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DTV Converter Boxes - How to choose and set up a DTV converter

posted on November 10, 2008 at 12:20 PM

Once you have your coupon, how do you select a converter box, and how do you get it to work - and keep working? There are many answers, and Gary Sgrignoli, a professional consulting engineer, gives some satifyingly specific answers.


Q:   What are the most important features and accessories to look for when purchasing a converter box?

A:   There are some options that we think will be valuable: 

  • The first important optional feature is add-on scanning. Add-on scanning, unlike complete channel scanning that deletes all the channel information from the converter box’s memory, adds to its list any new channels that are found and includes their information in the converter box’s memory.
  • The second optional feature is direct RF tuning. Sometimes a digital channel that is difficult for the DTV receiver to decode (perhaps due to antenna mis-adjustment) is not found during an initial channel scan. If you know the actual RF channel of a digital station, you can directly enter the actual digital RF channel into the converter box, and it will directly tune to that RF channel while the viewer adjusts the antenna to get reception.
  • The third optional feature is antenna pass through. This feature allows the signal from the antenna to pass through directly to the television when the converter box is turned off. This is important if you live in a community that is served by a combination of full power and low power television stations.

More information for specific converter boxes can be found at:  Consumer Reports, Wiki and FCC

Bill Hayes' Blog has lots of information on selecting a converter box, and he's still learning more.  


Q: How do I hook up my converter Box?

A: The converter box goes between the antenna and the television. 

  • Antenna connected to ‘antenna’ terminal on box and television connected (by another piece of coax) to the ‘out to antenna terminal on the box. 
  • Turn on the box and television and tune the television to channel 3 (or 4, if the box is switched to that channel).  DO NOT change the channel on the television again.  ALL tuning will now be done using the remote that comes with the converter box. 
  • The type of antenna suggested is discussed on another page. 
  • Use the menu on the converter box to find ‘channel scan’ or ‘auto scan’ and select that and say ‘OK’.  The box should go through the channels (maybe on-screen on the TV) from 2 through 69.  Let it go all the way through, it is looking for digital channels.  When is completes the scan, if it finds something, live video should appear behind the menus on the screen. 
  • Press the menu button until the menus disappear and only video is showing.  If all channels possible in that area are not found, it may be an antenna problem.(See antenna section.)

Tags: converter box dtv dtv converter Iowa transition


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