Wondering if I need an amplifier for my OTA antenna - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 11-01-2012, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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About a year and a half ago I installed an Antennas Direct DB4 in the attic, with roughly 75 feet of high quality cable. This went straight to an Avermedia dual tuner card in my HTPC, with Windows Vista Media Center. For over a year it worked perfectly fine, but about three months ago it stopped recording shows on ABC, and eventually the signal was lost most of the time on all the major networks but NBC17, which kept on showing without any interruptions. Eventually I decided to buy a Hauppauge card, the most expensive model for ATSC, and all channels worked fine for over a month, but recently it went back to the problems the other card had, NBC17 has a perfect signal but some days WRAL (CBS) is impossible to watch due to the freeze-ups, and WRAZ (FOX) also has some hiccups, although not as much as WRAL. This seems worse on stormy days, but this antenna had a perfect signal for well over a year, and also for a little over a month after I installed the Hauppauge card.

I went to the attic and checked the cable, and it's fine as far as I can see, although there are places it runs through that are very difficult to access, so I didn't check every single inch. But I'm puzzled as to what could be the reason for the antenna working fine for so long and then having all these problems. Could this be because I don't have a preamp, or because the antenna is in the attic? It is mounted on a beam in the highest point of the house, which would be equivalent to a third floor, and it's installed facing the direction of the broadcast antennas, at least I remember checking that in April 2011 and putting it in the place that best suited that orientation. If I remember correctly the emitting antennas are about six or seven miles from my house.

If I need a preamp, what is a decent one but not expensive, and where does it go, close to the antenna or close to the computer?

Thanks,

Sebastian

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post #2 of 32 Old 11-01-2012, 11:32 PM
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I'd check the alignment of the antenna before I'd worry about adding an amplifier into the mix. If you used to get a strong signal and now it's not so good, the antenna alignment is the best place to start. I'd strongly recommend placing your antenna on the roof instead of inside the attic. The FCC says you can do this and their mandates overrule any community association bylaws.
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post #3 of 32 Old 11-02-2012, 03:28 AM
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Being protected in the attic the antenna should not get thrown or blown out of alignment. Perhaps it was slightly out of alignment to begin with & somebody recently built a tall structure between you & the transmitting antenna.

What happens when you connect the antenna coax directly to an HDTV?
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post #4 of 32 Old 11-02-2012, 09:32 AM
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Have you checked the www.AntennaWeb.org website to see which direction your tv stations are transmitting from? It is possible they have moved their antennas.
If you do need an amplifier, channel master makes excellent amps. The amplifier should be placed close to the antenna.
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post #5 of 32 Old 11-02-2012, 05:50 PM
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Another thought is your networks have either changed RF or the sub-channel they're sending their primary channel on -- PBS changed their subchannels in Alabama... it wasn't until I noticed I was missing recordings that I realized something was up! Here's another thing: are you using a 75:300 ohm transformer anywhere in your line? Disconnect it and reattach. I know it sounds odd but I had my NBC (RF-49 at the time) losing quality and it was the connection I'd had in place for YEARS that did it - and mine is in the attic as well. Also, check your splitters - they can go bad over time. Try having a simple, direct, no splices **certainly no splitters** to a tuner and TEST that setup - once you know what works you can reintroduce splitters and you'll locate the BAD one(s) that way. The Avermedia Duet is a STRONG tuner so I'd not suspect it.

How many channels are "fading away" anyway? Seems odd they're all happening at once...
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post #6 of 32 Old 11-04-2012, 05:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjsimmons View Post

Have you checked the www.AntennaWeb.org website to see which direction your tv stations are transmitting from? It is possible they have moved their antennas.
If you do need an amplifier, channel master makes excellent amps. The amplifier should be placed close to the antenna.

Thanks, I just checked antennaweb and all four main networks are broadcasting from the same place apparently, which is still in a direct line with my antenna at 6 miles away, so I assume it gets plenty of power even if it's in the attic, because also it's a few feet away from that opening that roofs have, the name of which I can't remember now.

It seems normal now, I wonder if hurricane Sandy messed up so much the atmospheric conditions that perhaps that caused the problem, even if it passed hundreds of miles away from Raleigh.

Sebastian
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post #7 of 32 Old 11-04-2012, 05:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Hornfeck View Post

Another thought is your networks have either changed RF or the sub-channel they're sending their primary channel on -- PBS changed their subchannels in Alabama... it wasn't until I noticed I was missing recordings that I realized something was up! Here's another thing: are you using a 75:300 ohm transformer anywhere in your line? Disconnect it and reattach. I know it sounds odd but I had my NBC (RF-49 at the time) losing quality and it was the connection I'd had in place for YEARS that did it - and mine is in the attic as well. Also, check your splitters - they can go bad over time. Try having a simple, direct, no splices **certainly no splitters** to a tuner and TEST that setup - once you know what works you can reintroduce splitters and you'll locate the BAD one(s) that way. The Avermedia Duet is a STRONG tuner so I'd not suspect it.
How many channels are "fading away" anyway? Seems odd they're all happening at once...

I'm not using an ohm transformer or splitters, it's a very simple setup, the cable goes straight from the antenna to the Hauppauge card. It goes mainly indoors, although there are like six feet of it stapled to the side of the house.

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post #8 of 32 Old 11-04-2012, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by captain_video View Post

I'd strongly recommend placing your antenna on the roof instead of inside the attic. The FCC says you can do this and their mandates overrule any community association bylaws.

That was my original intention, but when I saw how much more of a mess it was to install it on the roof because of all the extra cabling to protect against thunderstorms, I decided to try the attic thing, and since it worked so well and all the channels were showing a strong signal, I left it that way. I had even bought the rod at Lowe's, but I returned it because it was going to be too much work and when I checked antennaweb and saw that I was only six miles away from the emitting antennas and I had a chance to place my antenna facing them directly, I saw no reason to go through the extra hassle. I may have to if this continues, no chance I'm going to pay over $70 a month for cable or Directv cool.gif

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post #9 of 32 Old 11-05-2012, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebaz View Post

I'm not using an ohm transformer or splitters, it's a very simple setup, the cable goes straight from the antenna to the Hauppauge card. It goes mainly indoors, although there are like six feet of it stapled to the side of the house.
Actually the DB4 has a 300 to 75 ohm transformer attached to the 2 metal nodes providing the 75 ohm (coaxial) connection. Specifically I was focusing on the wing nut connection illustrated in pictures of the antenna.

Glad your reception has rebounded and at 6 miles you shouldn't need more than an attractive and protected attic mounted antenna! I'm at 9.9 miles from our towers...
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post #10 of 32 Old 11-05-2012, 02:26 PM
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You could be having one or more of several problems:

First, that antenna alone has a lot of gain for only being 6 miles from the towers, so it might be that you are actually overdriving the receiver and need to reduce the gain instead of adding an amp and adding even more gain. To experiment, you might want to try reducing the signal strength by adding a splitter to see if that helps.

Second, Is there a big leafy tree in your line of sight to the towers? I have that situation and when it rains and the wind blows, the dynamic fade from the wet leaves absorbing a bunch of signal and then blowing out of the way and letting a bunch of signal through causes me all kinds of reception issues. I had to switch to a huge 10 element yagi to get as narrow a beam as possible to minimize the dynamic fading.

Third, When the weather changes in your location, do they reroute aircraft to a pattern where the aircraft are more likely to generate multipath at your location. I also have this problem. I live on the west side of Phoenix and the airport is on the east side. So the traffic normally flies straight out to the east and doesn't affect me. But occasionally the weather pattern requires that the fly in and out from the west and I end up having multipath issues. The big yagi with it's narrow beam helped me with that issue too.

BTW, due to the infrequency of rain in Phoenix and because the multipath and fade only affected a couple of channels, it took me three years to gather enough data points to figure out what the heck was going on. So I wouldn't be surprised if you were having issues all along and just didn't notice because you either weren't watching TV at the time or were watching channels that didn't have issues.

Oh and I just noticed you said you "stapled" the coax to the side of the house. If you really used regular staples and not the fancy staples with the plastic insert that is designed to prevent the cable from being crimped, then you have damaged the cable. Putting any sort of crimp in a coax cable squishes the outer conductor closer to the inner conductor which changes the impedance at that point and causes all kinds of problems with signal reflections inside the cable (which is similar to having mutlipath issues). BTW, just bending coax into a tight turn can cause the inner conductor to push into the dielectric and damage the cable. So if you have any crimps or tight bends in that cable, you really should replace it.
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post #11 of 32 Old 11-05-2012, 07:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac The Knife View Post

Oh and I just noticed you said you "stapled" the coax to the side of the house. If you really used regular staples and not the fancy staples with the plastic insert that is designed to prevent the cable from being crimped, then you have damaged the cable. Putting any sort of crimp in a coax cable squishes the outer conductor closer to the inner conductor which changes the impedance at that point and causes all kinds of problems with signal reflections inside the cable (which is similar to having mutlipath issues). BTW, just bending coax into a tight turn can cause the inner conductor to push into the dielectric and damage the cable. So if you have any crimps or tight bends in that cable, you really should replace it.

I think the actual name may not be staples, it's the typical plastic holder with a nail on the side, and obviously I made sure that it was just holding the cable, not crushing it.

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post #12 of 32 Old 04-30-2013, 09:08 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello, I'm checking this old thread again because I'm having all kinds of problems now with reception, and after I couldn't watch the ABC special on Amanda Knox I got fed up so I gotta do something about it. Entering my full address on Antenna Web, the antennas for the stations I care about (the four major network affiliates) are all 6 miles away, at roughly 72 degrees, with ABC at 75. Looking at the map at that website, they are all coming from the same direction, at the same distance. So I would say I'm fairly close. And, my antenna is pointing roughly in that direction, maybe not exactly, but just a few degrees off. Is that important, for it to be facing in the exact direction?

But regardless, I would like to try an amplifier and see what happens. There are tons of them, apparently called signal boosters, and they go from a few dollars to very expensive. Can you guys give me any recommendations on a decent but cheap brand? Also, if I wanted a device to measure the signal with more accuracy than the stupid bar system Windows Media Center gives me, what can I buy that is not too expensive?

BTW, I checked the original order for the cable and it's this: 100ft RG6 (18AWG) 75Ohm, Quad Shield, CL2 Coaxial Cable with F Type Connector - Black in case it makes any difference. I read that RG6 and Quad Shield are two specs that work better for digital signals, so at least that's good.

Thanks,

Sebastian

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post #13 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 08:45 AM
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It is spring and the leaves have come out on the trees. My house is surrounded by trees and I switch from a simple silver sensor antenna to an 8 bay channel master 4228 in spring and back to the silver sensor in fall. I have never had any luck with signal amplifiers as I have a good bit of multipath..As you said signal amplifiers are cheap and you could give one a try. But signal reception in a complicated situation is trial and error. I like the channel master 4220, 4221, 4228 series. If you have a local Frys you might experiment and return your failures.
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post #14 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm guessing the tuner might play a part too. While the signal was completely gone in the computer and the signal strength meter was showing one red bar, I disconnected the cable from the Hauppauge card and connect it to the TV set, a Samsung I bought in 2010, and it was perfectly fine. Maybe the tuner in the Samsung has a booster of some kind? Unfortunately the Samsung doesn't have any type of signal strength display.

Oh, and I followed the advice Mac The Knife gave above and I put a splitter that reduced the signal by -3.5 dB (or so it says on the splitter), but it didn't help.

Sebastian
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post #15 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 10:58 AM
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Just a couple of weeks ago I compared Avermedia Duet internal tuner card with Silicondust HDHomerun Dual. The Avermedia Duet won hands down, it picked up 3x the channels and every one of them was of better signal strength. If you don't need a shared tuner, for $50 the Duet is hard to beat.

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post #16 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 11:42 AM
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At 6 miles it is hard to imagine that an amp is going to do anything good, it might make things worse by over driving the tuner and trading more noise for an increase in gain. But as you say they are cheap so it might be worth a try.

As a reference I have the same antenna in the attic, shooting through oak trees, with a cheap amp feeding a pair of Avermedia Duets and get rock solid reception from broadcast towers that are over 35 mi away. Note that I get signal without the amp but get occasional drop outs - however I am more than 5x further than you and am splitting the signal.

Even though the connectors are not exposed to outdoor weather it is still possible there is some oxidation - the observation that the signal has become worse over time makes this seem more likely. Have you loosened, cleaned, and retighted every connector including every connection point on the antenna? I would start with this. Next try changing the angle of the antenna - the DB4 is directional and you are very close to the tower. After that I would buy another cable and do a quick test - if things get better you can permanently mount the new cable. Lastly I would try temporarily splitting the DB4 in half to make it less directional with reduced the gain - as I recall this can be fairly easily done.
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post #17 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 12:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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Even though the connectors are not exposed to outdoor weather it is still possible there is some oxidation - the observation that the signal has become worse over time makes this seem more likely. Have you loosened, cleaned, and retighted every connector including every connection point on the antenna? I would start with this. Next try changing the angle of the antenna - the DB4 is directional and you are very close to the tower. After that I would buy another cable and do a quick test - if things get better you can permanently mount the new cable. Lastly I would try temporarily splitting the DB4 in half to make it less directional with reduced the gain - as I recall this can be fairly easily done.

That might be something to consider, I can try replacing the connector in case it got rusted over time, I still have a bunch of them. Now, I was going to go to Lowe's to get this amplifier: http://www.lowes.com/pd_79376-63374-VH140R_4294722542__?productId=3701514&Ns=p_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNs%3Dp_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&facetInfo= which is the only one they seem to have, and I can return it easily if it doesn't help. I don't really need the four outputs, just one, but it's only 10 dB, so I wonder if that will really help anything, plus RCA is not a great brand. I can order another brand online, but if it doesn't work then I have to pay for shipping it back. My question is, do I have to place the amplifier next to the antenna, or close to the computer? Or it doesn't matter?

Sebastian
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post #18 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Actually I found one that seems better for the same price: http://www.antennasdirect.com/store/MICRON-VARIABLE-IN-INE-AMP.html and it's the same brand as my antenna, so it's worth a try. I like that you can select between four different gain values, so I'm not restrained to just 10 dB like the RCA one. Does anybody here have any experience with this model?

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post #19 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 12:41 PM
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I think a preamp will overdrive the tuner, an amp might help though.

Some of the stations I pick up (large rooftop antenna with preamp, split inside the house with amps on each circuit) are 70+ miles away. Others are 16 miles away. The Duet picks them all up (as do my Dish Network PVRs) without any dropouts or pixelation. Checking connections is a good idea, I do it every year when I clean out gutters. I would also give an amplifier a try.

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post #20 of 32 Old 05-01-2013, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, so I determined that an amplifier is useless, unless the RCA I bought at Lowe's is a piece of junk, which I wouldn't rule out given the brand. Earlier today I connected this really old Sony HD receiver that has tuners for OTA digital and analog as well as Directv, mostly because it has a strength meter that seems more reliable than the one in Windows Media Center. This one has like 25 bars and two numbers, a real time and a peak number, but I don't know if the number is simply a percentage or something else, but it seems to be a percentage. I connected the antenna as it is, and I got these peaks:

Channel 11 (11.1) = 0
Channel 17 (17.1) = 74
Channel 48 (5.1) = 76
Channel 49 (50.1) = 74

However, with the amplifier, the peaks barely changed: 0, 77, 79 and 77, and these are not very scientific tests, it's just after ten seconds or so for each channel.

Funny thing is, I have this old Radio Shack indoor antenna that is really fancy and even has a remote control, so I put it on top of the PC and WMC gets channel 11 without a hitch, and the others as well. However, when I connected it to the Sony receiver, the level for Ch 11 was still 0, and for the other channels it was lower than with the attic antenna.

So my next step will be to check on the attic antenna, replace the connector, and try to mount it in a way that is directly facing the towers, because now it's at a small angle. If that doesn't work, I can install the AverMedia tuner again, and have two tuners, one for Ch 11 and the other for the other channels.

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post #21 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

Just a couple of weeks ago I compared Avermedia Duet internal tuner card with Silicondust HDHomerun Dual. The Avermedia Duet won hands down, it picked up 3x the channels and every one of them was of better signal strength. If you don't need a shared tuner, for $50 the Duet is hard to beat.

Thanks for the $50 link for the Duet. That price has previously come & gone. AverMedia said the Duet was discontinued & then said they were just out of them. That was months ago so who knows what's going on. Anyway I ordered a spare in case one of mine ever stops working.

Thanks again.
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post #22 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 06:12 AM
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I hope this isn't derailing the topic too much, but would you guys recommend the Avermedia Duet over the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 ? I see the 2250 comes with FM radio, which really doesn't matter much to me. Is there any other reason it's 2x more?
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post #23 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 06:48 AM
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I hope this isn't derailing the topic too much, but would you guys recommend the Avermedia Duet over the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 ? I see the 2250 comes with FM radio, which really doesn't matter much to me. Is there any other reason it's 2x more?
It's still in production. The Duet is discontinued.

Make sure you use compression connectors with coax and not the older crimp type. They provide much better connection and are easier to install, plus they're water-tight. You can buy kits at most home centers that include a bunch of connectors and a compression tool, but they can be a bit pricey. I'd check ebay for both the connectors and the tool for the best deals.
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post #24 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 09:11 AM
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Quote:
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Thanks for the $50 link for the Duet. That price has previously come & gone. AverMedia said the Duet was discontinued & then said they were just out of them. That was months ago so who knows what's going on. Anyway I ordered a spare in case one of mine ever stops working.

Thanks again.

I just did the same. There are supposedly new and better HDHomerun coming out in the first half of 2013 that I will test (I'd like to have a shared tuner in my network), but just in case this turns out to be another dog I'll have another Duet I can put in an HTPC and work out a centralized solution with some creativity.

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post #25 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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I mounted the antenna on a cylindrical post inside the attic so I can pivot it, and it seemed to help because all channels are coming in well so far, but it's been only a few minutes, so I'm not claiming victory yet. I did pivot it more or less in the direction of the towers, but I was wondering if there is a way to position it exactly in that direction. Antenna Web tells me that the ABC 11 tower is 75 degrees, and the other three are 72. So is there a way to align it exactly to about 73.5 without some expensive meter?

Sebastian
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post #26 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 12:23 PM
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Looking at the earlier posts...

Channel 11 (11.1)

This channel is high-band VHF, not UHF. Although the DB4 should do OK picking it up under good circumstances if your problem persists I suggest adding a high-band VHF only antenna and a signal combiner.

I am using a CM7777 to combine a Winegard YA-6713 High Band VHF antenna with a DB8 to feed a second HTPC.

Since you probably do not need an amp you might consider a simple combiner rather an an amp/pre-amp.
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post #27 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Sebaz View Post

I mounted the antenna on a cylindrical post inside the attic so I can pivot it, and it seemed to help because all channels are coming in well so far, but it's been only a few minutes, so I'm not claiming victory yet. I did pivot it more or less in the direction of the towers, but I was wondering if there is a way to position it exactly in that direction. Antenna Web tells me that the ABC 11 tower is 75 degrees, and the other three are 72. So is there a way to align it exactly to about 73.5 without some expensive meter?

I went up in the attic with a compass & a protractor. I found North & positioned the protractor accordingly & adjusted the antenna as best possible. I also brought my cell phone with me & called my wife in the family room as she watched the signal strength on the TV. Being next to the antenna in the attic seemed to have some affect, but I tried to move away from the antenna after I rotated it & waited to hear the results from my wife. A pain in the butt in my small attic but adjusting did make a difference.
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post #28 of 32 Old 05-02-2013, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, actually I looked it up and after a lot of search I learned I had to use a compass, which I don't have, but my girlfriend suggested I download a compass app for my cell phone. I had my doubts about it, and I still do, but if I follow the compass app and I set the antenna to 73 degrees, it's about the same as I had it before, which according to the map at Antenna Web, is not exactly in the direction of the towers. So I simply did some trial and error, setting it roughly in the direction of the towers based on the map, and so far it seems to work. The Signal tester in WMC shows mostly green and full bars, but every now and then it will show 11.1 as one red bar, and 50.1 as three amber bars, but then in the next cycle it shows all green. I watched all the channels for several minutes each until my brain just couldn't handle any more soap operas and inane talk shows and they were glitch free. But we'll see what happens in the next weeks, especially the next storm.

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post #29 of 32 Old 05-03-2013, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike99 View Post

I went up in the attic with a compass & a protractor. I found North & positioned the protractor accordingly & adjusted the antenna as best possible. I also brought my cell phone with me & called my wife in the family room as she watched the signal strength on the TV. Being next to the antenna in the attic seemed to have some affect, but I tried to move away from the antenna after I rotated it & waited to hear the results from my wife. A pain in the butt in my small attic but adjusting did make a difference.

Ha ha ha, this is the precise reason I bought motorized antenna pole. :-)

6 TV's in the house on FiOS and we only pay $4.99/month to connect them all!!! Power to the CableCard and WMC7!!!
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post #30 of 32 Old 05-03-2013, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by captain_video View Post

It's still in production. The Duet is discontinued.

This is an email reply from AverMedia that I received on 10-15-2012.
“Sorry for the incorrect info, MTVHDDUET will be an ongoing model but it's in shortage at this moment.”

That was 6 months ago & the Duet still is not on their website. Yet Amazon states sold by AverMedia. I just looked & Newegg also has the Duet for $50. And these are not the cheaper white box versions. I understand full & white box use the same hardware. Anyway I bought one as a backup.
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