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How to make any TV into a Smart TV


How to Connect a TV Antenna

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TV antennas are small indoor or large outdoor types but they all are VHF/UHF for receiving your local over-the-air TV broadcasts. If you live in a large city chances are you only need a small indoor antenna. TV antennas pick up VHF and UHF signals.

Indoor TV antenna - Traditional

Indoor TV antenna - FLAT

Outdoor TV antenna

In the old days before 2009 the signals were designed for the analog NTSC television standard. The switch to digital TV in the USA in 2009 introduced a new standard called ATSC. Your VHF/UHF TV antenna will pick up either the old NTSC or the new ATSC signals. There is no such thing as a digital TV antenna or a HD TV antenna. The antenna just receives broadcast signals in the VHF (very high frequencies) and the UHF (ultra high frequencies) spectrum as allocated by the government. Yes, that means your old TV antenna will work with the newer digital TV standard.

Your TV is designed to accept a cable known as a coaxial cable, specifically RG-6 coax, for incoming TV signals from the antenna. Look on the rear of the TV to find a threaded silver port with a small pin hole for connection of the RG-6 coax cable.

Connect the RG-6 cable from the antenna to the TV silver port by inserting the copper wire of the cable into the pin hole and then screwing the threaded cable housing on until it is tight.

Flat screen digital TV with antenna connection

Some flat screen digital TVs have the antenna input on the side instead of the rear.

With the antenna connected to the TV, next you need to perform the channel scan process. This process scans the TV spectrum looking for any receivable signals which are strong enough to be saved in the TV memory. Any TV broadcast signals strong enough in your area and able to be received by your antenna will be stored. When finished you can select any of these channels for viewing.

How do you run a channel scan?

Power ON TV (Power ON DTV converter box)

Grab your TV remote, (or your converter box remote) and select “Menu” or the HOME button and then “Settings” or Channel Search.

Next, select “Channel Setup” and select “Antenna” or “Air,” depending on your TV model.

Make sure you are not on “Cable.” Next Select “Channel Search” or “Channel Scan” or "Auto Search" or "Auto Scan" depending on your TV brand or converter box. Next, WAIT for the scan to finish. Next, see what channels you have available. You can reposition your antenna and scan again to see if more channels are available.

Next, to view over-the-air TV channels, switch to the correct source input on the TV. This is usually designated as "TV" or "ANTENNA" on your source inputs. Press SOURCE or INPUT button on TV remote and select the correct input.

Older CRT TV sets

Older TV sets had NTSC analog tuners for tuning in channels 3 through 13 VHF and channels 14 through 82 UHF. Newer TVs have ATSC digital tuners. Older TV sets need a converter box which receives the digital ATSC signals and converts them to NTSC analog signals for the older TV NTSC tuners. Yes, the old CRT televisions still work just fine with the new digital TV standard, you just need a DTV converter box. You select the channels on the DTV converter box. The antenna connects to the DTV converter box. The converter box connects to the TV with a RG-6 coaxial cable or a set of 3 RCA cables. Select on the TV the correct source input, using the TV remote. Some DTV boxes even have an HDMI cable connection.

DTV converter box

DTV converter box rear connections

Basic converter box connection to TV using RG-6 coax

DTV converter box connection to VCR, TV for recording

Converter box, VCR, DVD connect to CRT TV

    A/B Switch

How to hookup a Plasma TV
Connect Plasma TV

VCR and Cable Hookup Diagrams

VCR setup diagrams

Can I get digital TV on my older TV set? Can I hookup digital cable on my old TV set?
The answer to these questions is YES. All you need is the proper gear to do so.

Should I buy a new digital TV?
That depends on your budget. If you can afford it, then yes, try to get a quality TV however. Low cost TVs can be low quality or refurbished models.

I like my old TV. Do I have to buy a digital TV?
No. You can still get local TV and digital cable TV, all on your old set. You will need some new gear however.

Hookup TV with A/B Switch

Older TV sets without A/V inputs

If your TV only has a 75 ohm (or 300 ohm) VHF/UHF input jack and no RCA audio/video input jacks (yellow, white, red), chances are it also does not have a digital TV or cable ready tuner.

You can use a DTV digital to analog converter box which has a digital TV tuner in order to watch broadcast TV but you will need to get a cable TV or satellite TV set-top-box to get cable or satellite TV because their signals are all now encrypted.
The TV has to be set to channel 3 or 4 if using only the RF input.

Using the A/B switch, available at electronics stores or online, you can switch back and forth from cable TV to local antenna. You need two additional lengths of coaxial cable RG-6 available at local retail stores or online.

Coax Cable RG-59 or RG-6

Cable TV channels are now digital so you need a DTA (digital terminal adapter) box or a cable TV receiver box.
Satellite TV also requires a receiver set-top-box to decode the channels but these receivers will typically have the old RCA 3 cable outputs.
You can connect these (yellow, white, red) to a RF Modulator and then use a RF cable (RG-6) to connect to the TV antenna input.

You could also connect to a VCR input (yellow, white, red) and then connect a RG-6 cable from VCR RF out to the TV RF input.
You could have both broadcast TV and cable TV (or satellite TV) connected using a A/B switch. Connect the RG-6 coaxial cables
from DTV converter box OUT and VCR RF OUT to the A/B switch RF inputs.
Next connect a coaxial (RG-6) cable from the A/B switch output to the TV 75 ohm input jack (antenna) on the TV set.

Coaxial Cable connects to RF jack

1) Cable TV signal input provides VCR tuner with cable channels
2) Cable TV signal Out to TV from VCR converted to VHF channel 3 or 4
3) Antenna signal input for local over-the-air TV channels
4) TV cable connection to 75 ohm input jack

The A/B switch is set to the "A" or "CBL" position to watch Cable TV and the "B" or "ANT" position to watch over-the-air local TV.

Cable Types and connections

Note: Typically your cable TV provider transmits lower frequency analog channels on some of the same frequencies as VHF channels such as channel 4, 5, 9 or 12. If your cable TV provider sends these channels on the exact same frequency as the VHF channel, you may be able to tune in a cable channel on your TV without powering on the VCR. Additionally you may be able to tune in other cable channels if they are sent out on a VHF or UHF channel. For example cable channel 9 may be sent out on VHF channel 9 or cable channel 12 may be sent out on VHF channel 13.

Certainly not all cable channels will be available in this fashion. The VCR to TV cable connection allows a "Pass-Thru" when the VCR is not powered on, so any TV frequencies available on cable TV could be tuned in on your TV just as if they were being broadcast over-the-air. The VCR itself acts like a small TV station in that signals are sent to the TV on VHF channel 3 or 4 when powered on.

Digital Cable and digital broadcast TV

Today, cable TV and broadcast TV are both going digital. For broadcast TV, a digital TV converter box or a new digital TV is needed to get local TV stations. Cable TV is increasingly converting to digital channels.

tv hookup digital
Hookup diagram - analog TV with digital cable and broadcast digital TV

Tune cable channels on the cable box. Tune broadcast TV channels on the DTV converter box. Select on the TV, channel 3 (or 4).

If your TV has RCA audio/video inputs you do not need the A/B switchbox. You can switch using the TV's remote and select the proper input on the TV set.

tv hookup rca

For cable TV, select the RCA inputs on the TV and for broadcast TV, select the coax/Air input.

To add a VCR or DVD Recorder, connect the RCA cables and the coaxial cable to the recorder inputs and connect the outputs to the TV. Select channel 3 (or 4) on the VCR to record the DTV converter box's output or select the LINE input (L1) on the VCR to record the cable box's output. Select on the TV using TV remote, RCA inputs or the coax/air input.

View OTA digital broadcast TV or cable TV. The RF Modulator will act as a switch depending upon which source is active.

tv hookup vcr air
DIAGRAM - Hook up both over the air antenna and cable through VCR to old TV

If your digital cable box only has the three RCA outputs and no coaxial output, then you can use a RF Modulator to convert the yellow, white and red cables to a single coax for your older analog TV.

Cable TV providers are moving all channels to digital so if you have no cable box at all, you will need a DTA (adapter box).
See for more information on this box.

For a hookup diagram see: HDTV basic setup

Hookup Diagrams

For TV with only VHF/UHF twin and no RF input or RCA inputs.

See also:

PC stereo hookup

VCR Recording

HDTV Hookup Diagrams

TV input select

Timer Record Radio Shows on a VCR

Camcorder hookup to TV, DVD

100 Hookup Diagrams

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