HDTVWhen purchasing a HDTV, one thing to think about is where your HD content will come from. The current choices are HD cable TV packages, Blu-ray and HD-DVDs, and over-the-air (OTA) HD television. I chose the OTA route, and I’m extremely happy with the money I save and the amount of HD content I watch (which is more than enough in Chicago). The greatest benefit of OTA (besides saving money) is you’ll receive a clearer, purer HD broadcast signal than people who pay $100 and up for HD cable TV. Why is the picture better? OTA delivers a signal with less compression than cable services. You’ll see the HD content as your broadcaster intended. Cable providers must compress their signals more because of bandwidth concerns.

If you live in Chicago, these are the HD channels I receive in my Wicker Park ground-floor apartment:

  1. 2.1 – CBS
  2. 5.1 – NBC
  3. 7.1 – ABC
  4. 9.1 – CW
  5. 11.1 – PBS – One of my favorites, features great visually stunning HD programming like nature docs, etc.
  6. 201 – PBS
  7. 26.1 – IND
  8. 32.1 – FOX
  9. 38.1 – ION
  10. 44.1 – TEL
  11. 60.1 – TFA
  12. 66.1 – UNI

Radio Shack HDTV AntennaOne of the requirements for receiving OTA HD is an antenna. The antenna I purchased was a cheap $20 Radio Shack UHF/VHF antenna (pictured at right). It works fine for picking up all the local channels (except CBS). In order to receive CBS, I must reposition the antenna, often in detriment to the other channels’ signal strengths. The reason for this is that the CBS broadcast tower is in a different location that the other stations, so I must turn my antenna to face that direction. (*2/09/08 update* The CBS signal seems to come in stronger now, and I rarely have to reposition it to get the signal. It ocassionally disappears still, though.)

One tip when shopping for an antenna is to be careful about paying a premium for “HDTV antennas,” as there is no such thing. If you live in Chicago or other urban television markets like New York, Dallas, etc, the website Antenna Web supplies information about how to optimize your signal strength. It provides a map service showing where broadcast towers are in relation to your address. Click here to try out their mapping service.

Other helpful links:

Google Map of Chicago televsion broadcast towers from HDTV Magazine.

Over the Air Demystified” via EngadgetHD

Sound and Vision Magazine – “HDTV Over the Air