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post #1 of 42 Old 05-25-2014, 07:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Can you use a DVD Recorder with Comcast cable or is everything encrypted now making it impossible?

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post #2 of 42 Old 05-25-2014, 08:12 PM
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Most Comcast markets are encrypted now. You can always connect the output of your cable box to your DVD recorder so you get the decrypted version. That's very inconvenient and expensive of course. There are much better options these days like Ceton, Silicon Dust and Tivo.
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post #3 of 42 Old 05-26-2014, 01:15 AM
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It seems like #2 of #2 may be internally inconsistent, implying that, in answer to #1, the ComCast offerings are encrypted and either may or may not be input to a DVD recorder. Although there are only a limited number of DVD recorders available new in this country, if you have one, it seems as if it is not that expensive to use those recorders to record from the ComCast cable box; however, if the cable programming is encrypted (is that the correct term?) in the sense of, say, an HOBO movie, which is not accessible through the cable box unless one has paid the separate monthly HBO fee, then that expense, i.e., subscibing to the HBO service, adds the cost of that monthly fee. It doesn't seem to me that the cost of a TIVO (I'm not sure about the mentioned alternatives) is a great savings over the cable box to DVD recorder option.
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post #4 of 42 Old 05-26-2014, 02:10 AM
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As has been mentioned many times in other threads, the composite or S-Video output of a cable STB is likely to be letterboxed since the cable company assumes that connection is going into a legacy 4:3 CRT. This means the image recorded to a DVD recorder will appear as a "postage stamp" (black bars all around) on a 16:9 display. You could use the TV's controls to zoom the image to fill the screen but that will take an already low-res SD recording and lower the resolution further making the picture look more grainy. Converters have been suggested to take the component or HDMI output and down-convert it to composite or S-Video to maintain the 16:9 image, but the quality of those converters is about as bad as zooming the postage stamp recording so nothing is really gained.

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post #5 of 42 Old 05-26-2014, 07:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by outdoors1 View Post

Can you use a DVD Recorder with Comcast cable or is everything encrypted now making it impossible?

"Encryption" means two different things in regard to cable service, which affect the question "can I use a dvd recorder" in two different ways. The word "encryption" usually refers to what consumers call "scrambling." Un-encrypted (un-scrambled) channels can be tuned and recorded freely using a DVD recorder's own internal tuner: this means you get full 16:9 video that fills your HDTV screen with the best-quality standard-def image you can capture. Being able to use the dvd recorder tuner also means you can easily set the tuner/timer to record different shows on different channels. When you read posts from people praising the Magnavox series of DVD/HDD recorders as the "poor mans TiVO," this is the kind of recording they are talking about.

But cable companies do not at all like us using DVD recorders in this way. They would much rather we pay them an extra fee each month for their cable box with built-in recorder. Over the years, they have made changes to cable signals to increasingly disable the built-in tuner of dvd recorders by encrypting/scrambling more and more channels. Awhile back, ComCast came up with the idea of encrypting/scrambling ALL their channels, not just premium channels like HBO but regular channels like TBS or even ABC, CBS, NBC. Scrambling means a DVD recorder will not be able to tune the channel directly thru its internal tuner: you lose the full 16:9 quality and the ability to easily set timer recordings on multiple channels. Instead, you must use the new "free" mini cable box they provide OR pay extra for a full-size cable decoder box. You then connect the line outputs of the cable box to the line inputs of the DVD recorder. All timer recordings become manual one-shots: set the timer on the recorder, and leave the cable box on the channel you want to record. Cross your fingers the cable box stays on that channel while you're out of the house, and doesn't turn itself off or blank the screen by going into energy saver mode. If you want to timer record a show on CBS at 8PM and one on ABC at 10PM on Wednesday night, you can't: the cable box can only tune one channel at a time (except for a few rare Time Warner boxes that have their own timer system you can preset). All this aggravation with the ComCast-style "encrypt everything" trend pretty much renders the "poor man's TiVO" dvd/hdd recorders useless, unless you don't mind zooming the recordings to fill your screen with a lower-quality image, and you don't mind being limited to one timer recording on one channel.

If you DO mind, you have several options, but all of them cost much more than simply buying the cheapest dvd recorder at WalMart and subscribing to the cheapest boxless plan offered by ComCast (which ComCast doesn't even offer anymore, hence the "free" mini boxes they're handing out). You can subscribe to the cable company decoder with built-in recorder, paying a monthly fee forever. You can buy a TiVO for about $700 one-time cost, and have the cable company install a CableCard in it to uncramble all the channels (free or $2/month). Or you can set up your PC with recording accessories, again installing a CableCard decoder (free or $2/mo depending on cable company policy in your area). All of these options will have the ability to timer record different shows on different channels, and will further offer you true HDTV quality recordings (dvd recorders reduce quality to standard def, acceptable for many of us but not ideal). The cable company recorder does not let you make DVDs. The TiVO can connect to your PC to save recordings as files or DVDs, and of course a PC-based recorder will save recordings directly to the PC hard drive where you can convert them into any format you want.

Note that compatibility of ComCast /Time Warner / etc with dvd recorder tuners varies from city to city. While you may have received a notice in your bill that "all stations will soon be digitally encrypted so you MUST take one of our decoder boxes," this isn't necessarily 100% accurate. It is true many more channels have been scrambled, but if you don't care about those channels, it won't matter to you. Some channels may remain unscrambled for quite some time yet, and those channels can be recorded with fulll convenience on a DVD recorder.. No way of knowing in your city unless you buy a Magnavox MDR531 dvd/hdd recorder and try it out in your own home. If it tunes your favorite channels, keep it and use it until it stops being able to. If it can't tune your favorite channels, return it immediately for refund and explore the other options mentioned.

*****************************

Separate from all the above is the issue of "protected" channels that have an "anti-record" signal embedded in them, which some people confusingly also refer to as "encryption". Originally this protection was only applied to some premium channels like HBO and Showtime, but more and more channels are getting embedded with this signal. If the channel is "protected" your DVD recorder will display an alert saying "can't record this material" and refuse to engage its record mode (but you can watch the channel "live" on your TV). The only way around this is to connect a protection filter like "The Grex" between the line outputs of your cable box to the line inputs of your DVD recorder. A filter like this costs about $85.

Protection is usually not an issue for TiVO or PC-based recorders, because the necessary CableCard device installed in them takes care of that. Unfortunately no dvd recorder ever made has a slot to install a CableCard. (The cable company's own decoder/recorder will of course not have any problem recording anything).
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post #6 of 42 Old 05-26-2014, 03:50 PM
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In my attempt to respond to mdavej's posting, and my subsequent reading of Citibear's incredibly detailed and trchnical post, I realize ho far off I was in even unerstanding the question; however, in my simplistic way, here's what works for me. ComCast STB line output to composite audio and S-Video inputs in my Panasonic EH55. HD broadcasts on the ultimate recording on my EH55's and EH75's hard drives are letterboxed, but SD broadcasts are not. Clearly, the latter have not the obvious IQ and crispness of HD but for many instances, i.e., older films (certainly those never broadcast in HD) the recorded product can be entirely satisfactory. For sports and other HD broadcasts, I admit that I do use the STB's HD recording section for time-shifting, but for SD broadcasts (e.g., film channels like TCM, etc), that I've set up to be recorded by the ComCast STB, but forgotten to set up to record to either of my Pannys, I simply copy from the DVR recording on the STB's hard drive directly to one of my Pannys by that same output/iinput connecrtion described above.
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post #7 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Converters have been suggested to take the component or HDMI output and down-convert it to composite or S-Video to maintain the 16:9 image, but the quality of those converters is about as bad as zooming the postage stamp recording so nothing is really gained.

I disagree, I bought 2 of these converters because all sporting events are basically letterboxed. While the picture may appear ever so slightly darker, I do not notice any resolution issues with the $45 unit I got from Monoprice (recommended here from fellow forum members)

just my 2 cents
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post #8 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post



If you want to timer record a show on CBS at 8PM and one on ABC at 10PM on Wednesday night, you can't: the cable box can only tune one channel at a time (except for a few rare Time Warner boxes that have their own timer system you can preset). All this aggravation with the ComCast-style "encrypt everything" trend pretty much renders the "poor man's TiVO" dvd/hdd recorders useless, unless you don't mind zooming the recordings to fill your screen with a lower-quality image, and you don't mind being limited to one timer recording on one channel..

Cable companies basically did away with their 2-99 analog channel distribution because it ate up a LOT of bandwidth that maybe only 5% of their customers were utilizing. Stripping these away these channels allowed them to add many many HD channels (digital) in their place. In addition, I do rent an extra box to daisy chain into my dvd recorder and because my unit has an infrared EYE (EH55 panny) I CAN record ESPN at 6 pm, and CBS at 8 pm and Fox at 11pm and so on as the DVD recorder changes the channel for me. I have NEVER had an issue with it not changing or the box powering off (And its been like this for over 5 years)

again, just my 2 cents
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post #9 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Converters have been suggested to take the component or HDMI output and down-convert it to composite or S-Video to maintain the 16:9 image, but the quality of those converters is about as bad as zooming the postage stamp recording so nothing is really gained.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billmich View Post

I disagree, I bought 2 of these converters because all sporting events are basically letterboxed. While the picture may appear ever so slightly darker, I do not notice any resolution issues with the $45 unit I got from Monoprice (recommended here from fellow forum members)

Results from these $50 HDMI>Composite/S converters vary wildly depending on the connected hardware and how your own eyes perceive the converted output. My experience with the MonoPrice aka Sabrent units leans toward Kelson's POV: the converter allows true 16:9 recording, but when all is said and done it isn't any better quality than zooming the direct letterboxed feed from the cable box. Often the 16:9 converter quality is worse than zoomed letterbox: not just darker, but colors go muddy and grey, losing their vibrancy. Some cable boxes and televisions work better with HDMI converters than others: you kind of need to try them out and see if they suit you.

For some material, this isn't a big deal: network sitcoms and dramas don't suffer too much from conversion, and most users think sports events convert nicely. Where the HDMI converter image falls apart is in outdoor nature scenes: foliage goes all dead and muddy, animal colors are off, lakes and oceans pick up a strange tinge. Also typical movies shot on film will look off when converted: the zoomed letterbox feed usually looks more natural (although the MonoPrice HDMI converter does wonders with old black & white classic films shown on TCM). So I try to limit my use of HDMI>Composite/S converters to material that benefits more from true 16:9 formatting than accurate color/brightness (or times when I need the converter's ability to skirt anti-record flags).

Note the "MonoPrice-style" HDMI>Composite/S unit discussed by members is no longer available thru MonoPrice, and the generic "Sabrent" version is getting scarce. Nearly all info you will find on AVS on the subject refers to this specific converter: there are others, but fewer members have reported on them and models seem to change quickly. Affordable mediocre-quality converters like the MonoPrice have been squeezed off the market, the higher-grade converters like "HD Fury" are much more expensive (and need to be ordered from Asia, and paired with equally expensive component converters). Juggling external boxes and converters and adapters is not for everyone: its kind of kludgy.
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post #10 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 03:13 PM
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I've got 2 of the audio authority model 1360 they work very well no black issues or color at all.

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post #11 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by billmich View Post

Cable companies basically did away with their 2-99 analog channel distribution because it ate up a LOT of bandwidth that maybe only 5% of their customers were utilizing. Stripping these away these channels allowed them to add many many HD channels (digital) in their place. In addition, I do rent an extra box to daisy chain into my dvd recorder and because my unit has an infrared EYE (EH55 panny) I CAN record ESPN at 6 pm, and CBS at 8 pm and Fox at 11pm and so on as the DVD recorder changes the channel for me. I have NEVER had an issue with it not changing or the box powering off (And its been like this for over 5 years)

again, just my 2 cents

We have to take care not to misinterpret the current round of cable questions for old issues like the analog>digital cable migration that are (mostly) long since settled. We are well past the issue of lost analog channels, and your use of an older DVD/HDD recorder with infrared cable box controller is not being debated: those who have such older analog recorders with that feature are not the ones complaining. I do the same thing myself with my own recorders: it is a perfectly workable solution for those motivated by the DVD collecting bug, and who bought these recorders back in the day.

The people who post these "sky is falling" ComCast and TWC threads today are in a panic that their cheap boxless cable service is getting less and less compatible with their current-generation DVD recorders equipped with digital QAM cable tuners. They bought these recorders (mostly Magnavox but also a few late-model Panasonics, Toshibas & JVCs) specifically because they DO NOT want to futz with a cable decoder box- they wanted a DVD recorder that worked like an old VCR (cable wire feeds DVD recorder directly, DVD recorder uses its own digital tuner to pull in 16:9 format signal and change channels by just setting the recorder timer). They are not really asking us if there are any Rube Goldberg workarounds involving a cable decoder box, HDMI converter, or IR box-channel-change dongle: they don't want to use ANY of that stuff. What they want to know is if there is any "magic" way they can just keep using their $200 dvd recorder and no-box digital cable for the rest of their lives despite ComCast, TWC and the FCC doing everything possible to screw them out of that option: that answer is NO.

You and I and Kelson and the other responders are just spinning our wheels explaining these alternatives: as far as newbies like the OP are concerned, the answer to their question is a pretty much "no", and that is the end of it. The ComCast "now or very soon scrambling ALL channels" issue is exaggerated somewhat: most people are still able to tune the unscrambled digital cable signals of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox with their DVD recorder tuner. If they are happy with that basic lineup, they might not have a problem (at least for the near future). But other "boxless" channels like Discovery, AMC, Lifetime, TNT are transitioning to scrambled signals that require a decoder box (and the accompanying workarounds that you and I already employ). Those people who are currently flocking to AVS in confusion and frustration over notices sent out by ComCast and TWC won't be satisfied with our old-school methods, or in chasing down a used 2006-era Panasonic EH55 with cable box controller feature. They don't want to deal with any box other than their DVD recorder. Unfortunately, that era is passing.
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post #12 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 04:44 PM
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Kind of a moot point to me as I will be transitioning to Blu-Ray htpc recording this summer for the upcoming football season
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post #13 of 42 Old 05-27-2014, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post

You and I and Kelson and the other responders are just spinning our wheels explaining these alternatives: as far as newbies like the OP are concerned, the answer to their question is a pretty much "no", and that is the end of it.
That pretty much says it all -- the situation is pretty much set and not going to change in the future. Cable is rapidly becoming a completely closed system like satellite currently is. You should track down one of your posts that goes through this the best and bookmark it. Then you can just post the link with a -- "read this".

The future for home recording of cable on non-cable co equipment is a cable-card device. Unless you get a cable card for free, there will always be a monthly cost. For a stand-alone plug and play system there is TiVo for $650 with the option to have low-cost extenders on other TVs. For the roll-your-own HTPC there is Ceton or Silicon Dust cable card PC tuners. Building a HTPC can be really cheap if you know what you are doing in the used PC market or it could cost nearly as much as a TiVo if you build a decent box from scratch. But with a HTPC, you have the giant caveat that only Windows Media Center can be used to record cable-card tuned broadcasts because of the required DRM. Only WMC and Microsoft stopped development of WMC during the Win-7 days and made it an extra cost add-on for Win-8 -- it probably will be gone in Win-9. Although it works great with Win-7 (included with Win-7) how much longer will MS continue to supply the guide data that is at the heart of WMC?

Frankly, unless you have spare hardware laying around and can put it together for only the added cost of a cable-card tuner module, I would not invest in WMC from here on out.

- kelson h

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post #14 of 42 Old 05-28-2014, 01:30 AM
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PMFJI - I'm just throwing in some comments based on my experiences.

I used to have Comcast & of course it output the postage stamp sized windowboxed video which you could record. I used the TV's zoom feature to expand the image to fill the screen & thought it look pretty good, at least on the 720p HDTV I had at the time. I never bought any type of converter because a lot of reviews mentioned black level and/or color issues when using them. The TV's zoom did not affect blacks or colors.

Currently I have a Dish DVR which outputs FS WS 16:9 composite video which can be recorded. Obviously not HD but it looks pretty good.

I haven't used my Panny DVDR in a long time because I've gone to using an HTPC and WMC7. I don't use a CableCard because I have satellite, and the HTPC is used as an OTA DVR. I know there is concern about the future of WMC. However the consensus of opinion among those who use it seems to be that it will be around for several years. That it hopefully will be supported as long as Windows 8 is supported. Obviously there are no guarantees. But if you have a Windows 7 PC then you already have WMC. Presuming the PC meets some fairly basic requirements the only cost would be for a tuner module, either OTA or CableCard type.

The nice thing about an HTPC it that it records in HD with DD5.1 audio. And WMC lets you burn a DVD from a recorded program, at least from a non-DRM protected program. The non-protected HD OTA program is converted to DVD format & retains DD5.1 audio. Or you can just leave the HD program on the HDD.
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post #15 of 42 Old 05-28-2014, 07:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post



For some material, this isn't a big deal: network sitcoms and dramas don't suffer too much from conversion, and most users think sports events convert nicely. Where the HDMI converter image falls apart is in outdoor nature scenes: foliage goes all dead and muddy, animal colors are off, lakes and oceans pick up a strange tinge. Also typical movies shot on film will look off when converted: the zoomed letterbox feed usually looks more natural (although the MonoPrice HDMI converter does wonders with old black & white classic films shown on TCM). So I try to limit my use of HDMI>Composite/S converters to material that benefits more from true 16:9 formatting than accurate color/brightness (or times when I need the converter's ability to skirt anti-record flags).

Note the "MonoPrice-style" HDMI>Composite/S unit discussed by members is no longer available thru MonoPrice, and the generic "Sabrent" version is getting scarce. Nearly all info you will find on AVS on the subject refers to this specific converter: there are others, but fewer members have reported on them and models seem to change quickly. Affordable mediocre-quality converters like the MonoPrice have been squeezed off the market, the higher-grade converters like "HD Fury" are much more expensive (and need to be ordered from Asia, and paired with equally expensive component converters). Juggling external boxes and converters and adapters is not for everyone: its kind of kludgy.

I tend to agree about the HDMI---> S/composite converter.Plus there seems to be an issue that the size is just a tiny bit small after conversion, very slight window boxing.
I do think that the Component ___> S/composite converter does a better job with colors and the like, make there is less "converting " to do in this instance
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post #16 of 42 Old 05-28-2014, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post

...The higher-grade converters like "HD Fury" are much more expensive (and need to be ordered from Asia, and paired with equally expensive component converters). Juggling external boxes and converters and adapters is not for everyone: its kind of kludgy.

Multiple converters don't have to be kludgy,that's not in the rule book.My HD fury and Atlona Component>s/composite converters each have a permanent home beside each other behind my home theater center.The Fury's output is permanently connected to the Atlona's input.The s-video cable from the Atlona output is connected to whichever DVDR i'm using at the time and is easily switched to any other DVDR, which takes ~2 secs.,add another 2 secs. to connect the audio cable to a DVDR from the Fury and total time is a whopping 4 seconds.
The Fury's input is more or less permanently connected to my laptop's HDMI output for streaming content to a DVDR.All i really need to do is to plug the converters in to a wall socket.That takes about 2 hot seconds.
So at worst it takes approx.6 seconds to make the necessary connections,fire up both converters and start recording,and that's only if i need to change which DVDR i'm going to use.If i don't need to change DVDR's then it only takes ~4 seconds...long time huh? So,converters don't have to be kludgy,IF you do a little bit of forward planning.smile.gifwink.gif
The cost of the two converters is the big boner in all of this.It seems maybe a little weird but,the Fury cost $42 bucks less than the Atlona did,and i got the Atlona relatively cheap compared to the normal going price for a NITB converter....at the time i bought it.
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post #17 of 42 Old 05-28-2014, 02:48 PM
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Multiple converters don't have to be kludgy,that's not in the rule book.[...] .smile.gifwink.gif

No, of course for people like you or me or billmich it isn't a dealbreaker at all: just a couple more connections and things to remember among the hot mess we call our entertainment systems. wink.gifsmile.gif

But this isn't the type of system desired by the people upset over the newest round of Cable Russian Roulette. They don't want to change or add anything: not even a cable box. They want their existing simplified setup of "cable wire feeds directly into DVDR, which feeds directly into TV" to remain undisturbed.
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post #18 of 42 Old 05-28-2014, 02:58 PM
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just imagine the rat's nest behind my college football TV setup:
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post #19 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Quote: Originally Posted by outdoors1

Can you use a DVD Recorder with Comcast cable or is everything encrypted now making it impossible?


"Encryption" means two different things in regard to cable service, which affect the question "can I use a dvd recorder" in two different ways. The word "encryption" usually refers to what consumers call "scrambling." Un-encrypted (un-scrambled) channels can be tuned and recorded freely using a DVD recorder's own internal tuner: this means you get full 16:9 video that fills your HDTV screen with the best-quality standard-def image you can capture. Being able to use the dvd recorder tuner also means you can easily set the tuner/timer to record different shows on different channels. When you read posts from people praising the Magnavox series of DVD/HDD recorders as the "poor mans TiVO," this is the kind of recording they are talking about.

But cable companies do not at all like us using DVD recorders in this way. They would much rather we pay them an extra fee each month for their cable box with built-in recorder. Over the years, they have made changes to cable signals to increasingly disable the built-in tuner of dvd recorders by encrypting/scrambling more and more channels. Awhile back, ComCast came up with the idea of encrypting/scrambling ALL their channels, not just premium channels like HBO but regular channels like TBS or even ABC, CBS, NBC. Scrambling means a DVD recorder will not be able to tune the channel directly thru its internal tuner: you lose the full 16:9 quality and the ability to easily set timer recordings on multiple channels. Instead, you must use the new "free" mini cable box they provide OR pay extra for a full-size cable decoder box. You then connect the line outputs of the cable box to the line inputs of the DVD recorder. All timer recordings become manual one-shots: set the timer on the recorder, and leave the cable box on the channel you want to record. Cross your fingers the cable box stays on that channel while you're out of the house, and doesn't turn itself off or blank the screen by going into energy saver mode. If you want to timer record a show on CBS at 8PM and one on ABC at 10PM on Wednesday night, you can't: the cable box can only tune one channel at a time (except for a few rare Time Warner boxes that have their own timer system you can preset). All this aggravation with the ComCast-style "encrypt everything" trend pretty much renders the "poor man's TiVO" dvd/hdd recorders useless, unless you don't mind zooming the recordings to fill your screen with a lower-quality image, and you don't mind being limited to one timer recording on one channel.

If you DO mind, you have several options, but all of them cost much more than simply buying the cheapest dvd recorder at WalMart and subscribing to the cheapest boxless plan offered by ComCast (which ComCast doesn't even offer anymore, hence the "free" mini boxes they're handing out). You can subscribe to the cable company decoder with built-in recorder, paying a monthly fee forever. You can buy a TiVO for about $700 one-time cost, and have the cable company install a CableCard in it to uncramble all the channels (free or $2/month). Or you can set up your PC with recording accessories, again installing a CableCard decoder (free or $2/mo depending on cable company policy in your area). All of these options will have the ability to timer record different shows on different channels, and will further offer you true HDTV quality recordings (dvd recorders reduce quality to standard def, acceptable for many of us but not ideal). The cable company recorder does not let you make DVDs. The TiVO can connect to your PC to save recordings as files or DVDs, and of course a PC-based recorder will save recordings directly to the PC hard drive where you can convert them into any format you want.

Note that compatibility of ComCast /Time Warner / etc with dvd recorder tuners varies from city to city. While you may have received a notice in your bill that "all stations will soon be digitally encrypted so you MUST take one of our decoder boxes," this isn't necessarily 100% accurate. It is true many more channels have been scrambled, but if you don't care about those channels, it won't matter to you. Some channels may remain unscrambled for quite some time yet, and those channels can be recorded with fulll convenience on a DVD recorder.. No way of knowing in your city unless you buy a Magnavox MDR531 dvd/hdd recorder and try it out in your own home. If it tunes your favorite channels, keep it and use it until it stops being able to. If it can't tune your favorite channels, return it immediately for refund and explore the other options mentioned.

*****************************

Separate from all the above is the issue of "protected" channels that have an "anti-record" signal embedded in them, which some people confusingly also refer to as "encryption". Originally this protection was only applied to some premium channels like HBO and Showtime, but more and more channels are getting embedded with this signal. If the channel is "protected" your DVD recorder will display an alert saying "can't record this material" and refuse to engage its record mode (but you can watch the channel "live" on your TV). The only way around this is to connect a protection filter like "The Grex" between the line outputs of your cable box to the line inputs of your DVD recorder. A filter like this costs about $85.

Protection is usually not an issue for TiVO or PC-based recorders, because the necessary CableCard device installed in them takes care of that. Unfortunately no dvd recorder ever made has a slot to install a CableCard. (The cable company's own decoder/recorder will of course not have any problem recording anything).

Citibear, i've got to thank you for that post - i haven't even considered that encrypted signal aspect and what it does to limiting recording capability. I was leaning toward the magnavox unit for it's simplicity but not having a useable tuner kind of kills it.

If i understood what you outlined, the magnvox would function as it was designed to, if it had a cablecard capability.

but thanks, you definitely saved me some headscratching and frustration
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post #20 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by larryccf View Post
Citibear, i've got to thank you for that post - i haven't even considered that encrypted signal aspect and what it does to limiting recording capability. I was leaning toward the magnavox unit for it's simplicity but not having a useable tuner kind of kills it.
Right about now someone is going to swoop in and accuse me of always being negative about DVD recorders in general and the Magnavox in particular. This is not the case: I have three DVD/HDD recorders of my own that I use quite heavily. It isn't a question of "will these recorders work with cable" so much as "will these recorders suit what YOU want to do with YOUR specific cable system."

There are people like myself, usually older who grew up with VCRs and acquired the insane habit of recording and keeping every TV show and movie we ever liked. We tend to enjoy classic movie channels and some "Tier 2" stations, so we've always had a decoder box and have always had to work around it and compromise somewhat on timer recording convenience.

When we moved from VHS to DVD/HDD recorders, nothing much changed aside from gaining the miraculous editing features of the hard drive. That more than makes up, in our minds, for being limited to standard-def recording instead of HDTV, letterbox instead of true 16:9, and dealing with pesky timer recording issues and the occasional "do not record" signals that need a filter accessory. If this is how you roll, and you are equally interested in building a library of favorite recordings, you will be content with the Magnavox.

Where I am very down on the Magnavox is its suitability for the army of new members who join AVS for the sole reason of asking whether the Magnavox can be used in place of their cable subscription PVR or a TiVO, because they're tired of paying monthly fees. This type of user is not interested in building a dvd library: they are spoiled by the idiot-proof automated timer grid screen and HiDef PQ of subscription PVRs, but they just don't want to pay monthly for those features if they can get a Magnavox for $200 outright. Those are the people who often end up frustrated and bitter: the Magnavox does not record high def, and as outlined in depth above, it can and will be thwarted by cable company signal games.

The best approach for a "newbie" interested in the Magnavox is cautious optimism. WalMart has a very generous return/refund policy, so there is no risk whatever in crossing your fingers and just buying one to try out. Depending on your precise town, your exact location in that town, and your particular cable company's signal system in that spot, you may be happy with the Magnavox for a couple years. The channel encryption (scrambling) is getting worse by the day nationwide, but not all channels are scrambled and the ones that are differ from city to city.

The situation is in constant flux, but if the Magnavox can directly tune your favorite channels you should be OK with it until your cable system inevitably messes things up. I would never say "don't buy a Magnavox", but I do say "don't expect miracles". Try it, if it tunes your fave channels, keep it. Your cable might remain compatible with it for a few months or a few years. If you get 18 months out of it, its more than paid for itself.

Just be aware movie channels like TCM, some sports channels, and most non-basic channels will require a box and the annoying workarounds re timers and 16:9 vs letterbox.

Last edited by CitiBear; 06-22-2014 at 11:56 AM.
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post #21 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 12:11 PM
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the walmart 30 day satisfaction guarantee had already been suggested to me by PM and it was the way i was going to go

but two of the issues you describe, i'm wondering if they can't be worked around by one coax splitter installed before the coax enters the magnavox after leaving the cable STB - one side of the splitter could go to the HDD and the other to the TV -- wouldn't that leave the STB showing up as it's own input on the TV so that i'd still have access to the STB directly and via my same remote, be able to pull up On Demand and NetFlix?.

Then the magnavox HDD could be connected to the TV via ir's HDMI output (my TV has a HDMI input) and, that same HDMI, running thru it's own splitter, could also be connected to a separate DVDR and, if i secure the correct filter to strip out the CP, record to the DVDR via the filter's component or S-video outputs? Or if i run the HDMI from the STB (it's currently connected to the TV via it's HDMI output connection), run it into a splitter with one cable continuing to run to TV with a 2nd to a HDMI > Composite/S-video filter then to the DVDR - that would save me the postage stamp recording on the DVD? or have i missed something (i'm still a fred flintstonee trying to acquire some literacy)

tks in advance
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post #22 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 12:33 PM
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post #23 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larryccf View Post
the walmart 30 day satisfaction guarantee had already been suggested to me by PM and it was the way i was going to go

but two of the issues you describe, i'm wondering if they can't be worked around by one coax splitter installed before the coax enters the magnavox after leaving the cable STB - one side of the splitter could go to the HDD and the other to the TV -- wouldn't that leave the STB showing up as it's own input on the TV so that i'd still have access to the STB directly and via my same remote, be able to pull up On Demand and NetFlix?.

Then the magnavox HDD could be connected to the TV via ir's HDMI output (my TV has a HDMI input) and, that same HDMI, running thru it's own splitter, could also be connected to a separate DVDR and, if i secure the correct filter to strip out the CP, record to the DVDR via the filter's component or S-video outputs? Or if i run the HDMI from the STB (it's currently connected to the TV via it's HDMI output connection), run it into a splitter with one cable continuing to run to TV with a 2nd to a HDMI > Composite/S-video filter then to the DVDR - that would save me the postage stamp recording on the DVD? or have i missed something (i'm still a fred flintstonee trying to acquire some literacy)

tks in advance
Yes to your first paragraph and yes to your second, the part where you'd split the HDMI output of your STB with one side going directly to your TV(for viewing true HD) and the other going to a HDMI to S-video converter and finally the S-video output of said converter going to the S-video input of your DVDR.
Note the picture quality of said converter won't be as good as if you could tune the channels directly with the Magnavoxes tuner but it will be full screen(if broadcast that way) and look better than recording the modulated RF output(channel 3/4) of such equipped STBs.
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post #24 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 01:32 PM
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tks -

well, at least the "negatives" to the magnavox on comcast have been reduced to the one element of the tuner being useless on the encrypted channels
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post #25 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by CitiBear View Post
Right about now someone is going to swoop in and accuse me of always being negative about DVD recorders in general and the Magnavox in particular.
Bear you are just being so mean to DVD recorders. Stop splashing all that cold water of reality all over them. Nobody wants the truth all the time.

P.S. I'm too old to swoop. Best I can give you is an easy shuffle.
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post #26 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 03:35 PM
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I think it bears repeating that the cable companies are not digitally scrambling the signals just because it's a cool thing to do. They are deliberately attempting to control who gets their signals and how they get their signals. It isn't just a coincidence that the Magnavox DVD recorder can't tune in those channels, it's the design goal of the current cable infrastructure that no one without one of THEIR cable boxes can get their content. This is and has been their intent for quite a while. That's why I have been using the DVR from my provider, and using its output connected to my DVD recorder for the content I want to archive. Using their DVR saves a lot of headaches and makes the process pretty easy. There is a cost of course, but how much are you willing to pay for convenience?

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post #27 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 04:37 PM
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Kind of a moot point to me as I will be transitioning to Blu-Ray htpc recording this summer for the upcoming football season
will the ceton or silicon dust cable card setups allow recording direct to blu-ray?
sorry if the question is too elementary
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post #28 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 05:46 PM
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I think it bears repeating that the cable companies are not digitally scrambling the signals just because it's a cool thing to do. They are deliberately attempting to control who gets their signals and how they get their signals. It isn't just a coincidence that the Magnavox DVD recorder can't tune in those channels, it's the design goal of the current cable infrastructure that no one without one of THEIR cable boxes can get their content. This is and has been their intent for quite a while. That's why I have been using the DVR from my provider, and using its output connected to my DVD recorder for the content I want to archive. Using their DVR saves a lot of headaches and makes the process pretty easy. There is a cost of course, but how much are you willing to pay for convenience?
I agree with this word for word.

I will add that my cable co does not provide cable-card support but in exchange they allow customers to buy & sell their own DVRs and non DVR boxes.
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post #29 of 42 Old 06-22-2014, 08:13 PM
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I agree with this word for word.

I will add that my cable co does not provide cable-card support but in exchange they allow customers to buy & sell their own DVRs and non DVR boxes.
I assume you're in Canada. Every cable provider in the US is required by law to provide cable card support.

The cheapest way to record all cable content is via WMC and cable card tuners like Ceton and Silicon Dust. This works far better than any DVD recorder because you get multiple tuners, full HD and DD5.1, every channel you subscribe to, and a full guide absolutely free. Anyone whose provider has started encrypting should definitely give this option serious consideration.

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post #30 of 42 Old 06-23-2014, 09:46 AM
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Yes to your first paragraph and yes to your second, the part where you'd split the HDMI output of your STB with one side going directly to your TV(for viewing true HD) and the other going to a HDMI to S-video converter and finally the S-video output of said converter going to the S-video input of your DVDR.
Note the picture quality of said converter won't be as good as if you could tune the channels directly with the Magnavoxes tuner but it will be full screen(if broadcast that way) and look better than recording the modulated RF output(channel 3/4) of such equipped STBs.

I wanted to boldface jjeff's point about the PQ of the HDMI>analog converter accessories, so that any newbie following this thread will be clear on how significant it is to this discussion.

The key problems with HDMI>analog converter devices are twofold: 1: they are, for all practical purposes, "illegal" at this point, which leads to 2. they are all Chinese-sourced one-off generic hackjobs. It has become almost impossible to recommend a specific consumer-priced HDMI>analog converter anymore, because there are no reliably-good "name" brands, they go in and out of production within weeks and distribution is completely ad-hoc.

When jjeff, myself and many other AVS-ers picked up these affordable all-in-one converters three years ago they were sold by MonoPrice and other reputable electronics dealers. The converted signal quality was mediocre at best and really bad at worst, but at least the units were consistent and you knew what you were buying. Today, not so much: sources are random eBay or Amazon vendors and model numbers change monthly.

The converter PQ in many cases is noticeably worse than simply recording the direct letterbox output from your cable box and zooming it with your TV controls. It is darker, muddier and grainier than the zoomed direct image. The only definite benefit you get is the 16:9 framing (no zooming necessary). Whether that is worth the sacrifice in other picture qualities is up to you: just be aware going in that converted 16:9 by itself is not going to offer you any dramatic advantage over zoomed letterbox (and will likely look worse). On channels the Magnavox can directly tune off the cable wire in 16:9, the story is different: that indeed looks better than zoomed letterbox from the cable decoder box.

There are higher-end alternatives to the >$50 all-in-one HDMI>composite converters that do give you close to directly-tuned 16:9 quality, but you will pay dearly for the upgrade (at least as much as the Magnavox itself costs). You'd need something like the HDfury HDMI>component analog device, PLUS another high-end adapter to convert the component analog output of the HDfury into a composite or S-Video connection that the Magnavox can use. There's no middle ground with these HDMI converters: you spend $50 for mediocre or $300-$500 for top quality.

Spending $600+ for a DVD recorder and HDfury system kind of defeats the purpose of wanting an "affordable" recorder and isn't cost effective for what you actually get out of it. For not much more than that outlay, you can buy a real TiVO with lifetime service that will record in HiDef and dump the files to your PC, where you can make DVDs or BluRays or files for a portable hard drive you connect to your TV's USB port. The HDfury becomes more attractive if you're interested in recording game sessions from Xbox or PlayStation in addition to the output of your cable box: at least then it serves two purposes, justifying the expense.

Last edited by CitiBear; 06-23-2014 at 09:57 AM.
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