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.
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
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.
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.
The Tablo Option
Note, if you do use a Roku, you have the option of viewing broadcast TV channels using a Tablo DVR. It’s more expensive than a converter box, but the user experience is better in many ways than a converter box, especially with respect to recording shows.
Just remember that you need to have the Roku Express+ 2018 to use a Tablo with your old tube TV.
The other advantage of a Tablo is that you can still use it when you get a new TV. Most new TVs have tuners, so you probably won’t need your tuner box if you get a new TV.
If you are interested in more alternatives if you have a tube TV, check out this article:
How do I get the converter box menu screen to keep the antenna selection on
These new TV’s and converter boxes are frustrating and complicated I just want a simple one so I could relax
Which brand and model converter box do you have?
I have a Vizio tv that is probably 2 years old (2019) and there is no auxiliary input, am I not able to watch regular tv through an antenna on it?
Unfortunately, some Vizio TV’s were sold as “displays” so they have no broadcast TV tuner. This fact is rarely clear when you purchase. More here:
You could get a Tablo DVR and use that as your broadcast TV tuner. Then you could watch broadcast TV using the Tablo Roku app:
You can. If you are using your old roof antenna, you’ll just need a cable TV connector adaptor. If you buy a digital antenna ($20.00 to $150.00) a cable-type connector is already provided.
Can I use this info on my old tv…TV… your website free
In order to use an antenna on your TV, you would need to purchase a converter box, as stated in my article.
But instead of buying a converter box, I would look for a cheap used flatscreen TV with modern tuner.
Before buying anything, check the Station Finder to see how many channels are in your area though:
I ordered an antenna, where do I install it??
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.
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
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/
My sister a mile away has no problem with this channel
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?
I would suggest trying to reset it. If you Google the TV’s model number you can usually find the manual online.
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.
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.