Mohu's Leaf (opens in new tab) and Winegard's FlatWave (opens in new tab) antennas, which sell for just under $40, are being challenged by Channel Master's FLATenna, which sells for only $10, with free shipping!
Coty Youtsey, president and CEO of Channel Master, said, “"We get a lot of calls and emails from people who want to know more about broadcast TV. They want to know if they can get their local news or The Super Bowl, and the answer to that is 'Yes', which tells us there's still a lot of marketing to be done. Instead of filling mailboxes with literature, we're offering a popular-style antenna at an ultra-low cost to encourage people to try the experience at very little risk to their pocketbooks.”
Channel Master implies their $10 antenna will work as well as similar antennas costing over 3 times as much. Joe Bingochea, executive vice president of product development, explained, “Reception from a TV antenna is limited by physics, so there's not a lot of room for innovation. An outdoor antenna will deliver more range and reliability. If your indoor antenna is getting all of the major broadcast networks and that's all that you need, then FLATenna will be sufficient and it's priced well below competitive products.”
If you spend $10 on the FLATenna and decide you need an outdoor antenna, no problem. Channel Master said owners who choose to upgrade to an outdoor antenna or purchase the DVR+ (a subscription-free DVR for broadcast TV sold by Channel Master) can receive a credit for the FLATenna cost towards the new purchase and you can keep the FLATenna. Youtsey said, “The consumer benefits either way and more antennas are entering the market to promote the industry. It's a win-win scenario.”
The CM 4001HD FLATenna technical specifications on the Channel Master website are very limited, compared to what they provide for their other antennas. “Gain” is specified as 3 – 6 dB (no reference provided – hard to see how they came up with these numbers) and “Reception Range” is listed as up to 35 miles (UHF) and up to 10 miles (VHF). The antenna measures 13” x 9” by 0.25” and includes 6' of coax.
I'll be ordering one of these antennas to give it a try up against my Mohu Leaf, but I suspect I'll continue to travel with my Mohu Leaf Ultimate (with preamplifier and filter) to handle those cases where some extra gain is needed. I'll also be watching to see if anyone peels it apart or uses some other technique to see what the antenna element looks like. While I generally agree with Bingochea's comments, because this antenna does not include a preamplifier, the match to the coax and the tuner will be more important. It will be interesting to see how the FLATenna fares in reaching a compromise between efficiency, bandwidth and matching.
Note that the $10 CM 4001HD FLATenna is a flexible antenna. Channel Master sells a more expensive indoor antenna, the CM-4045 HD, which is also called a FLATenna but is in a hard case.
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Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.
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