QAM Tuner

What is a QAM tuner? A QAM tuner is a device used by televisions and computers so they can receive digital cable TV through a physical cable. There are two methods to receive digital cable TV: you can receive digital cable TV over the airwaves, OTA is the official term for Over-The-Air digital cable that is sent from your local television provider and is 'read' by a digital cable receiver (see the ATSC Tuner page) attached to or inside your TV set; or you can receive digital cable channels through a physical cable; this cable needs a receiving and modulating unit so your TV set can read it. That unit is called a QAM tuner.

On this site we'll cover things you'll need to know to have a basic understanding of QAM and why it is used. For clarity you might want to first read the QAM page for a breakdown of that term; on this page I'll describe the physical QAM tuner and how it is used.

The QAM tuner comes in two forms, either an internal device that is part of your inner TV or computer workings, or an external device that can be plugged in to your TV or computer. It is an electronic device that reads a certain kind of signal sent by your digital cable provider, and translates it so your television can read and process it properly to generate your television shows. The QAM tuner is a form of receiver; it receives and processes digital television transmissions through a cable, just as an ATSC tuner receives and processes digital television transmissions from over the air.

With a QAM tuner in or attached to your TV, you can simply plug-and-play; you can plug in the cable and see (unencrypted) digital TV channels. Without the QAM tuner you would need to buy and attach a set-top-box, or digital TV converter, to your television. Because of this, and the huge number of people who use cable hookup rather than OTA, most modern television sets now have an internal QAM tuner included. You can check by looking for 'ATSC/QAM Tuner' in the owner's manual or on the packaging box. You may also see the label 'DCR', which means Digital Cable Ready, and ensures that your television set comes with a QAM tuner. If your TV set was made after 2006 there's a good chance it comes with a QAM tuner; and almost every TV now made for North American use will have one.