How to check OTA HD reception in my area

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Tom*T, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. Tom*T

    Tom*T Agent

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    I am debating between HDTV w/ tuner vs. one without. Based on the poor FM radio reception in my area I don't think I'll have good OTA HD reception and would be less inclined to spend the $$$ on a built in HD tuner. Is there anyway to check what kind of reception I would get in my area before I make my TV purchase?
     
  2. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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  3. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    Well, how well do you get regular broadcast channels?

    Many HD stations are currently using UHF frequencies (they may switch eventually back to VHF ... but let's forget that for now). How is your UHF reception? Are channels strong, without snow, without ghosts? Snow may indicate the signal is too weak (you are too far, obstructions to line of sight, etc.), whereas ghosting indicates reflected signals that confuse digital tuners (multipath).

    So, how do the UHF stations look?
     
  4. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    Elinor's suggestion is an excellent one, but it's important to know if the broadcast towers for the HD stations you want to receive are in the same location as the UHF analog stations you're sampling. If your transmitters are scattered around you may need an antenna rotor.

    In my location, all of the local analog stations are UHF, all but two them have thier digital signals on UHF as well but the ABC and Univision channels broadcast their digital signals on VHF. All broadcast towers are roughly 30-35 miles away and all in the same location except the Fox and UPN affilliates which are 15 degrees off. I get excellent digital reception on all available digital channels. A couple of these channels give me less than perfect but not horrendously bad analog reception.
     
  5. Mike Slade

    Mike Slade Second Unit

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    I don't know how many other cities are like this, but where I live, all our digital stations are currently broadcasting at a fraction of the power their analog signal is broadcasting. Most of our stations also have their transmitters at lower heights than the analog ones. So around here, just because someone can pick up their analog signal wouldn't necessarily mean they could pick up the digital signal. However if you are failry close to the towers, I'd say there probably wouldn't be a problem.

    You can also go here at the FCC website and get info on your stations. They have coverage maps for the stations that can give an idea of how far the signals reach. Not sure how accurate they are though.
     
  6. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    I don't know Mike, most of our digital stations in Baltimore are crankin, I think only 1 or 2 are at low power. I suppose this can vary wildly from city to city.

    It was just a suggestion, folks. I (and others) have found it a useful test, not totally foolproof, but a tool to use in conjunction with info at sites like antennaweb, http://www.fcc.gov/mb/video/tvq.html, and http://www.2150.com/broadcast/default.asp
     
  7. Mike Slade

    Mike Slade Second Unit

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    Right, right. I just wanted to point out that in some cases it's not always a sure bet that if you get good analog signal you'll get good digital signals.
     
  8. Tom*T

    Tom*T Agent

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    Thank you all for your suggestions. I'll have to run to RadioShack and get a set-top UHF/VHF antenna. I've got a lot of things to try. Who knew watching TV could become so complicated? :)
     
  9. SeanA

    SeanA Second Unit

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    Mike is correct. You can not necessarily judge your digital reception potential by the analog reception. In some areas, stations may be broadcasting digitally but at a much lower power than their analog broadcast. For instance, in Milwaukee, after a year or more of broadcasting a digital signal that no one could receive, Fox finally "cranked it up"... just in time for the Super Bowl !!! I am fortunate that Milwaukee has its own HD website, with lots of technical information and advice on over-the-air digital reception. Perhaps you can do a search to see if your community has a similar website.

    Check AntennaWeb and also just ask your neighbors and friends if they are using a digital receiver. Do you know any other HT geeks ?

    Finally, I would recommend an HD ready set and stand-alone digital receiver. They are very inexpensive now, and I think a stand alone receiver would more likely give you better reception than a built-in unit. You can also upgrade the receiver as the technology improves.
     
  10. Tom*T

    Tom*T Agent

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    I'm new to HT and new to the community where is live so I don't know any HT geeks yet. I'm leaning toward the Sony 55WF which has a built in tuner so maybe I'll just see how well it pulls in HD channels. Can I use a stand alone receiver if I'm using a HDTV w/ built in tuner? If so I can always add it later. If not I guess I'll have to pay-up to Time Warner for digital/HD programming.
     
  11. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Why? I'd personally favor a built-in tuner over a separate unit. Much better simplicity.
     
  12. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    >"You can not necessarily judge your digital reception potential by the analog reception. In some areas, stations may be broadcasting digitally but at a much lower power than their analog broadcast..."

    All that was covered in previous posts.

    The point is, if your ANALOG reception sucks, you're likely going to have DIGITAL reception issues. Perhaps none that can't be overcome, but weak UHF analog is going to hint at HD reception problems.

    Sheesh. The guy wants an idea if it's worth investing in gear /without/ actually investing in the gear.
     
  13. Adrian D

    Adrian D Stunt Coordinator

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    What I've heard the most on this topic is that a digital STB (separate unit instead of a built-in digital tuner) is the better way to go for a couple of reasons.

    1. HDTVs cost less than HDTVs with built-in digital tuners

    2. If the built in digital tuner has a problem, most people would have to choose in-home service, due the size of a TV compared with a STB.

    I am interested to hear your reasons for the simplicity of a built-in tuner.
     
  14. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Are you serious? No cables. One box. One remote. I mean it's patently obvious...[​IMG]
     
  15. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    Adrian, I agree with you, for the reasons you stated AND the ability to upgrade the tuner if better technology is developed.

    BUT, some folks don't want ANOTHER box to deal with. Plus, a separate box consumes a HD input (DVI, HDMI, component) and some folks can't spare any.

    Whatever works for you is what you should do.
     
  16. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    The first generation of HDTV sets with built in tuners back in 98-99 had combination OTA and HD-DirecTV tuners.

    Today's sets have OTA-only, OTA and QAM (cable) but no access to scrambled cable, and OTA and Cable with Cable Card to unscramble cable HD.

    The main reason to go with a separate box these days is if you want Satellite service combined with OTA rather than cable. There are still largish rural areas with no cable, not all cable systems even offer HD, some that do don't offer as many channels as are available ota and off satellite.

    Comcast here in Fresno could not come to terms with our local Fox affilliate regarding carriage of the HD signal, so the only way to watch the Superbowl in HD was with an OTA tuner.
     
  17. Adrian D

    Adrian D Stunt Coordinator

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    Of course I was serious.

    That's why I tried to ask as pleasantly as possible.

    But it is patently obvious that we can dismiss with the pleasantries.
     

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