DTV Converter Box


I have a few questions about DTV Converter Boxes.

1. Is there any difference between a DTV Converter Box and a Digital-to-Analog Converter Box?
I've seen a few converter boxes advertised on different websites as Digital-to-Analog Converter Boxes and I want to make sure if I buy one of those, that they are indeed what I need to get DTV.

2. Which DTV Converter Box has the best channel menu?
I've heard that the channel menu guide on the Dish Network DTVPal Plus is pretty good, but it's difficult to find on sale and at a good price. What else has a good channel menu? By channel menu, I mean what's showing on other channels without having to change the channel to view what shows are going to be on.

3. I think the DTV Coupon Program is over?
Can someone verify this for me?

4. Can I use my old antenna with a new DTV Converter Box?
I want to make sure whichever DTV Converter Box that I buy will work with my old roof antenna. Do I need to make any special considerations for this?

Thank you.



1. There is no difference between the two. The terms refer to the same product.

2. It sounds like the DTVPal is probably your best choice given your program-guide desires. The difficulty you've encountered in finding a sale price is going to be true of any good converter box these days because selection is much more limited than it was during the coupon program in 2008-09. If a box is "on sale," there's a fair chance it's not a high-quality product, it may not be durable, and/or it has an inferior remote/menu/user interface/program guide.

Paying for quality will be worth it in the long run. Lots of people who bought cheap boxes last year are encountering multiple problems with them now... including boxes that "fry" themselves and have to be replaced.

3. The coupon program ended July 31, 2009. It's not at all likely to be renewed because it's contrary to the FCC's future plans. See this and this and this.

4. Yes, you can. Packaging and advertising phrases like "digital ready" and "designed for HDTV" are marketing terms, not technical specifications.


I want to make sure whichever DTV Converter Box that I buy will work with my old roof antenna. Do I need to make any special considerations for this?
Maybe. Here's what to look at:

1. In most markets, an antenna needs to be an "all-channels" model -- that is, designed for channels 2 through 69. A lot of people put up VHF-only antennas in the 70s and 80s because that's where all the network affiliates were. Most digital TV broadcasts today (but not all) are in the UHF band.

This is a VHF-only (channels 2-13) antenna:

And this one is an all-channels model:

Sometimes, the long elements in the back are shaped like a V.

Here's an example of a UHF-only (channel 14 and up) "panel" or "bowtie" antenna for reference:

2. If the downlead cable from the antenna to the TV is more than about a dozen years old -- or you have no idea how old it is -- it's probably a good idea to replace it with RG-6 coaxial cable and, while you're at it, get a new coax transformer, a $5 part that connects the cable to the antenna terminals. Worn-out cable kills digital signals in a hurry; IMHO, this is the number-one barrier to good reception for people who have problems using an old antenna with a converter or digital TV.

3. The antenna is ready to go as long as corrosion isn't so bad that it can be seen from the ground, and there are no badly bent, broken or missing antenna elements. If you're not sure about this, replace the downlead and see how it performs.