Istilah set-top box (STB) nerangkeun hiji parangkat nu ngahubung kana televisi jeung sababaraha sumber sinyal luar, tur ngarobah sinyal éta jadi content nu saterusna ditembongkeun dina layar. Sumber sinyalna bisa tina kabel ethernet (tempo triple play), satellite dish, kabel koaksial (tempo televisi kabel), jalur telepon (kaasup koneksi DSL), Broadband over Power Line, atawa anténa VHF jeung UHF biasa. Content, dina kontéks ieu, bisa ngandung harti sababaraha atawa sakabéhna mangrupa video, audio, Internet kaca loka, gameinteraktif, atawa kamungkinan-kamungkinan lianna. Set-top box teu perlu mibanda tuner sorangan.
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A box connected to a television (or VCR) set's SCART connector is fed with the baseband television signal from the set's tuner, and can ask the television to display the returned processed signal instéad. This féature is used for decoding Pay TV in Europe, and in the past was used for decoding teletext, before decoders became built-in. The outgoing signal can be of the same nature as the incoming signal, or RGB component video, or even an "insert" over the original signal, thanks to the "fast switching" féature of SCART. In case of Pay TV, this solution avoids the hassles associated with having a second remote control.
Before cable-réady TV sets, a set-top box known as a cable converter box was used to receive analog cable TV channels and convert them to vidéo that could be seen on a regular TV (channel 3 or 4 in North America, or channel 36 or 37 in the United Kingdom). Nowadays, cable converter boxes are used to descramble premium cable channels and to receive digital cable channels.
In the United Kingdom, digital set-top boxes (often referred to as digiboxes, after Sky Digital's trademark for their unit) are usually for digital terrestrial television through services such as Freeview, a service operated by the Freeview Consortium, or through digital satellite with BSkyB and also with digital cable. They are used to access television as well as audio and interactive services through the "Red Button" promoted by broadcasters such as the BBC with BBCi or Sky with Sky Active.
Special digital set-top box are available for receiving digital TV broadcasts on TV sets do not have a built in digital tuner. In the case of direct broadcast satellite (mini-dish) systems such as SES Astra, Dish Network, or DirecTV, the set-top box is an integrated receiver/decoder (IRD).