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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My primary reason for posting this thread is to help mitigate others’ apprehension for investing in an antenna. It would have been easier for me to make that decision had I found some “good experience” threads out there. Sorry if it is a bit of a novel.

Anyway…as you might have guessed, I installed an antenna to receive OTA broadcast. I was a cable subscriber and I was generally unsatisfied with the quality of the service. My DVR had to be replaced 5 times in 5 months because it was so buggy. Sometimes, it just wouldn’t even work. I was fed up with that piece of junk. The picture quality had noticeable compression artifacts and that had been getting worse for some time. Finally….they raised my bill. That was it, I was done. I tried to get DISH, but the installer said I had too many trees and couldn’t get a line of sight to the satellite.

My only other option was an antenna, but I was very concerned about signal reception. I live 25 miles from the transmitters in an area with a lot of trees and hills. AntennaWeb said I needed a large directional (violet rated) antenna. I decided on an RCA ANT3036X because I could buy it from Best Buy and I wanted an easy way to return it if I couldn’t get good reception. This thing is huge, but I put it in a back corner of my house that is blocked from view of the road by trees.

It arrived and I put it together, but I didn’t want to permanently install it without testing it first. I went up on the roof and held this thing up in the air after connecting a 50ft coax to the TV through the living room window. My wife was watching the signal strength meter as I tried the antenna in a few different locations. (pictures of Ben Franklin flying a kite flashed through my head) Overall, the reception levels were good, so I was hopeful. I went to Home Depot, got the necessary hardware and went to work installing the antenna.

The coax runs down from the antenna to the side of my garage (40 ft), to where all of the inside coax cables homerun. I have a 4-way, +7.5dB distribution amplifier sending the signal throughout the house. Once in the living room (about 75ft), I run it through my surge protector, then split the cable to the Tivo HD (can’t live without a DVR) and the TV.

After all of this, the signal wasn’t coming in great for a few channels. After some troubleshooting I ended up just pointing the antenna about 10-15 degrees away from the transmitters to avoid direct interference from a patch of trees. Now everything is coming in great and the Tivo never drops below 75% signal strength.

Overall, the picture is MUCH better than cable. Even my wife can tell it is better, so that is how I know it is not just my brain wanting it to be so. I now have a Tivo, so my DVR experience is WAY better than the cable DVR. Everything was looking good, so I cancelled my cable service. I even managed to eliminate a pesky ground loop hum from my subwoofer that must have been caused by cable. Total bill was $850 (Tivo HD, Lifetime subscription, Antenna, Installation Hardware). The savings from not having a cable bill will pay for that in 14 months.

Some of you might not be able to get by on just OTA broadcast, but I would recommend it for network programming regardless. Overall, I was in a less than favorable situation for an antenna to work, but my fears were unfounded. If you are not happy with your current service, it might just be worth it for you to give an antenna a try. If you’ve had good experience with an antenna, tell us about it.
 

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I've heard the same thing.. OTA broadcast is significantly better than cable or satellite. The other bonus, at least for me, is that with my current DVR, I would be able to record three shows at the same time instead of just two if I were to get an antenna. It's one of my projects for this summer.

Thanks for posting your experience.

JCD
 

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Matt,

How's your UHF reception? I'm on an antenna (thought I was one of the last) and have concerns about the upcoming switch to digital because I believe that stations will be switching to the UHF frequencies (freeing up the VHF for other stuff). The trees in my area currently give me limited UHF reception and I'm trying to decide if I should upgrade the antenna or switch to a provider.

Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Bob. If I'm reading you right, you are currently receiving analog VHF stations and are worried about getting the UHF digital stations? You might be lucky in the fact that some stations will remain on or switch back to VHF when they go digital only.

As it happens, the two channels I was having trouble with were 39 and 43. Those are my highest channels, so the trees might be limiting my higher channels. Like I said though, just a little antenna orientation adjustment fixed it. Overall...UHF does well enough for me.

Another thing to consider is the coax size and cable length. Given the same signal strength at the antenna and after 100 feet of attenuation on RG6 coax, channel 36 will have half the signal strength as channel 3. If the antenna is the problem, I think your only options are to get a bigger antenna or raise it higher up in the air. You might also try to just move it to a different location since there can actually be "dead" spots where the signals don't come in. Check out this link for more info.

http://www.electusdistribution.com.au/images_uploaded/tvrecepe.pdf
 

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Bob. If I'm reading you right, you are currently receiving analog VHF stations and are worried about getting the UHF digital stations?
Correct!

You might be lucky in the fact that some stations will remain on or switch back to VHF when they go digital only.
I have read conflicting reports regarding this issue. One agrees with what you said and the other indicated that the VHF band would be cleared for sale to communications companies. I'm not sure what is correct.

If the antenna is the problem, I think your only options are to get a bigger antenna or raise it higher up in the air.
Yes, I'm currently debating whether I should invest more money into better hardware or just go with cable or something else. It would be easier if I could see the results beforehand. Since we don't watch much TV, the current thought is to go with a better antenna. Your post goes a long way to removing any of my lingering doubts.

Thanks for the link to the pdf file. It's very informative.

Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Best I could say is get a TV or converter box that has an ATSC tuner, if you don't already have one, to try it out. The Lowes near me has antennas in stock that are as large as mine, so you might be able to try one of those and return it if it doesn't work out.
 

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Yes, I'm currently debating whether I should invest more money into better hardware or just go with cable or something else... Since we don't watch much TV, the current thought is to go with a better antenna...Bob
If you don't watch much TV ... I think is better to invest in hardware; if you subscribe to cable or SAT you'll be paying $30 - $120 per month (depending on What you order) :yes:

I used to have Dishnetwork (for about 8 yrs) ... but one day I decided to cancel my service ($100+), the reason was that I used the service just for a couple of hours per week; most of the time I watched DVD's and when watching TV my favorite programs were over the air :yes:

I'm happy with my OTA (old, I was thinking to get a new one but I didn't need it to get HD channels, another confusion out there ... "You can get HD signal with your old antenna" you don't need a new antenna ... unless is not the right size ... :bigsmile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
"You can get HD signal with your old antenna" you don't need a new antenna ... unless is not the right size ... :bigsmile:
Hey...my boss is in a good location and gets his HD OTA with bunny ears in his attic....must be nice.
 

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If you need to get signal through trees and want to overcome cable loss from the antenna to the distribution amp, consider getting a high quality mast mount pre-amp that also has very good strong signal performance (won't overload). The Channel Master CM 7777 is likely the best choice. I have the UHF only version, CM 7775, but will eventually need to add VHF in a few years when two of my local stations go back from UHF to their original hi band VHF channels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
a pre-amp will help overcome cable loss after the antenna, but won't help get better reception because of the trees.
 

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a pre-amp will help overcome cable loss after the antenna, but won't help get better reception because of the trees.
It does when the signal is just diminished by the trees and not completely masked. The preamp sets the noise figure for receiving very weak signals to a far better low value than what you get going through a lot of cable loss before the first gain stage.

I have to receive UHF hi def (ATSC) TV stations that require pointing my outside corner reflector antenna through a bunch of leafed out oak trees. It works with my CM 7775 but not without.
 

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Great post, Matt!

We have an antenna in our attic, but now that we have DirecTV it isn't getting much use. But back in the day, we had three Super-VHS VCRs w/ cable TV (we were time-shifting hounds, lemme tell ya!). Two of the VCRs were dedicated to the antenna, since most of the shows we watched were on the major networks, and you could definitely see a big improvement in PQ over what we were getting from cable.

I tried to get DISH, but the installer said I had too many trees and couldn’t get a line of sight to the satellite.
I expect the reason for this is you probably got the typical installer that is tunnel-visioned to mounting the antenna on the rooftop. If there is anywhere on your property with a clear line of site to the southern sky, you could plant a square wooden pole, mount the dish there, and run the RG-6 back to the house. IIR, so-designated RG-6U is suitable for direct burial.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
bobgpsr: I'll trust you...it sounds like you know what you are talking about.

Wayne: Actually, the installer was very good. He walked the entire property with me and we checked each spot that had potential with a compass and inclinometer. They also have PDAs that detect signal strength. He said to call him back if I ever decided to take down some trees. I love the location, but it does have it's drawbacks. I guess in this case it is a benefit because it forced me to not have a television service bill.....oh well!
 

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I am also not too satisfied with Cox Cable, if it wasn't so much time/effort to try the antenna, is there a way to find out if the antenna may or may not work for my address in Irvine, California?

gychang
 

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I am also not too satisfied with Cox Cable, if it wasn't so much time/effort to try the antenna, is there a way to find out if the antenna may or may not work for my address in Irvine, California?

gychang
Check antennaweb.org. Lots of good info there.
 

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Great post, Matt. I'm glad things have worked out for you.

I was sitting on the same bubble. We just finished our home theater and had stepped up to high def. We have SD Dish. The question was how to move forward. OTOH, we felt we were vastly underutilizing Dish. On the other, we're ~18 miles from the local antenna farm, even further from the PBS station tower, down the hill a bit and in the middle of a lovely oak grove. I tried to find an inexpensive way to determine signal strength, but there isn't any. We don't have a DTV with a tuner, so I would have to buy an antenna, mast, pre-amp and tuner just to find out if we can get a signal.

My wife got tired of the discussion and issued an edict to upgrade Dish. That will happen tomorrow. Local channels aren't available in HD, but Dish hopes to have them in our area by the end of the year.

In the meantime, I stumbled upon the Philips UHF antenna that's unobtrusive and has gotten good reviews. I'm willing to go to Wally world and cough up $40 to try. I can always return it if unsuccessful.

Doug
 

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In the meantime, I stumbled upon the Philips UHF antenna that's unobtrusive and has gotten good reviews. I'm willing to go to Wally world and cough up $40 to try. I can always return it if unsuccessful.

Doug
Did you check the antennaweb link posted above???

That will help you determine what kind of antenna you need (red, green, blue, etc.)... How did you came up with the Philips??? :dontknow:

I think it doesn't matter which antenna you get ... you can always return them if it doesn't work :yes:.
 

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Did you check the antennaweb link posted above???

That will help you determine what kind of antenna you need (red, green, blue, etc.)... How did you came up with the Philips??? :dontknow:
I think it doesn't matter which antenna you get ... you can always return them if it doesn't work :yes:.
Thanks. Yes, I did go to antennaweb. Stations are one yellow, mostly reds and a blue or two. The primary antenna farm is 19 miles away. BTW, the Philips packaging does not use the color codes! They need to get with the program.

I came up with the Philips on a lark. I had to go to Wally world, which I try to avoid, and happened to see the MANT940. I didn't buy it, but Googled the model that night. There's conflicting reviews. I concentrated on the reviews where the reviewers gave pertinent information, such as distance to antenna, terrain urban/suburban/rural location, topology, etc. There were enough reviews of use in circumstances similar to mine that I thought I'd give it a whirl. Where I balked at throwing down $300+ for a pig in a poke, I'll risk the $40 on the Philips. Also, it's small and can be unobtrusively mounted on our porch in the back. If it doesn't work, I'm no worse off than the current plan, which was to do nothing and wait for Dish to bring local HD to me, sometimes in the indeterminate future.


Doug
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Doug....if you have an HD setup, I'm assuming you have a projector or else you would have an HD tuner built into a new TV. If you are willing to buy the antenna, you can also buy a converter box for 50$ at wally world. I know it isn't HD, but it will give you a good idea of what kind of signal strength you can get. If it isn't working out, then you just return the antenna and the tuner.

I does, to an extent, matter which antenna you are trying. I returned two different store bought antennas before I went for the big one on my roof. The small ones just couldn't pull anything in terms of reception, but the big rooftop one makes all the difference. You are right, though, that it takes quite the leap of faith to go down that path.

If things are working out with the reception and you want to take it one step further, I would recommend the samsung DTB-H260F tuner. My brother has one and it does a very good job at tuning in his HD. I hope you get it to work out either way.

Anyway, it has been several months now, and we are still happy with the programming and the quality of the reception. We've had a few major storms that disrupted the reception on some of the higher UHF channels, but we can deal with that. Drop outs have been less than whe we had Dish several years ago.
 
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