Q: I've been watching television broadcasts with antennas, and they work great. I'm ready to cut the cable, but I worry about losing my ability to record programming on a DVR. Could you talk about recording options for over-the-air broadcasts, and how they work?
A: A column on TV antennas that ran two weeks ago generated a lot of e-mail, including lots of tips from readers. I would like to recognize D.J. of Burnsville for telling me about Locast, a nonprofit service that rebroadcasts local channels over the internet. The service is free, but donations are encouraged. Locast does not serve all areas of the country, but it does serve the Twin Cities and the surrounding areas. D.J. gets his local channels using the Locast app with an Amazon Fire Stick, and there are also apps for Roku, Apple TV, tablets, phones and other devices. (locast.org)
There are quite a few DVRs that work with antennas to record over-the-air broadcasts, priced from $29 and up. Most work by connecting the antenna to the DVR, and then connecting the DVR to the TV with an HDMI cable. Scan for channels on the DVR and it will find and save them. You are now ready to use the DVR for tuning and recording.
I don't like paying subscription fees for something that receives over-the-air broadcasts, even a DVR recorder, so I will be recommending only products that work without subscription fees. I will start with one premium and one budget-priced option to get us started, and I will review and recommend additional models in future columns.
The top spot goes to the Amazon Fire TV Recast (amazon.com), which can record two shows at once and comes in a 75-hour version for $229 and a 150-hour version for $279. Setup is guided via an online app, and it can rebroadcast to Fire TVs, Fire Sticks connected to a television and portable devices. One caveat: A network connection is required to send the signal to the TV, so if you do not have internet service, you will have to find another DVR.
You can get your feet wet with over-the-air DVR recording for only $29 with the ZJBOX Digital TV Converter Box with PVR recording. Available on Amazon, it records over-the-air high definition broadcasts to external drives and has pause, rewind and fast-forward functionality. The ability to record on external media is a big plus for those who like to archive their recordings.
With units this inexpensive, you're probably wondering, "What's the catch?" While the tuning and recording quality of the budget offerings can be surprisingly good, I have to admit that the interface, menus and manufacturers' support could be better. But given the price, I have a hard time complaining about that because they still get the job done.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.