Antennas

ClearStream Micron Over-the-Air Indoor DTV Antenna

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

A recent search on DTV stations in the San Francisco Bay Area brought me to this site.

The site listed all the channels within 100 miles of San Francisco. The list was long. Many transmitter locations were far away, so I was not going to receive all the channels. But still, the count was healthy. The site even listed several stations that are not broadcasting yet, but had either applied for or had received approval by the FCC.

The large channel count is the result of an allowance in the ATSC specification for terrestrial DTV to have sub-channels. Channel 42 in my area, for example, shows up with 15 SD sub-channels, 3 of which are audio only. The decision of whether to multicast channels is left to each station. Many stations enticed by the potential for an additional revenue stream, have embraced this option, choosing to multicast one or more channels.

Multiplexing channels is not without consequence, however. These additional channels now dip into the bit budget, meaning fewer bits for each channel. Stations often partition the bandwidth differently between these sub-channels to provide better quality on preferred sub-channels.

The ClearStream Micron Antenna is designed for those hard to reach stations.

Specifications

  • Design: Indoor Antenna for Over-the-Air DTV Stations
  • Range: 25 Miles
  • Peak gain: 4.5 dBi
  • Mounting Options: Table Top or Wall Mount
  • Dimensions: 10" H x 11" W x 4.5" D
  • MSRP: $59.99 USA
  • Antennas Direct

At home, I am able to receive about 70 terrestrial DTV channels (count includes all the sub-channels). Though only a small fraction of these channels are of interest to me, receiving them incurs no recurring cost. Also, should your satellite or cable provider blackout a broadcast channel after reaching an impasse over contract negotiations with a station, one can resort to the corresponding terrestrial DTV channel. This happened to me many years ago with DISH network; the company even offered their subscribers an antenna to receive terrestrial DTV after the channel got blacked out. Contract negotiations continued and the channel eventually returned to the lineup. As I was writing this review, this story repeated between News Corp. and Cablevision System Corp. in New York; the two companies eventually reached an agreement over retransmission fees.

Antenna Direct's sales data indicates that close to 50% of the 114 million TV-watching households are using an antenna to either supplement pay TV on the primary television in the home, or to get reception on secondary TV's in the home which are not hooked up to cable or satellite. The company is projecting a doubling of revenue from 2009 to 2010, a healthy growth rate. Stores continue to allocate shelf space to antennas.

A healthy growth rate in any sector also provides an opportunity for new companies. Antennas Direct is a relative newcomer; the company was incorporated in 2004. They offer a full-range of indoor and outdoor antenna options which can be purchased either online or through retail stores. The ClearStream Micron, an indoor antenna in their lineup, is the subject of this review.