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How to Connect a Digital TV Converter with a DVD Player or VCR

written by: Jennifer Claerr•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/18/2011

Setting up your home theater equipment with a digital TV converter box can be confusing. Find out how to connect your DTV converter with a DVD player or VCR.

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    Do You Need a DTV Converter Box?

    You only need a DTV converter box if you're using an analog TV, DVD player or VCR. If you have a CRT television with a picture tube, or if you purchased your television before 1998, chances are it is an analog-only television set. Check your television's documentation to see whether it has a digital receiver prior to purchasing your DTV converter box. Also, keep in mind that the purpose of a digital converter box is to convert digital television signals to analog signals your television can receive. You may experience improved picture quality, but you will not be able to watch digital-quality television or high definition television (HDTV) on your analog set. If you want to watch full digital or HDTV quality television, you must purchase a non-CRT digital or HDTV television set.

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    Understanding DTV Converter Box Connections

    Connecting a digital TV converter box with your television is a simple process. However, when you are trying to connect a DTV converter with your DVD player or VCR, the process becomes more confusing. Many people find that adding a DTV converter box to their home entertainment equipment setup causes problems with the way they record and play back programs. Also, the more complicated your home entertainment setup is, the more likely you are to have problems with the connections. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to solve these problems. The first step is knowing the proper order in which to connect your DTV converter box, television, DVD player and VCR. Just remember that if you plan to use a device to record, you must route the television signal through that device to the television.

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    Basic DTV Converter Box Antenna Connections

    First, make sure that you have an antenna that is sufficiently powerful to pick up digital television signals. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a "digital" antenna. An old analog "rabbit ears" antenna is fine in most instances. If an indoor antenna doesn't get adequate digital television signal reception, try installing an outdoor antenna. Connect the antenna to the back of the DTV converter box using a long radio frequency (RF) coaxial cable. Once this connection is complete, the DTV converter box will become the source of programming for all your home theater equipment, including your television, VCR, DVD player or DVR.

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    Connecting a VCR or DVD Player to a DTV Converter Box

    Connect the DTV converter box by coaxial cable to the back of the VCR or DVD player. Then use coaxial cable to the back of the television set. If your television is very old, you may need to attach a channel splitter to the end of the coaxial cable to separate the UHF and VHF bands. Tune your television to channel 3 or 4, and then set the same channel on the back of the DTV converter box.

    If you are using an analog VCR, you must tune your VCR to channel 3 or 4, then use that channel exclusively for recording directly off the DTV converter box. You will lose the ability to pre-program VCR recordings by channel. You will still be able to set timer programs on the VCR, but you will have to set the channel manually before the timer starts. If you want to watch one program while recording another, simply purchase and install a second DTV converter box. These same basic connections should also work for setting up a DVD recorder.

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    Alternate DTV Converter Box Connections

    If you are setting up a DVD player, you have the option to use an alternate connection method, such as RCA or component video, to connect it to your DTV converter box and television. This is because a DVD player has no receiver, so it does not need a coaxial connection to provide radio frequency signal. Also, you may experience overall improved picture quality when using component video rather than RCA (also called composite) or coaxial to connect your equipment. Use the RCA or component video cable to connect the DTV converter box to the DVD player's input ports if it has them, and then connect the RCA or component video outputs on the DVD player to the input on the television. Use the "Input" or "Source" button on the DVD player or DVR remote to switch between DVD playback and DTV input. You can also use RCA cables to set up both a DVD player and a VCR to your television, since most TVs and DTV converters have only one coaxial port. To achieve this setup, simply use coaxial cables to connect the VCR to the television, but use RCA cables to set up the DVD player. If the right ports are available, you can also use RCA or component video cables to connect your DTV converter, VCR or DVD player to your television.

    These tips should help you to connect your DTV converter box with a VCR, DVD player or DVR. If you have trouble, consult the documentation for your home theater equipment.

    For more information on this topic, read The Best DVD Player Brands and How to Improve HDTV Reception.

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