We’ve just gotten the AM21 in stock. This is a peripheral unit that will tune digital OTA signals. It works with the H21, the HR21 (all models), and the HR21 Pro. It is the same color and look (black and shiny) and footprint as the H21 and HR21, but not the HR21 Pro. [Note: This is NOT compatible with the H21]
In this picture, the AM21 is the top component, and the bottom is an HR21 that has been paired to it.
We have the AM21 on our DirecTV equipment page.
So what is OTA and why would you need it? OTA is over-the-air, as in, antenna broadcasts. These are the newer digital antenna broadcasts to which all local broadcasters are migrating. You may have read about the changes in broadcast methods that will be complete in February of 2009 (see our blog post about the digital TV transition); the older analog signals will cease to be broadcast, and only the newer digital signals will continue. It is those digital signals that the AM21 can record.
Local broadcasters will be sending digital signals out in HD (and, in some cases, SD) for free. These transmissions generally are less compressed than the HD signal put out by DirecTV. In many cases, these signals are also unavailable through DirecTV’s satellites. So adding this component will likely increase the quality of your local HD channels, and potentially it will increase the variety. You may also choose to discontinue paying DirecTV for local channels if your reception is good enough where you live.
The AM21 seamlessly integrates the OTA channels (both HD and SD) into the interface of the H21 or HR21. Unless you’re looking for it, you’ll never really know that the channel is coming from the antenna instead of the satellite. Further, these channels are fully recordable on DVRs, just the same as the signals coming from the satellite dish.
In most areas, you’ll need an antenna to get decent digital OTA reception. We sell a few OTA antennas. If you already have an old antenna on your roof, that may be perfectly fine – the technology of these new ones is similar enough that older ones often get good reception. In some cases, these new antennas can even be used indoors to get reception.
The AM21 has a power pass-through for the host DTV receiver (H21 or HR21) so that you don’t need an extra power outlet for this unit.
Finally, if you want an all-in-one solution, where the DirecTV DVR has an internal OTA tuner, we still have the HR20 DirecTV DVR in stock.