What Is a Digital Converter Box? Do You Need It?

What Is a Digital Converter Box? Do You Need It?
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Television is one of the household entertainment appliances that haven’t changed much. Among the few notable introductions are the remote controls, video-cassette recorders, and cable and satellite providers.

In the 21st century, television signal shifted from analog to digital, which paved the way to digital converter boxes. What is a digital converter box?

Although digital televisions are widely available now, a lot of people still use the older models. These models are still functional but have lower resolution or weak signal reception. Can the digital converter box solve this issue? Is it cheaper than purchasing a brand new set of TV?

Television from Analog to Digital

TVs first appeared in the 1870s, but it was until the early 20th century when electronic television was introduced, and regular broadcasts became available. It became widely used after World War II when there were only nine television stations. This number increased to 48 in 1949 and 515 in the 1960s.

The technology behind televisions is simple. You merely need to plug a pair of rabbit ears antenna into the jack behind the TV to receive good quality of programming.

Not until 2009 when some broadcasting companies in the United States began the shift from the analog signal to digital. This caused confusion among TV manufacturers and users.

The analog to digital transition was scheduled to a later date to raise awareness among the users. It was done so that few people are left behind. As a response, some people bought digital TVs while others used a digital converter box to transform the analog signals to digital.

What Is a Digital Converter Box?

A digital converter box, technically called as the digital television adapter (DTA), is a small TV tuner that collects digital TV transmission. It transforms digital signals to analog signals so that analog television sets can receive and display them. This digital signal may come from a digital cable system or from the terrestrial signals through the television antenna.

The transition to digital television complicated the number of broadcast television standards. This is the reason why there are many combinations of frequency allocations and band plans used in different countries.

For example, in Europe and Australia, a digital converter box converts Digital Video Broadcasting to PAL. In North America, it transforms from ATSC to NTSC.

Pros and Cons of Using a Digital Converter Box

A digital converter box is an advantage for old TV sets, such as the CRT TVs, that receive only analog signals. It is the only solution because analog transmissions in the US ceased in the mid-2009. If you use a VCR for your analog TV, you also need a digital converter box.

However, if you have a digital TV, attaching this unit will only decrease image quality. Since the unit converts the signal into analog, it wastes the digital TV’s purpose of providing high-definition quality. It is the major drawback of a converter box.

When purchasing a digital converter box, make sure that it has an analog pass-through. The purpose of this is to make it suitable with low power, class A, or translator station in your area.

Does Your TV Need a Digital Converter Box?

If your TV has a digital receiver or digital tuner, you don’t need to attach a digital converter box. The easiest way to figure out this information is to refer to your TV’s user manual.

Here, you will find the technical specifications that will let you know whether your TV is digital or analog. If your TV tuner is analog, you have two choices: buy a digital TV or a digital converter box.

A digital converter box serves as a “middleman” between digital television transmission and analog television. Your TV set probably has an integrated ATSC (digital) tuner that can receive digital signals from local broadcast stations only through an antenna.

Considerations Before Buying A Digital Converter Box

You might need a thorough consideration before buying a converter box, though. If you have a little bit more amount of cash to spend, you might want to purchase a new digital TV instead of a digital converter box. After all, the cost of these TV sets has significantly come down in the past few years.

Nevertheless, consider the following reasons before purchasing a converter box:

  • Smart TVs allow you to access the subscriptions on the Internet without buying an Apple TV or Roku, which costs from $35 to $100.
  • HDTVs deliver a higher image resolution compared to analog TVs.
  • Flat-screen TVs do not take up too much space; in fact, you can even hang them on your wall.
  • HDTVs are more energy-efficient than analog TV sets plus the digital converter box.
  • You don’t need to buy a converter box, which costs around $50.

How to Install a Digital Converter Box

Connecting a digital converter box to a TV set is quite simple with the help of the manual that comes with the unit. If you couldn’t find the manual, these steps should give you an idea on how to do it:

Step 1

Connect the antenna to the input port of the digital converter box using a coaxial cable. You should find the port easily because it is labeled “Antenna In”.

Step 2

If the TV or antenna port does not have a coaxial cable connection, the port must be a “twin lead”. Instead of the coaxial cable, use a 300- to 75-ohm twin lead to attach to the coaxial adapter.

Step 3

Some digital converter boxes have RCA connectors. These are three cables, each with a jack that is colored red, white, or yellow merged into one. In this case, use it instead. Match the jacks to the corresponding colors of the device’s ports.

Step 4

Then, attach the digital converter box output to the antenna input of your TV.


Now that you have a clearer understanding of what is a digital converter box, you can make a more sensible decision. If you have a very tight budget, purchasing a converter box for your old TV is a smart decision. If your old TV has some sentimental value, then attaching a converter box is reasonable.

Then again, if you want incredible picture quality and have some cash to spare, upgrade to an HDTV instead. There are many reasons and advantages why you should buy one as listed above. With a smart TV, you can have a cable subscription, enjoy internet streaming subscriptions, and more.

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