How To Receive HDTV Without Subscribing to Cable

Kathleen and I had lunch with our friend Jennifer Colangelo over the weekend. She is is the proud owner of a huge, new plasma HDTV set that she mainly uses to watch DVDs and play games on her Xbox 360. As we discussed her new TV, I found out that she receives no HDTV channels using it. I asked why, and she told me that she couldn't figure out a way to get HD channels from Comcast without paying at least $70 per month.

Jen said that she would consider paying that much for cable during the NFL season because she thinks HD adds alot to the experience of watching the game, but even then the price is more than she wants to pay.

Jen has a viewpoint that I hadn't considered before. She's very technically sophisticated, and knowingly spent several thousand dollars on a beautiful HDTV receiver without planning to receive HD channels at all. DVDs and video games in high definition were enough for her.

My question to her was: Why not get an antenna to receive HD channels over-the-air?

Back in January 2005, I helped a friend install a home theater with DirecTV and over-the-air HDTV, so I knew this was possible. The difference is that Jen lives in an apartment, so I needed to find an antenna that could be discretely mounted inside or on a small exterior wall that's available to her.

The antennas I found that look promising are:

I like the clean design of the Terk TV55, but the Terk HDTVLP is a more recent model. LAaudioFile.com has a great review of the Terk TV55 that was published about three years ago. They say, "The TV55 has an operational bandwidth of 54MHz to 806MHz and covers the full spectrum of the conventional antennas found on roofs decades ago. An inline amplifier has a gain of 10dB for weak signals and a bypass mode for the stronger signals."

Other comments about these products indicate that:

  • these antennas are very directional, so you need to align them properly with the location of the transmitter you are trying to receive. AntennaWeb's over-the-air transmitter locator allows you to enter your address and learn the orientation and distance of each nearby TV transmitter. Choose "Show Digital Stations Only" for HD transmitters.
  • these antennas require the proper cabling. Use RG-6 cable for the antenna lead-in to the receiver, not the cheaper RG-59.

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