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The Audio Critic

Home Theater BIG Screen, 2000 watts

MP3's v.s CD's, DTS v.s Dolby and other Stuff

Macrovision and how you can avoid it

Read this article for some Sound Advice

Build your own set of biline speakers

Spherex 5.1 (Home Theater in a box) Speaker Review

Proview RX-326 32" LCD HDTV Review

LG LDA-371 DVD Player Review

A Computer for the Living Room, a look at HTPC's

Spyder3TV Review

ATSC: what is it and why should you care

Boxee Box Review


ATSC what the heck is it and why you want to know about it.

ATSC is basically High definition 1080i Digital television signals sent through the air like a FM station. This new digital feed is far superior to cable and satellite TV as it has little to no compression and the picture quality is breath taking. ATSC is a set of standards developed by the 'Advanced Television Systems Committee' for digital television transmission and you may have heard some noise about the end of Analog TV in the United States, well it's also coming to the same fate here in Canada but it's going to happen on August 31, 2011. This is when ATSC will replace the analog NTSC television system.

I and many others have been a little confused by the term analog and digital when used with television signals, I say this because it was assumed that this change would affect cable companies and many consumers started to upgrade to digital set top boxes. In fact the change from analog to digital signals only affects anyone who is using a television with an antenna, you know those 3 or 4 fuzzy channels with lots of background noise and snow. I bet most of you are asking does anyone actually still use an antenna, but if you have one and an ATSC tuner you will now get full 1080i HDTV with surround sound.

ATSC Tuners
Well here's a little known fact but in the United States since March 1, 2007 all TV's sold must have an ATSC tuner. The problem is that canada has no rule and what has happened is that many TV's that were not ATSC equipped were dumped here in Canada. We still have no law that stipulates sets must have an ATSC tuner but since it's been mandatory in the USA most sets sold today in Canada do have them. If you were unlucky enough to purchase a television recently and it did not have an ATSC tuner you can get a separate tuner such as a Centronics ZAT502 HD for $159.99 or some of you might wish to use a PC to view the signals and a product like the AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX USB Stick for $79.96 is another alternative.

ATSC specification
The ATSC specification uses MPEG-2 to allow the use of progressive frames coded within an interlaced video sequence. For example, NBC stations transmit a 1080i 60 video sequence, meaning the formal output of the MPEG-2 decoding process is sixty 540-line fields per second. However for prime-time television shows, those 60 fields can be coded using 24 progressive frames as a base - actually, an 1080p 24 video stream (a sequence of 24 progressive frames per second) is transmitted, and MPEG-2 metadata instructs the decoder to interlace these fields and perform 3:2 pulldown before display, as in soft telecine. OK in simple english this translates to a 1080i signal which is 1920 X 1080 image at 24 fps with Dolby Digital AC3 sound.

How many stations can I get
I completed the scanning and found five digital channels but remember the cut-off date is Aug 31,2011 so that number may grow significantly as the deadline approaches. Now the amount of digital content you pull in is also really dependant on your area (Toronto has 30+) I did find a really useful tool that allows you to pinpoint signals within your area to better judge what is available it's called TV Fool and I suggest you have a look at what's in your area before rushing out and getting one of these or you might be disappointed with the the selection of digital channels. Below is a graph showing the current towers and signals available in my area. You also have to remember anything you get is completely free with no monthly fees for equipment or delivery systems!


What type of Antenna do I need
Believe it or not but a whole forum exists just to help individuals like you to figure that out and they have a PDF file that is updated frequently as new models are tested the forum can be found Here but if you just want to have a look at the PDF from March 2010 then click Here. I waded through the forums and settled on the Channel Master 4221HD and I purchased it from Save and Replay.com for $49.99

Again with some help from TV Fool I figured out which signals and directions were strongest in my area, the green lines indicate towers and the strength is indicated by the thickness of the lines.

So based on this information I installed my antenna in the same general direction as my roof peak line and this seems to work good I have fiddled with other alignments but the information from TV Fool has proved to be very accurate and I can't get any other channels without sacrificing ant channels quality.

And just to show you how much digging you need to do when reading forums I found this post regarding the Channel Master 4221HD antenna I had purchased:

Here’s a little hack that I have been doing for a while now in order to beef up the new CM4221HD antenna design. It appears that whoever it was at PCT in China that was responsible for the re-design of the new CM4221HD was more concerned with the cosmetic values of this newly designed antenna than it’s overall performance values. There has been some concern among many about the lacking performance of the new CM4221HD antennas as compared to the old CM4221 antenna design. There are a few simple revisions that can be made to the CM4221HD that will restore those overall performance values and restore the familiar characteristics that the old CM4221 antenna had.

‘V’ ELEMENT OBSTRUCTIONS:
There are some cute little 1” plastic covers that hide a portion of the elements at the connection points of each ‘V’ element on each bay. Remove these 8 cosmetic plastic caps and just toss them away, as they actually shorten the overall calculated length of each ‘V’ element by almost 2”.

RESIZE THE REFLECTOR GRID WIDTH:
The next thing that will need some adjustment is the width of the 24” wide reflector grid. The new CM4221HD reflector grid is 24” wide and the old CM4221 is only 20” wide. To do this, just carefully remove the plastic side retainers from all of those grid rods. Then cut exactly 2” off each of the aluminum grid rods and then reinstall the plastic side retainers.

BALUN TO BOOM CLEARANCE:
The flat bars that the balun box is connected to are too close to the boom, so simply pull the balun assembly outwards and make sure that those flat bars are at least ½” away from the boom. I believe this may have just been an oversight that should have been mentioned within the antenna assembly instruction sheet.
[I believe this inward positioning of the balun was intended to accommodate the slim packaging dimensions and to reduce the risk of shipping damages]

You will now have the same basic dimensional and performance characteristics of the original CM4221 antenna design.

So the photo below is the BALUN TO BOOM CLEARANCE as mentioned above and when you first get the antenna the bars are longer and bent inwards.



To give an idea of the difference it makes you can see the new holes I had to drill in order to make the bars straight, you will also notice the caps mentioned in ‘V’ ELEMENT OBSTRUCTIONS above have been removed. Click either photo to enlarge

So currently those of you living near the US border will have a larger selection of digital channels to select from, in fact according to this chart Here a total of 30 HD digital stations are available in the Toronto area!

I hope you now see why ATSC is important and how it could enable you to cut the cord from your current cable company, perhaps one day we will see an antenna on every roof but until then please help spread the word.


 

 



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