Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Answers To Some Common DTV Questions

I am going to answer a few questions which have been submitted by readers. They cover several different subjects.

The first question deals with finding a DTV converter that allows you to continue to watch local “low power” stations like Channels 25 and 38 after February 2009. The “low power” stations transmit programs using a fraction of the power required by the major stations like Channel 9 or CET. As a result, many households in our area are unable to receive them. So, you may not even know they exist. These two stations and other “low power” stations in the US will not be changing to digital next year. So, if you receive them now and you want to continue to watch them on your old analog TV set after February 2009, you will need a special DTV converter. Up until now these converters have been very hard to find, but you can now order them through many Radio Shack® stores for $59.99 retail. You can use the DTV coupons so the price is about 20 bucks. Ask for Zenith™ Model DTT901 Catalog # 15-193. If you don’t watch the low power channels, just go with a standard DTV converter.

I was sent me an email asking if even a very old TV, i.e. vintage 1960’s, will work with a DTV converter. (I told you, people never throw away TVs.) The answer is Yes! Of course the picture will not be very sharp and it will be in black and white, but it will display the digital channels. For older TVs you may need to purchase an adapter to connect the converter to the TV, since older TVs have two small screws on the back to which you connect the antenna or rabbit ears. The DTV converter uses what is called an “F” connector. You will need to get a “75 ohm to 300 ohm matching transformer” to adapt the “F” connector. They can be purchased at most electronic stores for about 5 bucks.

Another question came in regarding the need to get a new antenna and lead in wire if you were buying a new HDTV set and would not be using a cable or satellite service. My recommendation would be to wait until you get the new set and see how your current antenna works. In many situations the simple indoor set-top antenna may be all you need. In other cases the outdoor antenna that you already have installed and connected to your analog TV may work just fine with your new HDTV set. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken!

I wrote about this a few months ago but it bears repeating. There is NO SUCH THING AS A DIGITAL or HDTV ANTENNA. There are antennas that are more efficient than others. Some have amplifiers. Some do not. The antenna itself and the lead in wire are exactly the same for analog reception and digital reception.

It is both amusing and irritating to walk through stores and see antennas for sale with the boxes labeled “HDTV Antenna” or “Specially designed for DTV use.” Many of these antennas will come with an inflated price tag because of the HDTV moniker.

Keep you questions coming. If I don’t know the answer, I have many colleagues much smarter than I am (thank heavens) who, for the price of a beer, will help me out.

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