Sound Advice: Recording TV programming isn't as easy as it used to be

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2014 - 11:49 AM
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Mediasonic’s HW-150PVR can be used to record over-the-air TV programming.

Q: I read your column about DVR recording with great interest. I can record shows on the cable company’s DVR, but if something happens to the unit, anything recorded is lost. Storage also is limited.

I liked to be able to record on the VCR, because there was, in theory, unlimited space and if the unit died the recordings could be used on another machine.

The Mediasonic HW-150PVR, which uses removable hard drives, sounds like something I would enjoy, but can it be used to record from cable?

Also, you mention using a rabbit-ears antenna for over-the-air transmissions. Isn’t a special antenna required to receive digital HD signals?

A: The Mediasonic HW-150PVR doesn’t have a QAM tuner, so recording from cable would be impossible even if cable providers weren’t encrypting signals now. You can use the HW-150PVR to record over-the-air programming as much as you want, though.

If you want to record pay-TV shows and keep them, Dish Network will allow you to transfer recordings from its Hopper DVR to an external hard drive. The hard drive can be used to transfer content between Dish Network receivers. You can learn more at www.mydish.com.

You don’t need a special antenna to receive digital broadcasts. In fact, receiving digital TV signals over-the-air is much easier than it is with analog. If you go to AntennaWeb (www.antennaweb.org), you can get help with choosing what kind of antenna is best for your area.

Audio needs to be balanced

Q: I have a Comcast DVR and PC running Windows Media Center connected via HDMI to a Samsung flat-panel TV. I have a Cambridge SoundWorks Oontz speaker connected to the audio output of the Samsung TV. The volume of the Comcast DVR is much louder than the volume of the PC, even though both are doing sound over HDMI. Any idea why this might be?

A: The audio output of the Comcast DVR is set higher than that of the Media Center PC. Each component (DVR or PC, in your case) will send out an audio signal of differing strength, depending on how the component is configured and the strength of the program material.

Go into the audio menus of your PC and DVR, and see if there is an adjustment for audio output. If your cable box doesn’t have one, just using the volume control with the remote set to DVR might work. Work with them both, and you should be able to balance it out.

Record from a DVR to VHS

Q: Is there any way to record from a DVR to VHS? If so, what do I need, and how do I do it?

A: It’s easy, as long as your DVR has active analog (yellow, white and red) RCA outputs and your VCR has matching inputs.

Connect the yellow, red and white outputs from the DVR to the corresponding inputs on your VCR, select the input on your VCR, and press record. Press play on the DVR and the VCR will record from the DVR.

Quality will suffer and there might be a distorted picture from the different screen formats, but you can get a signal onto the tape.

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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