATIONS ARE GOING DIGITAL. MANY SMALLER STATIONS DO NOT HAVE TO CONVERT YET.

Guest's picture
Jenni

I bought the Zenith one from Circuit City and hooked it up and get more channels now but the one that came in the clearest before the box, we don't get anymore. Any suggestions.

Guest's picture
Guest

Your clearest channel may not be converting to digital. Call and ask the station. Your converter box may not be passing the analog signal from that station. Only 1/10 of the converters pass the analog.

In my city of 100K, only 4 of the 8 stations are converted. One of them is a fine Christian station that a lot of people enjoy, but they will loose if they get the wrong type of box.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've been reading reviews on several boxes, and based on what I've read, have decided to narrow the choices down to the RCA or the Zenith. Can anyone give me a comparison of the two, and which you would choose?

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought the best buy box. It seems to work fine but the volume and channel buttons on the remote aren't raised much and are difficult to find.

Also, it only displays the guide info of the show your watching and the next upcoming tv show. I read that whats displayed is up to the tv station, but now I'm curious if other boxes show info for the next few hours.

I also am curious about universal remote controls working these and other boxes.

Guest's picture

I'm suprised you received the dtv converter box coupons on time. A lot of people from my website have said that it's taking 4-8 weeks longer than the expected delivery date.

Guest's picture
Guest

I called up for my coupons on the first day you could, January 2, 2008, and I got them end of February. They will expire next week.
I've been reading diff. reviews and that you will be better to get a converter box that has analog pass through. Some boxes have it and some don't. If you have a box without analog pass through, then you will no longer be able to watch those smaller stations that don't have to switch to digital. You need the analog pass through to watch those stations that will remain analog, such as maybe some of your local smaller stations.

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought a RCA and a GE.

The RCA has a universal remote and will allow manually removing channels when surfing up and down, but it runs hot. Sound on the RCA is reduced but acceptable. The EPG is simple. No analog bypass, but can use splitter to back of TV for this.

The GE tunes more channels, had a one week EPG and runs cooler. No Univeral remote...small buttons. Poorer video, better sound.

Both have SMART antenna connectors, but I do not use.

The killer for me on the GE is the lack of manually skipping channels.

If I had to choose, I'd say RCA wins this one.

Guest's picture
Guest

OK-we got the coupons, got 2 boxes--but they are not working. After listening to "the grouch" I live with rant & rave- and he has now gone speeding back to the store to return them--can someone tell me--do you NEED some sort of antenna connection to make the boxes work correctly? We just have regular cable--but the instructions on the box tell you to hook it up to your anteena & then to your TV. Well obviously since we have no antenna--we couldn't do that--and the boxes did not work. Since I don't live with a rational person--can anyone explain how this should be done? Also--IF the store is willing to return the cards to him--I have also read that they are only good for one ise--does that mean we are screwed into paying full price now if he gets new boxes at another store??? Help.........

Guest's picture
Guest

sadly you do not need the converter box. because you have cable

Linsey Knerl's picture

Am I wrong, or doesn't your cable company take care of that for you?  I thought they were only for those with old school rabbit ears?  Correct me someone if I'm off, here...

Guest's picture
Wayne Nelson

If you already get/have cable or satellite TV, then you don't need a converter box. The only time that you will need a converter box is if you are still going to use an antenna, either rabit ears or roof top.

Guest's picture

Glad to see all you guys are getting your boxes setup. Those of you with cable or satellite shouldn't need the boxes UNLESS you have TV's that are not hooked up to the service.

Guest: You should be able to take the boxes to the store where you purchased them and exchange them for new ones. You will only be able to get a refund for the $$$ you actually paid though os if you want to shop at another store you will be responsible for the full price. I know it sucks, but those are the rules.
DTV coupon FAQ if you need more info.

Guest's picture
Guest

Some of the posts are saying that you only need a digital converter box if you don't receive cable and have rabbit ears. But some people get cable without a special cable box. I have a tv that my cable goes right into the tv without a special cable box. I will still need a converter box because the tv is analog not digital.

Guest's picture
UpwardBoundPrecalcTutor

It is NOT TRUE that you will need a converter box if you are receiving cable TV through an analogue coax cable without a cable box. The cable companies must keep their analog signals on your cable line until the year 2012 so you will be able to use your TV as before. Only those of us who watch over the air television with literal metal antennas (many generically say rabbit ears but they could be a variety of shapes including loops or bowties) and who watch ordinary full power television stations transmitted on VHF and UHF must get the converter box.
Many towns have special stations called class A or low power. These will not be your usual ABC,CBS, NBC stations but may be stations that carry religious programs or over the air shopping networks. Those low power stations will continue to transmit an analog signal after February 17, 2009

Guest's picture
orangetiki

I got the Digital Stream from Radioshack, and I will say like the other people here great reception and everything. Someone remind me why should I pay for tv. And the box is only needed if you get your tv through the airwaves.

Guest's picture
Guest

What if a person is just tired of paying for cable and countless stations that are available that we never watch and want to get local channels that now with a convertor box will be clearer to recieve? go for it? I think so, any other opinions? Thanks, Joel.

Guest's picture
jonarhan falin

i wont them to turn on the digital brobcast now for the channels 1234567891011323339434447 i have a convertor box and i wont the signal strong in thes channels

Guest's picture
mik3fee

To answer the question raised by "confused", Basic Cable TV service inputs both analog and digital signals until 2012.

You apparently have a "cable-ready analog TV" which will continue to work fine with the Cable TV service which will continue to provide analog input to your TV at least until 2012. After that you may have to have a Digital-to-Analog Converter to work with your current TV, unless the Cable TV service chooses to extend analog service. That may come at an extra cost/fee if so. It's entirely up to them at that point in time.

You may then need to connect the cable tv wire to the antenna input on a Digital-to-Analog TV Converter box to continue to see Cable TV with your current cable-ready TV.

Guest's picture
Another Guest

I got a converter box yesterday, and, while the picture quality is great, some of the stations now come in a "letterbox" format or even a "framed" format. How can I get the picture to come in at full screen again? Or is this how it will always be? It's like my 27" TV suddenly became a 23" TV.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just press the setup or zoom button on your remote, and it will give you options on how to setup your picture. Just click the zoom/pan & scan option, and you're set.

By the way, you get more of the picture if you leave it in letterbox mode. However, you can also choose full/squeeze mode. You can fill up the screen and watch the entire picture, but it's squuezed and people look skinny.

Guest's picture
zennie

No one is saying which channels they are getting. Can you watch CNN or FOX NEWS? Let me know because those channels are very important to me. I live in Georgia-any one from GA got this answer for me?

Guest's picture
Guest

How many channels are there for nj/nyc area?? Where can I find out? I know I bought an amplified antenna with a filter and I was getting 15 channels, but a few weren't coming in good. Then I build a new antenna out of coat hangers and I'm getting 37 channels with perfect signals. I'm just trying to figure out how many channels im suppose to be getting so I can tweak my antenna even more. And returen the POS antenna I bought.

Linsey Knerl's picture

a few channels, regardless.  (Although I'd love to hear about your coat hanger contraption (email me via tips@wisebread.com, if you want to share!)

 

Linsey 

Guest's picture
Guest

Well I Tweaked my antenna by adding a 3rd tier and now im getting 48 channels.

Guest's picture
Guest

Brilliant - American ingenuity!!

Guest's picture
amy

can anyone tell me if you need a antenna to make the converter box work?

Guest's picture
DTV Questioner

OK I had an interesting question put to me -- if you have a black and white TV will the convertor box work with it. I have been told no because of something to do with the innards of the TV. Does anyone have a logical answer for me?

Linsey Knerl's picture

This guy says he intends on using it for his Black and White:

http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dws/wfaa/computercorner/stories/wfaa08...

I guess that means it's OK?

Linsey

Guest's picture
DizeeDee

Do you HAVE to have an antenna for the converter box to work????

I have 2 tv's that pick up no channels, one picked up a few channels, then I got cable and the cable guy did something to the antenna hook up outside and changed my tv settings with his remote (the remote for my tv is gone but I do have a universal I use), I canceled the cable cuz I can't afford it. Now I get no channels!! I am disabled and even though I've been told the an antenna is up there, I have no idea if it's hooked up or what. I've tried basic rabbit ears, and I have a fancier tv top antenna, but they don't help. I haven't hooked up my converter yet and I'm not sure which antenna to use, the basic rabbit ears have the little 'prongs' that get screwed onto the adapter for the cable hook-up on the back of the tv. If anyone can help me, please email me at dizeedee@yahoo.com

Guest's picture
Guest

I hooked up my box as well as my neighbors and...........nothing NO Channels. Were do you get answers????

Guest's picture
Guest

i just now had to get my cable turned off due to hours getting cut and things like that ... right now i do have a pretty good picture of a few channels but others have nothing ... so d you think that i will be able to get aleast what i ahve not with the box... i dont want to get it then nothing show up on my tv

Guest's picture
Guest

I subscribe to cable TV, but I don't use a box because my televion is cable ready. Last month I received a notice from my cable company saying that some stations were going to be moved to different channels, e.g. the station that used to appear on channel thirty-three would now be appearing on channel three-hundred-thirty-three. Of course I can't get channel three-hundred-thirty-three on my TV without the converter box.
If you have cable, but you don't use a box, you might need one sooner than you think.

Guest's picture
Guest

Alright, I got my box and hooked it up and all was fine. But as one of us is on the laptop, when we hit ENTER or other activities, the box that tells you what is on and the channel pops up on the TV screen. So our wireless laptop is somehow making the box think we hit something on the remote. Also how can I get my favorite channel programed on it as it doesn't register while doing the channel search. Only thing is Dec 1st they said they were going digital and would take them 24 hours, but it's 3 days later.
So I bought boxes, but not happy yet.

Guest's picture
Monroe Ray

I put in the Digital Stream converter box on our 2 TV's and in the digital mode get only channels 45-50. It doesn't pick up the VHF channels 1-13 that come in on analog.

The Channel Master antenna is a VHF antenna - is there a way to add UHF?

So how do I get channels 1-13 in digital? When the converter box scans it only gets the 45-50 channels.
Thanks

Guest's picture
Kathy

Very Frustrating Tomorrow I'm Calling Beast Buy And asking them what I should add to the converter box to get CBSand PBS this is ridiculas Plus I'n gettinf all this sttic sound every two minutesVery uneasy on the ears The picture is very clear but 'm really freaked that here it is May 24 2009 and I still can't get CBS and PBS I'm here in NJ 30 minutes from NY city too.y antenae has VHF and UHF it's fairly new and always gaveusgreat reception.

What did you find out? did you have to buy a smart antenae?

Kathy

Guest's picture
Guest

If I just do not want to pay for cable anymore can I get the boxes and do I have to get an antenna? I live in the mountains and do not know if I can get antenna reception. How can I find out???

Guest's picture
julia marie lawson

My mom has an analog tv i hooked the coverter box up
and i cant get any stations at all i bought an antenna hd
but it still wont work we live in the country what kind of antenna do i need
Julia

Guest's picture
Guest

I have a very old set that I have kept plugged in for emergencies when the cable is out but the power is on.

I bought a converter box, but cannot hook it up as the old TV doesn't have the coax plug in cable connections that seem to be required--- it has those really old connections that have those metal clips...

did I buy the wrong box or is it just the end of the road for the old TV? thanks in advance

Guest's picture
Guest

GO to this website where you will find a list of FAQ's. Scroll down to the "Converter Box" category---the last question in this category is the one you should click on, as it explains this very problem--how to use the converter box with an older set with no coaxial cable. You CAN hook up your box to an older set, just check out this website and it will tell you what you need to know. Good Luck!

http://www.dtv.gov/consumercorner.html

Guest's picture
jana

I just hooked up my convertor box. Cannot get one channel of the 4 I used to get with analog. Seems no one in my town can get it and the station just says we all need to put up a roof antenna. Can't afford that, so guess I'll not be watching the ABC station here anymore.

I also ran into the problem of the remote not controlling turning on the TV or adjusting for sound. I still have to use my TV remote for those functions. Also cannot get my DVD player to function with the convertor box remote. So now I have 3 remotes to use. I have written directions posted on the TV as to how to turn it on, change channels, or be able to watch a DVD! This is ridiculous!

This is supposed to be a good change?????

Maybe I'll just quit watching TV altogether. I refuse to pay the horrible cable company here for poor service and high prices for a few channels.

Guest's picture
Guest

Thanks so much for the info and link for coax cables. I have a 31 year old B & W Sears and I can't see parting with a TV that's going strong for a new one that might last 7 years. I actually brought an LCD TV yesterday. When I got got home, I discovered it needs an antenna that might not improve the current reception I have. (I can't get CBS and for some strange reason, I can only get NBC if I unplug my computer and printer.) So, I'm going to return the TV and get a converter box. Thanks for all the input on the various boxes.

Guest's picture
DTVfan2009

I got the first DTV converter a few months ago, but it was a short-lived deal. it was a RCA DTA800, but it never quite worked right out of the box. it failed to hold a good signal (even on my Winegard roof aerial + 12db booster amplifier) for more than a few minutes to a half-hour. PBS was the only one it'd get reliably, and then shortly after (try 30-days after purchase, ironically) the box started doing like my laptop and crashing and freezing, then it wouldn't pull in channels at all, it would for a few seconds then all of a sudden drop to '0%'. the signal meter also stopped working in the menu and eventually it stopped powering on. unfortunately the trailer park i live in, even though i have my own unit number, is considered a business so i couldn't get a coupon so i had to shell out full-price for the plastic paperweight.

I then decided to get my living room TV with the program, and tried a Zenith box, and even with a cheap-o indoor antenna i got almost 98% on all channels available, perfect picture quality and a signal that holds its own. it's like watching satellite TV but without the problems with Dishes in bad weather. plus the 'multicasting' feature that doubles the lousy 5 locals that are full-time football now (which i am not the kind who wants to see that 24/7) so i got about 15 channels, including one called 'RTN' which is a local version of TV-Land, plays old classic shows like Knight Rider and Get Smart.

Lastly i decided to fix the original issue and chucked the RCA box in the bedroom TV for a Digital Stream brand i got at RadioShack. it blew the Zenith away in terms of reliable signal and even got more channels. the best thing about the latter two boxes (the Zenith and Digi-Stream) is that if you use an older TV that has no remote (knobs, or small portable model) it has a 'Mute' button that works through the receiver itself so you don't have to get up to turn the volume down if an annoying commercial plays, and it even has a built-in volume adjustment through the remote too, so you can turn on the TV and use the mute/vol button on the remote to compensate for the lack of such features on the TV. both my TVs were dumpster freebies so they are too old to have such features so it's wonderful. the picture looks like DVD-quality, and unlike the RCA DTA800, when/if the signal goes (if you bump the antenna or a t-storm comes through) there's no studdering like you'd get with a bad CD, it just goes blank then recovers really well once the condition is corrected.

Bottom line, i don't recommend the RCA DTA800, due to apparently a ton of faulty failures and tuners that are inferior for far-away locations like where my mobile home sits. apparently there's a lot of complaints about it online.

I recommend the Digital Stream and Zenith models, they seem to have very high-gain tuners and don't get hot when in use (which i think cripples the cheaper boxes) they're about $10 more but the extra $$$ is really worth it. plus the built-in volume/mute is nice for those using older TVs with no remote.

BTW the Digital Stream sports a full-program guide, so unlike a lot of boxes where you see what's on now and the next show coming up, you get a program guide that can view up to 12-24 hours in advance, too.

Guest's picture
DTVfan2009

Sorry for the double comment but i've heard online where some people literally solder a Digital (ATSC) tuner in place of the Analog (NTSC) tuner module into an older TV (cheap, too, for those with experience with a soldering iron and have parts) and make it a DTV and saving $100 off the price of a brand new DTV (which is really a digital version of a crappy cheap-o 13" TV and doesn't even have the EPG and other features of the converter boxes let alone the same picture quality)

Guest's picture
Guest

my question is....do you have to have a converter box to watch the over the air stations....or will a hdtv antenna work alone?

Guest's picture
Guest

Just got a Digital Stream 9950 from Radio Shack, hooked it up easily to a 1988 Sears tv.. I already had an antenna to boost reception.. but after entering all the codes for Sears, and following instructions to press the up and down buttons to hunt for a code when those didn't work, still can't get the remote to work.
The guide says finally, if all that fails, the remote may not work with the TV.

We don't watch a huge amount, but will miss the remote. Its maddening. The picture isn't improved either, as far as I can see.

Guest's picture
Chris

Can anyone tell me why, while watching DTV, some, but not all of the stations (I normally can get 7) suddenly lose signal? They are "off the air" for anywhere from a few seconds up to 20 minutes at a time. It's not the same stations each time, it just seems to be random. Sometimes they are off the air once in a few hours, other times they are off the air multiple times--in which case I just give up trying to watch TV. I called a couple of the affected stations, they said I need a different antenna. That doesn't make sense since they normally come in fine with the antenna I have been using. And if it is the antenna, why does it only affect certain stations and not others one time, and then different stations the next time?

Do I need a new antenna? Can anyone explain what is happening? Does anyone else have this happen to them?

Guest's picture
George Saufley

Digital signals are better but not as powerful less
wattage than antalogue signals. Your antenna like mine is in a fringe area need an antenna that receives signals at a greater distance. The antenna needs to be pointed in the
direction of the station you may need a rotor.Weather
sometimes affects digital TV. If my antenna is not pointed
preciously at the station the wind may cause the signal to fade in and out. Plan to get a long distance UHF omni-direcional antenna then all the stations go to digital

Guest's picture
Guest

We have had our converter boxes installed for 1 week now. We have satellite but they do not provide our local channels so we have an antenna with a booster. We get more channels now with the converter box. Tonight there was a football game on CBS but on every converter box it said weak signal. We unhooked the converter box & used our antenna and got a crystal clear picture. How can this be? This CBS channel has a sister channel that transimits off the same tower and the sister channel comes in fine with the converter box. Why would the channel work with the antenna & for 1 week with the converter box & then stop working?

Guest's picture
Vince

The only reason they want all Broadcasting in digital is so they can kill any signal with the touch of a button. = control

Guest's picture
Lark

I have my coupons,and have read some reviews.
I was very surprized to see that this topic was actually started 10 months ago.

I live 60 miles from a major city,and really want to keep the out of pocket cost down,cause I know I'm going to have to shell out bucks for a antenna + a booster.
ALL of which I know next to nothing about (choosing wisely)

Please keep chiming in w/ your success stories on which model you chose,and why. And what type of antenna you found to be the best choice.

A non techie here,but trying to make the best choice(s) before my coupons expire!!

Linsey Knerl's picture

I bought the $49 Lasonic cheap box from Amazon.  I entered my coupon code and it took the $40 off, making it less than $10 with free shipping and no tax.  No stores around me even carry boxes or antennaes due to the mad rush to transition.  Box works fine.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

do the converter box have to same name as tv name

Guest's picture
Guest

I also purchased 2 Digital Stream 9950s from Radio Shack and hooked one up to a 15" Panasonic TV that was purchased in 1997 and the other to a 2006 Sylvania TV.

I like the fact that the boxes have closed-captioning capability and EPG (program guide).

The major drawback is that the volume controls on the converter boxes remotes will not give good sound until one 1st turns the televisions' volumes up all the way with the manufacturers remotes.(?)Otherwise,you get no sound!I'm not sure how one bypasses this.(?)

But,I think I made a good investment!In general,it's a good box
for the money.Paid $14.99 after coupon.

Linsey Knerl's picture

While it may have benefits to using the same brand name of box as your tv (universal remotes like work better), it's not all that important. 

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

We must use our coupons before expiration date. While we do have cable, we want the converter boxes in the event we have power (but the cable goes out, which does happen from time to time). Also we were thinking of cancelling our cable altogether. I've seen some posts but no answers. Please help:
Must you have an antenae on the TVs (and what is best kind)?
My impression from posts is that you cannot hook the box up without some sort of antanae, is this correct? Any help for we technically challenged is appreciated. Thanks!

Linsey Knerl's picture

From my own experience, if you need an antennae to receive your signal normally, then you would also need one for the digital conversion.  I use a $10 cheapo one that sits on my TV.  I think I got it at a dollar store.  Otherwise, a Radio Shack model or something from any other big-box electronics retailer will do.  (Note:  many were sold out in my area.  They are also trying to pass off regular "rabbit ear" antennaes as "digital antennaes" and are charging 3x for them.  There were the same model I use at home.)

Good luck!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

#75

The remote for the Digital Stream DTX9950 (available at Radio Shack) can be programmed to turn on the tv and adjust volume.

Linsey Knerl's picture

#79

My cheapo unit from Amazon changes volume and channels.  It doesn't control the TV's volume, but it changes the level of the digital broadcast.  If I set my TV on a decent level to begin with, I have no need for the original TV volume remote -- the digital converter remote works fine.

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Guest

I have cable with 3 older tvs in a furnished condo that I rent out. No boxes, straight connection out of the wall. Someone told me today that the old tvs will not work without a box--either one from the cable company (monthly $) or buy a converter box. Is this true??!!! This will seriously affect my cash flow, which is negative now anyhow.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you're TV is connected to cable (time warner, charter, DISH, etc) YOU DO NOT NEED A CONVERTER BOX

Guest's picture
GR

I have a question I have not yet seen clearly answered. I understand that CATV subscribers don't need digital converter boxes yet. However, some of us have multiple cable-ready TVs hooked up to cable but only rent one "cable box" to get the CATV provider's digital channels. The crooks at Charter Cable want $5/month/box. We have 5 TVs in the house and it would add $20/mo to get 4 more boxes. That $240/yr we can't afford right now.

So, the question is can one use one of these cheap digital converter boxes to get the digital channels from a CATV provider WITHOUT the CATV box? Note, I'm NOT talking about illegal descrambling of HBO, etc. We PAY monthly for the service that includes all of the CATV digital channels. But we must pay AGAIN to actually watch them!

Also, can newer TVs with digital tuners get CATV digital channels without a CATV box?

Guest's picture
Guest

no the cheap converter boxes will not help with getting digital cable channels.

Some new digital tvs have QAM tuners and that will allow you to see some digital channels, but not all. mostly locals and YMMV on this. this would not work on TV hooked to a cable box, just the tvs that are hooked directly to cable.

Guest's picture
Guest

if you are having reception problems try going to
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=45

look for your region to find people who live by you to help you with getting better reception

Linsey Knerl's picture

Try PBS.  They should have at least 2 channels in your area, and they are filled with kids programming during the hours of 8am - about 5 pm. 

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Angie

I am looking into buying 2 converter boxes but I am doing some research on the converter boxes first and trying to get information about it. Does anyone know how many channels you get for sure with the converter box? Would I happen to get channel 48 which is Nick on Cable? My son like's to watch Sponge Bob and the other shows on Nick. Would I get TNT? I like watching Charmed and that show is on TNT. Just trying to figure out if I would get some of the channels we had when we got cable because if I do then that would save me alot of money instead of trying to get cable again. All I really care about is how many channels I will get for sure. Hope someone can help me out. Thanks alot.

Guest's picture
Guest

you will not get NICK or TNT on an antenna. you will only get local station like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and maybe a couple more or else depending on how far you live from the TV towers. go to TVFOOL.com and type in your address to see what is broadcasting in your area.

Guest's picture
Tara

My son has a newer tv, I bought for him in 2007. He is just starting out on his own and cannot afford to pay for cable. He got his coupons and got the RCA DT800 (??) hooked it up, and gets absolutely no channels. Is it the converter box that just doesn't pick up the signals? Is it because his tv is newer and not an old analog one with rabbit ears? Should he also purchase rabbit ears? Or just get a different box? He got no channels before, and still gets none. I thought with the converter box he would be able to get channels without having to pay for cable. Help!

Guest's picture
joel

the converter box sucks you cant realy even find good channels you like SO DONT BUY IT IT SUCKS

Guest's picture
Guest

We got two of the RCA Digital TV Converter Boxes, DTA800 late last year from Walmart; using the government coupons they cost us $10 each. We did not install either of them until the digital switch-over a few weeks ago.

The first one worked for almost a week before it burned out and quit. We installed the second one and it, too, burned out and stopped working in only two days. We tried returning them to Walmart, but they would not refund our money - nor did they have any replacements in stock, so we are pretty much screwed.

According to the sales clerk a whole lot of people are having the same problem with these converter boxes. Frankly I smell a scam. These converters couldn't have more than about a dollar's worth of parts in them. If the taxpayers weren't picking up the tab for the coupons, they probably wouldn't sell for more than about $10 retail. They're just more made-in-China junk and someone is getting a whole lot of government money for them.

Guest's picture
Guest

These converter boxes are worthless. I agree - we were ripped off. I tried the indoor smart antenna and it didn't make a different.

Guest's picture
David S

We use the digital battery operate TV kit to turn our old battery operated TV into a digital TV. The converter is battery operated. They offer it at http://www.batterysavers.com/All_TV_Radios.HTML

Guest's picture
Guest

i order my coupon like 4 months ago, and still nothing. how long does it take to get one, because i have no cable three little kids and they are going nuts, and driving me crazy because they are missing friday night smack down. :)
while i tried to order it again but i was truned down because they say that they mailed it to me, but i never got it. what do i do please e-mail me if you know, alaya_n_richard@yahoo.com thanks.

Guest's picture
Guest

Do they make a converter for a 7 inch 12 volt TV. I one in my golf cart and now can't get local channels. Thanks, matt@matteck.com

Guest's picture
Guest

We just cancelled our cable and set up our "rabbit ears" and TV converter box. With the coupon it was about $30 for the antenna AND converter box, which I was excited about (that is just one month of cable service cost for basically the same channels).

ANYWAY- we used to record TV using a PVR TV tuner on our computer, which was hooked to the cable. I don't think the computer TV tuner option will work with the converter box. Now I am at a complete loss on how to record TV. I would love to get a DVR, but would it work with the TV converter box? I AM NOT going back to cable, or doing satellite. We used to record TV with a DVD recorder or VCR- but our old one broke and the new one doesn't have the inputs necessary OR the ability to time record. I don't mind programming a machine to record at a certain time (like old time VCRs), but it seems most people now get satellite and DVR- and I can't afford to do this now, and am happy with the basic channels we are getting with the converter box. I feel like we have gone back in time to before things like VCRs and having to sit down and watch TV only when the show is actually on. I have small children and like to watch TV after they are in bed . . .

HELP!! Is there any DVR type option out there that won't cost an arm and a leg and will work with the converter box?