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HDTV reception with an indoor antenna?


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23 replies to this topic

#1 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 24 2003 - 03:29 PM

I've looked all over the place, but can't seem to find an answer to this question I live in a condo complex, and outdoor antennas are not allowed on the roof. They don't prohibit placement on a deck, but my deck faces North. Hence DirecTV is out, and a small outdoor antenna wouldn't reach over the 2 story house to receive the NY stations (mostly East-139 degrees according to antennaweb). Cable doesn't offer HD here, and they are clueless when I call to ask when they might. In fact, they seemed pretty clueless in general. If I want to see my favorite shows in HDTV, it's got to be an indoor model. I'm in Morris county NJ, which is maybe 30 miles from NY. Antennaweb says I need a medium directional with preamp to get the NY stations. I could always run an RG-6 cable from the attic to the basement (entertainment room), but I'm hesitant to buy a 500 dollar OTA receiver to just test the waters. Noone I know has an OTA HD reception (I gotta get more friends, geez). Does anyone have some direct experience or advice?

#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Dustin Woods

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Posted January 24 2003 - 03:57 PM

Hi Ron, I actually just got home from helping my brother set up his new HDTV. He was in the same situation as you, living in a condo complex where putting anything on the roof is seriously frowned upon. Anyway, we used an RCA indoor amplified antenna (not sure the model #, it was $35 from Wal-Mart). The HD OTA stations are coming in very well through the antenna, averaging around 95% signal strength. He lives probably 15 miles from the stations, I'm not sure if living 30 miles away would be significantly worse.

#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 25 2003 - 06:26 AM

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Dustin Posted Image

Twice the distance, but with a stronger antenna and preamp, maybe I'd be ok. Actually, the antenna and run of RG-6 wouldn't be the expensive part. Maybe I should just go ahead and give it a try... IF I can return the box, it'd be easy enough to eat the cost of the ancillary stuff, I guess.

With so few examples of this being done, I think it's up to me to be the guinea pig Posted Image

#4 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 26 2003 - 03:17 PM

Shameless bump Posted Image

Actually, there is some additional info. Found that the distance between me and the Empire state building is only 22 miles as the crow flies...

Anyone else? Before I plonk down for a receiver?

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted January 26 2003 - 04:50 PM

OTA HDTV reception is a trial-n-error ordeal. For some people, a simple UHF antenna is all that need to pull in the signals. For others, they require large outdoor antennas with a remote control rotor to change the antenna directivitiy when needed. My personal experience: I live probably 20 miles from the towers, and I use a Radio Shack Double Bowtie antenna in conjunction with a 10dB signal booster to get acceptable performance from the antenna in receiving OTA HDTV signals. I had tried other antennas that had the twin telescopic metal rods and round loop for the UHF, but they were just a pain to deal with and I could never get one position to cover all the channels I wanted. It wasn't until I got the RS Double Bowtie antenna with booster that I got a hands-off antenna that pulled in the signals (on good weather days). It's a darn shame the RS Double Bowtie antenna has been discontinued, but I believe Channel Master makes a clone of it (search on Channel Master and poke around the web). Most people will dissuade you of using the Terk antennas for being very ineffective. The Zenith Sensor antenna gets lukewarm recommendation. Some folks have had good luck mounting a Channel Master 4228 antenna with rotor when they are in apartments that have structures around them. So it's all about experimentation and perserverance.
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#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 27 2003 - 02:29 PM

Thanks Patrick! That was mighty helpful of ya. Nice to know someone pretty close to my distance is doing it indoors. Of course, things like terrain, etc., play a part, I've read. But there are no really large hills near me. Guess I just have to go ahead and do it. No more procrastinating. Part of the reason I've been reluctant to do this without hearing from *someone* who's been able to accomplish it is that my choice of STB's is limited. If I get OTA, I'd sure want to have at least the option of recording in HD, and that means the new Samsung model (dang, missed out on that One-Call deal). DirecTV yust ain't gonna happen while I'm living in this condo. Think I'll go with the STB and antenna, then try mounting in the attic and adding a preamp as needed. Little steps.

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Doug_B

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Posted January 27 2003 - 06:54 PM

If I'm not mistaken, J&R has a 30 day return policy, so maybe you can buy the STB from them, as they typically have competitive (and negotiable) prices. Plus, delivery should be quick to you. I may end up doing the same thing, with the purchase of the aforementioned CM 4228. I live probably closer to 40 miles from the Empire State Building. Although I live in a house, I'm not gung ho about mounting an antenna on the roof. Maybe the attic will be sufficient (with fingers crossed). Doug

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   Brian Kaz

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Posted January 28 2003 - 04:14 AM

[quote] He was in the same situation as you, living in a condo complex where putting anything on the roof is seriously frowned upon. [quote]
My balcony faces the wrong side also and my condo rules are the same, but I am proud to say that I am the only person with a dish on the roof. All I did was call the condo association for my building and told them I would be using a portable dish base (the kind you fill with sand) which you don't have to bolt to the building. I also told them I would do a professional looking job. They gave me the go-head and just asked me to do it discretely so as to not upset the natives.

That was 2 years and 2 tropical storms ago and I have had no problems whatsoever.

#9 of 24 OFFLINE   Brian L

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Posted January 28 2003 - 06:40 AM

Just went through my 1st HD STB start-up. I have a friend who lives less than 1 mile away using the Sony HD200 with RCA amplified rabbit ears. He gets solid reception of all local channels (Albuquerque). Based on that, I figured I was golden......NOT. FTR I have the Samsung 151 OTA box. Began with a Terk Amplified set of Rabbit Ears. No joy. Way too fussy, not to mention an eye sore in my den. Not very good signal strength. Tried my buddies RCA rabbit ears...better but still not very good. Dragged his Sony box over, and found to my surprise that the Samsung works better than the Sony, at least at my house. Guess my den is a bit of a black hole, signal-wise. Went with a Terk TV55 (looks like an oar). Again, better but still not very good. Very fussy WRT position. To watch the Superbowl, I had to run a cable out the window, and had the damn thing laying on my roof. Indoors, it was not much better than rabbit ears. Last night, bought a Rat Shack antenna (don't recall the model, but it is a "normal" looking antenna with multiple elements. Very similar to a CM that I found online. Said to be OK for attic or outdoor mounting). Placed in in the attic over the garage. Finally, a decent signal. FTR, the broadcast antennas in Albuquerque are on the top of a mountain that overlooks the city (about 10,500 feet or so). From the middle of my driveway, I have direct line of site to the towers. Unfortunately, in the house itself, I do NOT have line of site; trees and a neighboring home block me. Bottom line, as was stated before, its a crap shoot. You may have great signal; your neighbor across the street may not. FTR, my 151 came from a local dealer ($400) that allows a 30 day no questions return. I was able to make it work, but it sure as heck was a PITA to get it dialed in. Kind of ironic that to get cutting edge TV you have to resort to 1950's technology! BGL

#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 28 2003 - 03:21 PM

Brian Kaz,

Thanks for the tip on possible discrete mounting of the antenna. I may have to go this route in the end, but hopefully things will work out ok without resorting to that.

Brian L,

I appreciate the sharing of your experience. From all the info I've been able to gather, it does seem to be a bit of a crap shoot with trial and error mixed in, and your experience highlights the notion that perseverence pays off. I refuse to give up! Posted Image

Pulled the trigger on the Samsung 165 from JR today. More thanks go out, this time to Doug Posted Image JR had it for 499, WAY cheaper than I've ever seen it.

Nice to know I'm not alone out there, but even nicer to know there's a place that kind people will take time to help. I love this place! Reminds me.... I gotta help out with the drive for server cash. This site is easily worth the price of admission!

#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted January 29 2003 - 02:22 AM

Ron, I paid $541 plus shipping for my Sammy T165, so you are getting a nice deal. There are quirks about the T165 (do a search on "SIR-T165" for some of my/other's previous comments on the unitin the A/V source area), but it's still in my setup, and I'm digging the HDTV reception mightily.
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#12 of 24 OFFLINE   SteveA

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Posted January 29 2003 - 04:14 AM

[quote] The Zenith Sensor antenna gets lukewarm recommendation. [quote]

I have to disagree with that statement. I switched from a Radio-Shack double-bowtie to a Silver Sensor several months ago and saw a significant improvement in signal stability (less drop-outs due to multipath). About the only drawback to the Silver Sensor is that it is EXTREMELY directional (you might have to rotate the antenna for some stations), but that is also why it is so good at rejecting signal reflections (the dreaded multipath).

Two thumbs up for the Silver Sensor. If you read the HDTV and antenna threads on some of the other forums out there (such as AVSForum), you'll see that most other Silver Sensor owners share my sentiments.

#13 of 24 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 29 2003 - 05:22 AM

Ron, I am about 20 miles from the broadcast towers and use a setup identical to Patrick Sun's -- RS double bowtie UHF antenna with a separate 10db amplifier. I can pull in five of the six local digital stations with no problem other than needing to reposition the antenna for different channels. I have not been able to receive the local UPN affiliate's signal, but this does not concern me since that station has no HD programming.

#14 of 24 OFFLINE   David.N

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Posted January 29 2003 - 06:19 AM

[quote] I can pull in five of the six local digital stations with no problem other than needing to reposition the antenna for different channels. [quote]

I had heard that living in a metro area, (kansas City) an omnidirectional antenna should work fine. I have found that I have to use the rotator for my attic antenna to receive different channels. I had also heard that you will either GET a station or NOT, you cannot get fuzzzy reception. I have found that I can get distorted, pixelating images even when I get the antenna at the optimal direction for a particular channel.. Does anyone have similar experiences. I am using a line amplifier too....Posted Image

#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted January 29 2003 - 06:58 AM

When you get the pixellated images and audio dropouts, it means you're at the cusp of signal strength that your HD receiver is able to decode. It's not low enough to have nothing, but not high enough to present a consistent and coherent video/audio stream. You'll need to nudge to one side or the other in hopes of improving the reception strength (or add height or power boost to the signal).
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#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Michael Mathius

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Posted January 30 2003 - 03:03 AM

Yup, the pains of getting hdtv ota.Posted Image

I remember when I first tried it with a powered rabbit ears antenna and got nadda:F.
I then got a Trek bar antenna and was able to get two of the four channels in my area at that timePosted Image.
I then got the RS bowtie and got naddaPosted Image .But took it to my neighbor and he got all in one shot.Posted Image
I then got the RS outdoor/ attic antenna $29.95 and finally succeededPosted Image getting channels from both Miami and West Palm Beach.

You just never know.
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#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted January 31 2003 - 03:28 PM

Update:

My Sammy T165 arrived today! Was very excited plugging everything in. I'd invested in both the silver sensor and an amplified RS model (15-1890). Was hoping against hope that the starts would somehow align in my basement HT room, and I'd get a decent reception without much tweaking. I can hear your laughs now, but it never hurts to give it a shot Posted Image

Needless to say, no-go. However, I WAS able to jury-rig a cable run up one flight to the main floor, and placed my SS on a high dresser. ONE station! CBS was coming through in all its HD glory. Well, with a p-poor signal strength of 2 bars, hehe. BUT, it's possible. The signal would pixellate and drop out occasionally, but when it was there, OMG. THIS is what I'd been waiting for. The only other digital stations I can get are FOX (boo) and I think UPN (though Titan lists 5-2 as FOX, the programming is UPN). Can only imagine how two floors higher and a 10 db amplifier might work! After hearing the great results with the RS Double Bowtie, am sure sorry I can't get ahold of one.

In lieu of the RS DBT, I'll continue playing with the SS, and try adding a booster to it. The directionality of the SS may work against me, with PBS stations broadcasting in HD that are way off the axis of the NYC stations. Anyone know a good substitute for an antenna with more multidirectional capabilities? Any experiences with the Channel Master 4221?

So, knowing it CAN be done is quite a relief. Now I just have to keep tweaking till I can get more. Attic mounting may sure help, especially along with the amplifier.

You know, the CBS show was one I had not the slightest interest in, yet I could not help but sit glued to it. The picture was so sharp it was mesmerizing. Wish I knew more about retro-fitting wires, finding a way to drop a line from my attic to the basement seems like a daunting task that an electrician would be needed for Posted Image

Haven't had a chance to play mich with the other capabilities of the STB, like upconverting other sources. DID get to try out a DVD upconverted, and the picture is SHARP. Sharper than my better DVD hooked via component and recently ISF'd. The colors are not there, though. Seems a bit of a trade off.

Hey, Gregg, would ISF'ing the component input that the STB is on improve the color accuracy on upconverted DVD material (different DVD player) to close to the one you did such a great job on? If so, we need to talk Posted Image

#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted February 01 2003 - 03:55 PM

Update 2:!

Bought a fish tape reel from Home Depot, and installed a line to the attic! Was a bit tricky, but time well spent.

Can now get another (less desirable to me) station (FET). Still no PBS Posted Image Using a Silver Sensor in the attic, unamplified, the signal from CBS and FOX are rock steady. Even though the strength of the signal is around 25%. But with the gorgeous pic, the numbers mean little to me. They're *stable*, which is all good.

Two issues:

1. I'd like to get some of the more local stations. I am assuming a different antenna would help, one that is perhaps less directional? Are the Channel Master UHF only antennas as directional as the Silver Sensor? The opening to the attic isn't all that big, which may limit the size of the antenna that I can put up there. Also to consider, I'd prefer not to add a rotor, would increase the complexity of the process to a point I'd like to avoid. Will try a preamp on whatever I *do* settle on. Can use some help on antenna selection Posted Image

2. Cablevision is offering HDTV digital boxes! Very recent development. But the Sammy T165 doesn't accept digital cable signal. The HD Digital cable box is the 4200HD. Does anyone know if I can plug in an OTA antenna into this box? The cable co is only offering 4 channels in HD, and I'd like to keep the OTA capability and also have one solution in terms of input selections on the TV. Any "creative" ideas for getting OTA channels into the HD digital box?

#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Doug_B

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Posted February 01 2003 - 07:02 PM

Ron,

Thanks for keeping us informed on your OTA attempts. It gives some of us fellow Jerseyites some hope Posted Image .

I was thinking of eventually trying a Channel Master 4228 (if I remember my model # correctly), but I was of the impression that this was directional as well. Most of my internet readings state to shy away from so-called omnidirectional antennas. I would suspect that such antennas may be more useful if all relevant stations were fairly close.

As to the cable box, I have Cablevision as well and have yet to hear about HDTV from them, as they have not had their digital cable offering out in my area for very long. Wish I could provide info on their box, but knowing Cablevision, I would guess it a long shot that they'd have an OTA input. Hope I'm wrong.

Doug

#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Ron S

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Posted February 02 2003 - 01:25 PM

There's more than hope, Doug! There's HDTV in them thar hills!

Watching CBS right now Posted Image

I've read over at AVS that there are ppl in central NJ getting lots of Philly stations. Makes me want to try it Posted Image When I was picking up the Radio Shack antenna to try out, there was a customer telling me about the Silver Sensor and RS amplifier setup that he's using, and he said he GETS the Philly stations in an attic setup Posted Image Mind you, this is in Morris County! Enough to make one want to go out and get a CM 4228, hehe.

I've read very good things about the 4228, but I fear it won't fit through the crawlspace opening into the attic Posted Image It's not foldable, right? Might have to go with a smaller one that fits...

And HDTV from Cablevision is a new development. Try this link. The ppl at customer service are pretty new at it, and the ppl in the stores are completely clewless. You have to have digital cable (and an iO box), and they have to come and switch it out for you (free). No self install job, even though 95% of the ppl on this board could do a better job Posted Image

Not sure if the box has a firewire input or allows combining OTA signals, but I guess we'll find out on Wednesday...




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