Off Topic question

The great digital conversion is about to happen to television. We tried cable for 90 days about 30 years ago and concluded that it was not worth the
cost and had it removed. Since then we have moved to a remote location and reception is not great, but since we only watch the weather it has been tolerable. Our kids are growing up without the TV habit, and that is a plus because many of the prime time programs seem to be very adult oriented.
Part of the preparatory work to going digital the local stations reduced their power 50% recently and our reception got worse. The real issue is that we are not getting enough signal in to drive the converter box on the major stations. Our 20+ year old antenna probably needs replacement but it is also possible that our built in cabling needs some work. I have been unable to find anyone in business of installing, testing, or servicing over the air antenna systems because they all went satellite or cable and we refuse to spend our money that way.
One way to test that and to verify an antenna/cable installation is to use an RF signal strength meter. So far all I have been able to find costs in the neighborhoods of $250 which is a bit steep for a single application project.
Does anyone know of a less expensive but effective unit? Including where to buy it would be nice.
Thanks in advance,
Jim Branaum AMA 1428
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No, I don't know where to find a cheap signal strength meter and I do not think that you need one.
First to make your day even worse. Digital signals need to be considerably stronger than analog signals to be received well. With digital, you either have a picture, or you do not. No barely viewable signals with digital.
There are digital stations on the air right now in your area, most likely. If I read your post correctly, you are not having any luck receiving them. Have you thought of adding a preamplifier? This might get you the extra signal that you need in order to demodulate digital program material.
See how that works. Radio Shack is good for letting you bring things back as long as they look new. I am an expert at keeping things looking spanking new, including the containers and info sheets that come with the products. So, after cleaning up your antenna and replacing any missing elements, you will need to replace the coax going to the antenna. Twenty years out in the weather is bad enough, but twenty years ago TV antenna manufacturers and coax manufacturers weren't savvy about keeping water out of the coax. As a result, many new pieces of coax were ruined during the first rain storm, but continued to work anyway in many applications where having enough signal strength wasn't a problem. Your circumstances are different and replacing the coax would be a good idea. If the antenna is not going to clean up well, you might want to consider replacing it with a model one or two tiers higher up. Remember, you need more signal for digital even if the station's output power stays the same. In your situation you will definitely need the ability to grab all of the signal that you can get.
If you have a choice, buy a Winegard antenna and preamp. Belkin brand coax is among the best available. There are places on the net that will cut the coax to your specified length and fit it with weather proof connectors, should you decide to replace the system.
Good luck.
Ed Cregger
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Ed, you are correct we are not getting the main VHF stations digital signal strong enough for the converter to latch on to them. We already have a preamp in service which is one reason I am thinking I might need a RF signal strength meter to check it.
The antenna only spent about 5 years or so outside and for the last 17 has been inside. There are no broken elements. When it was installed in this house, we used new coax.
Seebee's suggestion will sort of work but I really didn't want to lug a television and converter box from connection to connection and set them up each time.
We are in a fringe area that antennalabs.com says needs an antenna that meets the violet tier grouping. Winegard 8200 and Terk HDTVo is another. Yes, I spent lots of time doing research and am ready to take action. However, buying new and replacing everything may not be the correct answer which is why I want to look with a signal strength meter.
Currently the discussion is to install the new antenna about 10 or 12 feet higher in the attic. Outside installations are prohibited by the local HOA.
TIA
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Six_O'Clock_High wrote:

Ok thats even easier. Take a portable and your new antenna up into te loft and literally wave it around till you get the best signal.. Is digital not in UHF? it is here.
Most set top boxes/digi TV's of reputable make have a signal strength feature built in.
My Sony ones do anyway. Also show 'quality' (signal to noise I guess)
We've noted that if the quality is good the signal can be pretty low..

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Ed Cregger wrote:

I'd disagree. The quality needs to be good, but they will work down to about 6dB signal to noise IF there is no ghosting or multipath. Thats a very washed snowy anlague picture.

Again, if you have severe multipath or not enough signal you are just boosting crap to make more crap.

Totally agree on top quality satellite grade coax. Its cheap enough..

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We are not disagreeing, but saying the same thing in different ways.
I gather that Jim lives out in the country where electrical noise should not be a problem, compared to living in a city. The recommended higher tier antenna makes the preamp useful because of its directionality. I would not recommend a preamp for use with an omni directional antenna.

The quality of the preamp matters significantly. Analog is more sensitive to crap than the digital modes. As long as there is enough signal, even polluted with crap, the demolation software in the converter should be robust enough to sort the wheat from the chaff. This is a clear advantage of digital over analog and is the reason that the switch to digital is occurring in the first place.

Jim, I agree that your circumstances are much different than what I thought in the original post. Indoor antennas are a bear to have work properly. The vapor barrier (aluminized Mylar) in many roof laminations makes indoor antennas an iffy proposition.
Dish Network offers basic service for $20 per month. Local station reception from Dish costs an additional $5 per month, plus you may have to elevate your service to a higher tier to qualify for local broadcast reception. Yes, it is highway robbery. While I hold Dish Network in low regard, they are the best of the satellite companies.
Good luck figuring this out. I hope you find a satisfactory solution. Please let us know how this works out.
Ed Cregger
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On Fri, 06 Feb 2009 10:11:46 -0500, Ed Cregger wrote:

Keep in mind that a preamplifier amplifies anything that goes into it, so you want it right on the antenna to get the best signal to noise ratio. It _will_ help with old coax that's attenuating the signal, and with splitters that attenuate the signal. It _won't_ help if you've got one weak station next to a bunch of strong ones, or if you're just so far out that your antenna isn't getting tickled by the RF (only a better and higher antenna will help there).

-- snip --

Do you mean "Belden", or has the river of time carried away all the known professional brands when I wasn't looking?
--
http://www.wescottdesign.com

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Yes, I changed it to Belden in a previous post when I found the error. Thanks.
Ed Cregger
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Here in the UK most of the DVB boxes and TVs have a built in RF signal strength and signal quality meter that you can use to assess the viability of your antenna and/or modifications. They tend to hide them under several levels of menu to avoid frightening the non-technical. However it may be that the US standard is different.
seabee
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Six_O'Clock_High wrote:

Well Jim, over here there is almost no cable.
This is how we do it.
First of all get teh right antenna. When we 'went digital' they used more widely spaced channels requring a broader band yagi.
Now if you are like us, the same transmitter does analogue and digital, so once yu have a decent yagi strap a bit of satellite grade coax on it look at a map and work out which way the transmitter is, and line it up for the best ANALOGUE picture. Noise is OK but ghosting is not, especially fast changing ghosting from trees blowing.
A really chep portable set is good enough to do this
Then once you have that antenna firmly in place, run some more quality cable to where you want it. If using many TV's get a distribution amplifier, and wire than to sockets round the house.
Then start with a digital receiver, and see what you get.
Digital TV is great. the less commercial it is the more we like it.
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On Fri, 6 Feb 2009 08:53:09 -0600, "Six_O'Clock_High"

Rent one, Jim. You only need it for an hour or so. -- Ray
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wrote:

Well, duh. . .
Probably need it for more than that, but a good idea is welcome. Now to find where I can rent one.
Thanks,
Jim
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On Fri, 6 Feb 2009 13:29:37 -0600, "Six_O'Clock_High"

Hey, actually, a better idea just came to me. Why not look around as you drive and find a house that has a bazillion antennae attached. The odds are it would belong to a Ham radio operator who could probably help you. Or maybe you know a ham in your club. They all have meters and test equipment. It's genetically hard coded into them. -- Ray
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An excellent suggestion, Ray.
Or, if you have a laptop computer, hams have many programs that let you run diagnostics and display it on the PC screen. The most expensive and work hardy part is making the interface to your PC, which is really easy stuff to do for an experienced RC'er like you.
Ed Cregger
wrote:

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Six_O'Clock_High pisze:

Congrats! There is 2 of us :)))
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Use this as the final reason to...
...SHOOT YOUR TELEVISION!
Good flying, desmobob (TV-free since 1995)
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On Fri, 6 Feb 2009 08:53:09 -0600, "Six_O'Clock_High"
BEFORE you spend ANY significant amount of money on antennas etc, It might be better to wait and see exactly what you are going to have to deal with. Unless of course, the stations in YOUR part of the country are less close-mouthed about where they will be physically and frequency-wise after the switch than they are around here.
where I live,, Right now, the digital stations that are broadcasting, channel 10 is on 25 channel 8 is on 31
obviously both in the UHF band It wouldn't make a lot of sense to panic and buy a UHF antenna if they are going back to their original channel assignments in the VHF band
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A couple of sites that will detail the channel lineup and transmitter band, both pre- and post- digital transition, and assist in determining feasibility of reception wrt antenna style/size/placement and whether a preamp may be required...
http://www.tvfool.com /
http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx
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wrote:

Thanks. I have already spent lots of time reading on the antennaweb.org web site and now have added tvfool.com to my reading list. I am not sure I want to build my own antenna, but that is still under consideration. I finally found a contractor who installs OTA equipment and is going to give me a bid tomorrow. I am fairly sure I will be able to identify any muffler throw out bearings included in his cost estimate. There is a significant chance his bid may become trash can liner. We shall see.
Again, thanks guys.
Jim Branaum
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Yep, those muffler throw-out bearings can be pricey.
Good luck in solving your dilemma.
Ed Cregger
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wrote:

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