The digital TV or the DTV transition has happened. All the free terrestrial programming is now completely digital. If you have to receive these signals on your existing analog TV, you'll need a converter. This converter is capable of receiving the digital TV signal and feeding analog TV.
If you are connected to cable or a satellite-based DTH service and do not receive any local TV transmissions, this switch would not affect you at all. However, if you depend on the local programming available and receive these through an antenna on your rooftop or the balcony and your TV set has an analog tuner, you are going to need a additional box. This is the now famous converter box. It receives the new digital signals through your existing antenna and produces a RF modulated signal compatible with your analog TV set.
The DTV Converter
The digital transmission takes place in the so called ATSC format and the converter box has to have an ATSC tuner. The tuner just tunes into the signal of a particular channel. To get the video signal carried in the carrier, the video will have to be completely decoded to the original analog form. At this point you this video signal can be fed to the analog TV set at its video inputs. These are the inputs that are used by the DVD recorder to play back movies locally. The converter provides another means of getting the signal to your TV set. The video signal modulates a RF carrier and creates a signal that is in an exact format as would be expected by an analog TV set. You just connect a cable from this RF output to the antenna input of your set. Actual antenna connection comes from your outdoor antenna or the rabbit ears to the converter box. The converter box provides you a third kind of output known as the analog pass-through. The box just passes the antenna signal to this output port. This is to enable reception of analog TV, if there are any in your area. Low power analog TV transmission is allowed locally.
Since the direct video connection is the most convenient, many would use that. There are several forms this signal can be made available in. The oldest is the composite and there’s S-video. They are slowly falling into disfavor as the video quality produced by these formats could be improved. Component signals are a large improvement, and many converters will provide these connections beside the old set of one video cable with two audio (L+R) cables.
The component cables carry just the video signal, and you need additional cables for the audio. These can be quite a few if you are using home theater sound and 5 channels plus sub-woofer or 7 channels plus sub-woofer can produce quite a tangle of cables to be connected to the TV from your converter box. The HDMI is even better in terms of carrying video quality and it carries audio signals also on the same cable. If you a HDTV capable set you will have the component as well as HDMI inputs. It is better to have HDMI connection back to your set from the converter for best results. Of course, if your set is digital capable, meaning it has an ATSC tuner built-in, you would not need any converter box. Review your product literature or check with your dealer to find out what your set is capable of.
Some Example Boxes
There is a document here that has the requirements of a coupon eligible converter box under the federal coupon scheme. Some products may still be available for coupon redeeming. Here is a list of all eligible products.These devices are not required to have HDMI outputs. They also have only 480i resolution support.
For near HD or for full HD resolutions you’ll need a more expensive DTV converter and they typically would have HDMI support included. Many of these would come with an HDMI cable included. One such example is the Samsung product DTB-H260F that is available for a price of around $100 to $125. Shenzhen SDMC Microelectronics Co Ltd has products that have HDMI connectivity. The DIGINET Terrestrial Set-top box is also an example of a very recent product.
These products are obviously meant for older so called "HD Ready" TV sets that did not come with a digital/ATSC tuner. What is curious is if any of these sets did have HDMI for the best kind of video inputs. HDMI, of course, is a comaparatively recent phenomenon. Possibly some manufacturers may have included the HDMI connection for the best reproduction of DVD movies. It makes one wonder how many of these sets might be out there!
Ed.- Do you have a TV with an analog tuner and HDMI inputs? If not, what led you to this article? We'd like to know why you were interested in a digital TV converter that has HDMI outputs. Please feel free to answer in comments. Let's get a discussion going about this.