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CECB or Better DTV Tuner for Analog CRTs?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I have a couple of analog CRT TVs currently hooked up digital cable boxes since Comcast went all digital a few years ago. I'm thinking of dropping Comcast all together (except for Internet) since I'm sick of paying $150/month for a DVR with limited capacity and now that F1 is no longer on SpeedTV and they stopped carrying Universal Sports a couple of years ago (World Cup ski racing). All I really watch these days is OTA TV for news, local Broncos football, and a couple of seasonal network series. I tried building a Mythbuntu HTPC DVR for OTA HD back in 2008 but couldn't tune in all the low power stations before they went full power and ended up pulling the hard drive and reformatting it for a dual boot Windows 7 in my Ubuntu desktop PC. I have a little 20" TV in my basement (75% above ground) with a basic Insignia CECB that was given to me which can pick up all the local stations (one requires reorientation of the rabbit ears), so I'm thinking my past tuning issues over. Should I shop for CECBs or a higher end digital tuners for these 2 TVs? The one in my bedroom has component inputs and the one in my home office I think only has coax (and possibly S-Video) inputs. I think I have a coupon from 2009, but it is probably expired by now. Are CECBs even sold these days, or are all tuners simply called DTV tuners and vary by features and quality? Sorry if this has been covered, but I've been out of the loop since 2008 and don't have time to read a zillion threads to find the info.
post #2 of 7
Yep, expired. Digital to analog tv converter, dtv converter, etc. I use just tv converter on Craigslist and filter through the results since most of the idiots there don't use the proper terminology and CL uses a bare-bones search feature; also have to look through those results that list a TV as they tend to batch them together (TV is nearly worthless but if not a heavy one might be a good deal and can donate the TV).

A year ago I was lucky to receive a 34" HD widescreen CRT so I started watching CL for HD tuners (hd tuner and hd receiver). Needle in a haystack it was but I found one for $20; old but it worked fine for me as I have an attic antenna. Now more recently I stumbled across a Hughes DirecTV receiver for $20 when I went to buy a DVD recorder; he was showing me other stuff, it was almost new and in the box, I was skeptical it would work but the manual claimed it would so I nabbed it up.

Summary of what I've learned:

There's old HD boxes like the one I got (Motorola) but since they have early generation tuners they may not work so well in weak signal environments.

There's satellite boxes, and maybe cable boxes, that have ATSC tuners but you'll have to figure out which ones will work without a subscription. I know DirecTV made them require a subscription after a certain point in time so it has to be the earlier models. Now mine does have a 4th gen tuner which is good. There may even be some that have DVRs that'll record manually (i.e. cannot use the guide/Tivo-like record feature). Anyhow I see a lot of sat and cable boxes on the cheap but don't know what's what - there may be threads on AVS and elsewhere that list them out if you have the time to search (I stumbled across a HD DVR thread on the subject here once).

Now I would think that the CECBs have the latest gen tuners, not that all brands are great. I say that because if I'm correct about the previous pgh then CECBs came out after the sat and cable co's started requiring a subscription (my Hughes box is 2003). On the other hand those HD boxes are probably more sophisticated otherwise as they were much more expensive and feature-rich ($500+). Then there's the aspect ratio - I would think the HD boxes would have a setting for 4:3 but I can't guarantee it.

I think there's still a few CECBs being sold new, just search the 'net. I just saw Amazon still has Zinwell but it doesn't look anything like mine and appears to have been stripped of some nice features (probably outsourced and cost-reduced).

Of course there's a plethora of all kinds of stuff on eBay, mostly used I suspect. Some folks saved some of the CECBs and sell as new in box, which most probably are, but the warranty is long gone and they've never been burned in (I rotated all of my backup units through their warranty period to weed out any infant mortality failures). I just don't mess with eBay that much for this stuff because I think I can find better deals on CL due to locality (plus no S&H) and folks on CL aren't experts at pricing stuff.

Edit: Forgot to mention there's those boxes that include HD DVRs like the ChannelMaster CM7000PAL (formerly a Dish network product). They're new like $300 or so but I just spotted a tempting one they say is like new for $125. There's also DVD recorders with built-in ATSC tuners.
Edited by Floydage - 2/15/13 at 4:01pm
post #3 of 7
BTW most of the CECBs only had composite outputs max video quality, none had component outputs. Only a few had s-video like the ChannelMaster CM7000 (not to be confused with the PAL version), Apex (flaky brand except the 502 may be OK per a poster on AVS), and TRT TACBs (feature-loaded, could be the best boxes but hardly anyone knew about them here until the CECB program ended so very little review info, I think the 1 or 2 guys bought them direct from the mfger).
That PAL is a full HD box - HDMI, component, optical digital audio, etc. Remember the CECBs only output SD.
post #4 of 7
Radioshack, Walmart, and Target still sell the digital converter boxes, and Best Buy still has an Apex model. Radioshack has the Digital Stream, and Walmart and Target have 2 different RCA branded versions. I believe they still go for $59 new. They provide a good pic on SD CRTs. But the best 2 were probably the Zenith/Insignia, and the Channel Master. Now I would probably look at the Digital Stream or possibly the Apex. The RCA version at Target may still be a rebadged version of the Zenith with the similar LG tuner and interface, but I haven't looked at them in several years as I upgraded to HDTV.
post #5 of 7
Originally Posted by tylerSC View Post

The RCA version at Target may still be a rebadged version of the Zenith with the similar LG tuner and interface, but I haven't looked at them in several years as I upgraded to HDTV.

I'd never heard of that before and I've been reading this CECB forum for years although I can't say I've ventured onto the RCA thread much.

Here's a good general rating/review from ConsumerReports.org:


Not every one in there, mainly the mainstream boxes. That Zinwell is (was?) a pretty good box and even has (had?) a timer but like I wrote before I suspect the new ones aren't the same anymore, mine certainly don't match a recent Amazon sales page.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Somebody was giving away a couple of DirectTV receivers - I'm going to pick them up this weekend and give them a try - they are from 2006. Free is always good! cool.gif In fact, my Insignia CECB was given to me, but free CECBs are rarer than Satellite receivers (I guess no one, me included, realized they came with useful ATSC tuners that also down-covert to SD).

I've had a Sony 34XBR800 34" HD CRT (no built-in tuner - what were they thinking?) in my living room since 2003 that I intend to hook my HTPC up to. Recently, every few months I hear about someone trying to get rid of a 34" Sony tube. Nobody wants to haul a 250 pound monster, but even at 1080i, I think my CRT has superior PQ to any plasma or LED TV (the non-CRTs all have pixilation artifacts with motion like with football).
post #7 of 7
May be too new but worth a shot at that price! wink.gif And who knows, maybe some on these forums knows of hacks to make 'em work. Yeah there's a plethora of sat and cable boxes out there, some free but many on the cheap, just wish I knew what was what there's so darn many models. DVR one is what I'd really like now as I have plenty of tuners. Yeah I rarely see any free CECBs and even see CL ads for wanting 'em (but they want 'em free or $10 and claim they're financially strapped); I even saw some 'listed' for outrageous prices ($125+) on Amazon and eBay but somehow I doubt they get the sales. I think you're right that most folks don't know some of these subscription boxes work, compounded by the fact that late models don't work. Please reply on those 2006 models and their model numbers for future reference. GL!

I think the early model HD sets lacked the tuner because it was cost-prohibitive and DTV broadcasting was a rarity. That old Motorola tuner I have (their first model) retailed for around $500. Yeah I see the Sony 34" WS HDs going for $50-100 and occasionally free (free is usually early models though). At least your set has a DVI input, mine is only component. I also wish mine could do 720p as I suspect that would do better for motion than 1080i assuming it's the display that causes interlace problems and not the source (at least FOX here would be 720p broadcast to 720p display).
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