Sound Advice: Recording television now less convenient

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Question: I have an early Sony HD-ready HDTV with HD component (red/green/blue), HD inputs and no HDMI. Unfortunately, the FCC's planned "analog sunset" will turn my HDTV into an SD-only boat anchor since component outputs are going away. Is HDMI the only option for all HD content?

San Mateo, Calif.

Answer: You can still watch HDTV on your TV, though perhaps not from cable or satellite. There are plenty of used Blu-ray players available with HD component outputs, as well as over-the-air HD tuners. It isn't ideal but you can still watch some things in high-def.

The recent column about home recording and digital TV generated the most reader responses in recent memory. Many offered suggestions on ways to record at home and some recommended specific equipment. More than anything else there was venting, anger and frustration over the state of affairs with cable companies, digital TV and home recording.

Based on many of the responses I received, I do not think I was completely clear about what I meant to say in the column. The main point was that recording now is much different than it was in the analog days.

When we had analog cable, antennas and VCRs with cable/over-the-air tuners, it was easy to program the VCR, pop in a tape and record the program with little if any loss in quality.

After the recording was made, you had it on tape and could do whatever you wanted with it. You could take it from room to room, take it to a friend's house and play it on their VCR, or store it for future viewing.

There are indeed ways you can still record, but it is almost impossible to record full quality on media (like disc or tape) that you can take with you from place to place, use in multiple devices or store for future viewing.

One group of emails suggested using DVD recorders and combination units with hard drives. The downside to these units and why I did not address them in my column was because they can only record in standard definition and cable companies are taking steps to make them obsolete.

Another group suggested DVRs that do not require fees and record over-the-air. I searched for many of these products online and could not find a single unit for sale new. Given this would suit the needs of many readers, it is very sad they can't be easily found.

Even then, you still have the issue of portability and future viewing once the hard drive is filled up. You still can't transfer the content to other media for storage and though some cable and satellite DVRs will allow you to download to an external hard drive, the hard drive will only work with the original recording device. If the DVR breaks or you upgrade it, then your recordings are useless.

A few emails suggested a home theater computer with a tuner card and Blu-ray burner. This will actually do the job for over-the-air recordings, but the cost of entry, upkeep and finicky nature of such devices make them something of an exotic and expensive choice for the average home user.

There is clearly a lot more to be said on this subject and I will be devoting more columns to it in the future.


Read product reviews by Don Lindich at


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