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Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

First let me start out by saying I'm a certifiable techno-dummy. That said, let me explain my problem. I have a Zenith combination DVD recorder/VCR unit that is about 3 years old. The DVD player started skipping, and discs were unwatchable. I thought maybe the laser needed cleaning, so I bought a disc cleaner. Most of the time when I inserted the cleaner disc I got an error message. The couple of times I got it to work didn't seem to correct the problem very much. I tried to take the cover off and clean the laser with a little acohol, but the screws that hold the cover on are practically welded on. I think maybe it's time for a new one.

My TV is analog with rabbit ears. As preparation for the switch to digital, I have a converter box for it, which I haven't installed yet. I have my eye on a Panasonic DVD/VCR combo with ATSC tuner. My understanding is that recorders without a tuner will be useless after the switch to digital. But do I really need to have a tuner if I have a converter box? What is a tuner, anyway? And what is an "up-converting" recorder? There is a big difference in price between tunerless recorders and up-converting recorders. I'd like to buy the least expensive type that will still work for me after the switch to digital. Any answers and advice is greatly appreciated.

New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

An ATSC tuner is a digital television decoding device. It's actually what's built into/same as your converter box. In the case of the converter box, what's it's doing is decoding the digital stations and transferring them to an analog format that your analog television can understand.

Now then....

Will you be able to use record onto an analog VCR after the 2009 changeover?

Yes you will, but not by using the VCR's built-in tuner. You will take the analog output (coax or yellow/white/red RCA cables) of your set top converter box and connect to the analog input of your VCR. The TV will then connect to the output of the VCR, and both the VCR and the TV must be set to the corresponding inputs.

Video cassette recorders are rapidly disappearing in favor of much more advanced digital recorders such as TIVO and proprietary satellite/CATV DVRS (Digital Video Recorders).

Are you actually still recording things onto VHS?

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

In a word, yes. Don't have TIVO or satellite. Just for recording TV shows which we (my daughter & I) tape over and over. I also have a collection of movies which I don't think can be transferred to disc because of copywrites. Oh, and my camcorder is VHS. I know, I know, I still live in the dark ages, but it's so much less complicated here. ;-)

New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

Believe it or not, although the new technology is more complex, it's actually less complicated. Is that an oxymoron? Never mind, it's a purely rhetorical question.

I own an A/V company, and I must admit that prior to your post, I've never realized that anyone was building a DVD/VCR with an ATSC tuner. However, a DVD/VCR with an onboard ATSC would completely eliminate the need for your set top box.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Thanks for your help, Steve. One last question: What is an "up-converting" recorder?

By the way, the DVD/VCR with ATSC tuner is Panasonic model DMR-EZ37VK. I believe it's been on the market since early last year.

New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

In electronics, the term "upconversion" refers to the process of taking an image of a lower resolution and "making up" additional information until it reaches a higher resolution. There's a little more too it then that, but that's the layman's definition.

VHS is approximately 220 lines of resolution
NTSC (standard cable and analog off-air) is around 300 lines
DVD is 480, which is also known as ED or Enhanced Definition
High Definition broadcasts are a minimum of 720 lines (1080 is the other common resolution)

Upconversion has been around for years. It's a method attempting to improve upon the picture of a lower resolution source. Upconverting DVD players typically take the 480 native resolution of the DVD and "upconvert" it to 1080 for example. Of course, the resulting image isn't true 1080. Maybe it looks a little better on a native 1080 display then the native 480 would, but even that's debatable.

Hope that helps!

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Steve, you're an electronics wiz! Thanks for taking all the time to answer my questions. You've been a tremendous help.

New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

You're very welcome.

Like I said, electronics is my business, but playing around in the prairies, meadows, streams, ponds, forests and lakes is my real fun in life!

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Well, it's been a few months, but I purchased the Panasonic DVD/VCR recorder with ATSC tuner. It was my understanding that I didn't need a converter box for my analog tv because the digital tuner on the recorder did the job. However, when broadcast stations did recent tests to let you know if your tv is ready for the digital switch-over, my tv didn't receive the signal and failed the test. What happened? Did I hook up the recorder incorrectly, or am I missing something? The unit works fine in analog mode.

New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

I'm not entirely sure. It sounds like you're locked onto the analog frequency with the NTSC tuner, but you're not receiving digital signal via the ATSC tuner. A couple of possibilities jump to mind:

1. Your antenna may not be adequate enough to pull in the digital signal. Does your analog channel come in clearly, or is there snow and drifting?
2. You may need to go back into the setup menu and tell it to scan for both the analog AND digital stations.

The digital stations should manifest themselves with a "-1, -2" etc. after the channel number. For example, here in South Bend, analog NBC is 16, but the digital stations are 16-1 and 16-2.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Hi Steve. I was hoping that you would see my most recent post and respond. You have become my "go to" guy.

1. I use rabbit ears. Most stations come in pretty clearly, but some do have poor reception.

2. When I put the tv on a digital station (e.g. 2.1, etc.) I get nothing but a blank (black) screen, even if the corresponding analog station comes in clearly.


New Carlisle, IN(Zone 5a)

Thanks for the compliment. It's nice to feel needed. :)

Try going into the tuner setup menu and have it scan for both analog and digital stations. If 2,5,7,9,11,32 etc. are coming in fairly decently in analog then there's no reason why you should be able to pick them up in digital too.

I wish that I could give you more concise directions on how to access the tuner setup, but it varies drastically from brand to brand, and I've not worked with any of the ATSC tuner DVD/VCRs. If you can't figure it out then post me the model number and I'll download and read the manual.

Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

I'll try scanning for both analog and digital stations. I would hate to have you spend a lot of time reading the manual. Reading manuals boggles my mind, but let me give it a try first before you go through the trouble of reading it. I'm sure you've got better things to do. :-)

Once again, thank you for your invaluable help.

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