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OTA vs. AM21 - thoughts?

Ernest_T
05-09-2008, 10:36 AM
I am a former DirecTV customer, but have been back with Comcast for about two years. I went with them because I was making my first foray into HDTV, and at the time, that was the easiest way to get my local channels in HD (actually, the only way other than OTA). In general, Comcast provides a good HD picture here, but DirecTV offers more HD channels, so I'm toying with the idea of returning.

My stumbling block is the locals in HD. Neither DirecTV nor Dish offer them in my market, and I'm hearing that D* probably won't offer them for a number of months (certainly not until DirecTV 11 is made available for use). I've spoken with a local DirecTV installer, and they say they can include an attachment (guessing this is the AM21) to attempt to pick up HD locals for $50, but he suspects I could easily miss two of the four major network stations we have in HD, and it might not work at all. They mentioned putting up a standard outdoor antenna, but that seems like a fair amount of expense (I probably wouldn't do the install myself), particularly if D* starts offering local HD channels here by say the beginning of fall. Although they did say that if I did that (say about 5 feet above my roof), I'd have a better chance of picking up all of my regular locals.

So what are your opinions about OTA vs. AM21 vs. the HD locals provided by D* (trying to think ahead)? Do you think it's worth the money and effort for the antenna, particularly when comparing the quality of these delivery methods? I could stay with Comcast if I had to (besides their high speed internet is very cool), but it would be nice to make the switch if it made enough sense. I've done some research on this stuff, but realize I'm still pretty much a newbie as far as HD goes. Thank you for your opinions.

borromini
05-09-2008, 10:55 AM
Unless I'm missing something I think the D* rep may have been misinformed...you still need an OTA antenna for the AM21 box to work. The box simply replaces the OTA input formerly available on D* HD boxes like the no-longer-offered H20.

My recommendation is that you install the OTA antenna on the roof. The cost is actually quite feasible. $25 for a good OTA antenna from places like Radio Shack. You can have the D* installer do the roof setup when they install the new dish you'll need to receive HD. Then you connect it to the AM21 and you should get everything offered locally including PBS in HD which D* still doesn't have on a timeline to offer. Not to mention the digital sub channels carried by the local networks that D* will never offer.

The OTA antenna will be a good back-up during those times when D* experiences technical glitches and you lose that satellite signal. In the future, when D* does begin offering locals...you might discover that the OTA feed still produces a better picture.

Ernest_T
05-09-2008, 06:41 PM
Well, to be fair, I'm the one that referenced the AM21. He just mentioned an attachment. He mentioned it was diamond shaped, and I believe he said it would be placed along with the dish. Chances are I just guessed wrong on what he was referring to. He also mentioned there were some HR20 boxes still floating around (refurbs of course), although he couldn't promise that I would be able to get one. As I'm sure you know, if I were able to get one of those, I wouldn't need the AM21.

hitdog042
05-09-2008, 07:06 PM
Well, to be fair, I'm the one that referenced the AM21. He just mentioned an attachment. He mentioned it was diamond shaped, and I believe he said it would be placed along with the dish. Chances are I just guessed wrong on what he was referring to. He also mentioned there were some HR20 boxes still floating around (refurbs of course), although he couldn't promise that I would be able to get one. As I'm sure you know, if I were able to get one of those, I wouldn't need the AM21.

I believe it's a box that sits on top of your receiver. The diamond shape thing hes talking about is probably an antenna of some sort.

As far as I know, the AM21 is just a box that sits on your HR21 and connects to it via a USB input. The OTA input then connects to the AM21.

antenna guy
05-10-2008, 10:22 AM
Ernest: Borromini is right. Get an outdoor antenna. If the Satellite installation location on your roof allows (i.e OTA "aiming" clears the roof and other obsticles), you can piggyback the OTA antenna on the satellite pole with a J pole and diplex the OTA signal onto the incoming satellite cable and then split it at your receiver (no second cable run).

There are other benefits to an OTA antenna. OTA antennas receive local stations, including now multi-casts adding several more local free stations and get an almost completely uncompressed signal for the best digital picture, including local stations in HD which may not be available from satellite. You may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available to you locally, if you're within 70 miles, even more, depending on the antenna you buy.

As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides back-up reception options for satellite signal loss due to equipment failure or rain, snow and ice fade. Considering the investment in your TV entertainment, buy a good antenna and enjoy it all.

rbinck
05-10-2008, 10:43 AM
I don't think the OTA signal can be diplexed with the 5 LNB dish signals anymore because the B band occupies the same band. There are some stackers available for MDU installations, but probably too expensive to consider. Best to run a second cable.

Everything else said about the benifits of having a separate OTA antenna is true and worthwhile.

Tiger62
05-10-2008, 06:37 PM
I don't think the OTA signal can be diplexed with the 5 LNB dish signals anymore because the B band occupies the same band. There are some stackers available for MDU installations, but probably too expensive to consider. Best to run a second cable.

Everything else said about the benifits of having a separate OTA antenna is true and worthwhile.

You can diplex the sat feed and the ota antenna as long as you move the BBC to where the sat dish feed enters the house and diplex it with the ota right after that. The BBCs are not weatherproof, though, so you can't move them outside. Also, at the receiver, you'll need another diplexer, not a splitter.

rbinck
05-11-2008, 11:36 AM
You can diplex the sat feed and the ota antenna as long as you move the BBC to where the sat dish feed enters the house and diplex it with the ota right after that. The BBCs are not weatherproof, though, so you can't move them outside. Also, at the receiver, you'll need another diplexer, not a splitter.
Yes, but whoever tries this should know that the house wiring needs to be able to pass the increased bandwidth. Most installations won't handle it, that's why D* puts the BBC at the receivers. If there are new cables and they were installed with the increased bandwidth required in mind, then it is probably worth a try.

Ernest_T
05-11-2008, 01:20 PM
So you guys are suggesting the outdoor OTA antenna. The installer that I spoke with sounded like he was making the same recommendation, although he didn't come right out and say "This is what you need to do." I'll ask if they would be able to install it for me. Most of the equipment from my original D* installation is still there. Assuming I go back with them, hopefully they can use the same basic setup (of course changing to the new equipment), and put the OTA line through in the same place.

As for the OTA as a backup point, I've actually already experienced that one. I bought a cheap indoor antenna for about $10 a few months back (was just experimenting at the time). It pulled in primary and secondary channels from only two of our stations, but luckily, one of those was our CBS affiliate. I called in sick one Friday in March, and as it turned out, we had some tornadoes in our area during that morning's rush hour time. I tried to watch my TV for information - Comcast service was out, but the OTA pulled in that affiliate. Therefore, I was able to see the report.

Now I'll have to ask about antenna recommendations, but I'll put that in the Local HDTV Info and Reception area.

Excellent information offered by you guys - thank you very much!

cbearnm
05-14-2008, 02:08 PM
Depending on how far you are from the transmitters, an indoor antenna may do the job. One model that seems good is a Silver Sensor. Radio Shack used to stock it, but you should be able to find it online. Check return policies. It looks like a futuristic model plane. It is wedge shaped and is about 10 inches long (shaped like a V). Terk also makes some good units. They are worth a try before going the outside antenna route, if you are within 20-25 miles.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/213G23HMA7L._SL500_AA240_.jpg

The AM-21 is really just the tuner and interface to the DVR. I got mine yesterday and was really impressed with how well it tunes. Very nice. D* does charge for it, but try the CSR route to see if you can get it for free. Tell them that you want the subchannels that D* won't carry, even when they add your market.

glennb1
05-20-2008, 02:45 PM
You'd be better off putting up an outside antenna for OTA and don't mess with diplexing it with your 5 LNB dish signals, just run a separate coax line for the OTA antenna.