Urban environments offer many advantages: music, culture, countless coffee shops — and dozens of free, over-the-air TV broadcasts. The trouble is pulling them in cleanly when there's so much other interference to contend with -- another hallmark of most cities. The Winegard Elite 7550 does an outstanding job doing just that, collecting scores of stations, cleanly and clearly. It's one of the best TV antennas we've reviewed.
The Winegard Elite has a list price of $160, much more expensive than the proliferation of $10 indoor models. But if you're having difficulty getting local stations you want — or you just want better, more consistent reception — the price tag, which is less than a month's subscription to many cable carriers, is worth every penny.
Winegard touts the unique design of the Elite 7550 as more attractive than typical outdoor antennas. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. With its multiple metal-bar protuberances and hourglass- shaped plastic facade, the Elite is unlikely to garner accolades for its appearance.
What counts, fortunately, are its features. The antenna includes an LTE filter the company says is specifically designed to fight interference from cell towers. It also has a low-noise preamp embedded in the antenna and an in-line amp with a 3-foot USB power cable and adapter. It's all intended to clean up what can be less than ideal incoming HDTV signals.
Some cord-cutters may find the installation process a little intimidating, but for the most part it's pretty straightforward. One primary two-part antenna bar has to be screwed onto the main chassis, with the remaining flat bars sliding and snapping into place across the back of the antenna. Also included is a mounting pole and foot bracket for securing it to a roof or other exterior structure.
Unfortunately, we had a couple of misgivings about the Elite's construction. The flat metal components are not as secure as we'd like, and they can rattle in the wind or a storm (which will only be a distraction if it's situated near a window). More critical, the bracket that bolts onto the pole and then to a roof is plastic, not metal. We didn't have a lot of confidence that such a design would withstand harsh Northeast winters.
An adjustable wrench and a couple of screwdrivers are all the tools you'll need to put it together. To mount it to a roof or external structure, you'll also need a drill and supporting screws. Incidentally, Winegard doesn't include the necessary coaxial cable (with a weatherproof connector) that you'll need to connect it to your TV. A 50-foot roll of cable costs less than $15.
Channels Received: 73
Range: 70 miles
1080p reception: Yes
Cable Length: Not included
Size: 30 x 17.5 x 5 inches
Performance: Stellar Reception
To test the Winegard Elite 7550, we used the same Samsung KS9000 4K TV and New York City location that we employ to test all the HDTV antennas. The only difference was that we installed it outside, although it still faced the challenge of taller multistory buildings surrounding our location.
An initial scan yielded 73 channels, far more than any indoor antenna we have ever tested. Typically, initial scans include stations that after hours of viewing turn out to be riddled with picture artifacts and thus deemed unwatchable. Not so with the Winegard Elite.
It managed to tune in each and every station that registered in the initial scan. From Dr. Phil on the local CBS affiliate to soap operas on the local ABC channel, the picture was always crisp and consistently clean.
Even subchannels broadcasting standard definition 480p programming looked better than what we typically see viewing retro shows like I Dream of Jeannie and Hill Street Blues. Shopping channels and more distant Korean and Chinese language stations also came in cleanly.
A more-than-able antenna, the Winegard Elite 7550 does a great job doing what it's supposed to do: receiving as many local TV broadcasts as possible. We just wish some of the antenna's components were sturdier and that the company threw in a roll of coaxial cable to at least get you started.