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What is a converter box and do I need one?
What is a converter box and do I need one?

Information on whether or not a digital converter box is needed to pick up free over-the-air TV with an antenna.

Written by Free TV Project Staff
Updated over a week ago

A digital converter box is a set-top box for a TV that does not have a built-in digital tuner. Similar to a cable box, it connects to the TV and has a separate remote control. A lot of people may recall hearing about them during the digital transition of 2009 as most consumers had older tube-type TV sets back then.

All TV sets made in 2007 and later do not need a digital converter box to pick up free channels over the air. If you have a flatscreen TV that was purchased within the last 15 years, chances are it already has a built-in digital tuner. A digital converter box is usually only needed for older TV sets that are not flatscreens.

While a digital converter box may not be needed for most TV sets, it could help improve your TV signal. Many digital converter boxes have a signal meter on them which can help you fine-tune your antenna to find the best spot for reception. This can be found somewhere in the settings on the converter box under “signal strength” or by pressing the info button twice on some models such as this one.

Before ordering a digital converter box for the signal meter feature, check here if you own a Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Sony or Sharp TV set as it might already have a signal meter built in.

Getting started

Watching free, over-the-air TV with an antenna is simpler than you may think. In many cases, you can take an antenna out of the box, connect the cable to your TV, run a channel scan and voila! You have dozens of local channels to surf.

The number of channels you can access and how clearly they come in is based on a number of factors, including your distance from the point of broadcast towers, the type of antenna you have and where it’s located in your home.

Not sure what kind of antenna you need? Take our simple quiz to help narrow down the options. You can also find a general list of recommended antennas here.

Pair your antenna with an OTA DVR device to record your favorite shows

Did you know you can use an antenna similarly to how you watch cable? Ditch the costly subscription fees, but keep the cable capabilities (record, pause, rewind and fast forward) with an OTA DVR device. Here are the products we recommend:

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