HDTV Reception

Last year when I bought my Sony HDTV it was “HDTV ready” meaning it couldn’t actually show you HDTV signals it was receiving. When I first moved into the house I had terrible TV reception with an indoor antenna. Then I got a neat looking antenna that didn’t really work. Then I eventually bought a big multi-pronged aluminum one and put it in the attic. That didn’t work all that well either. But eventually local stations were offered on satellite (first DirecTV then I switched to Dish Network) for $6 so I just paid the extra for very clear local stations. When I got the Dish PVR with its built in digital recorder, having the local stations over satellite was a real plus.

But still I was missing out on a large part of the capability of my HDTV. Yes, DVD’s looked great, but HDTV has even more resolution than a DVD. The problem is if I was going to get it over Dish I would have to upgrade my equipment and pay extra fees (currently only $30 per month). But I also knew that HDTV signals were being broadcast by the local stations. To get them you needed good reception, which I wasn’t really able to get and an expensive receiver to decode the signals. It didn’t make much sense that I wouldn’t get good reception being that I’m close to Atlanta, but I do get some problems from stations not being all in one direction.

To get HDTV you have to have just a regular antenna with good reception (some people just use rabbit ears) and a HDTV receiver (or tuner) since one isn’t built in to my TV. I had heard they cost $500 so I wasn’t in a rush to get one. But today I decided to make a last ditch effort to get better TV reception by moving the antenna outside onto the roof and away from the chimney which I thought might be causing ghosting. The reception was crystal clear on most channels! (later on I read that attics aren’t so great for antennas and the attic itself blocks about 30% of the signal; now they tell me).

Next step is to do some research on these receivers or tuners. I didn’t even know what they were called. It turns out Samsung makes a whole array of them and a good one was the SIR-T451. According to reviews I read it was a vast improvement over the SIR-T351 and was still affordably priced from $250-$299. But not many people stock them. Circuit City is one that has them though. So off I went to Circuit City. Foiled: It turns out my Circuit City on Memorial Drive has closed. So I went home to find where the nearest one might be and figured if I was going out of my way I would call ahead and make sure they had them in stock. According to the web site no Circuit City has the Samsung receiver. Buy.com says there is a 1-2 week wait for them. Crutchfield Electronics doesn’t have them in stock either. So you can’t buy them. I signed up to be notified by Circuit City when they get them in stock.

I look for more reviews. Some of the receivers are very expensive but I find a review comparing the Samsung I was thinking about getting to one sold by Walmart called a US Digital HDTV Receiver. It is only $200. This guy actually preferred it to the Samsung which he had also bought (back in July when it was still in stock). So off I go to my Walmart on Wesley Chapel Road off of I-20. Foiled again: It has been closed too. So I head up to the one in Tucker hoping that they don’t close at 9:00 PM (turns out they’re open till midnight). I find one and buy it.

I take it home and plug it in to the antenna and the TV. I turn it on and finally figure out how to make the TV use the Video 6 input. It searches for channels automatically and detects 15 of them! I haven’t even pointed the antenna yet, it’s just on a stand I made and put on the flat part of my roof (turns out I had it pointed within about 5 degrees of optimal; later I used antennaweb.org to get bearings and distances to all the Atlanta stations). But the picture is very blue. I check my component connections, thinking, my red cord might have dropped. Nope. But then I check the setup and it’s not set on HDTV. I switch it over to HDTV output and I’m in business!

Most of the Atlanta networks actually broadcast two signals, one at regular definition, and one at high definition. Channel 11 just shows radar all the time on the their SD channel. Channel 2 shows a 24-hour ABC news channel. But the show ER looked great and it fills up the whole screen! At last I can use the whole widescreen for something other than DVD’s (most shows are still broadcast at regular definition and even higher definition broadcasts are usually shot on the standard 4:3 aspect ratio instead of widescreen). It was amazingly simple and there is this whole other world of television out there for free if you get the right equipment (not free).

I don’t get PBS Channel 8 WGTV. Fox 5 is very weak but I’m hoping some antenna pointing will help that (seems to). Since Channel 8 is on Stone Mountain and directly opposite of all the other stations downtown, I may never be able to get it, but I do get the other PBS channel, WPBA 30, and that’s nice because I don’t have it on Dish (I would have to add another dish antenna and wiring to my setup just for 30, so I have never bothered). Also the WB channel (69?) doesn’t come in well even if I point right at it.

I guess I will keep subscribing to local channels since I like to record stuff on the PVR and I have no way of recording HDTV signals. I’m back to watching commercials but at least I’m getting a really stunning picture. And although Georgia lost to Auburn this weekend, the silver lining is they did in spectacular widescreen clarity! Go Dawgs!

3 thoughts on “HDTV Reception

  1. I can’t believe you go to all this trouble for TV and don’t have DSL. In fact, I would think you would have a T1.

    We have a 15″ TV in the corner of our family room. I want to throw it away and have ZeroTV like Mom & Dad did.

    You should be the computer guy and I should be the TV guy. Go figure.

  2. I’m liking the commemorative November 12 5Forks look!

    HDTV really is a lot of trouble. There’s the whole standard vs. widescreen thing. And then there are all these different flavors of HDTV like 1080i and 720p. The makers of my HDTV receiver proudly proclaim that it can handle all 18 different HDTV formats. So certainly more are on the way. Different networks have adopted different formats but the receiver seems to deal with it.

    Then the wires! There are at least four different outputs on the back of the HDTV receiver, and that’s one short of the Samsung which had DVI. My TV has all of them. It takes a giant screen just so you can fit all the jacks on the back. Many formats are just for video so you have to wire the sound separately (more wires! don’t forget surround sound with 5 wires). The TV has 6 different video inputs, a couple of antenna inputs and then some others. There are coax, S-video, component, and RCA (like camcorders use).

    And still not enough outputs: Now I will need a splitter to send another antenna signal directly to the TV so if I want to watch old-fashioned channels without the HDTV receiver I can still do that. Plus you’ve got to ground and surge protect the antenna.

    I was able to download a universal remote upgrade so my remote can at least control the receiver. That’s pretty good, because last year this receiver didn’t even exist so I doubt many lesser universal remotes can control it.

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