Channel Master 3018 in Palo Alto (SF Bay) only getting NBC11 -- SOLVED - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 12:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Note, this is now solved. See bottom for my resolution, which was essentially "RTFM you idiot."

Am hoping some wisdom on this board will guide me.

Caveat: I have zero experience with antennas or any HD beyond what Comcast used to give me.

Background: I have a HTPC with a Hauppage digital tuner card I am trying to utilize with an antenna.

I am in Palo Alto CA. I grabbed a Terk indoor antenna from Fry's last week, and simply tossing it near the ceiling I was able to get a handful of channels, albeit spottily. I decided to go outdoor, bought a ChannelMaster 3018 and put it together. All good seemingly.

It is on the roof, put together, I have attached the balun and coax to the balun, but no matter what I now do (or where I aim), the only channel I can get with the 3018 is NBC11.

Antennaweb shows NBC (and few other channels) to be available at 306 degrees; most other digital channels at 320 degrees. But I can't get any of these other channels.

Tips/advice all welcome. (Assembly instructions for antenna neophytes are less than ideal.) Have I perhaps connected the balun improperly? Will a signal amplifier take me from zero signal to green? Should I really expect the Terk indoor piece of plastic to best this 15-foot roof-mounted monstrosity??

thanks in advance, I can provide photos or more detail to anyone willing to help out.
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post #2 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 01:43 PM
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Hi, and welcome! It's not an inadequate antenna for your area, that's for sure. Check the following, in order of increasing complexity:

* Verify that your tuner is set to receive over-the-air (OTA) signals. Many HDTVs/tuners are set by default to cable or satellite service, which is on a different standard from OTA. Consult the instructions for finding this function in the setup menus; with many tuners, you select "air," "antenna," "terrestrial," "OTA," etc.

* If you selected OTA in the previous step, the tuner needs to scan the airwaves for all available channels before you may tune them. This function is also in the setup menu. Scanning is automatic once launched; it should take just a few minutes to complete.

No love yet? Try:

* Verifying that the antenna is pointed towards San Francisco. Sutro Tower is the location for your network affiliates' transmitters. The antenna's "vees," both horizontal and vertical, should be open in that direction. If they're not, the antenna is incorrectly aimed. It's a very common mistake when setting up a new antenna.

* Double-checking all coaxial-cable connections, and making sure there's no apparent physical damage to the cabling. This includes dents in the insulation jacket from excessive bending, crushing or pulling. Replace any cable with such damage.

Finally:

* If nothing's done the trick up to this point, replace the balun up at the antenna. Like any other part, baluns can be bad right out of the box.

IOW, this is basic troubleshooting. One last note: If the problem was with the antenna, cabling or balun, be sure to re-scan for channels after you've corrected the physical problem(s). Good luck!
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post #3 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 06:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Don_M, thanks so much. I will definitely check the balun, although the fact that I can get NBC (and that it goes away when I turn the antenna for other channels) suggests it's working, right?

I'm also pretty sure I've aimed the antenna correctly. The vees are open toward Sutro! I paid attention to at least that part of the CM manual.

I will def check and/or replace the coax. I have 50 feet of RG59 cable from Frys to which I attached endpoints/connectors/whatever-you-call-them myself.

In terms of channel scanning, I am using Windows Media Center w/ my HTPC. I don't think I need to do anything special beyond specifying OTA reception. Will double confirm.

thanks for your assistance, much appreciated especially given my non-specific requests for help.
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post #4 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 06:21 PM
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RG6 is MUCH preferred to RG59. Especially the higher in frequency / longer in distance you have to carry a signal on.

You CAN put antennas on your owned and/or controlled property...
http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

Being A Beacon of Knowledge in the darkness of FUD
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post #5 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 06:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yakimiiis View Post

I will definitely check the balun, although the fact that I can get NBC (and that it goes away when I turn the antenna for other channels) suggests it's working, right?

Not necessarily, if the NBC affiliate's signal happens to be stronger than the others -- and sufficient to overcome the defect.

Quote:


I have 50 feet of RG59 cable from Frys to which I attached endpoints/connectors/whatever-you-call-them myself.

Scooper's post is spot-on: get RG-6! It loses less signal along the way, and its quality is frequently much better, making it more suitable for OTA DTV. RG-59 is OK for short runs, such as between a DVD recorder and the TV, but nothing more. And be very careful when attaching F-connectors to the RG-6. A short between the center conductor and shield could be a factor, here, too. All it takes is one tiny strand of aluminum in the wrong place.

Please don't lose hope: It's gotta be something pretty simple if any indoor antenna works better than a roof-mounted CM 3018!
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post #6 of 19 Old 03-13-2009, 09:44 PM
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The 3018 should be plenty of antenna to get Sutro from PA. Something else is wrong.

I would suspect the connectors you put on the ends of the coax as well. It is easy to mess them up. If they are the "screw on" type, they are worthless. Even if you get one to work, it will not hold up in the weather. The newer "compression" style F connectors are really neat, but you need a special tool or two for them.

One suggestion: Go over to Hometech (http://www.hometech.com) in Cupertino. If you buy your RG-6 from him, I'd bet he would help you install a couple of proper compression connectors on it. (Note: I have no affiliation with Hometech - just have bought a lot of stuff from them over the past year.)
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post #7 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the advice folks. I am headed out to grab some RG6 (I was *this* close to going RG6 the first time around, but it's all marked "satellite" and I ended up gathering it was overkill) and a new balun just in case.

In terms of my connectors, I'm certainly screwing something up there. I have a crimping tool but no idea how to use it, so I just crimp and crimp until it seems to stick. And the only reason I even care about attaching my own connectors is to fit the one end of the coax (that connects to the antenna) through the weather-guard thingy that covers the connection to the balun. I'm going to say "screw that" for now until I get a signal working.

Will also try hometech -- thanks! Will update on success or failure.
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post #8 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 04:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright. I have new RG6 cable with connectors that I did NOT put on, running from a NEW balun. The results are the SAME. Only channels I receive are 11.1 and 11.3. (note no 11.2?) I am pointing as straight at Sutro as I can get, same as all my neighbors' antennae.

(Also, as it turns out i have the CM3020, not the 3018.)

I am going to attach some photos if i can get them off of the phone to see if i've connected things wrong up top. I am just connecting the ends of the balun to the bottom of the dipole using the thumbscrew washers.

As before appreciate the help.
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post #9 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 05:51 PM
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Perform a reset and rescan on whatever you're using for a digital tuner. Sounds like it's memory is corrupted.

Steve
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post #10 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 07:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yakimiiis View Post

Alright. I have new RG6 cable with connectors that I did NOT put on, running from a NEW balun. The results are the SAME. Only channels I receive are 11.1 and 11.3. (note no 11.2?) I am pointing as straight at Sutro as I can get, same as all my neighbors' antennae.

"yakimiiis," you may already realize this, but KNTV (which is on San Bruno Mountain, by the way) is the only San Francisco TV station that's currently got a digital signal on VHF (channel 12). All the others are on UHF. You can see their current and future channel assignments here:

http://www.rabbitears.info/market.php

Moving to RG-6 was a very important step for receiving UHF properly. I'm sorry that it didn't solve the problem. As Steve noted, be sure to do a rescan now. If that doesn't work, I suggest that you start looking for something that might be preventing reception of UHF digital signals, whether that's a setting in your computer-based digital TV receiver, or some physical piece of equipment.

What happens when you point toward KTEH (virtual channel 54, real channel 50) on Monument Peak? You should have an easy shot at that from Palo Alto, so if you still aren't seeing anything, that would give us another data point. (Don't forget to rescan!)

BTW, I'm getting 30+ stations with a bowtie hanging from rabbit ears in Sunnyvale (with a little help from Vampire Mickey and Reindeer Mickey; photo here: http://www.wintertime.com/Personal/DTV/bowtie2.jpg), so unless you're on the upper reaches of Page Mill Road or somewhere else that's blocked from seeing Sutro, you should be pulling in stations like mad with an outdoor antenna.


Patty
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post #11 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 07:43 PM
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Grrr. OK, I'm not familiar with the 3018's construction, but from the photos it looks like it relies on "phasing lines" -- two stiff wires, usually steel or aluminum, running above and parallel to the boom and which criss-cross one another between each set of director elements (I called these "vees" earlier). Phasing lines carry signals to the balun terminals. They should not touch one another anywhere, they should not be broken anywhere, nor should they be separated from the rivets attaching them to the insulators at which each director is attached.

You might be able to bend the lines lines away from one another and back into shape (gently!) if they're touching, but if it's more serious than that, I'd take the 3018 back and exchange it for another.
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post #12 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 08:42 PM - Thread Starter
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All, I can't thank you enough for the help. It hasn't actually *helped* yet, but appreciate it much.

I should have added an extra caveat up top: that my naivete around this project knows no bounds. So the VHF vs. UHF distinction is lost on me. All I know is the Media Center PC grabbed most network channels (from Sutro) without fail with the internal Terk thingy (just spottily and not without serious manual intervention, i.e., holding it in a certain spot near the ceiling), and only 11.1/11.3 now with CM3020.

I will definitely check the phasing lines in the morning. I've also rescanned plenty on the PC but when I scan I get "no channels" at all. Will continue to dive there.

I'm adding some pictures just to make sure I haven't done anything idiotic in connecting the balun to the 3020. These show the connection from the balun to the dipole (?), and the antenna in general. From where the antenna picture is being taken, Sutro is behind me which I think is right!

As always, thanks so much! All this to save $60 a month...
LL
LL
LL
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post #13 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 08:51 PM
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Do you have another TV or tuner that you can try hooking to the antenna? Even if the antenna is pointed in the wrong direction, you should be getting some stations.
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post #14 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 10:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Folks, I should have put at the very beginning a final warning: I am an idiot.

While trying many things tonight I stumbled upon the manual for my tuner card, a Hauppauge 2250. I'd originally thought the two inputs on the rear of the card were to support dual-tuning.

However, as it turns out -- which any glance at the manual would have told me -- the second input is not for TV; it is for FM in. The dual-tuning is built-in to the first input.

And, of course, yes, I have been connecting the coax from my antenna to the "FM" input this whole time.

Connecting my input to the PROPER line-in has indeed brought the rest of the channels into clear availability.

I am so sorry for the wild goose chase, but thanks so much for the assistance.
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post #15 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 10:10 PM
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Excellent news!!

Just curious, how many channels are you getting?
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post #16 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 10:34 PM
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"yakimiiis" that's great that you solved the problem. When you got several channels with the little indoor Terk antenna, was it plugged into the TV input?

I am very surprised that you were getting KNTV on the FM input. Channel 12 is way above the FM band. By chance does your user manual for the card say what frequencies the FM tuner covers? I couldn't find specs on the Hauppage site. Just curious!


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post #17 of 19 Old 03-14-2009, 11:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Digital Rules View Post

Excellent news!!

Just curious, how many channels are you getting?

So I mainly care about the networks, which I'm getting just fine, along with 7-12 other channels. Nothing crazy overwhelming, but plenty for us. I would guess I'm getting all of the ones on Sutro (and whatever hill NBC's on).

Quote:
Originally Posted by wintertime View Post

"yakimiiis" that's great that you solved the problem. When you got several channels with the little indoor Terk antenna, was it plugged into the TV input?

Yes! Long story, but when I swapped the Terk for the roof antenna, I accidentally snapped off the (at the time, bare) coax wire in the TV input of the Hauppauge. So for testing I just moved to the "other TV input," which was of course FM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wintertime View Post

I am very surprised that you were getting KNTV on the FM input. Channel 12 is way above the FM band. By chance does your user manual for the card say what frequencies the FM tuner covers? I couldn't find specs on the Hauppage site. Just curious!

It doesn't. I looked at everything I have; the documentation that accompanies the card is pretty sparse... though not sparse enough to avoid pointing out the FM-only input...
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post #18 of 19 Old 03-15-2009, 10:56 AM
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Thanks for the additional info. It's strange that you were receiving ch. 12 through the FM input, but clearly that tuner was able to receive that frequency. Glad you got sorted out!


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post #19 of 19 Old 03-15-2009, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yakimiiis View Post

I am so sorry for the wild goose chase, but thanks so much for the assistance.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Such are the "joys" of troubleshooting -- the one thing that gets overlooked is usually what's causing the trouble. See: Law, Murphy's.

Concentrate instead on the benefits of having gone through all this:

* You've learned quite a bit about a new subject.
* You won't make that mistake, ever again!
* You've "hardened" the antenna system against future failure.

Happy viewing!
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