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San Diego, CA: HDTV antenna help

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,
I need help choosing antenna(s) for getting HDTV channels in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, CA.

Here's my tvfool report:

http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id%3d1dda9ee9d685d6

Restrictions:
- I'm on the top floor (3rd).
- Can put antenna inside or on the balcony without antenna extending past my balcony (attic is accessible but I'm not allowed to put an antenna there)
- The balcony points towards ESE 120 degrees approx.
- Max dimension of antenna is 1m (3 ft approx), more if I can hide it (apartment complex rules).

Based on the report, if I'm reading it correctly, for CBS and ABC (channels 8 and 10) I need a high band VHF antenna. Because the signal is good, I could use indoor antenna for this. I don't have clear line of sight for these channels anyways.

For Fox and NBC I need a strong UHF antenna, as there's a hill partially blocking direct line of sight. The positive thing is that I can have an antenna for these channels on my balcony (I need 156 degrees for these, while my balcony is 120, so it's fine).

What would be the recommended setup for my situation? Any antennas that can do both high band VHF, UHF and still be less than 40 inches in any dimension? I could go for multiple antennas if needed, but I'd rather not spend too much if not necessary.

Thanks
post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 
Bump
post #3 of 5
Personally a BIG part of my (ample) viewing time is spent watching "THE CW" on XETV from Tijuana:
http://www.cwtv.com/shows

XETV-DT on RF Ch23 will be the most difficult to receive, so I would recommend a Very High Gain UHF Antenna, such as a relatively easy to conceal 8-Bay Bowtie. Since it is technically a bit bigger than 1-meter (esp. on the Diagonal), you can hide it with some PLASTIC or THIN WOOD material, such as a simple curtain or a fake hanging plant (NO metal) or inexpensive garden lattice or decorative panels such as following:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/100005228?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=redwood+trellis&storeId=10051&N=5yc1v&R=100005228#.UV5bfldXq8A
http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/202303475?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=redwood+trellis&storeId=10051&N=5yc1v&R=202303475#.UV5b8VdXq8A
http://www.homedepot.com/p/t/203154109?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=vinyl+fence+panel&storeId=10051&N=25ecodZ5yc1v&R=203154109#.UV5ccldXq8A

If you don't have an easy way to hang the antenna on your balcony (ABOVE the railing, pointed towards 166-deg True North), you might want to use a fairly heavy potted plant and a 6-8 foot mast. One or two spikes through the bottom of the mast (in the potting soil) will prevent rotation in the wind.

Fol. On-Air test found (newer) Channel-Master CM4228HD had about 2 dB more Gain on Ch23 & Ch24 than Antennas-Direct (older) DB-8 or Winegard HD-8800 (aka PR-8800):
http://www.antennahacks.com/Comparisons/CM4228_vs_DB8_vs_HD8800.htm

New Antennas-Direct DB-8e wasn't included in this test, but modeling results in their spec sheets show a significant improvement that are at least equal to specs and modeling for CM4228HD, so I would consider it a close alternative, but we don't think it works very well in Hi-VHF Band:
http://www.antennasdirect.com/cmss_files/attachmentlibrary/Technical%20Data%20PDF%27s/DB8E-TDS.pdf
https://www.antennasdirect.com/store/DB8e-Ultra-Long-Range-Outdoor-DTV-Antenna.html
http://www.imageevent.com/holl_ands/multibay/8bayrefl/cm4228hd
Size of CM4228HD: 36" H x 40" W x 4.5" D
Size of DB-8e is a bit bigger: 37" W x 50" W x 7.5" D

Another (even larger) alternative which outperforms these antennas is the DIY (Do-It-Yourself or kit form) mclapp M4 Super-4-Bay Antenna:
http://imageevent.com/holl_ands/multibay/4bayrefl
Size of mclapp M4 (10x9.5): 36" H x 40" W x 4.5" D (same as CM4228HD)

If you find you need just a bit more reliability receiving XETV, a Preamp (e.g. Winegard AP-4700) can provide a bit more sensitivity when used on the UHF (only) Antenna. Power to the Preamp goes up the Coax, so no additional wires. Don't amplify Hi-VHF signals due to close proximity of interference from FM transmitters on Mt Woodson (above Poway Lake).

BTW: Most DTV stations from Mt Woodson are foreign language, etc and might not be of any interest to you.....and would be difficult to receive anyway....

More info re 8-Bay and other alternatives:
http://www.hdtvprimer.com/antennas/temporarypage.html
http://www.hdtvprimer.com/antennas/comparing.html
http://imageevent.com/holl_ands/multibay/8bayrefl

If you decide you want a less expensive UHF antenna, you could TRY (and return if not satisfied) one of the 4-Bay Bowtie antennas, such as Channel-Master CM4221HD (24" H x 30" W x 7.5" with Balun Hack), Winegard HD-4400 (aka PR-4400) or the slightly different (circular element) Antennas-Direct C4 (20" H x 28" W x 4.5" D:
http://www.antennasdirect.com/store/ClearStream-4-Ultra-Long-Range-Outdoor-DTV-Antenna.html
http://www.antennasdirect.com/cmss_files/attachmentlibrary/pdf/C4-sellsheet.pdf

HI-VHF:

Hi-VHF Band reception of CM-4228HD has been confirmed in fol. On-Air comparison test:
http://www.dtvusaforum.com/antenna-r-d/15491-excellent-link-antenna-comparisons-spectrum-analyzer-2.html#post45346

Direction of Ch8 & Ch10 (226-deg TN) is 60-deg away from mid-point (166-deg TN) of XETV (Ch23) and the other major Networks (Ch18/19/30/40) on Mt Miguel. CM4228HD has moderate Gain on Ch7-13 (except not so much on Ch9), but Gain toward Ch8/10 will be lower, about +3 dBi on Ch8 and +6 dBi on Ch10...which is slightly better than a Rabbit Ear Antenna. [See Gain 60-deg away from Forward direction in CM4228HD Hi-VHF Azimuthal Pattern Charts.] Note that none of the other 8-Bay or 4-Bay Antennas mentioned above provide significant Gain in Hi-VHF Band....although the DIY mclapp M4 Super-4-Bay Antenna provides about +6 dBi on Ch8/10 when 60-deg off-axis:
http://imageevent.com/holl_ands/multibay/4bayrefl/m410x95

If you decide to use a separate Hi-VHF Antenna, such as Indoor Rabbit Ears, you'll need a UHF/VHF Combiner to combine the signals from the two antennas (do NOT use an RF Splitter in reverse). Available as Pico-Macom UVSJ, Holland UVSJ, Antennas-Direct VHF/UHF Combiner and Radio Shack 15-2586. Only the Radio Shack and Antennas-Direct UVSJ devices are compatible (DCPASS on UHF Port) with a UHF Preamp when UVSJ is placed between Preamp and downlead coax (preferred for best sensitivity). If UVSJ is placed between UHF Antenna and (UHF + VHF Passive "Bypass") Preamp, a small 0.5 dB loss of sensitivity will occur, but ANY UVSJ type device can be used.
Edited by holl_ands - 4/6/13 at 6:12pm
post #4 of 5
Another easy balcony mount is an expandable shower curtain rod or if a longer length is needed extended paint brush handle or light bulb changer. (available at the big box hardware stores) Just extend the rod between the balcony or even inside floor and the ceiling with enough tension to hold it in place.
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks holl_ands and Mister B for so much useful info. I never thought about hiding the antenna, a good tip.

I don't want to spend a fortune as I mostly stream stuff from Internet, but I want to have some live TV for news, sports, weather.

CM4228HD seems pretty expensive ($100+) even though it has good reviews. I might wait for it to be on a sale, if that happens. I'll check out DIY kit suggested. Hopefully, that's less expensive.
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