Got my TV Converter Box $40 Coupon for my 1995 Sony TV upstairs the other day. Already spent it on a dandy DigitalStream DSP7700T from Newcast Distributing in Calabasas. In mid-May they were out of product. Similarly, I tried to buy the Channel Master box at Fry’s, but they weren’t ready to take coupons yet. For the system to be five months into the coupon program, there seems to be a lot of ramping up yet to do while our coupons approach expiration.
Wikipedia has an exhaustive, if sparsely detailed, listing of Coupon-Eligible Converter Boxes. Take a good look at the specs available.
The first thing I notice in comparing models is that not many provide analog pass through. Too bad for the two remaining full-power analog English language, seven full power Spanish stations, and at least five lower power foreign language stations serving the San Diego market. The NTIA didn’t think of this in making the specifications?
My DigitalStream box bypasses analog when you turn off the power. That’s okay.
So I can at least take advantage of DTV’s better color processing and feed the component or at least Y/C (S-video) ports on my TV–right? Nope, not unless you buy the Channel Master CM-7000 or Apex (for which I could find no active distributor).
What about Smart Antenna processing for our market that has four major mountaintop transmission sites? A few boxes list that feature, but what consumer is going to know to look for it? Or look for a Smart Antenna?
So what did I get for my $41, including tax, shipping, and coupon discount? The DigitalStream DSP7700T found all the local digital stations with a broadband log-periodic pointed at Tijuana from Kearny Mesa, plus it found KCBS and KNBC off the back side! KNBC was on the edge of its capabilities, though. The menu is attractive, it includes a signal level bar readout, closed captioning, EPG titles, and stereo audio. I was most amazed by the reception under obvious multipath conditions since KGTV 25 and KFMB 7 were perfectly decoded off the side of the Blonder-Tongue UHF log.
June 1 UPDATE
I bought a second box, the Zenith DTT900, for $24 ($60 + tax – $40 coupon). No analog bypass or S-video, but it runs cooler. Hooked up to my 9dBi gain log-periodic and got all locals plus just about every LA station that didn’t have a San Diego co-channel. They faded somewhat later, but one might be able to overcome that with a gain antenna.
I also learned that Dish Network is offering a $40 box through their dealers with a net cost of sales tax only. Not bad. They want to ratchet up their customer base during all the box confusion.
Radio Shack’s website now lists four boxes including the DigitalStream I bought elsewhere.
A few calls have come in at work. Interestingly, most ask if we have a digital channel. Our web FAQ has been well buried by the station’s webmaster, so I can sort of understand.