BEWARE the used AM-21 Antenna Module

Oh, the AM21 antenna module. I was a big fan when you launched a generation ago. I reviewed you so effusively that one of the enthusiast fan sites made fun of me for years about it. But every dog has its day and the day for this one is definitely past.

What was the AM21 antenna module?

DIRECTV’s early HD DVRs had over-the-air capability built in. You needed it, because it wasn’t until about 2009 that we started seeing a big jump in HD local channel additions. So, hooking up an antenna was the best way to get your local channels in high definition.

However, back in those days, an ATSC tuner was expensive. The technology was still new, and not everyone needed it. So, in 2007, DIRECTV launched the HR21 which was its first HD DVR without an off-air tuner. To complement it, they launched the AM21 module the following year. You can read an early review of it here.

The AM21 was styled to sit on top of the HR21 for a complete system. It connected to the USB port on the DVR, one of the few devices to ever do so. And its nicest feature was its ability to add those HD channels right into the guide and record them just as if they wer satellite-delivered channels.

What happened?

I guess what happened was low demand. The AM21 had two production runs (the later version substituted matte black for the previous shiny black.) But, it was still expensive to make and there wasn’t a lot of motivation to create a new version that was less expensive.

Eventually they became hard to find and by the mid-10s, eBay was your only source.

Enter the LCC

This is the AT&T Local Channel Converter (LCC.) You’ve probably never seen one. It launched a few years ago but you’ve never been able to buy one. Its small production run was exclusively reserved for those who lost local channels due to a dispute. Those channel disputes have, luckily, been pretty rare in past years.

The LCC acts just like an AM21 if you have an older DIRECTV Genie. It does not work at all with a Genie 2. I’ve been told that in order for it to work with Genie 2, it would need a new driver and there just hasn’t been a demand for it.

The long and the short of it is, the LCC was never designed as a mass market product.

Why you should beware the AM21

There are still AM21s that pop up from time to time on eBay. The first thing you should be aware of is that all of these will be between 9 and 14 years old at this point. Getting electronics that old is going to be a crapshoot no matter what. But there’s a more important thing you should know.

The AM21 itself was “deprecated” several years ago. That means that it still worked, but new software versions wouldn’t test whether or not it still worked. AT&T updates receiver software about four times a year and eventually, the AM21’s number came up. I’ve heard over and over again that the AM21 doesn’t work with current software versions. If you’ve never had one, it won’t initialize. If you’re replacing one, the new one probably don’t work.

So, don’t spend money on one you find on eBay. It’s just not an option.

Your best option

Your best option for local channels is just hooking up an antenna to your TV. You’ll get the best quality live TV and all the subchannels. Yes, you lose recording capability. I get that. But this is the option that’s available. This is the option that works. If you’re looking for advice on which antenna to get, call us at 888-233-7563 or fill out this request form and a real technician will review your situation and send you a list of everything you need.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.