HDMI to Old TV?

panasonic-projection-tv-and-amazon-firestick

HDMI to Old TV? a reader asks…

Hi, I bought a new Amazon Firestick, and want to use it with my older Panasonic projection HDTV Model# PT-56TW53 – which has no HDMI ports. I bought an HDMI converter “HDMI2AV 1080p Mini” made by BlackWeb that has 1 HDMI input port, and 3 output ports (red, yellow, & white), along with RCA cables. I tried hooking the converter up to the video ports on the back of the TV, But all it would do is flash “Amazon Firestick” or give me no signal. I’ve also tried other inputs but nothing happened, any suggestions on how to hook it up?

Ah, the perils of using older consumer technology with the latest devices! The BlackWeb converter box you bought is actually not the right piece of equipment to get your new Firestick working with the old projection TV. Even though your TV is pretty old, it still is able to display HD quality, digital video. The converter box you got only has a single, very old ‘composite’ video output port (the yellow RCA plug) that is just one step above the quality of video our grandparents watched on the big-box-small-screen TV set from the 60’s. The red & white RCA plugs are the left and right channels for stereo audio. While your Firestick is fully capable of outputting awesome Digital Dolby 5.1 audio, unfortunately your TV can only handle stereo input. I do see that your projection TV has some sort of circuitry to mimic surround sound, but it’s nothing like a true 5.1 audio system.

hdmi-to-dvi-d-cable

While your TV doesn’t have an HDMI input port, it does have a DVI port, so you don’t need to convert your video signal from digital (in the Firestick) to analog (that yellow RCA plug). While you could use a simple cable to switch from HDMI to DVI, you should know that DVI doesn’t carry audio signals. You will need a converter box that can do these two things for you:
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  1. convert the digital video signal coming from the Firestick’s HDMI port out to the DVI port on the TV (really just a plug type exchange, both are digital), and
  2. convert the digital audio signal coming from the Firestick’s HDMI port out to the 2-channel analog stereo audio (red & white RCA) inputs on the TV.

hdmi-dvi-converter-with-audio-extraction

So first, buy yourself a converter box like this one from Amazon.com for $30. You’ll also need a DVI to DVI cable like this one for $8, and a 3.5mm to RCA stereo cable like this one for $8. So less than $60 will get you the best you can do with your projection TV.

You’ll plug the Firestick into the converter box. Plug the DVI cable into the other side of the converter box and the other end of that cable going to the matching DVI port on the back of the TV. Lastly, plug the 3.5mm audio plug into the converter box, and the other end (with red & white RCA cables) into the matching RCA ports just underneath the DVI port on the back of the TV. Lastly, you’re going to power things up in this order:

  1. Turn on the TV and switch the source to the DVI port (probably marked cbl/sat on your remote).
  2. Plug electrical power into the converter box (it came with a ‘wall wart’ power adapter)
  3. Plug electrical power into the micro-USB port on the Firestick.

The reason for that order is because of HD copyright protection (HDCP) circuitry built into your Firestick, converter box and TV. They have to exchange initial ‘handshaking’ signals to prove to each other that it’s legal to pass HDCP content (the movies and such from your Firestick) between the devices. This process can get tricky especially with older gear, so the order above helps ensure that the HDCP signals get passed correctly.

Now grab your Firestick remote and you should see the Firestick menu on-screen. Use the Firestick remote to change any settings you want and to connect the Firestick to your Wi-Fi network. Now you can watch Firestick video content and also hear audio from your TV’s speakers. You shouldn’t have to change any Firestick video or audio settings as the converter box will handle that for you.

coaxial-spdif-digital-audio-cable-plug

The handy thing about the converter box I suggested above is that if you end up getting yourself a nice surround sound audio system, you don’t have to replace the converter box. That box has the ability to output digital 5.1 audio through the coaxial port (which is the same shape as an RCA port, and can use the same type of cable). Make sure your surround sound system can accept coaxial digital audio input, some will only take optical digital audio (also called TosLink or SPDIF). Then it’s just flipping the switch on the converter box to go from stereo to 5.1 digital audio.

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