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How to Use an Antenna If You Have an Old Tube TV

By Brian Shim | Updated 
01/10/2022

If you have an old tube TV like the one shown here, or a flat screen that does not have a built-in digital tuner (made before 2006, when digital tuners were mandated), you won’t be able to watch modern broadcast TV using just an antenna.

You’ll either have to buy a new TV, or buy a digital TV converter box (also called a tuner box) in order to get free TV using an antenna. Converter boxes run about $30 to $50.

Tube TV
Tube TV

Consider These Points Before You Buy a Converter Box

The cost of new flat screen TVs has come down so much that you might want to consider just buying a new TV if you can afford to spend a little more. Here are some reasons why:

  • You won’t need to buy a digital TV converter box (saving you $30-$50).
  • Your user experience will be much better since the tuner will be integrated with the TV.
  • If you get a “smart” TV, you can access subscription Internet content without having to buy a Roku/AppleTV/etc. (saving you $35-$50).
  • You’ll have incredible picture quality compared to your tube TV.
  • The TV will use less space, and you can hang it on a wall.
  • Flat-screen TVs use less energy than tube TVs of the same screen size, saving a bit of money over the long run.
  • Even if you buy a Sony 40″ widescreen HDTV, the savings from canceling cable will pay for it in less than a year.

Whatever you decide, you should make sure there are broadcast TV signals in your area before making any purchases. Enter your zip code into the Station Finder.

My Recommended TV Converter Boxes

Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB
Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB

OK, if you still want to buy a digital TV converter box for your tube TV, I recommend this one:

These feature analog and HDMI outputs, and DVR recording capability to a USB storage device (but if you do a lot of recording, I would recommend more refined DVR solutions).

Check out my full review of the Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Antennas

Once you have the converter box, you’ll need a broadcast TV antenna. Before buying anything, enter your zip code into the Station Finder and make sure there are signals in your area.

If there are, here are some low-cost indoor antennas that I recommend.

Can You Use a Roku With a Tube TV?

Yes, but you'll have to use the 2018 Roku Express+. It's the one with the three RCA cables on the box:

On Amazon, you'll have to look under "other sellers" since this is an older model.

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
If you did, please share it and sign up for my email updates. I'll send you my new articles, no more than once a month.

Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

When you comment, you'll automatically receive replies by email. Your email address will not be displayed.

I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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38 Comments
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Bob Gustafson
Bob Gustafson
9 days ago

Can I use this info on my old tv...TV... your website free

Chris Tomlinson
Chris Tomlinson
1 year ago

Hello Brian! I have one of these old small portable televisions and I'd love to actually pick up network television. The picture & audio still work but I wasn't sure if a converter will work on one of these old things. I'm not looking for anything fancy. I just want to pick up network TV. Any suggestions?
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Brian
1 year ago

Hi Chris,

You would have to make sure that TV is composite video input. That looks like a round yellow RCA input for video along with a red and yellow RCA input for audio.

If your TV has those inputs, then you could get a converter such as the Homeworks one I've tested. See the photo of the rear panel to see an example of the RCA connectors.

But, if you want something portable or small, you might want to check out a new portable TV with built-in tuner.

Best,
Brian

Chris Tomlinson
Chris Tomlinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian. Thanks for the response. Unfortunately, I don't think the TV will take the red & yellow input wires. On the back of the TV there is the following (picture below): "Ext. Ant" and a "DC 12V" (for the plug-in power source). Am I out of luck here getting this old thing to pick up a signal ever again?
comment image

T Daidone
T Daidone
1 year ago

Hi Brian, I have an old Sharp flat screen component-in/MTS TV from 2000-2003. A friend gave me a Roku 2 to hook up for Netflix. I put the red/white/yellow cables into the back of the TV and the Roku unit lit up. I then pointed the Blockbuster Roku remote towards the unit but there is no Roku menu appearing on the TV screen. On the FIOS tv remote for TV input I put on component and red horizontal lines are jumping up and down but still no menu. Help please!

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  T Daidone

Hi T Daidone,

Hmmm, I would recommend trying it on a friend's TV (when this whole quarantine is over) to see whether the roku unit is bad, or your TV's composite input is bad. In the mean time, you can try different cables. Only the yellow input is used for video, so you could use the white or red cable to connect the yellow connectors, just as a test.

Best,
Brian

TAMMY PHILLIPSON
TAMMY PHILLIPSON
1 year ago

Hello,

I have a 1978 RCA Solid State 12" B&W tv. (Nostalgic, was my father's)

Has. Single antenna and the screws to add on rabbit ears.

No other input or output options.

I assume they're is no way to hookup a converter box to a tv this old.

Should I also assume there isn't any analog options transmitted even from hobbyists?

Brian
1 year ago

Hi Tammy,

Haha, I love this! While I probably wouldn't watch a lot of TV on a set like that, it would be fun to get it working with today's digital TV signals!

I think it might be possible to use a converter box with coax antenna output such as this one:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/mediasonic-homeworx-digital-converter-box/

...along with a coax transformer such as this one:
https://amzn.to/2VbMoFE

...to watch live digital TV on that box. Unfortunately, I don't have an analog TV anymore to test this out... I think it will work, but I'm not 100% positive. If you get the stuff from Amazon, you can always return it

Good luck! Let me know if you get it working!!

Best,
Brian

Tonya Rabish
Tonya Rabish
2 years ago

Avdshare Video Converter is just the professional Panasonic TV converter supporting to convert any unsupported audio format, like AC3, AIFF, OGG, MP2, RA, etc to any specific Panasonic TV supported audio formats.

Lemon
Lemon
2 years ago

Testing

Douglas Fung
Douglas Fung
2 years ago

I have a 2006 HD Plasma flatscreen TV. It used to work fine and picked up most available channels, including all the major HD TV networks, with an indoor antenna which I installed in the attic. Due to various reason I now need to use simple indoor antenna. The strange thing is that only one channel is super sharp in HD (KNBC) channel 4-1, and a few UVF such as 55.1-55.6, in Greater Los Angeles area. I scan with setting to Antenna. Turn each channel one by one to "on". However, the channel signal strength indicates only 6% on almost all channels. Nothing else can be displayed except channel 4 (NBC). Why is this happening? My zip code 91754. I recently cancelled my paid cable (subscribed for half year only) and disconnected their box. Just wonder would that be a cause of the problem that channel receptions are messed up.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Fung

Hi Douglas,

A big antenna in your attic will do a much better job of pulling in channels than a small indoor antenna will. Having said that, here are a few tips to improve your reception with a small indoor antenna:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/antenna-tips/

Best,
Brian

Lisa May
Lisa May
2 years ago

Hi everyone, I live maybe 25 miles from Cincinnati and I keep getting Dayton channels. I really want to cancel cable but I also want my Cincinnati stations, not Dayton. This is a real problem.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Lisa May

Hi Lisa,

Click the Station Finder button on this page, and enter your zip code:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Click the call signs of the stations you want, and see what direction they are coming from (probably in the direction of Cincinnati). Then, experiment with pointing your antenna in that direction.

Best,
Brian

Roy Masrani
Roy Masrani
2 years ago

Hi community. We are doing some experiments with an old t.v. we are having trouble turning off powersave. Any ideas? One is a Citizen. We want it to display static for a couple of hours.

Thanks.

mnsojourner
mnsojourner
2 years ago

I installed an antennae on my roof, to test it I ran a coaxial cable down and in my front door to an amplifier then my tv, I picked up 51 channels. Then I strapped the cable to the roof, down alongside the electric service conduit to my basement, across the ceiling of the basement. I had to add 12' of cable with a coupler, then through the floor to my signal amplifier then TV. Now I only get 6 channels? Why did I get 51 before and now only 6, I would really appreciate any ideas? Thanks much, [email protected].

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  mnsojourner

Hi Jim,

You should put the amplifier as close as possible to the antenna, so that it's driving the long runs of cable. That alone might get you the missing channels.

Adding a coupler will also decrease signal a bit. It's ideal to use one long cable if possible. But, putting the amp at the beginning near the antenna might compensate.

It's also possible that the electric conduit is generating some electromagnetic noise. Try moving the cable away from that if still not getting more channels.

Best,
Brian

Jeff Zyniel
Jeff Zyniel
2 years ago

Have a Viore TV. Hooked up rabbit ears and programed tv. Tv cane on with about 25 channels, turn off tv and when I turn it back on I have to reprogram all over again.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Zyniel

Hi Jeff,

It sounds like something is wrong with the TV. If it is still in warranty you should contact the vendor or manufacturer.

Best,
Brian

Phil Ferdman
Phil Ferdman
2 years ago

If I disable cable and make antenna as you suggest for local stations, keep my Netflix and Amazon, I can cancel my cable and just keep the internet and home phone? I would have to do this conversion on both TV’s?

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Phil Ferdman

Hi Phil,

Yes, you can cancel cable TV while keeping your Internet and phone. You'll need to call your cable company to make it clear that's what you want to do (assuming you get all of these services from your cable company).

Here's an article on how to use an antenna with multiple TVs:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/need-separate-antenna-tv/

Best,
Brian

Ermias
Ermias
2 years ago

Hello Brian. I have Vizio P42 , type SP42A plasma TV (MFG Oct -2004). I am not sure if it digital ready even if it says HDTV on the online manual. I connected it to both indoor and outdoor antennas separately to pick signals, but it won't work. It seems it is picking signals while scanning, but when it is done nothing works.
This tv works with other peripherals like pcs, bluray/ dvd player with embedded apps and the like. My other LCD LG TV works great with DTV (19119) Any Thoughts ?

Best,
Ermias

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Ermias

Hi Ermias,

I looked at an old review of the Vizio P42, and it also says it has a digital TV tuner.

Are you sure it's in the right mode while scanning? i.e., Antenna vs. Cable mode?

Other than that, all I can think of is that the tuner is bad, since your other TV is picking up signals.

Best,
Brian

Ermias
Ermias
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian,
Thank you for getting back to me. Yes, I also did see one by CNET too. Yes, I selected antenna. Even just to see what will happen I selected cable and other two options. I am really not sure what is happening, but as you said maybe it is a bad tuner. I am trying to find if there is a way to hard reset the TV. I will get back to you with the result.

Best,
Ermias

Dexman Namxed
Dexman Namxed
3 years ago

Hello, what do you think the "blue box" value of a 2003 Panasonic HDTV (not a flat screen) would be in an insurance claim? It went out (and the power will not come on) due to a power surge, and my renters deductible is $191.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Dexman Namxed

Hi Dexman,

That is a pretty old TV, pre-digital judging by the year. I don't know the size of it, but I'd guess it has very low value if any.

Best,
Brian

Amy Schmucker Granados
Amy Schmucker Granados
3 years ago

We have a TCL Roku tv. It has been hooked up to a digital antenna for months. It had been on & then we left for an hour. When we came back the screen display showed the wrong time & show decsriptions for all channels. We tried to rescan the channels. Now our TV states no antenna channels found. Any suggestions?

Brian
3 years ago

Hi Amy,

I would suggest trying to reset it. If you Google the TV's model number you can usually find the manual online.

Best,
Brian

Mark
Mark
3 years ago

I have digtal reception and get several channels
One of channels comes in very clear but i only get a high pitch continuos beep
Also about 10:30 PM we begin losing most of our channels

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Hi Mark,

Not sure about the continuous beep; that sounds like like it's being broadcast that way.

See this article: https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/broadcast-tv-channels-disappear/

Best,
Brian

Mark
Mark
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

My sister a mile away has no problem with this channel

Mark Fitzpatrick

Kim Davis
Kim Davis
3 years ago

I ordered an antenna, where do I install it??

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Kim Davis

Hi Kim,

If you have a newer (thin) TV, you can plug it directly into the TV.

If you have an older tube TV, you'll have to get a converter box like one on this page, and plug it into there, then plug the converter into your TV.

Best,
Brian

My Favorite Indoor Antennas

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

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