Week 21, 2016: Using a cable box and old stereo with your HDTV, jamstik+ SmartGuitar


Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 21, 2016

Q. I just joined the 21st century and got rid of my CRT television. After connecting a high definition set-top box from my cable company I ended up with several questions.

The cable box has HDMI and two digital audio outputs. One is a sort of square connector labeled “optical audio” and the other is a single orange jack output labeled “digital audio.” I would like the option to put the sound though an audio input in my stereo system, which takes the standard pair of red and white plugs. There is also a set of red, white, and yellow plugs on the cable box. Can these red and white plugs be used with my receiver?

I used a VCR between the cable box and the TV and could record TV programs on it. The VCR is now separately plugged into the TV and I can still watch tapes I have already made. Is there a way to be able to continue to record the occasional TV show without having to buy additional equipment from the cable company?

-Larry S., Eden Prairie, MN

A. The red and white plugs on your cable box are stereo audio outputs you can use with your stereo. Just connect them to an input on your receiver.

The yellow jack carries a standard definition video signal. You can connect the red, white and yellow cables from your cable box to your VCR and use them to make standard definition recordings. Just set the VCR to line input, tune the station you want on the cable box and press record on the VCR. You need to set separate timers on the box and VCR if you won’t be there to initiate the process.

If you want to connect both the stereo and VCR simultaneously, get a digital-to-analog converter box and use it with the digital audio or optical audio output on the cable box. It takes the digital output and converts it to an analog output compatible with your receiver. You can then use the red, white and yellow jacks on the cable box directly with the VCR. A converter costs about $25. You could probably pass the audio signal through your VCR to avoid buying the $25 box, but it would be extra complication every time you turn on the TV and I think you are better off just buying the converter.

Consumer Electronics Show wrap-up: I have two more introductions from CES that I want to be sure to mention before finishing my report. One will be this week and one next week.

This week it is the jamstick+ SmartGuitar ($299) from Zivix, a Minneapolis-based technology company. The jamstik+ is a portable Bluetooth mini guitar that pairs with iOS and Android devices and uses an app to teach you how to play guitar. Though it is portable, it has real strings and frets and is designed to be comfortable to hold despite its small size. It is a very cool concept and though I am not a musician or guitar player, it has received very favorable coverage from both beginners and experienced players. The jamstik+ website is very impressive and features a great set of videos that do a great job of demonstrating the product and concept. If you have even a mild interest I suggest checking it out just for the videos. http://jamstik.com

jamstik+ on Amazon