2012 is the year to cut the cord. The trend has been coming for some time now, and I believe this year will be the watershed year of customers leaving their cable and satellite providers. Lately, I haven’t heard or read of much sympathy for the ‘Big 2’ in Canada. There were no tears in our home office when we cancelled our satellite feed. With all the digital and specialty channels – and the forced purchase of packaged channel packs – we just couldn’t get what we wanted. So, what was the alternative?
After some research, we decided to give an HD antenna a chance. A quick purchase at our local Factory Direct netted us a 4-bay antenna, with hardware and 90-degree swivel for $25 plus taxes. We picked up the roof gable mounting kit and steel pole in Whitby, which was around $100. So far, about $150 all-in.
HD antennas allow you to pick up over the air (OTA) signals from local network affiliates; as we live near Toronto in Canada, this means local signals to the west, and upstate New York signals from the south.
In our area, all in all, there are 37 full HD channels with a number of duplications in SD. The HD channels mostly include surround-sound encoding built into the signal (awesome) and are uncompressed 1080i resolution (awesomer) that puts most other HD to shame. A quick reference to the excellent reference website tvfool.com verified the channels and the direction the antenna had to be pointed.
All modern flat-panel TV’s have a built in ATSC tuner that is made for this sort of setup. There are no digital converter boxes or the like needed to get the HD signal. The one accessory I strongly recommend after testing is some form of powered amplification for your signal. I have a masthead amp I am going to install where the cables terminate at the antenna, which will work in tandem with a powered booster in my home. I tested an older powered booster on its own in-house already and it made an improvement to signal clarity; with the masthead amp I expect things will look even better.
The only real drawback is the line-of-sight that OTA signals and antennas rely on. Trees and other obstructions can get in the way, especially if the antenna is not high enough. So far, the big maple at the west end of the yard is making some Toronto content spotty.
So far, we have 13 HD channels and a few SD. I climbed the antenna array and hooked it up solo to first check the signal strength and get a feel for the quality. When I install the mast head amp, I plan on moving the antenna higher (approx 28’) and installing a second 2-bay antenna to try to net a few more channels. Overall, we have been extremely happy with the results so far. We have watched more television since having the antenna than we did with satellite, and that is not just because of the novelty. The programming is good, there is plenty of content and it looks great.
We would highly recommend the DigiWave branded antenna to anyone looking for a different TV experience. There are also attic and roof-mounted alternatives – we would love to hear from you if you have one.