HDTV Antennas Boston MA
West Roxbury, MA
Newton Upper Falls, MA
About HDTV Signals
Not the typical aerial antenna, either. Many of today's models can capture broadcast HDTV signals and can be mounted under your eaves or easily clipped to your mini satellite dish.
Most people who buy HDTVs are content to hook up a DVD player and watch movies. But by doing that, they're missing an ever-increasing number of sports broadcasts, special televised events and regular programming available in high definition. CBS, ABC, NBC, the WB and PBS are all broadcasting at least some of their programming in HD. A few of the networks delivered by cable and satellite also have HD offerings, including HBO, Showtime, USA, ESPN, the Discovery Channel and HDNet. We naively thought the cheapest, easiest way to get HDTV would be to call our cable company. TimeWarner, the second-largest cable company in the country, boasts the widest availability of HDTV connections. But even though we live in suburban Detroit, the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country and a region where practically every broadcast station has done the technical conversions necessary to send out HDTV signals, our TimeWarner affiliate wasn't offering HD. Certainly HDTV cable service is anything but universal. While 80 percent of the households in the country get their television via cable, only 13 percent can get HDTV over cable, according to The National Association of Broadcasters. The NAB is pushing for legislation that would require cable companies to carry HD signals, but that's a long way off. A few small cable companies and the four big dogs - TimeWarner, Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox Communications - are all offering HD in some places. Unfortunately, none of them currently offers it in all markets, and even where it's available, chances are slim that customers can get what's offered by the over-the-air networks. That's because, among other issues, cable companies and major broadcasters are haggling over the price cable companies should have to pay to carry HD signals. CBS, which offers the most HD - a full primetime schedule - wants to charge cable companies the most - a price that has slowed adoption. If you're lucky and your cable company is offering some over-the-air channels - particularly CBS - and is charging only a small rental premium for the HD set-top box, sign up. The service is likely to get better as more cable networks add HD offerings. But if the only HD you can get over cable are premium channels like HBO, Showtime and Pay-per-view movies, you should probably keep looking. We next considered satellite. Getting HD via satellite has some pluses, but it's not a total solution. The low-cost or free deal that Dish Network and DirecTV offer new subscribers in most areas doesn't apply anywhere to subscribers who want HD. For that, you have to buy your own receiver, either from them or elsewhere. Depending on which you choose, the receiver costs between $500 and $900. The most expensive ones are multi-functional set-top boxes that also are capable of receiving over-the-air signals and Dolby Digital sound.
In addition, you'll need either a second dish on your roof or a larger-than-normal one because both satellite companies are bouncing HD signals off a second satellite. You still won't get over-the-air signals from CBS, NBC, ABC, etc. (including Monday-night football) with DirecTV. What you will get is one channel each of HBO and Showtime (if you subscribe to these premium channels), HD Pay-per-view (movies) and HDNet, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's sports and movie channel. HDNet carries a schedule of pro basketball, baseball, football, soccer and auto racing, as well as lots of movies. DirecTV integrates HD channels into the on-screen program guide, which cuts down on the number of remote controls you'll need to juggle. Competitor Dish Network offers its customers a package deal that includes a second dish and an HDTV receiver for $699. If you want to be able to receive over-the-air stations in HD, you'll need an antenna and an HD adapter that sells for an additional $150. Dish Network also integrates these channels into its on-screen programming guide. Subscribers get one channel each of HBO and Showtime in HD, a pay-per-view movie channel and, for an additional $7.99, the Discovery Channel in HD. In 17 cities, they also receive some CBS high-definition broadcasts, and Dish Network expects to add ESPN in HD shortly. This sounds anemic, but it's certain to get better since the Federal Communications Commission ruled earlier this year that all televisions manufactured for use in the United States must come with a built-in HD receiver by 2007. Once more people have the capability to receive HD without any expensive add-ons, cable and satellite companies are bound to cave into demand. If you aren't willing to wait, and you really must have football in HD this fall, here's another solution: Buy an antenna. Before you laugh, remember this isn't your father's TV set; nor is it your father's antenna. HDTV signals don't come in fuzzy. You either get them clearly or you don't get them at all. Plus, once you've bought an antenna and if you don't have a built-in one (a receiver), there are no ongoing charges.
Start by figuring out which (if any) over-the-air signals are being broadcast in your area. The Consumer Electronics Association offers a website called AntennaWeb (www.antennaweb.org) that includes a regularly updated database of broadcast stations that are sending out HD signals. You enter your address and zip code, and AntennaWeb will tell you what's out there and then recommend the kind of antenna you'll need to capture it. If it looks like you're in a service area where broadcasters have the infrastructure in place, then you'll have to consider the HDTV receiver question. Despite the FCC's efforts, most HDTVs still don't come with a built-in receiver. Electronics stores sell an array of them, most aimed at people buying them to capture satellite signals. You'll need one that will capture terrestrial signals. Terrestrial-only units from manufacturers like RCA and Samsung are the least expensive. They sell regularly online for about $325 - more at bricks-and-mortar electronics stores, less if you buy used on eBay. We bought a used Samsung SIR-T165 from a private individual for under $300 and have had no trouble with it. If you think that you might decide to watch HD over satellite as well, buy a unit that will capture both satellite and terrestrial signals. These multiple-platform units start at about $650, with the highly recommended Sony SAT-HD200 unit selling at most places for about $800. Antenna shopping is the next step. If you live where it's flat, are within a few unobstructed miles of the broadcast tower, or you live someplace where you just can't erect a rooftop antenna, you might have success with a portable antenna. The most popular is a Terk TV-55 indoor/outdoor model. Electronics stores sell them for $99, although we found one on eBay for about $60. Some people report great success with this antenna. It's light, and if you don't mind moving it a little when you switch channels, it will bring in an HD picture from a variety of directions. But no matter how we anchored it, when our 80-pound dog crossed the room, we lost the signal momentarily. When that happened repeatedly during a football playoff game, we decided there had to be a better way. I first called the boutique electronics dealer who installs home theaters in my area.
The dealer told me that most neighborhoods near me prohibited rooftop antennas, and even if they were permitted, he was giving priority to customers who bought TVs from him. That meant that my name would go to the bottom of a six-month waiting list for an antenna that cost $1,000 installed and wasn't guaranteed to work. Not so easily discouraged, I called my neighborhood association and learned that antennas were OK as long as they were roof-mounted and no higher than 12 feet off the roof. If your neighborhood association gives you a hard time, refer them to FCC regulations approved in 1996 that prohibit most restrictions on antennas except for the 12-foot height limit. I also decided, after doing some research, that paying someone $1,000 for an antenna was ridiculous. If you already have a satellite dish, try a Terk TV-44, which is designed to easily clip to elliptical HDTV satellite dishes. Otherwise, a roof-mounted UHF antenna is a good choice. Radio Shack, Weingard and even Wal-Mart sell them. An old 1960s UHF antenna also will work. If you're reasonably handy, installing an antenna isn't engineering science. You can use a tripod designed for the task, anchor it to the chimney or even install it in the attic. In any case, the total expenditure for a do-it-yourselfer is unlikely to be more than $150, depending on the sophistication of the antenna and how much cabling you need. An electronics dealer or Radio Shack will likely provide expert advice for free. Turn to an antenna retailer for reasonably priced installation. I ended up paying $325 total for an installed multi-directional antenna on a second-story roof. I bought the variety recommended for use in my area by AntennaWeb. If I had needed a rotation device, the cost would have been about $150 more. The last step is figuring out what to watch on your HDTV. Chances are neither your cable company nor your local newspaper flags HDTV broadcasts. The Consumer Electronics Association has partnered with TitanTV to create an online program guide (www.titantvretailzone.com), You might also take a look at HDTV Magazine (www.ilovehdtv.com), an online guide to news about HDTV. The annual subscription is $35, but it's hard to find better free sources for HDTV programming news. And you certainly don't want to miss any high-definition NFL broadcasts. Jennie Phipps is a freelance writer based in Farmington Hills, Mich.