DB8In a lot of areas of the county we have very limited choices for television programming. Cable isn’t a reality for most of us who live out in the county. Satellite is expensive; so how could I complain about my taxes going up whilst paying top dollar for my TV channels. Over the Air (OTA) from Seattle doesn’t work unless you live on top of a high hill and are willing to erect a tower with a aircraft carrier size antenna. The reality for many, including our household, has been 4 fuzzy Canadian TV stations, that is if you properly wrestle the bunny ears. With the new digital television still threatening to take over, I only assumed things would get worse.

I could be wrong though. When I got a new TV last month, I made sure that I got one which could receive these future digital signals as well as displaying high definition and Blu-Ray compatible. I’m cheap and didn’t want to buy a new TV again next year. I wish I had a photo of my state of the art widescreen 46″ LCD HDTV with bunny ears on top. It was a sight :) But with bunny ears atop the set, I did the first auto-channel scan and was amazed that I was now receiving channel 2.1 digital, and better yet wide screen high definition digital. All the other stations bore the same fuzziness to which I had grown accustom, but 2.1 was crystal clear. And let me tell you, you haven’t watched curling, until you’ve watched high definition curling.

ampNow here is the real reason for this post. I wanted to explore broadcast digital options that are available to me and I couldn’t find them anywhere out on the web. And even those sites with promising information assumed I’d be looking for Seattle stations rather than the much closer Canadian stuff. So this post is sort of a public service post of what I have found so far.

Here is my situation; I live on the north side of a little hill, over the hump without a clear shot at Bellingham nor anywhere south. The hill I’m on isn’t really any higher than most of the surrounding area, but still the only major obstacles between myself and Canada are trees and distance.

Old System

  • Regular old TV
  • RCA rabbit ears with UHF loop

Old System Performance

  • Channel 2 – OK picture, very watchable
  • Channel 6 – Fuzzy and barely watchable
  • Channel 8 – Most days fairly watchable
  • Channel 10 – Fuzzy and barely watchable
  • Channel 12 – OK picture, lots of psychedelic colors and ghosting
  • Channel 24 – Most days fairly watchable, but it’s home shopping channel so I don’t care
  • Channel 32 – Fuzzy and I wouldn’t consider it watchable, except Lost is on this channel so we are determined. We sometimes are unclear which character we are actually seeing

New System

  • HDTV with NTSC & ATSC tuners – from Costco online. Relatively cheap after waiting for 6 years to upgrade. It amazed me, as well as the UPS guy, that UPS will home deliver a 46″ TV.
  • Terrestrial DB8 antenna – Online from Erwin Computers. Cost $82.90 including ground shipping which took only 3 days from order to delivery. This same antenna is $119 without shipping at Target online, so I was a bit skeptical, but the order couldn’t have gone smoother. The DB8 antenna is only about 3 foot square and can be either indoor or outdoor. Mine is outdoors mounted on a 8 foot hunk of pipe stuck in the ground in an inconspicuous location. I tuned it by pointing it towards what I thought was about where Vancouver should be and then turning it slightly west. I don’t plan to get a fancy rotator, nor run outside to fine tune the picture, so I fiddled with this aim a few times until I got what seemed like the best performance compromise and then called it good.
  • Philips signal amplifier- from Wal-mart. Cost about $24, but I didn’t shop around. The DB8 antenna has a single coax cable coming out of it, so I ran a short cable to the amplifier and then a longer cable for the run into my TV.

New System Performance

  • Channel 2 – clear, very watchable
  • Channel 2.1 – crystal clear strong digital signal, also some HDTV programming.
  • Channel 6 – clear, very watchable
  • Channel 8 – clear, very watchable
  • Channel 10 – still fuzzy and barely watchable
  • Channel 12 – very watchable with a little bit of ghosting
  • Channel 12.1 – crystal clear strong digital signal, haven’t seen any HDTV programming yet.
  • Channel 17 – clear, very watchable
  • Channel 24 & 24.1 – still shopping so I don’t care
  • Channel 26 – clear, very watchable, but French language
  • Channel 32 – clear, very watchable
  • Channel 32.1 – crystal clear with strong digital signal, I haven’t watched enough to know if there is any HDTV programming, but I’m hoping. Especially Lost.
  • Channel 42 – not real clear, but watchable and better than anything on old system

Obviously the new system out performs the old; more stations, better picture quality and even HDTV in some cases. Again, satellite would certainly give me even better performance and more channels, but it also ropes you into contracts and monthly payments. This OTA solution is much more to my liking. I get enough watchable channels to suit me and there is no monthly bill after the relatively low cost initial investment.