In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Antenna adventure results

I was going to title this post Antenna adventure ends, or something along those lines, but I thought it had already ended before I climbed back on to the roof this morning!

One of the earlier times I thought I was done, I posted the results. Brad offered some suggestions in the comments which resulted in my removing the reflector from the smaller antenna and combining the signals from both antennas. That was a disaster. The results were worse than either antenna alone. So I wired each antenna separately, and not having things set up inside to use two separate signals, I’ve been using the smaller antenna alone since July. Strangely enough, the four-bay antenna without a reflector did just as well pulling in the Toronto signals as an eight-bay antenna with the reflector. The only channel I’ve had difficultly with was CTV, out of Toronto. Having only one problematic channel isn’t bad, but it’s the channel I watch the most! With Canadian stations being what they are, most of the programs I watch on CTV are imports from the US, and the stations they come from offer exceptional signals directly to me, so things were pretty good.

Then it hit me this morning. The reason CTV is so problematic is not because of Toronto’s distance and the terrain between my antenna and the transmitter. The reason is because CTV is transmitting on channel 9, which is the only VHF channel left in Toronto. The two antennas I had up are not designed to receive VHF, though they can serve in that role with a strong signal. The CTV signal isn’t strong because the transmitter is far, and there’s terrain preventing line-of-sight transmission. Since the big antenna wasn’t performing any better than the small one, I took down the big antenna. I have a VHF-high antenna that I didn’t bother using because I thought the other antennas would do the job. Since they weren’t, I made a change:

The top antenna is as it was, except I removed the reflector. It’s a four-bay ChannelMaster 4221HD and it brings in every UHF channel in the area. To address its VHF shortcoming, I added the Winegard YA-1713 VHF-high antenna. I did this because I already had the Winegard antenna. I would not have purchased it just to pull in CTV when most of the programs I want on that station are also available from the US stations. It was just sitting in the garage so I thought I might as well use it for a complete line-up.

This also takes care of my difficulty configuring my home theatre set-up to use two signal inputs. The pre-amp on the mast has a UHF input and a separate VHF input, so when I connect each antenna to the appropriate input, the signals are amplified, combined, and brought into the house on a single co-axial cable.

Weird, isn’t it? The $50 2½′ tall antenna pulls in every channel perfectly but one. To get that one channel, I need another antenna nearly 8½′ long that costs more than twice as much! It does make sense though, as longer frequencies need bigger antennas.

I’ve learned of another advantage of using an antenna over Canadian cable and satellite. When a Canadian station licences a US program and shows it at the same time as the US network, the Canadian station will substitute its own commercials just as you’d expect. What you might not expect, is the Canadian channel’s feed overwrites the US network when you tune in to the US network. They call it simultaneous substitution and use it to make sure Canadians see Canadian ads. As I said, this only happens with Canadian cable and satellite. While it’s not a big deal (outside of the Superbowl), mistakes happen and I’ve seen the last minute or two clipped off the end of a program. It’s not nice to sit there for an hour, and then be denied the last minute of the program! Given that I receive the signals directly from the US transmitters, I find myself choosing to record US shows from the US stations, eliminating any potential simultaneous substitution screw-ups.

Despite my delight at not having to submit to simultaneous substitution, I wouldn’t be happy with only the US stations. I want to watch Canadian news, and there are some Canadian stations that are not largely US rebroadcasters, such as TVOntario. Though my channel choice is limited, the channels I do get offer most of what I want, and the US stations are actually the US stations … commercials and all. My latest channel scan reports 49 channels so I do have a selection.

Oh, and did I mention that my monthly fee is $0?!


Oh Bell, why do we expect anything from you?


There’s a wood chip in my ear


  1. Julie

    Advantages of being the Analog Kid.

    • Rick

      Oh, heck no! It’s all digital all the way. I even use a Mac to record shows, and the saved files are straight dumps of the signal the broadcaster transmits.

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