FAQ: The Coupon Eligible Digital TV Converter Boxes (CECB's) Updated 7/24/10
By AVS Member jtbell, updated by Ken HAbout This Forum
This forum is for discussion of the digital-to-analog TV converter boxes that were eligible for the $40 subsidy coupons issued by the U.S. Government as part of the transition from analog to digital over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV. The official name for these devices is Coupon Eligible Converter Box (CECB). Please note all CECB coupons are now expired and no longer accepted by retailers selling CECB's, although a limited selection of the boxes themselves are still available at retail, online and brick & mortar.
This forum was created in early May 2008 because discussion of CECB's was filling the former "HDTV Reception Hardware" forum, which has now been renamed the "HDTV Technical" forum. CECB's are not an appropriate topic for that forum because they do not have high-definition (HD) outputs, only standard-definition (SD).
Antennas and digital TV reception issues are similar for both SD- and HDTV, and are a well-established topic in the "HDTV Technical" forum. Therefore, if you have questions about antennas, you should post them in that forum. General questions about digital TV reception are also appropriate there. For local reception issues, you should also check the thread for your local area in the Local HDTV Info and Reception forum.About This Posting
This posting is not intended as a complete reference to CECB's. It provides a brief introduction to them, with pointers to further information, and short answers to some questions that have commonly appeared in this forum. If you have suggestions, corrections, or updates, please feel free to post them in this thread, and I'll take them into account when I update this posting. If you have a general question about CECB's or specific models, you'd probably best post in one of the other existing threads, or start a new one, whichever is more appropriate.What are CECB's for?
They allow old analog TVs to be used with over-the-air (OTA) broadcast digital TV (ATSC) signals, so that these TVs will still function after full-power analog (NTSC) signals cease in the USA on June 12, 2009.What are the coupons?
A moot point, since all CECB coupons are expired and no longer accepted by retailers selling CECB's, but for those who were wondering:
To ease the pain of the analog-to-digital transition, the U.S. Congress allocated funds for $40 coupons, which were used to pay part of the cost of a CECB. Each household was eligible for up to two coupons. Each coupon was used for one CECB. The price of a CECB (before applying the coupon) varies from about $40 up to about $70, depending on the manufacturer and the dealer.What CECB's are still available?
This topic tracks the most recent sightings of available CECB's and where they can be found: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1183648Which CECB is best?
This forum contains much discussion about availability and features of various CECBs. Look for the manufacturer and model number in the thread titles, or use the forum search form. There is also a CECB best & worst poll (based on AVS member experences) topic 'stuck' at the top of this forum: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1029256How do I use a CECB?
You connect your antenna to the CECB's coaxial RF (radio-frequency) input. Then you either
(a) connect the CECB's composite-video or S-video output to a matching input on your TV, using an appropriate cable, and set your TV to use that input, or
(b) connect the CECB's coaxial RF output to your TV's antenna input, and set your TV to channel 3 or 4, just like with a VCR.
In either case, to change channels you must leave the TV set the same way, and change channels on the CECB, generally using the CECB's remote control.My HD-ready TV or monitor doesn't have a digital TV (ATSC) tuner. Can I use a CECB as an HDTV receiver?
No. A CECB must have only standard-definition (480i) output. It must be able to receive high-definition signals, but it must convert them to standard definition output.
See the Official AVS HDTV STB Synopsis for a list of true HDTV set-top-boxes: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=179095Do any CECBs have HDMI/DVI or component-video or digital audio outputs?
No. A CECB must have an RF (coaxial) output, a composite-video (yellow RCA-type) output, and analog stereo audio (red/white RCA-type) outputs. It may optionally have an S-video output. It must not have component-video (red/green/blue RCA-type), HDMI or DVI outputs, or digital audio outputs.I use Cable TV or DBS. Will a CECB do anything for me?
No. The analog TV shutdown on June 12, 2009 does not apply to Cable TV or DBS providers.
A CECB must decode only Digital TV over-the-air broadcast signals (ATSC), received with an antenna. Digital cable TV uses a different type of signal, QAM. So you cannot use a CECB to receive cable TV signals, regardless of whether they are encrypted or "in the clear". The Official AVS HDTV STB Synopsis indicates which HDTV receivers support "QAM in the clear". DBS uses a different type of signal also, and you must use the boxes they supply for any reception.
Some people find it useful to receive OTA digital broadcasts in addition to cable or DBS. It's often possible to receive OTA channels or subchannels that your cable company or DBS provider do not offer. Also, even if you do get the same channels via cable or DBS, the picture quality of Digital TV OTA broadcasts is often better (considering only standard definition here). Of course, this all depends on your local reception conditions and how good an antenna you have.
Cable TV providers will convert from analog to digital at some point in the future, but each company will handle the transition independently, on its own schedule. In the meantime, all cable companies will continue to provide local broadcast channels in analog format, by converting them from digital format. DBS providers DirecTV & Dish Network have always been digital format. If you are a Cable or DBS subscriber, and have problems with your service, please contact them at the phone number listed on your monthly bill.