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March 19, 2009

Are you watching Digital TV but listening in monophonic?

This article was originally published on May 26, 2008.
Since that time the government has moved the conversion date to June 12th.
Additional information has also been added at the end of the article.

The government has decided that your analog TV won't work after February 17, 2009:

"At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting."

That leaves you with the following choices:

-Get a Digital TV Converter Box (least expensive option) so you can continue using your existing TV

-Get connected to your local Cable service provider or Satellite TV provider.

-Buy a new digital TV (a whole other set of choices).

If you only care about "regular" TV and not about any of the many other stations on Cable or Satellite, or if your finances are such that such extravagances are not an option, then your only choice is to get a Digital TV Converter Box.

To help, the government is providing you the opportunity to get a $40 credit toward the purchase of a Digital TV Converter Box. This may explain why these boxes, in this author's opinion, cost more than they should. Be aware that the credit is only good on a select number of such boxes, and there are differences between the boxes. To learn more about the rebate and the boxes they can be used with, go to the official government website: https://www.dtv2009.gov/ . For information about how consumers feel about some of the available boxes and to find out which ones might be available at your local electronics store (you can only use the coupon in a physical store, not online), you can use some of the search tools available at http://thisismystore.com/.

Here's what you need to know once you've gotten the box:

If your TV does not have any option except to connect the cable wire where an antenna would otherwise be connected, you are out of luck. No stereo for you. Just connect the antenna to the box, and an RF cable (sometimes included) from the converter box to where your antenna was connected. Then tune to channel 3 or 4 and use the remote that came with your converter box to change the channels.

If you have a stereo TV, your TV needs to have stereo RCA jacks for stereo sound to be fed to it. So to get stereo sound from your box, you need to connect the line-out jacks marked L and R (usually color coded red and white) to the line-in jacks marked L and R on your TV. But wait -- that only gets you sound. If you want a picture, you need to connect the yellow video-out to the matching yellow video-in on your TV.

Now when you turn on your TV, don't panic when there is either static or no picture or sound. That's because your input source is now Line 1 or Video 1 or some such similar choice. You are not using the TV tuner, so you are not watching through channel 3 or 4 (depending on where you live). And, you will probably notice (if you previously were connected as described for mono TVs above), that you have an even better looking picture, and now have stereo sound. Also make sure that your converter box is set for stereo (some have that as a menu choice).

What if you want to include your VCR/DVR or other video-recording device in the loop? You would follow similar instructions for setting everything up for stereo, except that you would, in essence, be doing the same thing twice. First replace the term TV with VCR/DVR in the instructions above for connecting up the cables from the converter box. Then, pretend the VCR/DVR is the converter box and follow the instructions again. And as in the direct from converter box to TV above, you will need to remember that you are now watching through Line 1 or Video 1 or whatever it is called on your TV. Note that if you connect a VCR/DVR or other recording device in the loop, you may need to first turn on that recording device.

Also, you probably need to turn up the volume on your TV and on the converter box, and adjust both until you find a combination that sounds right. If your TV volume is too low, you may find that sound is not great. This is probably not the fault of the box, so adjust the TV volume accordingly.

And finally, you will now also need to remember to turn on the converter box and then turn on the TV in order to watch TV. Get in the habit, because after February 17, 2009, your analog TV alone will no longer be receiving any signals from the TV stations.

Some extra information:
If you encounter difficulty getting some channels with a regular antenna, don't rush out to buy an expensive antenna before first moving the antenna around to see if different positions bring in different channels. Then, before giving up, try alternate channels. For example, if you are in the NYC area and having trouble getting channel 13, go into the manual channel selector option on your DTV box and try channel 61. That should resolve to 13. There are quite a few stations, at least here in the NYC area, that are broadcasting on more than one frequency, so try every single channel number and see what you might find.

[You may want to share this article with your friends and family, who may not know that they are probably watching TV and recording programs in glorious monophonic if they didn't set things up properly or are watching through channel 3 or 4. You may also want to help them out regarding alternative options if some of the stations are not coming in.]

Richard L. Kuper
The Kuper Report

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