The recent 3 day weekend finally gave me a chance to retry an OTA antenna setup. I had played a little with OTA a couple months back but never got it to work well enough and just gave up. Back then, I had tried a Mohu leaf and an el cheapo RCA loop & rabbit ears antenna. I am only interested in the major networks - fox,cbs,abc,nbc,cw,pbs.
Here is my TVFool, about 35 miles away from Sutro.http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id%3d46ae6ba35b427a
tl;dr Found a sweet spot indoors to get all major network channels, using the Terk HDTVi (not amplified!). Signal strength 38 miles from Sutro really is good enough for indoors. Antenna placement is the key-inches and feet make a huge difference, and is black magic. HDHomerun + signal meter app is invaluable in testing antenna positioning.
Long story below, but I thought it'd be useful for other apartment/condo/high density dwellers to know what I went through and what is/isn't possible.
I'm in top floor of an apartment, stucco exterior, no LOS from any window or patio area (South/South east facing). Not to mention, even if I had a mast to clear the roof, there'd still be tall trees blocking LOS to Sutro.
I really wanted to use an indoor antenna just for ease of setup - no masts or long cable runs through windows or sliding glass doors, etc. But pointing at Sutro meant going through not only my walls, but also the walls of the unit on the other side, right in line to transmitter. Based on previous experiences and further research, I figured an outdoor antenna was the more likely way to go, even without LOS.
I went out and got a Terk HDTVi, Clearstream C2V, and RCA ANT751 (all 3 have high VHF capability to receive NBC 12. For ABC, I planned on using the translator on 35). I'm using a HDHomerun and the hdhomerun signal meter app on my phone to see live stats.
Sidenote on the Clearstream - it is not *that* big. It would actually work fine as an indoor antenna. I guess it just depends on if you want an indoor antenna more tall (Clearstream) or deep (Terk).
I tried all antennas indoors at first. Used the compass to point at Sutro to start and then played around to adjust. The initial spot for testing was anywhere along the wall closest to the transmitter ( I thought the 10-12 feet would make a difference).
None of the antennas would get all the channels at this indoor location. NBC never came in at all, which was disappointing since I thought the antennas I bought had better high VHF gain.
Went to the outdoor patio and tried all 3 antennas again. Not using a mast to clear the roof, however. To my surprise, results were not any better, and perhaps worse. My initial thought was this was because of the signal having to travel through one more wall. I had high hopes for the ANT751 - but it didn't perform appreciably better than the others.
The Clearstream actually "felt' like it performed better. I could get more channels from a single spot within tolerances compared to the other antennas, but never all of them adequately.
I was pretty disappointed at this point - I had hoped the outdoor setting coupled with larger outdoor antennas would improve reception. At this point, I thought it was the LOS issue that was insurmountable. On a whim, I decided to point the antenna to my South, about 160 off Sutro, towards a row of 6-story high trees about 30 feet away. To my surprise, signal was much better, and I could get all the channels I wanted - I figured the signal was reflecting off the tall trees? So then I moved the whole setup back indoors - I have a large window that faces the South. I had never considered it since it was not anywhere near the direction I should have been pointing.
Signal Quality was good pointing out to the south at the trees, and I kept tweaking the angle and position to keep NBC in the 60% quality range to prevent any dropouts. Unfortunately, afternoon winds picked up, and the trees and branches started swaying........
Yep, all the meters are fluctuating with the trees, dropouts galore. So, so close. So scratch using the trees as a reflecting surface
It did give me the idea to just go ahead and test every conceivable area in the apartment though, regardless of angle or proximity to Sutro. And, happy ending, I found a spot on top of a shelf near the kitchen, pointed at Sutro, which got all of the UHF channels at >70% signal quality/100% symbol quality. And NBC I could maintain in the 55-60% SNR range with slight dropouts that I could live with. Not to mention I'm using the Terk HDTVi - the VHF poles are more positionable than the purely horizontal orientation with the Clearstream or RCA antennas.
I'm mostly immune from multipath I think. Even in the afternoon when the trees are really swaying, the UHF channels stay locked and don't fluctuate. I discovered I do have a problem in the late afternoon with KGO/ABC 35. Strength is 80%+, SNQ is 80%+, symbol quality is 100%, but the tuner won't show the channel. Need to investigate this more, but the problem resolves itself before primetime shows, so I'm ok for now.
Final tally of channels:
NBC - rf 12, 55-60% signal quality (SNQ) as reported by HDHomerun
CBS - rf 29, 90%
PBS/KQED - rf30, 85%
ABC - rf 35, 95%
Fox - rf 44, 75%
CW - rf 45, 90%
Fox - rf48 - 55%
ABC - rf7 - no lock. Strength is 70%, but 0% SNQ.
I'm beyond ecstatic of the final result. I've got all the channels I wanted using a single Terk HDTVi indoor antenna, and 35+ miles away from the transmitter. I tried the Clearstream and RCA antennas at the same spot but they didn't make things that much (or at all) better.
I wish I realized earlier that I should be concentrating on the Hdhomerun SNQ % numbers instead of the signal strength numbers.
I thought VHF would be easier to receive than UHF, especially without LOS, but not in my case.Edited by bender2929 - 9/4/13 at 10:10pm