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Digital TV

Digital TV Converter
DTV Box Summary
(This page is not intended
for small screens.)

by Vaughn Aubuchon

OTA DTV Is A Fraud. -
DTV Requires A Perfect Signal.

For millions, Over-The-Air
DTV WILL NOT WORK.

Here are the 12 most popular Digital Television Converter boxes currently being sold. The top retailers are Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack.

On February 17 June 12 , 2009, Over-The-Air (OTA) analog TV signals changed to digital TV signals. If you have an older model analog TV, you will need to buy a DTV converter box now, in order to receive the new digital format.
Many channels are transmitting in digital format, right now. Nine of the following twelve DTV converters are CECB - Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes.
.

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100

140

1. DTV Converter Box Table

2.
Box Output Options

3.
Box Features

4.
DTV Glossary

5. Watchability - NOT

6. Analog vs. Digital

7. Early Tests

8.
Free Coupon

9.
The Big List

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1. Digital Television Converter Box
Summary

Box
#

Converter Model

National Retailer

Ana-
log
Pass-
Thru?
S-
Video
Out?
Cables
Included?
Weight
lbs.
Cou-
pon
Elig-
ible
?
Price

Note

1

Apex DT250
Best Buy

Yes
Yes
NO

2.0

Yes
$59.99

no specs*

2

Apex DT502
Best Buy

Yes
Yes
NO

2.0

Yes
$59.99

no specs*

3

Digital Stream DTX9900
Radio Shack

NO
NO
RF Cable3

0.9

Yes
$59.99

no specs*
Plastic box

4

Digital Stream DTX9950
Radio Shack

Yes
NO
RF Cable3

0.9

Yes
$59.99

no specs*
Plastic box

5

GE 227301
Target

NO
NO
RF Cable3
No RCA

1.05

NO
$59.99

Poor reviews
no specs*,
not coupon eligible

6

Insignia NS-DXA-APT
Best Buy

Yes
NO
NO
1.7
Yes
$59.99

no specs*

7

Lasonic LTA-260
Radio Shack

NO
NO
"RF Cable3
??
NO

$69.99

no specs*, bad deal, web only
not coupon eligible

8

Magnavox
TB100MW9

Wal-Mart

NO
NO
NO

2.4

Yes

$49.87

no specs*

9

RCA DTA800
Wal-Mart

NO
NO
Cable3
1.58
Yes

$49.87

no specs*

10

Venturer
STB7766G
2
Target

NO
NO
RF Cable3
No RCA

0.64

NO

$49.99

no specs*
Plastic box, bad deal,
not coupon eligible

11

Zenith DTT900
Radio Shack

NO
NO
Composite
+ RF
1.65
Yes
$59.99

old model
see #10
Metal box

12

Zenith DTT901
Circuit City

Yes
NO
Composite
+ RF
1.65
Yes
$59.99

8W, 1W standby
Metal box
Good deal

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NOTES
1. GE Model # not given by
Target - I guessed.
2. Venturer Model # not given by
Target - I guessed.
3. Presumably, "RF Cable" refers to a standard 3-foot F connector coaxial cable (they won't say). In lieu of language to the contrary, assume that a set of 3 "RCA" Composite cables are NOT included, which you will want to use if at all possible (do you have Red, White and Yellow RCA connector inputs on your TV?).
4. Neither
Sears nor K-Mart describe any DTV converters online, in spite of what the Official Government Vendor List says (Sept.-07-2008).
5. ALL of the boxes above contain an ATSC tuner (digital).
6. NONE of the boxes above contain an NTSC tuner (analog).

* = No electrical specs are given -
Adjacent channel rejection, Input level range, Gain, S/N ratio, Multi-path rejection, Analog pass-thru loss, Phase Noise, Power consumption, Standby power, etc.
NO VENDOR provides proper electrical specifications. Either they
1. don't know how, 2. are lazy, or 3. don't want to reveal their poor numbers.
I think it is a combination of all three.

30

180 - 700

50

50

80

50

50

60

150

  

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2. TV Converter Box Interface -
Output Options

Picture
Quality
Output Type

Description

.
Note

Lowest

RF Cable

F-type connectors on
75 Ohm coaxial cable
RG-59 (0.242") or
RG-6 (0.332") Better

The lazy man's choice.
The most common interface,
required on all CECB units.
RF signal output to Channel 3 or 4.
Avoid this if possible! It requires an extra modulation-demodulation step (~ 60 MHz.), which always degrades the video.
(However, you must use this option if you want to use the "analog passthrough" feature.)

Medium

Composite Video
(RCA)
A/V Cables

3 RCA-type connectors, shielded cables
Red (R audio), White (L audio) and
Yellow (composite video - 5 MHz.)

Required on all CECB units.
Best option for most users.
$25 - Circuit City (3' cables)
$14 - Radio Shack (3' cables)
$  7 - Sears (3' cables)

High

S-Video

S-type connector, 4 circular pins
Separate chrominance and luminance,
plus 2 ground pins

Least commonly provided,
but highest quality CECB interface.
MOST top-rated units do NOT have this. Pity.

Highest

Component Video

3 RCA-type connectors, shielded cables
Y, Pb, Pr - Green, Blue, Red

NOT available on Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes (CECB), but can be found on other non-coupon eligible boxes.

70

70

260 - 600

200



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3. DTV Box Features (List of DTV Converter Features)
--- CECB Required Features
Channel display on screen
Closed Captioning on screen
Electronic Program Guide on screen - these vary in size and scope
F connector RF output
RCA Composite Video and RCA Audio outputs (yellow, red, white)
Remote Control
Signal Strength Meter
--- CECB
Optional Features
Analog Pass-Through - allows analog signals to "pass through" the digital device (Low Power, Class A and Translators)
Buttons on box - Channel and volume (if you can't find the remote)
Channel edit capability without having to rescan
Firmware upgradable - to fix problems of early versions
Smart Antenna Interface - remembers and adjusts antenna direction to best signal strength
S-Video - highest quality video output option

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4. DTV Glossary
ATSC - Advanced Television Standards Committee
CECB - Coupon Eligible Converter Box
DTV - Digital Television
EPG - Electronic Program Guide
LP - Low Power (LP stations will remain analog, along with Class A and translators.)
NTIA - National Television Industry Association
NTSC - National Television System Committee
OSD - On Screen Display
OTA - Over The Air
SD - Standard Definition TV, also SDTV
STB - Set Top Box




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5. Watchability Now - And
Unwatchability After the Switchover (No TV for you.)
The trouble is, that many analog channels which are acceptably watchable now, snow and all,
will show "no signal" after the change to digital, even though you have a brand-new digital converter box.
I currently can view about 4 of these analog channels (7, 9, 20, 46 - San Francisco Bay Area).
I expect, that after the digital switchover, I will see nothing on any channel.
To complicate matters further, TV stations will be dropping their output power to 85% of what it was
using an analog signal, since the new digital signal is "higher quality", and the higher power is "not needed".

"The problem with DTV is that it doesn't degrade gracefully, the way NTSC (analog) TV does: when NTSC signals are marginal, you get snow in the picture, but the audio doesn't cut out until the (FM) signal is too weak for full quieting. With DTV, the audio cuts out as soon as the picture does, and there's no "good enough" middle ground: it's either very nice or very gone." . . . from W1AC on amfone.net

My Choice - #12
Since the government
refuses to send me a coupon, I moved forward, and bought at full price Item #12 above, the Zenith DTT901, even though it lacks an S-Video output. I have always liked Zenith TVs, well-known for quality and reliability. There is A LOT of positive feedback on this unit from real radio-head type gurus (Radio Amateurs) - you don't BS these guys. When swapped into position, it is reported to receive signals that some others do not! It appears to have the best "front end" - the ability to capture weak signals (which implies high gain, low noise figure first amp, and a high Signal/Noise Ratio, manufactured by LG Electronics). Note that Consumer Reports does NOT give it a top rating, for some reason. I think they're wrong.
FOLLOW UP - After purchasing the Zenith DTT901, I now receive ZERO CHANNELS. The box onscreen signal strength meter (great feature) indicates a digital signal on 16 channels, but NO CHANNEL is good enough to produce a picture or sound.



Current Digital Channels -
Here are 4 example representations of the Zenith DTV box onscreen signal strength meter --->

Signal
Bad

Good

Signal Strength Meter =
"No Signal Present"

Most channels
No picture or sound

.



Signal
Bad

Good

Signal Strength Meter =
"Weak Signal Present"

Channels 10, 12, 13, 19, 24, 29, 30, 33, 34, 39, 43, 45, 56, 57, 58
No picture or sound, ever

.



Signal
Bad

Good

Signal Strength Meter =
"Medium Signal Present"

Channel 32 (46-1, 46-2)
Intermittent picture and sound

.



Signal
Bad

Good

Signal Strength Meter =
"Strong Signal Present"

No Channel
Receives picture and sound

.


The Gold-bar goes from left to right, as the antenna signal strength increases.
As signal strength varies, the sampling rate (gold-bar update rate) is about once per second.
This is apparent during windy weather, and other poor-reception conditions (auto traffic, etc.).



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6. Analog TV Reception vs.
Digital TV Reception -
Comparison Chart

Signal
Strength

(measured
Oct. 6, 2008)
Tried and True
Old-Fashioned

Analog Reception
Nonfunctional
Newfangled

Zenith DTT-901
Converter Box
Digital Reception

No Signal

No picture or sound

Most Channels

Weak Signal

Sound only, poor picture
Analog Channels 2, 4, 8, 11, 21, 27, 38, 44, 65

NO picture OR sound
Digital Channels 10, 12, 13, 19, 24, 29, 30, 33, 34, 39, 43, 45, 56, 57, 58

Medium Signal

Watchable picture and sound
Analog Channels 7, 9, 20, 46
(For the "analog-pass-through" feature to work, you must turn OFF the converter box).

Intermittent picture and sound
Digital Channel 32
(46-1, 46-2)
Unwatchable with no sound

Strong Signal*

Good picture and sound

Perfect picture and sound

.
Summary
.

FOUR channels to watch

ZERO channels to watch

Notes

* I have ZERO stations that have a "strong" signal - presumably, the picture and sound are perfect.
For each channel above, the antenna mast was manually rotated 360°, to detect the strongest possible signal, and create a signal-strength map.
I love the box - everything is done really well. And it IS very sensitive. But the requirements of digital Over-The-Air TV are far too stringent, since
IT DOESN'T WORK! ON A SINGLE CHANNEL! There is going to be much screaming and gnashing of teeth, on Feb. 17, June 12, 2009, when analog TV will go silent.

With the old analog TV, the sound is the LAST thing to go.
With the new digital TV, the sound is the FIRST thing to go.
Your ability to use your TV as a radio has DROPPED SUBSTANTIALLY, rendering your TV reception far less reliable, as a communication device, than it was previously with analog TV. This is ironic and unfortunate, since the bill cites, and the propaganda stressed, "improved emergency response" communications ability.
WRONG. NOT TRUE. NO SIGNAL.

Conclusion

Confirmation: Over-The-Air DTV is a scam. The cable TV and satellite TV companies KNEW FULL WELL of the problem (low signal strength) when they lobbied for the bill. The devious motive was simple - To force 100 million TV watchers to subscribe to cable or satellite, if they want to see ANY TV AT ALL. Once again, the U.S. lobbyists and the U.S. congress have collectively screwed over the American people.


The Bottom Line:
Digital Over-The-Air TV requires a STRONG signal, if it is to work AT ALL.
100 Million homes are affected. No TV for you!
And they call this "improved"?
Just wait for the screaming to begin.

Here is an article describing the situation - DTV Spin (gone).

Here is another article describing the situation -
DTV Is A Fraud (gone).

And another - DTV Conversion A Fraud Bought By Congress (gone).

What is needed is a converter with adaptive technology that can tolerate weaker signal strength (more dropped bits), perhaps with some quality sacrifice. The way DTV is now, it's all or nothing, with a very high threshold for functionality. With current analog technology, we can at least watch and listen to programs with a weak signal. Not so with digital.

Here is the DTV reception problem illustrated in a graphic -

DTV Reception AreaAnalog TV Reception Area vs. Digital TV Reception Area
If you want to receive the new OTA Digital TV signals, you will PROBABLY have to buy a huge, new powerful antenna, mast and rotor. With old analog TV, you might receive a picture from 60 miles away, but with the new digital TV, that distance WILL drop proportionally, to perhaps 30 miles. The distance will vary greatly, based upon terrain.
The satellite and cable companies win. YOU LOSE! Cute trick, huh?
The government is replacing a system that has worked very well for over 50 years,
with one that DOESN'T WORK AT ALL for millions of people.
And they call this "Progress"? Fascism is a more apt description.
Greater corporate profits, at the expense of the populace. Who asked us?



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7. Early Tests
The first early test occurs in the S.F. Bay Area on Monday Oct. 21, 2008, at 6:15 PM. Other tests will be scheduled for December, January, and February. Many stations in the area will perform the test at 6:15 PM. I will use ABC Channel 7, since it provides the strongest analog signal.
For at least 1 minute, the signal will switch to digital. If you are NOT DTV ready, your TV screen will say so.

The test is designed for STAND-ALONE TV sets, to determine if they have an ATSC tuner, IN ADDITION to the NTSC tuner you have been watching. If you are ALREADY using a converter box, you will have problems with the test.
I am already attempting to use my Zenith DTV converter box on my analog TV. Since it does NOT receive a single DTV channel, I always watch in "analog pass-through" mode (DTV box turned off).
So, during the test,
1. If I am watching in my normal mode (pass-through mode, box OFF), I will be told that I am "Not ready" (even though, of course, I am . . . allegedly, irrespective of the low signal strength issue).
2. If I switch the box on, I will have to manually set a DTV box channel for Channel 7 (strongest signal), and be sure that Channel 7 is selected. I fully expect to see nothing. I will report the results after the test.
Results as predicted. My new converter box showed NO DIGITAL SIGNAL, whatsoever.
I was an Electronics Technician for 10 years. I was an Electronics Engineer for 20 years.
Over-The-Air DTV = FRAUD. PERIOD. From its very inception, it was a scheme to make people PAY. Now you have just two choices - satellite or cable, unless you live close to the transmitters.

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8. Free Government Coupon (Yeah, right.)
DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR THE GOVERNMENT!
To apply for your free, US government $40 converter box discount coupon, visit https://www.dtv2009.gov/. (removed)
WARNING! DO NOT try to use a PO Box number for an address.
I did, and I got "Request Denied. Coupons are NOT sent to PO Boxes".
They FAIL TO TELL YOU this up front.
- You can NOT go back and change your information. Instead, you must "file an appeal", explaining why you did not give a physical address. Mine was mail theft. They took 2 weeks to respond to my appeal.
It may be more prudent to print out the online PDF form, and mail it in. On the form are places for BOTH physical address AND PO Box address. So there is no "Zap! Got you!" like there is with the online process. Exasperating!
THE NEGATIVE OUTCOME - Two weeks ago, I checked my application online, and it had been "Approved". But the coupons were NEVER received. So I checked again today, Oct. 4. - "Your application has been reviewed and was not approved." NO REASON WAS GIVEN. Just go away, get screwed, get lost! I was first approved, then unapproved, with no explanation. Once again, I am screwed by the inept, bureaucratic U.S. Government. Don't be surprised, if you get the same treatment. The I.R.S. seems to be the only agency working properly these days.

Your only option is to use a friend, who doesn't need the coupons. Use his/ her name and address, and be done with the Federal Bureaucracy silliness and incompetence.

Consumer Reports Coupon Fiascoes -

DTV Coupon Questions

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9. The Big List
By definition, this is a summary of only the 12 MOST POPULAR converter boxes, sold at the LARGEST OUTLETS. For a much larger list (92 units), check out the big boy Wiki converter list at
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_CECB_units.(removed, due to the passage of time.)

Consumer Reports - DTV Converter Box Guide

Consumer Reports - Ratings of DTV Converter Boxes




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Vaughn's Other
COMCAST Related Pages

* Comcast DTA Boxes

*
Comcast Missing DTA Chan.

*
Comcast Rate Increases

*
TV Channels - By NAME

*
TV Channels - By Number

*
TV Channels - By Program

*
TV Channels - By Subject

*
Why Comcast Sucks

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This Vaughns Digital TV Converter Box
summary was last updated on 2018-03-09.