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What is an ATSC Tuner?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 16, 2024
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An ATSC tuner, also referred to as an HDTV tuner, is a device that is utilized for the reception of DTV or Digital Television as well as High Definition TV (HDTV) signals that are broadcasted by television stations across America. “ATSC tuner” is the terminology used commercially. Scientifically, it is known as an “ATSC receiver.” ATSC stands for Advanced Television Systems Committee, a non-profit organization, that develops new television standards internationally. An ATSC tuner is used to send signals, over-the-air to North American homes that are equipped with television sets that either have external or internal ATSC tuners. They can already be installed in VCRs, recorders, or cable set-top boxes.

All DVR recorders purchased after February of 2009 must have a digital ATSC tuner integrated into them. Since 2007, all types of television sets and devices, such as DVD players, DVRs and VCRs are also required to have ATSC DTV tuners installed. This requirement was put into place when the US government decided that North America would shift from analog/NTSC broadcasting to an all-digital/ATSC system of broadcasting in February of 2009.

Consequently, TV users must also use ATSC tuner-integrated devices in order to efficiently receive TV signals from digital broadcasting. Another option is that analog users can use a digital-to-analog converting device to receive a signal. However, those with an ATSC tuner can receive broadcast from satellite or cable providers and can instantly view digital television from their set-top boxes or receivers.

ATSC turners operate by producing video and audio signals from on-air broadcasts by television networks. An ATSC turner performs many tasks including demultiplexing, demodulation, decompression, analog-to-digital conversion, error corrections, media formatting, and AV synchronization. Transport stream demultiplexing refers to the combination of multiple signals which are then transmitted digitally from an antenna in order to allow over-the-air broadcasting; the ATSC tuner decodes this transport stream to allow TV display in homes. Demodulation is the pulling off of signals from television airways in order to be converted into usable TV signals for television sets; it makes quality video and sound possible.

Digital TV signals are compressed for broadcast. The ATSC tuner will decompress the data into its original state. Analog-to-digital conversion is often abbreviated as ADC. It is a type of technology that allows the conversion of analog signal to its digital form so it can be viewed on digital television sets.

AV synchronization is the process of coordinating video and audio signals in order to properly send and display these signals on digital television sets in real time. AV synchronization ensures that the sounds will not be advanced or delayed in relation to the visual images that are shown on the TV sets. This technological feature ensures that video and audio are synchronized. It is also performed by an ATSC tuner.

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