Sound Advice Column: Using a digital converter box with a VCR

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed By McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: I hope you can answer my many questions about the new digital TV converter boxes. Probably a lot of your readers will soon be interested in this.

My first problem: The VCR won’t work. I hooked up the antenna into the box and white and yellow cables from the box into the white and yellow connections on the VCR. I also hooked up the cable coming from the box directly into the TV. This TV has only one receptacle for antenna in. The VCR won’t play a tape or go to TV when not playing. I also tried connecting a “splitter” to the back of the TV, with the VCR and also the converter box cables into it. Same result. I also tried connecting the box cable into the VCR antenna in, and the VCR out into the TV. Still no working VCR.

The second problem: The VCR will play tapes but won’t go to the TV, so all I get is a blue screen. I hooked up the red, white and yellow cables from the box to the connections on the VCR in. I hooked up an additional set of red, white and yellow cables from VCR out into the corresponding connections on the back of the TV. The antenna goes into the converter box and the box cable goes into the TV. What gives?

Barbara Gessner
Fremont, CA

A: You are correct in saying that a lot of readers are interested in this, as I have received a lot of e-mail recently about converter box confusion. Just reading your e-mail made my head spin, and I can only imagine what it is like for someone who isn’t thinking about his day in, day out!

To solve all your problems, you need to stick with one set of connections and settings for the TV and VCR. I recommend using the channel 3 output to keep things simple. (If channel 3 is a broadcast network in your area, use channel 4.)

First, set the converter box to output on channel 3 and the VCR to output on channel 3.

Next, set the TV to channel 3 and set the VCR to tune channel 3. Use a single 75 ohm cable (the big one, as in cable TV) to connect the output of the box to the input on the VCR, and another single 75 ohm cable the output of the VCR to the input on the TV.

The key here is setting everything to channel 3. If you don’t, the box, VCR and TV won’t be on the same wavelength and won’t “see” each other. Remember, all three is the key!

Turn on the box, VCR and TV. On the VCR, set TV/VCR to TV. Now the VCR will pass the signal from the box to the TV interrupted as you tune your stations using the converter box.

When using a digital box, the VCR tuner will never be used, and if you change the channel away from 3, it will stop your signal right there. The VCR will be on channel 3 forever, both as a tuned channel and as the output.

When you play a tape, just set the VCR to VCR and press play. It will output on channel 3 and your TV will pick it up.

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