Q: I am tired of paying my cable bill and feel the expense has gotten out of hand. I want to cut the cord, but at the same time, I don't want to give up my favorite cable channels. I see ads for "magic boxes" that say you can stream everything without paying for it. Is it really possible to get rid of cable and stream everything for free?
A: No. There is no secret formula or magic device that will let you get rid of your cable bill and keep all your channels. There are other ways besides cable to access your favorite shows at a lower price, but you have to be careful because it's also very easy to end up paying more than you do now.
Most pay TV channels like ESPN and HBO have streaming options for a monthly fee. By themselves, these fees — typically under $15 a month — seem like a great deal. And they are — if that's all you're subscribing to. But if you subscribe to more than a few channels, those fees start to add up until they approach, and sometimes even exceed, the cost of your cable bill.
Some services that stream live TV offer channel bundles at appealing prices. This could be the best option for those who want to cut costs while keeping something that resembles cable. I find the best value to be Sling TV. The Sling Orange & Blue package is $25 a month, and you get a lineup that looks a lot like a basic cable package, and additional channels can be added a la carte. Sling offers a seven-day free trial and can be accessed with most smart TVs and streaming devices. Learn more at sling.com. Apple also will be entering this market soon, and it will be interesting to see what they have in store.
If you want to have access to enough content to keep you entertained, it is possible to have that without paying any sort of a fee. There's a lot of high-definition programming available over the air for free; all you need is an antenna. There also are free streaming channels available across a wide variety of categories. Before you send back your cable box, I suggest using the antenna and streaming exclusively for a couple of weeks. If you find yourself missing what cable has to offer, this is probably not for you.
One more thing to keep in mind: Most people use their cable provider for internet as well as TV, and if you cancel cable, you will lose the bundle discount. That being said, a lot of people are dropping their cable service to save money. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but I am strongly advising you to proceed cautiously and make sure it's the right move for you.
A CD mystery
Q: Do CD players get "tired" of playing the same disc over and over? We have a certain CD we enjoy, and after playing it more than 3,000 times in a 10-year period, the player stopped playing it. I bought a new copy of the CD, but it refuses to play that one, too. It will play any other CD I put in it. And when I tried a different CD player, it played both the old and new CDs without a problem.
A: After hearing the same CD 300 times a year for 10 years, I can understand why your family might be getting tired of it. But a CD player going on strike is a new one on me. I can come up with no logical explanation for what is happening. Readers, can you help? Have you had a similar experience, and was there a fix? Contact me through my website.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.