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Discussion Starter #1
I've collected a few DVD recorders, for VHS conversion. I don't do cable so I was thinking of acquiring a used ATSC standalone box for occasional OTA. I was looking at the DTV PAL or Zenith on eBay when an LG LST-4200 became available, its sitting in my lap.

.. is the LST-4200 worth looking at or should I keep looking at the PAL or Zenith boxes?
 

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SD DVD recorders are great for VHS conversions and alright for OTA. But if you’re getting a none-disc recorder or stand alone OTA tuner why not get a HD version? Or do you plan to archive the recordings on DVD? Why not archive the recordings on BD in HD quality?
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
SD DVD recorders are great for VHS conversions and alright for OTA. But if you’re getting a none-disc recorder or stand alone OTA tuner why not get a HD version? Or do you plan to archive the recordings on DVD? Why not archive the recordings on BD in HD quality?
I'm using the DVD recorders to make MPEG2 recordings and uploading those over the home network from the DVD recorder to a PC. I haven't decided on DVD or BD, but I'm leaning towards BD at this point, and keeping backups on PC-HDD. I do have ATI 7600 and 9600 xp setups thanks to LordSmurfs early advice, and I've been toying with the Pinnacle 700-USB capture boxes which work pretty good using graphedit on win7 - those I use for lossless capture when needed. Thanks to Citibear I ventured into MPEG4 with Avermedia ER310 recorders for tape logging.. although I'm not sure of MPEG2 vs MPEG4 for VHS archiving. MPEG2 seems "designed" for best SD archiving, MPEG4 seems to sacrifice everything for mobile or network accessibility.. so I'm still thinking that over.

MPEG2 is old 1995 maybe and MPEG4 is newer.. perhaps its 'better' overall than MPEG2.. i have no way of measuring the differences objectively other than their original intended purposes.. so a side by side personal taste comparison may end up being the only way to decide.. most seem to come down on the side of which is easier to re-edit without re-encoding.. or which has the closest frame accurate cuts.. synthetic "splicing" where only the frayed endpoints of a cut are re-encoded seems like its a popular software feature these days.. so perhaps thats no longer an objective decision point

still pretty dumb when it comes to signal processing though.. gShelly and LS clued me into the better VHS recorders and DR1000, PA100, and VF.. took some time but collected those.. i've learned what Citibear and yourself have said about gear being scarce is very true.. but holding back and watching.. stuff still occasionally becomes available on eBay or Craigslist.. or yard sales

i never really wanted an ATSC Tuner before.. but one dropped in my lap.. while I was looking at the old DTV Pal and Zenith tuners.. and it just seemed like the right thing to get when i ran across a few pioneer 560 and 660s. - which brought up my question for this Thread.. was the LST-4200 "good enough" or just too old and couldn't light a candle to the quality that might be available with a later tuner like the PAL or Zeniths.

HD just never grabbed my attention.. picture is okay.. but the story content.. not so much. By the time HD really took off I was a cord cutter and watched TV and Movies only on my Computer or Mobile device.. so instead of HD.. I went MPEG4 (I guess?) the size of the window and absolute resolution wasn't as important as the story content

still pretty dumb regarding allocating bit-rate to frame resolution to fixed recording "speeds", LS made some comments about VHS really being only 352 x 480 and having control over the bit rate and frame resolution you could re-distribute that to avoid macro-blocking on some DVD recorders, but not others.. for example, DVD recorders with four speeds but no FR or MN might have "fixed" resolutions like D1 or 1/2-D1 and so on that ratchet.. without letting you assign bit-rates -- all this makes my head hurt -- but i kind of (?) see his point.. but I don't know how to distill it all down into simpler rules of thumb i can apply yet.. seems real important for MPEG2 recordings though, maybe MPEG4 too
 

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Since the best input on a DVDR is s-video, I suggest a box with s-video output; only a handful of the ol' CECB's had one. I use a Channel Master CM-7000. Unfortunately this box doesn't have a timer function, so I also use a Zinwell* (composite max.) for timer recordings. Again only a handful of the ol' CECB's had the timer function, I think the DTV PAL (composite max.) was one of them.

Of course now one can find used HD tuners on the cheap. They should include an s-video output and 'maybe' timer functionality.

*The new Zinwells I see for sale now don't appear to have the timer function. Unfortunately they may look the same and use the same model number as one of the older ones (ZAT-970). I don't know when the change was made.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Since the best input on a DVDR is s-video, I suggest a box with s-video output; only a handful of the ol' CECB's had one. I use a Channel Master CM-7000. Unfortunately this box doesn't have a timer function, so I also use a Zinwell* (composite max.) for timer recordings. Again only a handful of the ol' CECB's had the timer function, I think the DTV PAL (composite max.) was one of them.

Of course now one can find used HD tuners on the cheap. They should include an s-video output and 'maybe' timer functionality.

*The new Zinwells I see for sale now don't appear to have the timer function. Unfortunately they may look the same and use the same model number as one of the older ones (ZAT-970). I don't know when the change was made.
That's an interesting idea.. using the Tuner as the Timer.

I was overlooking that since I saw a YouTube video about controlling your IR Tuner and IR Recorders with the Alexa Voice feature in the Amazon FireTV Cube?

i am very ignorant of this right now.. but Amazon or Google seems to have an EPG that backends the FireTV so voice control can search and schedule a recording, even with your existing Tuner and Recorder.. the demo integrated lots of online service too.. so OTA may have been overlooked.. or I may have imagined that feature
 

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That's an interesting idea.. using the Tuner as the Timer.

I was overlooking that since I saw a YouTube video about controlling your IR Tuner and IR Recorders with the Alexa Voice feature in the Amazon FireTV Cube?

i am very ignorant of this right now.. but Amazon or Google seems to have an EPG that backends the FireTV so voice control can search and schedule a recording, even with your existing Tuner and Recorder.. the demo integrated lots of online service too.. so OTA may have been overlooked.. or I may have imagined that feature
Well I still set both, but check your DVDR manuals and you might find some functionality where one controls the other. I think some DVDR's have a 'sense input' recording setting such that when the tuner comes on it starts recording.

Being that I'm still using this kind of tech I don't know about the Cube and the like. But it doesn't surprise me - like using a robotic universal remote to control both devices. Must be nice :D. I have a fancy but broken SVHS recorder that has an IR transmitter on the top front to control a source device. Also something else that has a connector on the back to to plug in a remote cable IR transmitter.
 

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This forum really needs to add a "massive eyeroll" emoticon that we can use when replying to your gear threads, j. ;)

Seriously, dude, WTH are you finding the utterly arcane, vanishingly rare stuff you post about? An LG LST-4200A just randomly "became available" to you in Anywhere, USA? Really? Your luck is beyond the pale, unless you live part-time in Japan's Akihabara electronics mecca.

The LG LST-4200A was one of the few premiere HD+SD ATSC tuners ever made. It is a whole other universe from the Zeniths, Zinwells, Channel Masters and DTVpals: those work OK, but were built to meet an arbitrary low guvmint price point. Most provide a soft-ish signal that doesn't record all that great on SD mpeg2 dvd recorders (looked pretty good in 2008 on 19" and 25" Sony Trinitrons, but looks shot thru vaseline on modern larger LCD displays).

The sharpest of the bunch (but not by as much as legend says) was the Channel Master via its s-video output. Not everyone loved it, tho: its "sharper" than other similar units mostly because it was the only CECB tuner box with s-video connection. S-Video is one of those over-hyped standards thats WAY more variable in actual use on specific budget-priced gadgets than its rep implies. In many instances, the perception of more "sharpness" dissipates with regular use, when you notice what you're really getting is sharper noise (not more image detail). In their heyday, the CM s-video advantage was hotly debated (a lot of people preferred the slightly softer but overall nicer Zenith composite output). The CM composite output was only average, so expecting a miraculous leap from its 10 cent s-video socket is a bit optimistic: there was a lot of unit-to-unit variation.

If you didn't already have the LG LST-4200A, I'd say get both the CM and Zenith and see which you prefer. Those were the best CECB boxes made, by a significant margin. Unfortunately they don't have timer or auto-channel change functionality: the only CECB that offered that feature (and had any degree of reliability with it) was the Zinwell, which was a tad less good video-wise. If starting from scratch today I'd probably avoid ANY of the old CECB boxes: they weren't built to last, and they're ten years old now. Common problems are power caps blowing and/or lipsync audio drifts. It might be more prudent to buy a modern MediaSonic HomeWorx type of tuner-box-cum-PVR for $45, which adds ability to record true HD on a USB hard drive, HDMI out in addition to composite, and an EPG-based timer system similar to the old Zinwell.

If your LG LST-4200A still works, tap its s-video connection to your Pioneer DVD/HDD recorders and enjoy: you probably won't find a better external ATSC tuner anywhere. The LG chipset was (and is) widely considered one of the top two ATSC modules ever (the Zenith DTT901 and its Insignia knockoff were revered here on AVS mostly because they used an LG chipset). Perhaps buy a HomeWorx as backup in case the (rather ancient) LG box ever fails.
 

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Lol. I've been starting to see a few Craigslist ads here for old HD tuners as folks are finally giving up their monster HD CRT TVs.

The Apex was another CECB with s-video, seems like there was another (Digital Stream?). This list shows a handful of others but I think they were late bloomers and probably were never officially CECBs (Carefree? never heard of it):

http://web.archive.org/web/20110226025604/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_CECB_units

From what I remember the Apex 250s, which there were a lot of, were problematic. The 502s were supposed to be decent boxes (preceded the 250s, sneaky with the model number progression...).

Though not a HUGE difference, I get improved recording quality via my Channel Master's s-video than my Zinwell's composite (same DVDR). And these guys feel even stronger about the difference in picture quality (note it's not just sharpness):

https://www.diffen.com/difference/Composite_Video_vs_S-video

Actually the Zinwell was rated a tier above in picture quality than the Zenith&Insignia (both the same inside) by Consumer Reports. The link is dead but I think it went Great then Good on PQ (there were three tiers). Both have darn good tuners though. Oh, the CM was 'described' as superior PQ despite being placed in the Great category since s-video was too rare to start another tier.

An issue I had with our CECB forum was that it lopsided towards boxes bought at brick&mortar stores, those of course being the most prolific. There were several great boxes that were available online only. Zeniths seemingly everywhere, Insignias = Best Buy, and poor Apex was Best Buy and a big '-mart' seller. Of course RCAs stole the show on quantity.

That aside, yeah he should baby that LG, and consider one of those newer boxes if one can trust the 'modern' quality of those inexpensive models. Now my ol' CECBs are still going strong but they were 'middle era' units (I heard some CECBs started going to crap in the latter stages of production).
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
This forum really needs to add a "massive eyeroll" emoticon that we can use when replying to your gear threads, j. ;)

Seriously, dude, WTH are you finding the utterly arcane, vanishingly rare stuff you post about? An LG LST-4200A just randomly "became available" to you in Anywhere, USA? Really? Your luck is beyond the pale, unless you live part-time in Japan's Akihabara electronics mecca.
:grin:

Citibear.. your a really good teacher. The rare stuff hasn't always been discussed in detail in the forums.. but its still out there. I got a second LG LST-3510 tuner from eBay for backup. I didn't care about the builtin DVD player but it was only a few dollars and not far from where I live.

I'm relieved to hear they are as good if not better than the government sponsored boxes. I was truly afraid being slightly older than the mandated death of ntsc / adoption of atsc, their capabilities might not be as good as later boxes.

They turn on fast, scan for channels fast.. and tune exactly to a specific channel without "re-scanning".. I was surprised since I thought all digital tuners had to "hunt" every time they changed channels.

They are both larger than a government model, but made of steel or metal and feel sturdy. The remotes are somewhat substantial and hefty... solid. They have dvi and component connectors as well as yellow composite and s-video connectors (and a nine pin rgb connector). Picture is sharp, really sharp.. and totally satisfactory to me.

I would guess they're not wanted any more because these have no recording features, every tuner hdd or sling box today usually has recording builtin. The LST build quality is nice though.



An issue I had with our CECB forum was that it lopsided towards boxes bought at brick&mortar stores, those of course being the most prolific. There were several great boxes that were available online only. Zeniths seemingly everywhere, Insignias = Best Buy, and poor Apex was Best Buy and a big '-mart' seller. Of course RCAs stole the show on quantity.

That aside, yeah he should baby that LG, and consider one of those newer boxes if one can trust the 'modern' quality of those inexpensive models. Now my ol' CECBs are still going strong but they were 'middle era' units (I heard some CECBs started going to crap in the latter stages of production).
I understand.. those CECB postings where my reference point.. I didn't know anything about tuners from years before.

A lot has changed.
 

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The era of CECB boxes was a roller-coaster ride for the several years they were relevant. Many boxes became "stars" for a couple months, only to become reviled just weeks before their (worthless) warranties expired as reports poured in of various issues that manifested over time. Bear in mind what an extremely odd manufacturing arrangement that was: I can't recall any other situation where the US government spec'd out, then paid massive subsidies for the distribution of a completely foreign-made consumer electronics device. Lets just say those "offshore" mfrs had a field day dumping pallets of flimsy barely-functional boxes on our poor public. The entire USA ATSC transition was a fiasco from start to finish (the greatest irony being the biggest lobbyists pushing it were RCA and Zenith, neither of whom made a dime's profit for their pains).

Anyway: there were only a couple boxes that survived the entire era almost completely unchanged: the Channel Master CM5000 and Zenith DTT901. Both had teething pains resulting in a few internal revisions early on: CM didn't note this with an official model change, the Zenith went from DTT900 to DTT901. Among the readily-available units, these two were the most well-regarded in terms of tuning ability, PQ, and overall reliability. Everything else ranged from also-rans to utter crap, and those traded rankings almost monthly making it impossible to keep track. There may indeed have been a few that bested the dynamic duo of CM and Zenith, but since the info/availability was so limited most of us found it easier to just stock up on the two "known good" units and call it a day.

The Zinwells were tricky to shop. They weren't all the same quality, and the "good" ones had variations along the line making some (hard to decipher) production runs preferable to others. Around mid-period of the CECB era, one particular Zinwell (model # escapes me) stood out, settling in nicely as a popular third choice behind the CM or Zenith. It was a hit primarily with those who desperately wanted to restore multi-event multi-channel timer capability to their VCRs and DVD recorders (several other brands, most notoriously the DTVpal, had offered this feature previously, but only this one Zinwell model managed to make it actually work at least somewhat dependably). I wanted that Zinwell very much but could never find one at base price: they were scarce in NYC and sold for inflated prices on eBay and web dealers. By the time they came down to earth I didn't care anymore: I had grown used to my unwieldy setup of three Zeniths connected to three Pioneer DVD/HDD recorders.

Many people here have tested the modern iView aka HomeWorx update on the CECB concept, and found it roughly equivalent to the "good" Zinwell when used as external tuner for a DVD recorder. Of course, they aren't entirely comparable: adjusted for inflation, the newer unit is both cheaper and far more capable (pvr functionality, true HD PQ ability, HDMI out, component out, digital audio out, etc). The most common complaint I hear is the same one leveled at the Zinwell: the multi-event timer fails when you least want it to. That problem isn't a fault of the unit: its more due to the atrocious unreliability of the ATSC EPG system as implemented by most TV stations. Apparently fitting these boxes with a manual-override clock/timer feature would drive prices too far beyond the static sweet spot of $45 most Amazon shoppers are willing to pay, so we're stuck with the flaky EPG dependency. Too bad.
 

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Yeah the CECB era was strange. There were other good boxes in the haystack but often too much time and patience (waiting for reviews) trying to figure it out. Artec turned out to be another good obscure box, I bought a pair to use in my van because they were the rare, if not the only one, that ran off of 12 Volts. Surprisingly no hassle warranty service too (I fried a part making power supply measurements for the forum, of course I didn't tell Artec ;)). Oh speaking of foreign made, even my CM7000s were made in Yugoslavia.

A lot of those changes where it went from like 900 to 901 (or adding an A) were for the minor change to implement analog pass-thru. Trying to remember if it was a late gov't requirement mod or just a 'suggestion' (CM never added it (crap, insert another switch or splitter!) so I'm thinking a suggestion). I say minor but I think it was integrated in the tuner module for many boxes, requiring that module change.

Now that you mention it, I remember there was a short period of time where the Zinwells (ZAT-970A) had production problems; I fortunately missed those flakes. Other than that, the Zinwell is #2 of those three in my book. Timer, Favorites, and a little better PQ than the Zenith. But a silly remote and wall-wart power supply 'system' is incapable of filtering out say a fan 'switching' on in the same circuit (transient, some units would recover while others I have to retune). Zeniths have that wonderful built-in power supply. I haven't experienced any timer issues, I suspect due to my luck of the [TV station] draw. There was a weird discovery to get a manual clock - turn the GMT setting off. Also have to utilize the sleep timer as that's the only way to turn the box off if you care to do so after timer recording (and I've forgotten to change it and cut timer recordings short, ugh). BTW the best Zinwells IMO were the older 950 versions but those didn't seem to last long (or I was too late and only got one before the 970s came out); the one I have is also the only box that I can tune and antenna pass-thru simultaneously.
 
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