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Using the Amstrad DRX595-C Sky Multiroom HD Digibox for Freesat


Created: 23 March 2012 (Last updated 7 August 2013 – NEW firmware)




Freesat set top boxes use the same satellites and dishes as Sky Digital. Although Freesat SD boxes start from around £30 (Bush SD box from Argos), Freesat HD boxes are still quite expensive. The new Manhattan Plaza HD-S has been reviewed by joinfreesat.co.uk, and is the newest Freesat HD box. Apart from its cheap remote, it is perhaps one of the best and less expensive than the Humax FoxSat HD, but still costs a whopping £80 from Amazon UK and other retailers. (Tescos Direct were offering the Manhattan with free dish installation for a competitive £100 at the time of writing)



Sky +HD PVRs can be easily found on eBay UK but they contain a hard drive which can't be used for recording programmes without a Sky+ subscription. The standby power consumption of these PVRs is very high too. Typically 25 watts. That's at least £28 per year in electricity. Not exactly eco friendly.


Last year, BSkyB finally announced a new Sky multiroom HD digibox without recording capabilities. It is called the Amstrad DRX595-C. (BSkyB actually own Amstrad btw) A review can be found on Techradar and after reading a thread on DigitalSpy forum for using the DRX595 in Freesat mode without a card, I decided to buy a used model off eBay UK to evaluate for use as a Freesat box. This particular example appeared to be manufactured in June 2011. Typical selling prices including delivery vary from £30 to £50.



Measures about 11 inches wide and just over 2 inches tall.


The supplied remote is the same model included with Sky +HD PVRs.



In standby mode, this HD digibox draws about 7 watts (About £8+ per year in electricity). When switched on, the power consumption rises to about 9 watts. This was tested with both a Thomson single output LNB and a Zinwell J4L quad output LNB.


Using the same LNB, my 7+ years old Panasonic DSB50 digibox draws 6 watts in standby, 9 watts when switched on.


I understand most if not all Sky HD boxes now also offer an ultra low power saving mode. Unfortunately, this is no better than just unplugging the digibox from the mains power socket ! When you eventually want to switch the digibox on, it takes about 50 seconds before it will respond to the remote to switch on. Then you have to wait a further 30 seconds before the Sky Welcome TV channel appears on the screen.


Power, Channel changing and 'back up' buttons on the left.

Viewing card slot on the right behind a drop down flap.






Plenty of ventilation slots on both ends and the rear of the case to prevent the innards from overheating. The top of the box does get rather warm.




Power, SCART, LNB input, HDMI, Ethernet, USB, RJ11 phone, I/O port and Digital audio connectors.


I don't believe the Ethernet and USB ports currently have any purpose on this multiroom digibox.


Unlike all other Sky digiboxes, there is no RF2 UHF output. ie. It is not possible to use TV Link/Magic Eye to hook this digibox up to another TV using regular coaxial cable.





Model and Version at the time of writing. Rather unusual is this page does not at first seem to show the Operating System and EPG software versions which are visible on Sky +HD boxes. My 'best guess' is the 'Z001.001.64.00P (000lgvc)' might be some sort of software version number but don't quote me. The Version and Serial Numbers relate to a bar coded label on the rear of the box – this particular serial number is used for pairing the subscription card to the box. There is another serial number on the underside of the digibox – this is probably the actual equipment serial number.


There are references to '4f7001' in google searches. This may be for the very earliest examples of this multiroom HD digibox.




BSkyB introduced a completely new EPG when they brought out the first +HD PVR boxes a few years ago. The TV Guide shown above with 'Mini TV' view mode. I've read they are currently beta testing a new TV Guide.


The picture below shows some of the Freesat channels I have added to the Favourites list. The Favourites list will only hold a maximum of 50 TV channels.


When viewing a TV programme, it is possible to use the Blue button on the remote to cycle through the available list of TV channels stored in Favourites.



The photo shows the signal strength of the currently viewed channel/satellite transponder.




I've noticed the audio volume level seems 'lower' compared to same programme broadcast received via my TV's built in Freeview tuner. Unlike SD Digiboxes, there doesn't appear to be any means to adjust the default volume. Fortunately, my Sony TV does offer the means to adjust the volume level of individual inputs to ensure the volume level remains similar when switching between different input sources. I've read the multiroom HD digibox is also the first digibox where Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is passed through the HDMI connection.







What free HD channels can I view using a Sky multiroom HD digibox ?

(Update 27 Feb 2013): I noticed the other day I was able to view ITV1 HD (Central West) with out the need of a white Sky viewing card. On further investigation, it appears perhaps all ITV1 standard definition and HD regional feeds are now Free To Air since I last updated this page in June 2012. The information published in kingofsat, and lyngsat web sites seems to confirm all the ITV1 feeds on Astra 2 satellites are now Free To Air too. This article at a516digital.com dated Oct 2012 highlights some recent changes to the ITV1 feeds.





This particular HD digibox came from an ex-Sky subscriber in Wiltshire. It was regionalized to BBC1 West and ITV1 West on Sky channels 101 and 103 respectively. I can view these and other SD channels such as BBC2/3/4, Channel 4, Five, E4/E4+1, More4, 5USA and 5* without a viewing card.



With no viewing card inserted, I can view the following free HD channels:


This digibox uses the 'encrypted' ITV1 HD feed for the 'Central West' region for channel 178. A viewing card would be required to view this HD channel.



Using an obsolete Dark blue/yellow-house Sky viewing card from the London area, this regionalizes the digibox to the London region. I can receive BBC1 London, ITV1 London SD channels, and the following HD channels:



The card uses an unencrypted ITV1 HD feed with regional London news programming.



Using an ex-subscription white Sky viewing card for the Meridian South region, I can view the following HD channels:



A white Sky viewing card will also permit viewing of Sony TV (channel 157).




A white Sky viewing card would be required to view these encrypted ITV 1 channels obtained from kingofsat, and lyngsat at time of writing:

ITV 1 (channel 103)

ITV 1 HD (channel 178)

'Anglia West'

'Central South West'

'Meridan North'

'Tyne Tees South'

'Yorkshire East'

'Central West'

'London' ***

'Meridian South East'

*** = uncertain whether this encrypted feed still exists and is used. It is likely to have been replaced by the unencrypted ITV1 'London' HD feed used by Freesat.


To check which ITV 1 HD feed on channel 178, examine the name of the regional news programme which is broadcast at 6pm Mondays-Fridays. eg. 'London Tonight' will indicate it is an ITV1 'London' HD feed, 'Central Tonight' will indicate it is the encrypted Midland's ITV1 'Central West' HD feed.


ITV 1 'Granada' HD is another other unencrypted ITV 1 HD feed. I believe this is also used by Freesat for postcodes in the north of England.



At the moment, channel Five HD (channel 171) and Sony TV (channel 157) are not Free To Air (FTA). You will need a Freesat from Sky viewing card (One off cost of £25) or a Sky 'white' ex-subscription card to view these Free To View (FTV) channels.









Other observations:


The HD digibox is slow to boot up after connecting the power cord. I've observed you have to wait about 50 seconds before the box will respond to a Power On command from the remote, plus another 30 seconds before the Sky Welcome TV channel appears on screen. Fortunately, once the digibox is up and running, switching between 'standby' and 'On' is very swift.


If you are using a SCART connection and you select a HD channel to view, a picture does appear on the screen. Obviously, it won't be an HD picture.



Viewing card problems


I have managed to cause the digibox to apparently freeze and refuse to respond to any remote control commands. After a bit of trial and error, I discovered the digibox may some times fail to respond to remote control commands when using my obsolete dark blue/yellow-house Sky viewing card (London region) in the digibox. When I select an encrypted HD channel such as Sky News HD in the TV Guide, this is when there is a small chance the digibox 'may' freeze rather than being presented with a polite message about phoning Sky to resolve the subscription issue. There have been other unusual symptoms when I can't change channel or can't access the TV Guide. On one occasion, I could change channel and access the TV Guide but could not turn off the digibox using the remote.


I later discovered when I tried to view Sky News HD and caused the box to stop responding to remote commands, if I pull the card out, the digibox starts responding to the remote again - I'm then instructed to install a Viewing Card. At the moment, I speculate it is likely to be an issue with the obsolete viewing card (it is one of the very earliest dark blue/yellow house cards which I received as a replacement for a previous pale blue Sky card) rather than a faulty card slot or digibox. The old card works perfectly well in my old Panasonic digibox. It is perhaps unrealistic to expect it to work correctly with the newer HD digibox.


To prevent the digibox from misbehaving, I've pulled the card out and so far the digibox has continued to respond to all remote control commands. I don't know how long the digibox will remain regionalised to London, and to be able to view ITV1 HD, without a card. I've also added all the free HD channels to the 'Favourites' so I can use the blue Favourites button on the remote to toggle between the working HD channels.


(Update 4 April): My dark blue Sky card has been removed from the digibox for 10+ days. No digibox freezing issues and I can continue to receive the FTA regional channels and ITV1 London HD. Today, I rebooted the digibox and inserted the card back into the digibox and immediately tried to make the digibox freeze by repeating the earlier tests, but the digibox refused to freeze on an encrypted channel. I left the digibox switched on to channel 'E4' with the card inserted for several hours and tried again. From within the TV Guide, I chose 'NHK World' HD channel, then tried to select 'Sky News HD' and the digibox stopped responding to the remote and there was no error message regarding use of an invalid card. Pulling out the viewing card restored normal operation.


(Update 17 April): I've been using a white ex-Sky subscription card (London region) since the 5th April – it was previously paired to an old Sky+ digibox. The card will also decode Channel 5 HD (sky channel 171) and other channels such as Sony TV channel. I recall the viewing card was a replacement when Sky started rolling out the new white viewing cards to existing customers.


Today, I switched on the digibox from standby and changed to viewing BBC1 for a few moments. Suddenly the digibox stopped responding to the remote (no flashing remote LED on digibox) as previously experienced when using dark blue/yellow house viewing card. I could still view the programme broadcast on BBC1. I pulled the white viewing card out but it didn't make any difference – this was the first time in 12 days the card had been removed. Eventually, I had to hold the power button on the digibox down for more than 5 seconds before it eventually powered off.


(Update 18 April): I've acquired another multiroom HD digibox with a much later serial number and paired viewing card, to use in another room. I'm not sure when it was manufactured but my best estimate is last half of 2011. All the other version numbers are identical to my other older multiroom HD digibox.


It will give me an opportunity to compare with the first HD digibox. I've observed the gold plated contacts on the underside of the newest viewing card differs in appearance to the older Sky+ white viewing card I had been using.


First test result is I've successfully replicated the issue which causes the new digibox to stop responding to remote commands after leaving the digibox switched on to channel E4 for several hours, and then subsequently choosing 'NHK World' HD channel, and then 'Sky News HD' within the TV Guide. Removing the dark blue/yellow house card restored normal operation.



I've also googled an interesting thread on the Sky Help Centre forum which does mention some of the symptoms I've experienced. It was posted end of last year and quotes the same version Z001.001.64.00P (0001.gvc). It seems to suggest the multiroom HD digibox is 'unstable' compared to other digiboxes and frequently needs to be reset. However, the digibox in question has Version '4f7001', whereas my two digiboxes are Version '4f7002'.



(Update 9 May): I've been testing the newer of the two digiboxes with its paired/newer viewing card (Card no. begins 55) for 3 weeks. No issues to report and I've not had to power cycle the digibox or remove the card. The other older digibox has been working fine with no card inserted for the past 3 weeks too (I have not regionalised channels 101 and 103 using a viewing card).

Today, I power cycled the newer digibox and will test an old Sky+ viewing card (Card no. begins 49) in it. As reported on 17th April, this same card previously caused the other older digibox to stop responding to remote control commands after 12 days.



(Update 20 May): Everything seemed to be going well with the old Sky+ white viewing card inserted into the newer digibox. However on the 11th day, while the kids were channel hopping, they caused the banner from an encrypted children's TV channel to pop up and remain permanently on the screen. Switching to an unencrypted channel and putting the digibox in standby made no difference. The banner remained on screen for all TV channel I tested. I tried removing the viewing card and inserting the other newer Sky white viewing card but it didn't resolve the issue.



Eventually, I pulled the electrical cord out of the digibox to power cycle it to eliminate the banner. This seems to conclude there is an issue using this early Sky white viewing card (Card no. begins 49) in both multiroom HD digiboxes. This may be a software bug, or the multiroom HD digibox hardware is simply not fully compatible with earlier Sky white viewing cards due to an older chip used within the card.

My final test is to use the newer white viewing card (Card no. begins 55) in the older multiroom HD digibox. I envisage it will function flawlessly, as it did previously for the 3 weeks up to the 9th May in its paired digibox. As a reminder, the older digibox is regionalised to 'BBC1/ITV1 West' and the card is regionalised to 'BBC1/ITV1 Meridian South'.



(Update 8 June): More than two weeks has now passed. Nothing to report other than I did initially encounter a bizarre problem where every time I saved BBC1 South (channel 101) to the Favourites menu, it would seem to disappear from the list when the digibox was put into standby. I performed a 'System Reset' through the Engineer's installation menu which resolved the problem.


(Update 24 August '12): Nothing to report. The card with no. beginning 55 has performed flawlessly since I last had to power cycle the digibox since around 16th June. This more or less confirms my suspicions the older Sky viewing cards are not compatible with the DRX-595C



BSkyB are due to roll out a new firmware for the DRX-890/895 HD digiboxes before end of July 2012. There is currently no word about whether there will be an update for the DRX-595 multiroom HD digibox which I understand is more likely to occur much later this year.


Picture of a friend's Sky +HD viewing card, with number beginning '52'. The DRX-895 and card were newly installed in spring 2012. Perhaps viewing cards supplied with mini HD boxes begin with '55' only?


(Update 4 September '12): Today, I noticed the 'info' button and the 'OK' button didn't respond when depressed while viewing an active TV channel. All the other button functions appeared to be working. I reluctantly power cycled the digibox to resolve the problem – it had been powered since around 16th June.




TV Guide issue:


The Sky website also seems to describe an issue with the TV Guide with the multiroom digibox. “no listings available” message.





New Firmware


(New 7 Aug 2013)


Yesterday, I noticed the Info bar wouldn't appear no matter how many times I pressed the OK button on the Sky remote. I rebooted the DRX595 and it started working again.


This morning, I switched on the DRX595 and noticed immediately the Info bar had changed.




The model number (software version) had clearly changed too. Now reports R006.058.63.00P




A new broadband option has been added to the menu.





An ECO mode has also appeared.





Conclusions



Consider these Freesat HD box alternatives: Manhattan Plaza HD-S, Humax Foxsat HD, or other Freesat HD boxes






Second hand Digibox buying information

This is not an exhaustive list.



Region


When new HD digiboxes are installed and used for the first time, a subscription viewing card is used to regionalise the digibox, so channels 101 and 103 for BBC1 and ITV1 respectively point to the regional broadcasts for the area. If no viewing card is subsequently used, channels 101 and 103 will continue to point to the same BBC1 and ITV1 regional channels forever on the digibox.


A few ITV1 SD and HD regional channels are still encrypted which means that sky channel 103 (ITV1) and 178 (ITV1 HD) will not be viewable without a card on some HD digiboxes.


To change this default region setting stored on the digibox, you would need to borrow an active subscription Sky card for your region and pair it with the digibox – this can only be done by telephoning Sky or I believe by connecting the digibox to the phone line and performing a Manual installation through the digibox's hidden service menu)


Alternatively, if you have a ex-Sky subscriber or 'Freesat from Sky' viewing card and it is inserted into any digibox, it will override the default region settings for the digibox while the card remains inserted into the digibox. When the card is removed, the digibox will revert back to the default region settings if the digibox is power cycled.


All BBC regional variants are also viewable on the digibox. They are located on channel numbers in the 900 range.




Parental Controls


When buying a used digibox, make sure the Parental Controls has been disabled by the seller. Otherwise, you will need any working viewing card to disable Parental Controls yourself. The PIN is stored/associated with the viewing card. The 'default' PIN is the last 4 digits of the card number.




Other Channels


I believe to manually add your own channels which don't already appear in the Sky TV Guide on the multiroom digibox, you will need a viewing card and its PIN number.




Engineer's installation menu options


Press the buttons in the following sequence to reveal the extra tabs in the Setup menu, such as 'System Reset'.


Services 0 0 1 Select


There is a 'RF Out' menu. However it serves no purpose as the multiroom HD digibox does not have RF output.




Sky remotes


If you need to source a replacement remote, ensure it is the 'genuine/official' item. They normally cost about £10 on eBay. Look for the very latest 'Rev 9' remotes. The DRX-595 is supplied with a Sky HD remote.


A genuine blue Sky remote can be used to control the multiroom digibox after reprogramming it. See this Avforums link for instructions. I can confirm my 'version 4' Sky blue remote is able to operate the multiroom HD digibox.


A Sky remote can also control some basic functions such as Volume and Power on your TV. The codes to set up the remote can be found on Sky's website. See here




SkyHD DRX-595 User manual


Link to User Manual




Viewing cards


You can purchase a 'Freesat from Sky' viewing card direct from BSkyB for the horrendous sum of £25.


If you are considering sourcing an used white Sky Viewing card, the region can be determined by inserting the card into any working digibox and checking channels 101 and 103 for BBC1 and ITV1 respectively (for England & Wales). The default PIN is the last 4 digits of the card number. If the PIN has been changed by the original owner and it is lost, you will not be able to change or use the PIN.


(Added 27 Feb 2013): If you acquire an old white Sky viewing card and discover it cannot be used to view channel Five HD (channel 171) or Sony TV (channel 157), perhaps reporting the wrong card has been inserted into the digibox, just leave the card inserted in the sky digibox for a week. Hopefully, it will re-activate itself within a few days – the digibox needs to be left in standby mode when not being used.



Please note that based on my own limited observations, leaving a dark blue/yellow house viewing card, or an 'early' white viewing card permanently inserted into multiroom HD digibox will eventually cause the digibox to stop responding to all remote control commands.









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