Cutting The Cable – UPDATE!

In one of my previous posts, Cutting The Cable – And Saving $2000 A Year, I described how I took every last piece of equipment Comcast was renting to me back to their office, and told them to stop all services except internet.

Now, nearly two years later, I have learned a few things that might help other cable cutters, but I’m still VERY happy with this move.In this post, I’ll tell you about my current setup and give you links to the same equipment I am using and am quite pleased with.

Note, almost all product images are links to where you can buy these on Amazon. When you click on a product, Amazon will open in a new tab or window, and you can add it to your cart, then close the tab or window and later on add another item to your cart. These are affiliate links, but the price is the same either way.

MY MEDIA SETUP

First, here’s a diagram of my current media setup. You can click on the image to get a larger view.

Media Setup Diagram

Description of the Setup

The centerpiece of the setup is the Yamaha RX-V381 Receiver/Amplifier. I wanted a device that would take a number of HDMI inputs, and feed the video to my TV and the audio to my speakers, but I didn’t want to pay for a mess of other “features” I neither need nor want.

The Yamaha RX-V381 will take four HDMI inputs and feed them to the TV, including audio. It will also drive a modern set of 5.1 speakers. I only have 2 speakers plus a subwoofer. These were state-of-the-art when I bought them 20 years ago, and even though there are more whoop-te-do speakers on the market today, these still work just fine.

It took me some time reading the instructions to set up the receiver, and to get the sound from the TV to synch with the sound from the speakers, but I’m very pleased now with how it works.

By the way, I usually leave the TV sound on low, and have the speakers at normal listening volume. This way, when I am watching live TV and a commercial comes on, I can mute the speakers but still hear the TV at low volume until the commercial is over.

Inputs #1 and #2 – DVD and Chromecast.

The first two HDMI ports on the receiver are used by my DVD player and a Chromecast unit. The Chromecast is the oldest device (except for my speakers) I have in the setup, and Google “improved” their interface recently to the point I can no longer get it to work.

As for a DVD player, mine is an old one, so if you want to add a newer DVD/Blu-Ray player as one of your inputs, it should work just fine.

Input #3 – Roku

I bought the Roku 3 while I still had Comcast cable TV.  I liked it so much I bought a second one for the TV in my bedroom. One of the things I like most about the Roku 3 is that I can plug my headphones right into the Roku remote, and it will mute the TV and I can watch at whatever volume I like while others are in the room doing something else (like sleeping), and it won’t bother them.

On my Roku I currently get Netflix, CBS All-Access, Amazon Prime, Smithsonian, TED, Sling, and many others.

NETFLIX comprises about 40% of what I watch. There’s just too much good stuff on Netflix, including many current popular TV series, all episodes except the latest season.  Lots of great classic and relatively new movies as well, but you have to filter through some dreck.

Another 40% of what I watch is from CBS, so we pay $10 a month to get CBS All-Access, for all current CBS shows, available the day after broadcast, with no commercials.  This comes in on the Roku also.

During football season, I activate SLING, which is an internet streaming channel, which has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Food Channel, HGTV, and many other channels for $20 a month. When it’s not football season, I deactivate Sling and save the $20 a month. This also comes in on the Roku.

Just about everything else I watch is from local OTA broadcasts.

Input #4 – The OTA Antenna

The abbreviation “OTA” means “Over The Air,” and you’ll probably be hearing it more and more in the future.

The fourth input to my receiver/amplifier is from my OTA antenna, routed through a DVR (Digital Video Recorder).

Mounting The Antenna

First, about the antenna. When I first bought an OTA antenna, I thought a good one inside my attic would do the trick. However, a combination of hundreds of trees and my house being down in a low spot resulted in several channels not coming in very clearly. For example, NBC was almost always badly pixelated.

So I decided to go with an external antenna. I did a LOT of research on various outdoor antennas, I read tons of reviews, and dug deep into specifications. The antenna I wound up buying was the Clearstream 4 made by Antennas Direct.

Aside from a bit or trouble getting the very stiff wiring oriented correctly to connect to the antenna, and a bent connector which broke off when I straightened it (the company replaced it within a week at no charge), setup was fairly easy and straightforward.

At first, I tried this antenna inside my attic, but it didn’t work any better than the Mohu it was replacing. Okay, so it had to go outside, and higher up.

I went to my local big box hardware store and bought two ten-foot long sections of 1″ steel pipe (the longest they had), and an end-to-end pipe join, and an end cap.

I also bought some antenna brackets as in the image to the right. Clicking that image will take you to the Amazon page where you can buy these, but I bought mine at my local Ace Hardware store for about the same price.  These brackets will hold an antenna pipe firmly, but away from the eave of the house, so the overhanging shingles won’t get in the way..

After figuring out where to put the antenna so it would have the best orientation to my local stations, I fastened the brackets to the eave of the house.

Antenna Brackets
Antenna Brackets, COAX Cable Going Into House

Then I dropped a plumb line from the brackets to the ground.  Where the plumb line touched the ground, I drove a two-foot length of rebar halfway into the ground.

Next, I wrenched the pipe cap onto one end of the joined up pipe sections, and fastened the antenna to that end of the pipe. I then connected a 50-foot length of coax cable to the antenna, and mounted the entire assembly to the house.

To do this, I simply slipped the open end of the pipe over the rebar in the ground, and fastened and tightened the antenna brackets. Piece of cake. A neighbor has had his antenna mounted this way for three years, and it has endured some strong winds without budging.

Antenna On House
This is the Antenna, mounted on the house

Connecting The Antenna

I routed the loose end of the 50-foot coax cable up through an under-eave vent, and over to the junction box where Comcast had previously wired my house, with CATV outlets in 4 rooms.

The COAX Cable coming out of the eave vent and joining the cable junction box.

I used a coax splitter/joiner to splice the loose end of the coax cable from my antenna into the TV cable system already installed in my house.

I wasn’t sure about this at first, because in my reading there were plenty of articles with lots of opinion and no real data about how splitting the signal would decrease its strength by so-and-so many measurement units…  Horse feathers.

Once I connected my TVs, all of them, to the existing cables in the house, and through that to the new antenna, every single one of them got a beautiful, crystal clear picture on all the channels!

Bottom line: Use Your Existing TV Cabling! It works.

Connecting The DVR

The last step in this procedure to get OTA programming was to install and set up my Digital Video Recorder.

After quite a bit of browsing and reading up on what was available, I decided to get the CHANNELMASTER  CM7500. I bought the “bundle,” which includes a Wi-Fi adapter and an HDMI cable, and I also bought a 1TB external hard drive, because the unit itself comes with only 16GB of storage internally.

ChannelMaster now makes a unit with 1TB of internal storage, but I would prefer if my hard drive goes bad that I don’t have to replace the entire unit.

The setup was as simple as I could have wanted.

I connected the coax TV cable from the wall into the back of the unit, and the HDMI cable from the unit to my Yamaha receiver/amplifier. I then connected the Wi-Fi adapter, plugged the 1TB hard drive into the USB 3.0 port, connected the power, and turned it on.

There was some setup to do as the unit searched for all the local channels, and I had to enter my local Wi-Fi password so the unit could download information from the internet.

After that, it took some time (sorry, don’t remember how much, maybe an hour?) for the unit to get the program guides for all the channels I get, but after that, this unit hasn’t given me a lick of trouble.

I can see a program guide for all the channels I get; I can tell it NOT to display the channels I never watch (like the Spanish-language channel); I can tell it to record any program once, or record the series; to record ALL airings of that program name or only new episodes; I can freeze and replay live TV; I can record two different shows at once.

All in all, I am very pleased with this unit. I get all the OTA channels WITHOUT PAYING A CABLE COMPANY, plus I get about 30 internet channels if I ever wanted to watch those.

THE BOTTOM LINE

First, I have not missed a single show I wanted to watch. I know your viewing preferences will be different than mine, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see all you want to see as well.

Now, about the money. In my previous posting about cutting the cable, I said that I fired Comcast because they wanted to charge me more than $170 a month.

After making this change, I now pay about $10 a month for Netflix, and $10 a month for CBS All-Access with no commercials. During football season, about five months, I pay an extra $20 a month for Sling.

I don’t include Amazon prime in my figures because I rarely watch it and we would get Prime anyway, for the other benefits. I also am not including the $44/mo ($528/yr) I pay for internet, because I would also get that anyway, even without the TV.

That’s $480 a year for the first two, plus about $100 for Sling. A total of $580 per year.

Compare this with the $174 a month Comcast was wanting to charge me – a total of $2088 a year, and you’ll see I am saving more than $1,500 a year. Not quite the $2,000 I thought it would be in the first post, but certainly nothing to sneeze at.

The first year savings alone has more than paid for all the equipment I bought to do this.

Everything after that has been gravy.

You might want to think about getting some gravy, too.

 

 

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