Sunday, February 03, 2008

Why Buy When You Can Build? - Part I

OK, so in my dark descent into the world of high definition television it became quickly apparent that I would need an antenna to receive OTA (over the air) high definition television. HD is far less forgiving than analog signal. Living in a remote rural area I'm used to a little snow and ghosting on my 27" analog can still make out the picture pretty well and for the most part it's watchable. Well, HDTV is an all-or-nothing proposition. You either get a displayable signal or you don't, and before I blow $2000+ on a 50" 1080p plasma I want to be sure I actually have something to watch on it because I'm not ready yet to plunk down another $50/month for satellite.

So, I spent a great deal of time researching antennas and OTA reception. Because we never put up an antenna when we built the new house, I had to start from scratch. I really wasn't looking forward to the expense of putting up an antenna tower and I was concerned about the potential for wind damage with a roof-mounted antenna because the wind out here is insane. I did have a few things working in my favor though. For starters, looking at a broadcast station search for my area most of the network stations are within about 3 degrees of each other, meaning a directional antenna is feasible. Also, because they are within about 35 miles and I have no obstructions (trees, buildings, etc) in that direction, I should be able to mount the antenna in the attic instead of outside so I won't have to worry about wind or the unsightliness of an external antenna. In fact, mounting it at the east end of the house I don't even have to go through the roof itself, which is important because when it rains a traditional shingled roof will reflect/block a lot of signal.

So, I had decided that I would go on the recommendation of many posters in various technology forums (AVSForum in site ever for information about everything HDTV) and get a ChannelMaster 4228 antenna. At 39.5" wide I would just be able to get it up through the 2'x3' attic access in the ceiling. However, while asking some questions of the resident experts in the forums, somebody recommended building one myself first since I was concerned about cost. At first I was skeptical and dismissive...until I started reading about the success of people who had done the same thing literally using cardboard, aluminum foil and coat hangers. These people were not only saying the DIY antenna was working...but that in some cases it was working better than the DB2 and DB4 antennas they already had! It wasn't long before I was beginning to make a materials list and collect information on measurements and pointers provided by those in the forums.

Finally, after collecting the few materials I didn't already have on hand, I gave it a shot. In my next post I'll give all the details and pictures of what I built and a summary of my experiences so far with the new antenna.

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