Comparison of DTV converters reception ability

Sparks

DTVUSA Member
#1
Many times when we get a question about loss of digital channels and poor reception I wonder what kind of DTV converter box or digital TV they are using. Some tuners in both TV sets and in the converter boxes do better than others. This is referring to the tuners ability to pull in the signal. Digital TV is ether a good picture or no picture at all. There will not be a good picture without a strong enough broadcast signal from the TV station.

I searched the internet and other places for information on how well the various DTV converter boxes stack up against each other. The information concerning this that I came up with is listed below. The information as to how well many of the converter boxes do is information from sources other than my personal experiences and from this forum. The ratings are sort of an average of each unit that I was able to find information about. I cannot say the information below came from any one source. I do not have first hand information of any of the converter boxes other than a few of them that I have evaluated and wrote a review about. These reviews are in the Reviews Section of this forum at: Converter Box Reviews, Ratings, and Specific Questions - DTV USA Forum

Probably hundreds of converter boxes exist. This is a list of those that are listed as the biggest sellers according to the various places that this information came from.

Rated as having the best reception - Is best for all areas especially rural and fringe areas

--Tivax STB-T8
--Zenith DTT901 This model replaced the DTT900
--Tivax STB-T9
--MicroGEM MG2000
--Sansonic FT300A
--Channel Master CM-7000
--Winegard RC-DT109A This model replaced the RC-DT109

Rated as having good reception - Is best for metro areas and the suburbs

--Artec T3AP Pro
--DTVPal More than one model available - Check it out at DTVPAL.COM
--Zentech DF2000L
--Zinwell ZAT-970A
--Zinwell ZAT-970
--Artec T3A Pro
--GE 22729
--GE 22730
--Coship N9988T
--Digital Stream DTX9900
--Magnavox TB100MW9

Rated as poor reception - areas with strong signals from all stations viewed

--RCA DTA800B

Even though the ratings of this RCA unit are listed as poor, another moderator on this forum, ‘cowboyup4christ’ works with and installs this model in deep fringe areas. He feels that it does Ok in the poorer reception areas. With this the poorest rated box operating in an acceptable manner. Those rated as good and best should do even better. On those days of poor reception that we occasionally have this converter may not maintain the programming as well without flaking out if it were used in the fringe areas.
 
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#2
i'm not a very technical person so forgive me if this is a dumb question. but I wonder why there is such a difference between converter boxes and reception? even if they're connected to the same antenna?!?!
 

BillT

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#6
I just learned something new. Up till now, I believed a converter box was a converter box. It just so happens that I have an RCA DTA 800B1 and I live in a Rural Area. I picked it up at Wal-Mart and it was either the RCA or the Magnavox. The Magnavox has ridiculously small remote buttons (for me anyway) so I went with the RCA. I've got 2 of them.

Where could I find some of the Top Rated ones. I prefer to buy one locally in a store.

Thanks.
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#7
I just learned something new. Up till now, I believed a converter box was a converter box. It just so happens that I have an RCA DTA 800B1 and I live in a Rural Area. I picked it up at Wal-Mart and it was either the RCA or the Magnavox. The Magnavox has ridiculously small remote buttons (for me anyway) so I went with the RCA. I've got 2 of them.

Where could I find some of the Top Rated ones. I prefer to buy one locally in a store.

Thanks.
Only problem is, most stores only sell specific converter boxes. Best Buy only sells 2 brands, and same with WalMart.

Here's a link at Consumer Reports that mentions a where you can find 5 different converter boxes: DTV converters: Best performers from our tests: Consumer Reports Electronics Blog

Tivax STB-T9
Microgem MG2000
Insignia NS-DXA1
Zenith DTT900
Philco TB100HH9
 
#9
Actually it's innaccurate on one point.

I tested my two conveters (Zenith DTT901 and DigitalStream DTX9900) on the same channel lineup on two TVs (not hard in a 24ft travel trailer) at once. on the same roof antenna (12dB Winegard Sensar) and they are tied. the only difference is that the DigitalStream does a tiny bit better with lower signal strengths below 30%. it will only break up at 25% or lower. on the Zenith DTT901 (merely a rebadged LG) it breaks up while still in the yellow zone of 45-50%. but the difference is moot because 30% on the DigitalStream is about 60% on the Zenith, but the part where they tie at is that the same weaker signal breaks up the picture, just in different spots on their signal meters, respectively.
 

mac4amps

DTVUSA Rookie
#10
bad box or bad antennae?

I happen to own 2 of the Zenith DTT901 boxes (which were NOT purchased at the same time/place). The first one, I use with a pair of "rabbit ears", and it has always worked well. My other one (which I purchased via e-bay) is used with a "roof" antennae (actually mounted in my attic space), but I'm constantly running into some major stations (like ABC & NBC) that have weak signal, and often don't work, or they're constantly cutting in & out. And I live right outside of Chicago, so I SHOULD have great reception (right?). So does my problem stem from a bad box? or a bad antennae?
 

alg2468

DTVUSA Jr. Member
#11
Venturer DTV Converter Box

I have a Venturer DTV Converter Box - model STB7766G1 - I bought at Target. It is very similar to the Winegard Converter Box and like the Winegard can operate with 6 D Cell batteries beacuse it has an external power supply. The menus are very similar to the Zenith box (some of the parts are the same,too). The box works very good for rural reception - I just 3 miles northeast of Providence, RI and have no trouble getting stations from the Providence and Boston areas (a distance of around 50 miles). The box can even get signals at a lower signal levels than either the Digital Stream and Zenith boxes, of which I also have both and perform very well.
 
#12
If you will let me add my two cents.

Some people on here are confusing a lack of signal - for a lack of quality of converter box.

How can I explain this so you people can understand.

Television before 6/12 was analog VHF, after 6/12 most television stations are digital UHF.

VHF - television signals are transmitted like looking at a pencil standing on it's point. Hold your arm in front of your face and look at your arm.

Radio signals are transmitted like dropping a pebble in a mud puddle. The signal radiates equally in all directions and ripples out to the edge of the puddle.

In the analog days there were two effectively transmitters for the TV
station.
A transmitter for the video and a transmitter for the audio.
The video transmitter was Amplitude Modulation see
NTSC - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The audio was FM at a much lower power.

The reason that the video was a higher power is that AM is more susceptible
to noise requiring a stronger signal at the receive and a higher power
output of the video transmitter

Television station - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"In North America, full-power stations on band I (channels 2 to 6) are
generally limited to 100 kW analog video (VSB) and 10 kW analog audio (FM),
or 20 kW digital (8VSB) ERP. Stations on band III (channels 7 to 13) can go
up by 5dB(W) to 316 kW video, 31.6 kW audio, or 63.2 kW digital. Low-VHF
stations are often subject to long-distance reception just as with FM.
There are no stations on channel 1.

UHF, by comparison, has a much shorter wavelength, and thus requires a
shorter antenna, but also higher power. North American stations can go up
to 5000 kW ERP for video and 500 kW audio, or 1000 kW digital. Low channels
travel further than high ones at the same power, but UHF does not suffer
from as much electromagnetic interference and background "noise" as VHF,
making it much more desirable for TV. Despite this, in the U.S., the FCC is
taking another large portion of this band (channels 52 to 69) away, in
contrast to the rest of the world, which has been taking VHF instead. This
means that some stations left on VHF will be harder to receive after the
analog shutdown. Since at least 1974, there are no stations on channel 37
in North America for radioastronomy purposes."

UHF communications are more "line of sight" communications than lower
frequency VHF.
It is sort a like having a sound vs a light. If you make sound it radiates
in all directions, around buildings, through walls, down into holes
(valley).
Shining a light does not go around corners or through walls and if it is a
pinpoint light it doesn't go down into the valleys.

The earth is round and eventually the beam of light, UHF tv the beam will
no longer touch the earth but go up into the sky.
Here is some information concerning line of sight and how it effects TV
http://www.softwright.com/faq/support/earth_curvature_values.html

ETS_LOS_Discussion

Horizon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The height of the transmitting antenna is factored into the power output of
the TV station.
The power output for TV & FM is rated in ERP (Effective Radiated Power)
There are a number of factors the go into this calculation.
Several Key items are:
Height of Antenna. listed both as HAAT (Height Above Average Terrain) and
AMSL (Height Above Mean Sea Level)
 
#13
If you will let me add my two cents.

Some people on here are confusing a lack of signal - for a lack of quality of converter box.
Think I understand what your saying, but haven't some of he converter boxes had some revisions to their ATSC tuners? Some of the earlier boxes (atleast by comparisons on the web) showed poorer reception results compared to the newer ones. I know some people on these forums are receiving signals much better on their converter boxes then their 2004-2006 digital (or HD) TVs.
 
#14
Ok,

So UHF signals do not go through roofs, trees with leaves, through airplanes, flocks of birds or even swarms of bugs. It does not receive well in rain storms or snow.

The signal is a very direct line of sight. Analog UHF was like that pebble dropped in a puddle it went everywhere with ease.

So the first thing that you now need is a UHF antenna and if you are more than 40 miles from a television transmitter you might also need a pre amplifier.

You have to use a Quad Shield type wire to minimize loss. The higher in frequency you go, the more signal the wire looses.

You have to use a antenna rotor - because the beam width of most television stations are only about 30* off center. If the antenna is pointed more than 30* away from a straight line of sight - you are not going to get a signal or a good signal.

The sad part is that stores sold junk converter boxes and people bought them because they were cheap. These are the same people that only buys nothing but the best when it comes to what they eat or the cars they drive or the clothes they wear or how they live.

A junk converter box is not going to have the same reception as a good converter box.

The stores, which wants to make a maximum amount of profit sold these boxes at a premium price - so they could line their pockets with cash.

Even of you brought the box back when it did not work, they still kept your $40 government coupon. They made $40 for something that has less technology than a pocket radio.

I have found only two boxes that works.

One was a Zenith DTT 900 and the other is a Channel Master CM 7000

The DTT 900 all had issues with internal clocking, where the picture signal does not match sound. The sound has issues because it is only about half what your normal television sound was, so when you turn off the converter box the sound from the television speaker - static is very loud.

Out of all the CM 7000 boxes I had, only one had issues where when you turned it on it made a noise on the audio of the television that sounded like a squeal. I sent it back and am waiting for a repair / replacement box.

The CM has a little less sensitivity than the Zenith, but out performs it with the quality of sound and a 12 hour program guide.

Anyone that bought one of the so called cheap boxes from a local department store or Drug Store - got what they paid for.

At one point, the Channel Master box was the whole way down to $12 each delivered to my front door.
 
#15
Yes there are cheap televisions = that were made a few years ago that did not have as sensitive tuners as a new converter box. But not all converter boxes are equal. There is no minimum standards of how well a converter box has to work to be able to be sold in a department store for $40 + each.

The most important part to remember is that if you hold your arm in front of your face, you can see your arm, as you move your arm around the side of your head it gets harder to see your arm with your eyes, when you hold your arm behind your head, you cannot see your arm at all. The same is true with a UHF signal, if you have your antenna pointed in the wrong direction or even off center too far - you are only going to get poor to no signal at all.

It is important to use a good quality antenna which receives both UHF and VHF signals. If your station is 40 or more miles away from your house - you will need a high quality antenna like a Winegard 8200U and possibly even a pre amplifier.

If there is a mountain between you and the transmitter, even a good antenna and pre amplifier will not receive the signal. A amplifier only amplifies the signal that is present, it cannot amplify something that is not there. The only real purpose of the amplifier is to compensate for long runs of wire and loss from splitters and connectors.

The best signal you can have is what ever is at the antenna.
 
#17
I was told all converter boxes would be about the same. I thought I was way ahead of the game and did everything in December 2008. Now I get very little reception that I had before on analog. Oh well, I'll just go ride my horse in lieu of watching TV. haha
 

Aaron62

Contributor
Staff member
#18
G

Guest

Guest
#19
Same antenna , cables , amps , 4 different TVs . Some same model , some different , each different size and distance from antenna . Each TV tunes different channels . One gets FOX/CBS , one gets NBC/ABC , one gets NBC/CBS and another ABC/FOX . Sometimes ( usually night ) they each may gain a channel or two . Have swapped locations on cables , boosters , having only a single but the common denominator is the tuners in each . Size and make did not show any difference . All [ add digital channels ] where done with HD antenna on the dash , TV belted into seat and inverter in the dash while a drove and re-scanned add channel the entire metro area ( too weak at home to lock ) . Of course recording devices are useless without a converter box BUT I want one capable of pulling ALL the channels EACH TV is capable of in ONE unit which would be ????
 
#20
Same antenna , cables , amps , 4 different TVs . Some same model , some different , each different size and distance from antenna . Each TV tunes different channels . One gets FOX/CBS , one gets NBC/ABC , one gets NBC/CBS and another ABC/FOX . Sometimes ( usually night ) they each may gain a channel or two . Have swapped locations on cables , boosters , having only a single but the common denominator is the tuners in each . Size and make did not show any difference . All [ add digital channels ] where done with HD antenna on the dash , TV belted into seat and inverter in the dash while a drove and re-scanned add channel the entire metro area ( too weak at home to lock ) . Of course recording devices are useless without a converter box BUT I want one capable of pulling ALL the channels EACH TV is capable of in ONE unit which would be ????
So are you trying to receive broadcasts in a car? Your post is a bit confusing.
 
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