There are a multitude of different ways to watch traditional television content these days, leading many Apple users to ditch traditional cable television in favour of picking up an Apple TV and relying on streaming services and iTunes purchase and rentals. However, even in an era of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple’s upcoming original video content, there’s still room for traditional broadcast television, and the rise of great accessories like Nuvyyo’s Tablo devices has meant that not only can you still “cut the cord” from cable, but you can get a surprising amount of content without having to pay much of anything at all. Of course, while boxes like Tablo are great technology, they’re nothing unless they’re backed by a solid antenna, so we were intrigued by the promise of Winegard’s new Elite 7550, and decided it was worth taking a much closer look.
Winegard’s Elite 7550 not only promises longer-range performance than most digital antennas, claiming to pick up signals from more than 70 miles away, but also includes one other perk that we found particularly interesting as metropolitan dwellers: an LTE filter that cuts out interference from the huge network of cellular phone and towers that permeate urban landscapes. The LTE filter is integrated into an ultra-low-noise amplifier of only 1 dB that incorporates Winegard’s own “Clear Circuit Technology” that helps to optimize reception, and the antenna is also built for dual-band VHF and UHF reception. All in all, it’s an antenna with very impressive specs, so we were quite eager to put it through its paces and see how those actually played out in practical terms. It’s also worth noting that the amplifier is USB-powered, and includes a standard USB-A to micro USB cable and AC power adapter, however this also means that you can power the amplifier from an available USB port if that’s more convenient than plugging it into a wall outlet. You will, however, need to supply your own coaxial cabling to connect from the antenna to the amp and the amp to whatever receiving device you’re using.
While the Elite 7550 required some assembly to get it up and running — in addition to actually mounting it — the process was easy and well-documented, and took us under five minutes to get the antenna put together. Almost all of the necessary hardware is found in the box, including a mounting bracket, although Winegard doesn’t include any hardware to actually mount the antenna to your wall or roof — understandable considering the wide variety of mounting options available. In our case, we had the bracket attached after a few minutes of masonry drilling and four Tapcon screws, after which two included bolts are used to secure the antenna base into the bracket, which can be mounted at a 90-degree range of different angles, allowing the antenna to be properly oriented regardless of whether you’re mounting the bracket to the side of your wall or atop a flat or sloped roof. We mounted the antenna facing due south on our small bungalow in the northwest end of downtown Toronto, with a view unobstructed by any nearby objects, and in the same position where we had mounted other outdoor antennas, and near the window where we’d placed other indoor antennas, to ensure that we were doing a fair comparison.
Once installed, we first tried connecting the Elite 7550 directly into our Tablo Dual Lite, just to see what we’d get with a straight connection without any amplification or filtering. We weren’t particularly surprised that in this configuration, the Elite 7550 performed about as well as any other unpowered antenna we’d used, picking up the usual collection of local Toronto and southern Ontario channels, although we were impressed that it still received a solid “five-bar” signal for all of those stations. Once we wired in the amp, however, the results were considerably more impressive, allowing us to pick up channels we’d never even seen before, from as far away as Buffalo, approximately 60 miles away. While that still fell short of Elite 7550’s promised 70-mile range, the next nearest broadcast towers would have been well beyond the 70-mile range (Rochester is the next closest, at 96 miles away), and it’s worth noting that the powered Elite 7550 was not only able to pick up these distant channels, but was able to do so at signal strengths that we haven’t gotten from any other antenna, and maintain that strength day and night in a variety of weather conditions — the kind of reliability that’s an important thing to look for in a digital antenna.
Being veteran cord cutters, we’ve tried a large collection of digital antennas over the years, ranging from generic indoor and outdoor HDTV antennas to more popular and highly-rated options like the Mohu Leaf, with generally the same results across the board — generally picking up the same solid set of local channels followed by a collection of distant channels that we can’t really rely on — so we can safely say that Winegard’s Elite 7550 stands out in a class of its own. While of course antennas are the sort of thing where your mileage will vary depending on where you live and what’s available around you, if you’re looking to cut the cord but still want to be able to pick up broadcast television, Winegard’s Elite 7550 is most definitely worth a look, and it’s reliability at picking up consistently clear signals makes it an especially great choice if you’re planning to pair it with a PVR solution such as a Tablo or Plex DVR.
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Model: Elite 7550