Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year in Review


2013 was a big year for Canadian consumers in the area of cordcutting and over-the-air TV. Let’s take moment to look back on some of the highlights:

New antenna hardware options:
Whoever thought the market for over-the-air broadcast TV in Canada was coming to a sudden demise was definitely proven wrong in 2013.

With Canadian Pay TV prices skyrocketing faster than food,shelter and phone costs in 2013 a greater number of Canadians joined their neighbours to the south and looked at online streaming + over-the-air digital broadcasting as options, and it showed. Cordcutting came to Canada in record numbers, Netflix overtook HBO in subscribers and antenna sales soared in North America.

Thanks to a growing trend towards the freedom of cordcutting and disputes between pay TV providers and networks, North American consumers fed up of the high prices and shenanigans went out and bought antennas in droves this past year.


Never has there been such a flurry of activity on the antenna market, with antennas becoming more compact, powerful and also stylish. Antennas Direct brought its powerful “DBe” line onto the market, Mohu launched the Curve, Winegard packed a knockout punch in its tiny FlatWave series and Channel Master joined the mini-antenna movement with its newly redesigned SMARTenna. To add to that, newcomer HD Frequency came into the Canadian market with a bang late in the year with its duo of Cable Cutter premium antennas .
Didn't they know broadcast TV is supposed to be dying out? New affordable, powerful and compact antennas like the FlatWave AIR from Winegard popped up all over the market in 2013.

Front and Back-End DVRs
How could the OTA market be dead when PVR juggernaut Tivo included an OTA tuner in its new Roamio box? Also Channel Master finally unveiled its long-rumoured DVR+ powered by PVR-hardware development pro Echostar, which hit the market at a surprisingly competitive price point and has a guide that can work off an antenna input only if required (no need for an internet connection).

Channel Master's new DVR+ may be the OTA PVR everyone has been waiting for all along.

On the backend, several companies are targeting the growing numberof Canadian TV streamers to add programming from OTA signals to their AppleTV and Roku boxes. Canadian newcomer Nuvyyo had a fairly successful IndieGoGo campaign for its new Tablo DVR which can add up to four OTA tuners and whole home PVR capabilities to devices on a home network. US-based SiliconDust teamed up with Simple.TV to offer a similar product and also had the InstaTV Pro app finally released on iOS after a long patent dispute giving new life to its HD HomeRun OTA tuner boxes.


Nuvyyo's Tablo is Canada's take at a high-powered backend OTA DVR.

Channel Selection
There was a lot of movement on the channel front in 2013: CHCH went digital in Hamilton, CityTV came to Montreal and Canal ICI went on-air for the first time. Subchannels also came and went with certain US border stations struggling with poor ratings on their digital subs. Newcomers to the north TuffTV and Antenna TV look to inch closer and get in more Canadian cities by actively looking for dance partners in the northern US.


Uncertainty for Sports
The biggest bombshell of the year in sports media was the signing of a record 12-year $5.2 Billion deal between the NHL and SportsNet, giving the cable TV channel owned by Rogers exclusive hockey broadcast rights in Canada until the 2025-26 season. This served a huge shock to most Canadians who were used to watching regional games on CBC via the traditional “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday nights. There was solace but still a lot of uncertainty as the CBC was granted two “national games” under the authority of Rogers to be aired on Saturday nights for the next four seasons. The situation will be even more complicated in Quebec where French-language and SportsNet partner TVA Sports holds the rights.

The Rogers deal changes the landscape of NHL hockey on Canadian TV for the next 12 years. Photo courtesy financialpost.com

As a silver lining for non-cable-subscribing hockey fans, a preliminary broadcast plan showed that additional OTA Saturday night hockey may be added on CityTV affiliates (and perhaps even TVA stations in Quebec, although highly unlikely)  but nothing has been confirmed. However with major viewership numbers and big bucks at stake, many are trying to see what motivation Rogers and TVA would have in airing games for free on Saturday night via OTA. So for many Canadians once this current 2013-2014 NHL season is over, they will be wondering if they will be able to watch a Stanley Cup final via their rabbit ears ever again.

Could there actually be more Saturday OTA hockey in Canada next year? Although early speculations are unlikley to materialize one could always dream... 


What’s to look forward to in 2014
The good news for Canadians is that as the demand for antennas increases in the great white north, the message is being heard loud and clear. Once devoid of quality antennas, Canadian big box stores have caught the winds of cordcutting change as in 2014 Antennas Direct is to be carried by Best Buy Canada and Winegard is expanding its product line with The Source. HD Frequency is actively looking at placing its products with major Canadian OTA speciality suppliers and is offering free shipping to Canada as a promotion in the meantime.

And with new antenna-ready PVRs hitting the market in the form of Tablo, Simple.TV and Channel Master’s DVR+ the options and ease of an OTA setup will only grow for Canadians.

Conclusion

With that being said, all of us here at the Average Joe Team would like to thank you for a great 2013 and wish you and your families a safe and happy 2014. See you all in the new year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

HD Frequency Cable Cutter and Cable Cutter Mini


Newcomer on the OTA scene serves up practicality, functionality and robust design in its debut

Every so often, Average Joe receives a sample from an unknown or new manufacturer of a product that we test out and end up sending back and not reviewing (our mother taught us to either say something nice or nothing at all). To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect when we received our first samples of HD Frequency’s products but the very fact that you are reading these words is a sign of the good product produced by this new enterprise.

A newcomer to the growing over-the-air TV hardware scene, Massachusetts-based HD Frequency has entered into the antenna market with its Cable Cutter brand and initial offering of two sizes of DTV antennas. Designed with the help of an RF engineer / physicist and tested for extended periods in in OTA-rich New York City, the products are now available for sale. 
 
The Cable Cutter Mini (above) is targeted at the indoor antenna crowd.
 
 
The Cable Cutter (above) is the longer-range product meant for the great outdoors.


Your Average Joe has had the chance to give these two models a shakedown for several weeks and here’s what can be reported:

Model: HD Frequency Cable Cutter
Size: 19” wide by 20 ½” high x ½” thick (hardware) 

Package includes: Cable Cutter, weatherproof connection boot, instructions


Model: HD Frequency Cable Cutter Mini
Size: 5½” wide x 8” high x ½” thick (hardware)
Package includes: Cable Cutter Mini, instructions
 


Output: One F-type connector (cable coax) on the antenna for RG-59 or RG-6 cable

Pros: Compact form factor, good reception range, solid construction and durability

Cons: Somewhat awkward to mount, look is somewhat “industrial” (matching its ruggedness)
 

Build Quality
This Made-in-the-USA antenna brings to mind the famous American “no replacement for displacement” engineering philosophy from Detroit’s golden age of manufacturing. These antennas are the most durable and solid we’ve seen. While other manufacturers are packaging paper-thin aluminium foil in plastic cases or using hollow rods and easy-to-bend reflectors, HD Frequency gives a lattice of solid metal that looks likes it could survive a military application let alone the latest windstorm on your roof. The quality is exceptional and never for a second did we have to treat either model delicately. Even the heavy gage wires from the baluns are attached using heavy-duty hardware and the entire unit is sealed with a high quality coating.


 
 

The lattices on the Cable Cutter are quite wide but we didn’t notice any issues related to wind over the weeks of testing as the construction is solid and rigid. And despite the fact that the Mini is technically labelled as an indoor antenna, it is made of the same material and finishes as the Cable Cutter and can be used outside if so desired.

 


So basically this is definitely not the weak “knockoff” type of fabrication quality we see from imported clone brands on the internet and auction sites; it is overall on par with what you would expect from the big boys in the US antenna scene, and then some.

Installation

Cable Cutter Mini

The installation instructions for the Cable Cutter Mini are fairly simple. The antenna can be hung from a hook, stuck to a wall or window or as we found, propped upright on a shelf or table using the heavy duty wire gauge for the balun as a prop. Being so small and lightweight allows for many mounting options and word from HD Frequency is a new table top mount is being looked at to allow the antenna to sit like a picture frame.
One minor thing we noticed, and it may simply be due to the somewhat early infancy of this product, is that using the included adhesive mounts is extremely difficult. The reason being that the adhesive pads are so thin the antenna cannot sit flat against a surface (wall or window) as the center hardware mounting the balun touches before the adhesive pads in the corners can make contact. We tried to get around this by rolling the pads into little balls but even then the antenna would pull back and eventually detach. For testing, we eventually replaced the adhesive pads with a thicker 3M product used for non-permanent attachment of objects to a wall (sold in rolls at most hardware stores). We imagine this will be looked at in future iterations of the product. 
 
The screws seen above protrude from the surface of the antenna on both sides.
Despite the instructions (top), the hardware protruding prevented the antenna to lay flay and the adhesive pads from sticking (middle). After using a different type of sticky tape installation was complete (bottom).

Cable Cutter

Installation of the larger Cable Cutter is also designed to be on a surface or attached to a structure via two mounting holes. We imagine for most people living in apartments or condos this is a great antenna to balcony or window mount.  

 
Mast mounting the Cable Cutter requires some thought, but is doable.

 
 Due to the fact it appears it is designed for urban areas, the Cable Cutter posed us interesting challenges in trying to use a more traditional pole or J-mount as there was no real way to attach it to a tubular object (barring from drilling holes). In the end we ended up using a combination of tape and a hose clamp for testing, so if you are looking to tower or pole mount this antenna, get ready for some MacGyver moves.


Assembling the antenna
Perhaps one of the best features of these antennas is that there is no assembly required!


Aiming the antenna
Both antennas had best reception with the largest flat surface aimed to the broadcast towers and with their position upright, although “landscape mode” worked fairly well for the Mini too. We informally measured an approximate beamwidth of 120 degrees which is great if you have signals coming from all over the place or are in between towers.

For the Mini, finding the right spot to install the antenna and rotating it to tune the signal took a bit of time but not necessarily much more when compared to other indoor antennas. It was solid after that.
A great bonus is that there is no reflector on these antennas, meaning you can easily catch signals from both the front and back of the antenna.


Performance

We tested both models for several weeks in a suburban area. Both models displayed consistent results over time with the Mini grabbing most available locals and the Cable Cutter having reasonable reception for long range stations. Samples of the results are in the table below for various stations across the RF band with some of our top performing baseline antennas for comparison.

Station (RF)
Distance (mi)
Baseline Indoor Antenna ($50)
Cable Cutter Mini ($40)
Baseline Outdoor Antenna Setup ($160)
Cable Cutter ($90)
10
12
90%
73%
81%
90%
13
81
No signal
No signal
76%
66%
14
81
60%
No signal
91%
85%
21
12
93%
93%
90%
93%
22
81
63%
53%
83%
93%
29
12
53%
58%
81%
85%
32
81
No signal
No signal
90%
66%
35
12
64%
73%
85%
76%
43
81
No signal
No signal
83%
63%

We felt it was important to include the prices of the baselines against the HD Frequency products, especially for our outdoor reference antenna which also happens to be amplified. The values above are the results given a fixed location, maximized to bring in the most DTV stations.
Overall, we found the Cord Cutter Mini stacked up well enough against its indoor counterpart for local stations. The Cable Cutter performed well for a single-sheet passive antenna, especially in the mid-range, as it seems to be optimized around RF 22, where we saw the most gain.


Appearance
Both antennas definitely put functionality before appearance (i.e. there are no plastic cosmetic covers to found anywhere), which doesn’t necessarily they are bad-looking. If anything, they don’t even look like antennas and would probably fly below the radar of any overzealous condo board in terms of exterior mounting (maybe have some roses grow through the lattice of the Cable Cutter?).

The exposed cables and balun in the center as well as the heavy-duty hardware gives a fairly industrial look to the antennas, but rest assured it is anything but garage-shop.


Prices and Where to Buy
Currently HD Frequency products are available from the company’s website and Amazon.com. The units retail for about $50 for the Mini and $100 for the Cable Cutter with current promotions bringing the price down to $40 and $90 respectively.

Canadian distribution may be coming in 2014 but nothing is confirmed yet.


Conclusion
In an age where some antenna manufacturers seem mostly concerned in giving their antennas sleek packaging, cute names and fancy cosmetics, it was sincerely refreshing to see a young company such as HD Frequency focus on the Engineering aspect and build quality of the design. Despite the fact the antennas lost points due to a decline in performance at the extreme ends of the DTV band and some installation shortcomings, both seem to be products that are on the right track.
The Cable Cutter Mini is a solid indoor antenna option for people in apartments or condos where space is limited and robust reception is needed, and unlike a lot of its indoor-only competitors it can even be put outside if need be. The bigger brother Cable Cutter is a great balcony or eaves-mount antenna, and it performed within a respectful margin to the usual suspects we recommend on this site.

Cable Cutter Mini: 7/10
Cable Cutter: 7.5/10

More information on HD Frequency and its products can be found on the HD Frequency website

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Dual Home Network OTA Tuner

 
Hitting it out of the park – the HD HomeRun Dual provides the most bang for the buck for getting your OTA antenna signal on your home network
 
Watching TV by antenna a few years ago meant being parked in front of TV to watch a fuzzy analog pictures and fiddling with finicky rabbit ears. Today, thanks to innovative products like the HD HomeRun by SiliconDust, watching TV by antenna has expanded beyond the TV room and plunked that crystal clear digital OTA signal onto your home network.  Hook up your antenna and you can use your Laptop for catching the local news at the breakfast table, turn your PC into a DVR to record your favorite shows or catch late night television in bed on your iPad. Let's take a closer look and see what we find:



Model: SiliconDust HD HomeRun Dual
Size:  4" wide by 5" deep by  1 1/2" high

Package includes: HD HomeRun Dual, Cat5e Cable, RG6 Cable, Power Adapter, Installation CD, Instruction manual

Input: One F-type connector (cable coax) for RG-59 or RG-6 cable, 5V DC power plug
Output: Ethernet network cable female port (Cat5e)

Pros: Great tuner sensitivity, easy to use, compact design, fully loaded accessory package included, good price, widely supported apps and software, units can be added as required to increase number of tuners, software loads are stable with no real bugs or known issues
Cons: Chews through wireless router bandwidth like a hungry termite in softwood, it will be a popular peripheral on your network so two tuners may be used up pretty fast

Build Quality
 
The build quality of the HD HomeRun is excellent. The plastic casing is of very robust quality with a nice finish and the connectors are solidly installed. It is lightweight but definitely does not come across as cheap.  The unit itself is perfectly silent as there are no fans, so it can be considered “home theatre” friendly as you won’t hear any humming coming from it. Overall, a very clean and compact design.
 

Compact and well built, so it will last for years and won't take up much room on the shelf.
.
 
Installation
 
Installation is a breeze – with only 3 connections and no buttons to press, there’s no way to really mess this up. Simply follow the very clear and easy instructions to connect the unit to your router via the Ethernet port, then screw in your antenna input coax and plug in the unit to power it up. The lights will cycle through various flashing and colour coeds and in the end the green light will stay solid to show you it’s up and running.

Installation is clean and simple, the unit powers up once plugged in.


Performance
 
The unit comes with two tuners allowing any devices on the network drive to take command of these inputs. Tuner sensitivity is better than most built-in TV tuners and is on par with most other high-end OTA DVR and set top boxes we have tested.
 
The HD HomeRun and its software works very well with Myth TV (Linux) Windows Media Center (PC) and other open source media center and home theatre PC programs. EyeTV or Elgato are able to run the HD HomeRun on Mac Devices.


 
 
Turn your PC or laptop into a DVR - The HD HomeRun plays really well with Windows Media Center. Once the software is installed, it easily recognizes the HD HomeRun hardware (top), it populates the program guide with info from the internet (up to 2 weeks, middle) and in no time you can watch your shows, pause, skip and record in crystal-clear DTV (bottom).



For mobile devices and tablets, we found the InstaTV Pro app (recently released after a royalty dispute for iOS) is the way to go and has versions on most platforms (the wireless streaming may put some stress on your modem though!).

 
 
 
Watching TV from your antenna on your iPad, tablet or mobile device has never been easier with InstaTV Pro. Simply download the app and install; the device will stream directly from the HD HomeRun. It automatically locates your HomeRun box on the network (top), downloads program guide info from the internet (upper middle) and displays program info while you browse what's currently on (lower middle). You can then watch in full screen mode from anywhere you decide to wander to in your home.
 
 
Performance is highly dependent on how good your router is. We noticed that most standard WiFi routers given by the usual internet service providers have their hands full when streaming fast moving, 720p pictures to a mobile device. There was minor but yet visible picture quality degradation in mostly fast moving programs such as sports.
 
In general, this is not really the HD HomeRun's fault, but it needs to be considered if you are looking to use this unit as a primary TV source on a larger screen,. In that case,you may want to upgrade your router or go with a wired Ethernet connection.
 
Prices and Where to Buy

The HD HomeRun Dual retails anywhere between $90 - $120 in Canada. We highly recommend waiting and buying the unit from Canadian  online discount retailers like Newegg as they have regular promotions on this device, making it very obtainable in its sale price range of $60-$80.

Apps to run the HD HomeRun feed on devices range from free versions (usually require the setup of a server on a PC) to aboput $10 for standalone versions. 

Apps like InstaTV Pro retail for about $10 but can stream directly from the HDHR. A free version requires the installation of the InstaTV Pro Server which has to stay running to be used by your devices.

Conclusion
The HD HomeRun Dual when purchased on sale within the $70 price range delivers by far the most bang for its buck for adding an OTA signal on your home network or WiFi. It delivers in terms of tuner sensitivity and performance, comes with a fully-loaded package from the start, is supported by a range of apps and programs on multiple platforms and is sleek and easy-to-use. For that price, there is not much more you can ask for, especially considering it's dual tuner.

With new versions of the HD HomeRun (PLUS, 3) currently coming out on the market, prices of the Dual can be perhaps expected to drop even more, making this unit all that more attractive.

Overall Rating: 9/10


More info on the HD HomeRun Dual can be found on the SiliconDust website .

More info on the InstaTV apps can be found on the InstaTV website.


 
 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Disgruntled customer gets burn-in on plasma TV, Laval judge orders Future Shop to reimburse $700

Man watched so much of Quebec TV chain, “TVA” logo is permanently burnt-in on screen of 4-year old plasma TV.

In this past week’s “your tax dollars at work” segment, a disgruntled Future Shop customer got the most out of the Laval (Quebec) municipal judicial system as he was awarded a $700 reimbursement for the burn-in of a channel logo on his 4-year old plasma TV.

According to this article in French-language newspaper Journal de Montreal, Daniel Cardin watched so much of the francophone TVA network on his plasma TV that the TVA logo was permanently burnt-in to the corner of the screen, especially noticeable when watching hockey on RDS (pretty much the only time he would change the channel).



Latest TVA logo (image courtesy of tva.canoe.ca)

He made his case that back in 2010 when he purchased the plasma TV a Future Shop sales rep had warned him that extended periods of video game-playing would cause burn-in, yet never mentioned that burn-in could happen from the background logos on conventional TV channels. Based on this information and the fact that Denis was not a video game player, he figured that the $1500 plasma TV would be a good choice, and even bought the $480 extended warranty. When the burn-in reached an intolerable level, he complained but Future Shop refused to honour the warranty so Denis took them to small claims court.
The judge stated the sales rep should have shared this important information with Denis at the time of the purchase and ruled in his favour. However, since the risk of burn-in from watching the same channel was clearly specified in the TV manufacturer’s owner manual the judge ordered Future Shop to only pay a portion of the original value ($700).



 

Social media was ablaze following news of the court ruling. But what does this ruling really mean for the everyday electronics consumer who has ever felt duped by a sales pitch? It's hard to say.

The latest technology shift means the window is closing on screen burn-in as an issue anyways: with a combination of declining plasma TV sales and the last major plasma TV producer ending production, any jurisprudence this case may have created will likely be obsolete in a few years.  As for feeling ripped off by a sales pitch, the burden of proof will be on the plaintiff and even then a full refund will be hard to obtain.

To conclude with Denis, while $700 might fall short in getting him a new TV of the same size, my two cents is perhaps TVA should pony up the rest of the cash to get their best audience member back in front of the screen. Perhaps a nice new LED TV?

Sources: Journal de Montreal online content, @MontrealOTA on Twitter, Engadget.com online content

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Antennas Direct DB4e gets a Boost From the Clearstream VHF Dipole Kit

Use the Clearstream Dipole Kit to Make This Great UHF Antenna fit your VHF Needs


With the shrinking of the broadcast TV spectrum in the great DTV transition of 2009 (US) and 2011 (Canada) a few years back, the door was opened for antenna manufacturers to optimize and design antennas for the new range of DTV channels. Antennas Direct was perhaps the most proliferate as it produced its Clearstream antenna line to much success ... and then pushed the envelope further with its newest DBe line, again proving that compact antennas can pack good performance.
The Antennas Direct DB4e, the newest and most powerful compact UHF antenna on the market (Photo courtesy of Antennas Direct)
To the dismay of some Canadian consumers,  the DBe line was exclusively designed for UHF reception only (channels 14 and up), putting people living in areas with stations still broadcasting on VHF-Hi (channels 7 to 13) on the sidelines. These people would either have to purchase a separate antenna for the VHF channels or forego the DB4e altogether and its awesome UHF reception power in favour a different brand VHF + UHF antenna.

Well, the good news is that this predicament is no longer the case thanks to the creation of the Clearstream VHF kit, a set of antenna dipoles and signal combining hardware that can be used to add VHF-Hi reception on any Clearstream or DBe series antenna.



The C2V Reflector Kit (top) adds VHF-Hi capability to a Clearstream 2 antenna (above). With some mods, the kit can fit a DB4e. (Photos courtesy of Antennas Direct)

The kit itself comes designed for the Clearstream 2, as it is meant to be form-fit-function replacement of the reflector.  However, with a new set of instructions from Antennas Direct and some basic handyman skills that kit can be modified and adapted to work on the DBe line.

With some handiwork the C2V kit fits on the DB4e. (Photo courtesy of @MontrealOTA on Twitter)

Your very own Average Joe got his hands on the DB4e and the Clearstream kit and decided to test out if this simple kit is enough to redeem the DB4e in VHF zones.

Model: Antennas Direct DB4e + Clearstream VHF Dipole Kit
Size:  37” high x 8” deep x 21” wide (becomes 38” wide with addition of VHF dipole)

DB4e package includes: DB4e antenna, mounting hardware for pole mount, instructions
C2V VHF Dipole package includes: Dipole reflector kit, UHF/VHF combiner, necessary coax cables to combine dipole to DB4e, instructions

Output: One F-type connector (cable coax) on the antenna for RG-59 or RG-6 cable

Pros: Great reception range in fairly compact design, strong UHF performance, dipole kit adds good VHF-Hi performance, wide reception angle, good quality connectors and signal combiner
Cons: The antenna doesn’t exactly blend in with its surroundings, cost becomes quite substantial when you add on the dipole kit


Build Quality
Overall, the antenna and dipole kit both have good build quality. We liked that the antenna elements are well put together and the connectors are high quality and protected from the elements. The DB4e mounting clamp is strong and sturdy and the plastic trim pieces are of decent quality. We did notice that some of the metal pieces were a little low end in terms of fabrication tolerances with some holes appearing to be drilled off-centre and some of the reflectors were misaligned (bent). It was nothing major as we simply bent items back to where they should be to get everything nice and lined up. The dipole kit itself is very robust; once deployed from its folded position the clamps hold the dipoles securely with no risk of them collapsing under use.

Nice attention to detail: Weather protection is provided on all the cables in the kit and the balun and signal joining components are of high quality. Well done, Antennas Direct.


Assembling the antenna
The DB4e comes almost fully assembled with just the forward antenna element assembly needing to be mounted to the reflector assembly with two spacers. In all, it was an easy setup and took no more than five minutes.

Preparing the dipole kit was a bit more involved as the reflector assembly had to be removed and then hardware had to be swapped in order to install the dipoles on the antenna. As the included instructions were only for mounting on a Clearstream 2, I contacted my local Antennas Direct retailer who then emailed me a PDF of special modification instructions. In the end it took a total of 20 minutes to create what I call the “DB4eV”.

 
Overall, the assembled antenna and VHF dipole is very robust yet still lightweight.

Installation

Installing the antenna was simple. Although on the larger end of the compact antenna category, it is still very lightweight and was easy for one person to carry up the ladder and manipulate. The clamp fits on a large variety of tower poles and can even be installed on J-mounts. While some people have used the DB4e with satellite J-mounts, we suggest going with longer 39” J-mounts over the conventional ones meant for satellite dishes due to the size of the antenna.

We aired out the DB4eV for testing line-of-sight to our transmitters.

Aiming the antenna is easy as the beam angle is so wide that as long as the front is facing the approximate direction of the broadcast towers you’re bound to get a great signal. We love the fact that the DB4e has wing nuts for the mast clamp as it makes it easy to adjust and aim using just your fingertips, then once you have it pointed in the right place you can tighten it with pliers.
 
Performance

We tested the DB4e is Montreal for one main reason: this area has a distant Fox station from Burlington that is difficult to catch on RF 43. The DB4e has some of its peak performance in that area so we wanted to see if the DB4e had enough gain to bring in this signal. Until now, we would never even think of recommending this antenna as-is due to the 3 VHF-Hi stations in the Montreal area. With the addition of the diploe kit, here is how the “DB4eV” stacked up. We also included results of a previous brand-name antenna already installed at that same testing location.

The test was conducted by mounting the DB4eV outside and taking five readings at 3-hour intervals during the same day by comparing the UHF and combined outputs of the DB4e. The baseline reading was only taken once as a reference. All signals went through a pre-installed pre-amp of an approximate gain of 12dB and all stations were line-of-sight.

Station (RF)
Distance (mi)
Baseline antenna
DB4e
DB4e + VHF dipole
TVA 10 (10)
12
93%
No signal
93%
CTV 12 (12)
12
91%
No signal
90%
ABC 22 (13)
81
74%
No signal
76%
FOX 44 (43)
81
60%, unstable
88%
88%

We saw the reception on RF 43 increase as we had hoped to lock in the distant Fox station. What we were surprised to see was that this simple dipole kit also brought in another distant ABC VHF-Hi station from the same area with a fairly strong signal! While we had predicted the two local VHFs to come in easily, seeing this was a pleasant surprise.

Appearance

While not one of the prettiest antennas out there, it’s definitely not one of the worst we’ve seen. Its ample grills, bright red tips and exposed wiring gets even more bizarre looking once the diploe kit is added on making it a far cry from the sexy Clearstream line we’re used to from Antenna Direct. OK, so is it that bad? No, but don’t expect to use it as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving dinner.
The antenna will stand out like a glorified BBQ grill when mounted on your house, but the good news is this very compact antenna has enough punch to replace any big rusty behemoth you may already have on the roof. It is also compact enough be tucked away off a chimney or modestly mounted off the eaves in a corner of your house to be somewhat discrete. For apartment dwellers or condo owners, it can also fit hanging off a balcony assuming your building regulation allows it.

Overall, it isn’t that bad looking considering the high quality reception it will give you.

Prices and Where to Buy
In general, the price of the DB4e ranges from $80 to $120 which is a very large range so be sure to shop around.  Unfortunately it is not carried in major retail chain stores, but the good news is there are several online retailers in Canada that sell this item so shipping is reasonable.

The official Canadian distributer for Antennas Direct is online OTA mega-retailer Save And Replay which sells both the DB4e and the VHF Dipole Kit. The dipole kit is a bit hard to find but there are other online sources and some local speciality store will carry it as well. The DB4e is more available and is even carried online by some discount electronics retailers. Earlier this year, Best Buy Canada also had a sale on the DB4e as limited stock item online but does not appear to stock it regularly.

Conclusion
In the end, the VHF kit is enough to redeem the DB4e as a viable open in areas with VHF and UHF signals. We were surprised to see the dipole pick up a US VHF-Hi station more than the rated 60+ miles away in our test.

The good news is Antennas Direct has realized the popularity of this kit and will soon introduce a more universal dipole kit that will be more plug-and-play with the DBe series and not require disassembly of the reflector.
If you’re OK with installing a larger “flat” antenna and need some high-powered hardware, be sure to check out the DB4e with the dipole add-on.

Overall Rating: 9/10


More info on the DB4e and the C2V dipole kit can be found on Antenna Direct's website:
http://www.antennasdirect.com/store/DB4e-extended-long-range-outdoor-dtv-antenna.html
http://www.antennasdirect.com/store/ClearStream2-VHF-Reflector-Assembly.html