Go Digital!

14th November 2008 by Tim Jarman

There are many options if you would like to use your existing equipment with the digital TV and radio sources and in most circumstances you can get very good results at minimum cost.

Digital TV

Digital TV is available from a number of sources, terrestrial broadcast, satellite broadcast and cable being the main three. Although the transmission methods are different when it comes to making the connection to your equipment they are all pretty similar.

There are three ways to get a signal into a conventional TV set:

  1. Via the aerial socket, this is called “RF”.
  2. Via an AV connector (e.g. DIN AV or SCART) using a CVBS (Chroma, Video, Blanking and Syncs) signal.
  3. Via an AV connector using an RGB (Red, Green, Blue) signal.

These are listed in order of picture quality, with RGB being the best, though all are acceptable for normal home entertainment purposes. “S-Video” is also a standard used to interconnect AV equipment but few digital TV receivers offer this signal, though some Beovision TV sets can accept it. In terms of TV broadcast, it gives similar results to CVBS.

The method you can use depends on the type of Beovision you have. All the Beovision models listed on Beocentral can be used with digital TV in the UK if they are in good working order. If you have a lot of extra equipment already they you may need a multi-way adaptor to allow you to use it all without having to swap cables about. The best of these is B&O’s own “AV Expander” but third party units are also available. Try to avoid using them if possible though, it makes your system more difficult to use.

Beovision TV Sets

Beovision hybrid models, monochrome models and solid state sets made before 1980: You will need a digital receiver with an RF output which can be connected to the aerial socket of the Beovision. Tune in an unused programme knob/key into the digital receiver and you are ready to go. You can then operate the set using the digital remote control; some even allow you to adjust the volume. If you cannot find a receiver with an RF output then you can route the SCART output through a video recorder, the vast majority of which have RF connections. Owners of very early sets (3000, 2600, 2800, 3200, 3100, 3400 etc) will notice that the interference at the top of the picture that the teletext service causes will not be present when viewing digital programmes. If you are running one of the hybrid models as an “everyday” set then all credit goes out to you but it may be time to give the poor old thing a rest, there are not many of them left now and the skills and parts needed to keep them going are becoming hard to find. Perhaps consider a used 33XX or 77XX series model as a “modern” alternative and treat your old set like the rare historical artefact that it has become.

33XX series: Most of these only have an RF input (aerial socket) so you have to use them in the same way as you would the earlier types (see above). Some however have a DIN AV socket which you can use. Get your dealer to make you a cable with a SCART plug on one end and a 6 pin DIN AV plug on the other. Make sure the “switching” line is connected, and then the Beovision will automatically select the digital signal when the receiver is turned on. Although there are none listed on Beocentral, there are some European 33XX sets with stereo sound. If you have one of these then a DIN AV connector will certainly be fitted, use it as the digital sound will be mono via RF.

77XX series: Similar comments apply as for the 33XX range, some have an RF connection only, some have a DIN AV connector, some have two DIN AV connectors and some have one DIN AV and a SCART socket. If your set has two DIN AV connectors, use the one labelled “IN”, you can use the one labelled “IN/OUT” but it is a waste, this should be reserved for a recorder or second monitor. The same thing applies to the SCART, reserve this for something more useful if you can but a simple SCART to SCART connection will work if you have no other equipment. Set the digital receiver to “CVBS”, not “RGB” for these models. The 77XX models were sold as “future proof” back in the mid 1980s and wow, did they mean it! They are also very well made and durable (more so than anything that has come since) and there are still many in use.

L/LX 25/28 00/02, MX 1500, MX 2000, MX 3000, M 20: With the exception of the MX 1500 all these sets have stereo sound so use the DIN AV socket (LX models) or SCART (MX models). Similar comments apply as regards reserving the SCART socket for useful applications such as recording apply to the early LX as they do to the 77XX models. LX TVs of this vintage can support RGB signals but they do not do it very well, the on-screen menus disappear and the normal teletext won’t work if you try, so it is best to stick to CVBS in the receiver setup. The RGB inputs were intended for 80’s home computers with 8-colour graphics and are not really suitable for TV pictures. Similar comments apply to the MX models listed, though RGB is worth a try with the MX 1500 if your set does not have a teletext module fitted.

LS/MS models: These sets only have one SCART socket and one S-VHS connector. In most cases an external switching unit is the best way to go with these if you have other equipment as well. B&O’s own “AV Expander” is the one to have it you can get one. These sets are enabled for RGB pictures so you can set up your receiver to give this output.

Later LX and MX models: These are very versatile and have fully programmable SCART inputs that can recognise CVBS and RGB signals automatically. AV2 is the socket to use, you can either set it up as “V-AUX” which will be either selected automatically when the digital receiver is turned on or by pressing <SHIFT> <TV> on the remote control, or as a connector for a decoder. In the latter mode, “Dec on/off” will then appear in the tuning menu. Choose an unused channel and turn the decoder to “on”, the digital picture will then appear when that channel is selected. You can name that channel “Digital TV” (or whatever you prefer) which will then appear in the channel list. If you find yourself running out of sockets then use the B&O “AV Expander” or similar.

A “set top box controller” is available for some of these models. This needs to be fitted by a dealer who will then set the system up for you. Before going to the expense, ensure that both your set and digital receiver are compatible with the set top box controller, many are not.

BeoVision Avant/AV5/AV 9000: These can be set up in same way as the later LX/MX models (see above). For the AV 9000 and VTR Avant, the VTR will record the CVBS picture even if the digital receiver is set to RGB.

Later sets: These will work in a very similar way to the newer ones listed above. It is worth consulting a B&O dealer about the options available concerning set top box controllers, these make the installation neat and inconspicuous and you don’t need to use the horrid plastic remote control unit that invariably comes with the digital receiver.

Beocord Video Recorders

All Beocords can be used to record digital programmes, though you may find that you run out of sockets to connect everything to. All video cassette recorders record the CVBS information only and this is present even if your receiver is set to RGB.

8800 V, 8802 V, VHS 63, VHS 66: These are mono models so there is nothing to lose by using the RF connector. Connect the VTR between the digital receiver and the TV. You may have to adjust the RF output frequency of the VTR and the digital receiver to avoid interference. In the case of the two VHS models, if you are not using the SCART socket you can connect this to the “VCR” socket of the digital receiver, select the external input (channel 0 on the VHS 63, slide the switch on the VHS 66) to record the digital programmes.

VHS 80, VHS 90, VHS 91, VHS 91.2, VHS 82, VHS 82.2: These stereo recorders all benefit from a direct AV connection to enable them to record stereo sound. If your TV set has only one AV connector then use the AV expander to allow the connection to be made. If you have an MX 2000/M 20 and either of the VHS 82 models then the VTR needs the AV cable for the remote control to work so don’t just disconnect it. If you are using any of these recorders with a Beovision with two AV sockets (77XX or early L/LX) if you connect the digital receiver to the DIN AV (IN) and the VTR to the DIN AV (IN/OUT) or SCART then the TV will make the link to the VTR for you, though the TV does have to be switched on to make a recording.

VX 5000, VX 5500: If you are using one of these then you probably also have an early L/LX TV set to go with it. If this is the case, leave the VTR connected to the SCART socket of the TV and connect the digital receiver via the DIN AV socket. If your digital receiver has a “VCR” SCART socket than you can connect this to the second SCART socket of the VX. In the case of the VX 5000, select an unused programme position and turn the “decoder” setting ON (you may have to enable this in the main menu first). To record from the digital source, simply select this programme. For the VX 5500, simply select “AUX” from the menu to record a digital programme. If you set up your equipment like this, the TV does not need to be on to make a recording from digital. If your TV is an early MX (3000, 4500, 5000 etc) then make the connection from the digital receiver to the extra SCART input of the VX recorder only. You can then watch it by selecting the appropriate input from the video recorder (see above) and then putting it into “tuner only” mode.

Later models: You will probably be using these with a later LX/MX set, in which case the TV will do all the signal routing for you. Leave the VTR in the AV1 input of the Beovision, set up the digital receiver as “V AUX” in AV2. If you also have a DVD player, connect it to AV2 as well and use the AV expander (or similar).

Digital Radio (DAB)

DAB is not really a hi-fi medium, many of the broadcasts are in mono and the quality is quite poor. However, it forms a useful alternative to medium wave (AM) broadcasts. You can connect a DAB radio or tuner to your B&O audio system via any unused input (TP, TP2, AUX , A. AUX etc, but not the “phono” one if your Beomaster/Beocenter has an RIAA stage, most do except the Beomaster 900 range, 4500, 6500 and 7000). A pocket-sized set is inconspicuous and can provide a suitable output via the headphone socket, adjust the volume on the radio (start low) so that it is the same as the other sources. Remember though that with most personal sets the headphone lead is also the antenna, so you may have to experiment with moving the cable around for best reception. Bigger sets and tuners can also be used, use the “line out” connections in preference to headphone sockets if there is a choice.

If you do not have enough inputs, consider B&O’s “CD/Tape adaptor” which will add an extra one. Third party alternatives are available if you can’t find B&O’s own. Some Beomasters have an adjustable level switch that you can use to make the phono input suitable for larger signals (Beomaster 1200, Beocord 2400 open reel etc) whist some have a second one that is of a lower sensitivity (1000, 3000 etc).

It has recently become legal in the UK to use low-powered FM transmitters to radiate the output from a personal music player on the VHF broadcast band (88 to 108MHz). You could use one of these with a small DAB receiver and simply tune your Beomaster/Beocenter into it, though the sound quality will not be as good as with a direct connection. This is a very easy method though as you don’t have to make or buy any cables.

There is a better way to enjoy digital radio, it is also transmitted via the digital TV network and the quality is much higher than it is with DAB. Many digital TV receivers have an audio-only output that you can connect to a hi-fi system; this is an excellent programme source. If your B&O equipment allows for “AV Integration” (normally the better models from the early 1990s onwards) you may find that you can already listen to video sources through your audio system. Check the user guides and see how your system is configured.