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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am interested in surveying my location for the signal strength of the various local HD transmissions. Can anyone steer me to what relatively inexpensive gear I would use and a guide for performing the task? "Relatively inexpensive" for my budget would be in the $200 - $300 range.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Come on! Doesn't anybody know anything about this subject? I'm seeing a lot of posts where people are asking about what antenna to use for a particular area; certainly a DIY site survey - measuring the broadcast signal strength - would point people to the appropriate antenna.
 

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You can order a Hauppauge WIN-TV-D card for around $200 and plug it into your computer and connect it to an antenna and see what you get. The next thing I would suggest would be a $10,000 spectrum analyzer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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Originally posted by foxeng
You can order a Hauppauge WIN-TV-D card for around $200 and plug it into your computer and connect it to an antenna and see what you get. The next thing I would suggest would be a $10,000 spectrum analyzer.
Thanks, but I'd bet the $10k that there's a solution between $200 and $10,000. And probably not *too* much above the $200. From the lack of response to my query it seems I'm on my own on this one. I will be sure to post my experiences . . .
 

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Ask a store to let you "test drive" an "open-box special" OTA STB, with a promise that you will give them the results when you return it. Take the box, a small TV or LCD monitor, and a decent antenna, and check it out.


Most stores have lots of returned STBs on their clearance tables, since people buy them, then return them when they don't think they work. They can't just put them back into stock, though, since they have been opened.

Usually, clearance items are "non-returnable", so you need to bargain with them a bit.....offer to tell them what results you get, maybe leave a Credit Card number they could use to bill you, but won't, if you bring the box back in a couple of days. I think a lot of retailers would love to hear that you got GOOD reception easily, since they could quote your experiences to other (potential) STB buyers.


Otherwise, a couple of $K for an analyzer, plus antennas and stuff, is about the best shot.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by pepar
Thanks, but I'd bet the $10k that there's a solution between $200 and $10,000.
How much?



The suggestions made here are your best bet.
 

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If you don't want to go the "buy & return" route, you could rent a STB.


There's a store near DC (Rockville, MD) that rents STBs for $10/per day.

link


Since you are in Southern PA, you could drive and pick it up yourself....
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. OTA digital (and HD) is being broadcast in my area but is not yet being promoted, nor do any stores sell STBs.


The local cable provider is carrying a nice selection of HD as well, but you have to know to ask them about it. It's all still a bit lame; I don't think they know what to do with it yet. For the low, low price of $12 per month cable will sell me hi-def CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, Discovery, HBO, Showtime and ESPN. ABC, UPN (dammit - no Enterprise!) and WB are not available. Unfortunately, they will also get $11.95/mo for the terminal and $50 to install it. And the way they word their pitch, HBO and Showtime could be "extra' at some time in the future.


From my emails to the local broadcast affiliates, I suspect that I will get most if not all of the networks OTA. As I am going the HTPC route, a $200 - $300 HD tuner card - a one-time purchase - could be all that's needed to get me into the game. The added advantage of this path is that I can record and time shift the programming, as well as stream them to other HTPCs in the house without the cost of a traditional TV signal distribution system. (I'm wired with CAT6.) My research tells me that time shifting is not possible with cable or satellite.


At the beginning of the previous paragraph, I said "suspect." It is that doubt that I'd like to remove before buying an admittedly cheap antenna and then going to the hassle of mounting it only to find out I get two channels. By buying a field strength meter - or renting/borrowing one - I can determine in advance what channels I can receive, what antenna I need, and whether or not it can be mounted in the attic.
 

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Assuming your local digital stations are not broadcasting at some lame low power level (ask them), you should be able to easily receive your local OTA channels if the digital stations are shown in the "green" or "yellow" zones at this site .
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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Originally posted by arxaw
Assuming your local digital stations are not broadcasting at some lame low power level(ask them), you should be able to easily receive your local OTA channels if the digital stations are shown in the "green" or "yellow" zones at this site .
Thank you very much. This is quite helpful, especially for directions. I question it's accuracy with regard to signal strength though. I believe it is only factoring in distance and not elevation. The station that is indicated as being easiest to receive is close by but actually on the other side of a range of hills. Transmission tower location seems to be based on the license address; a station that is listed "in the red" has it's tower only two miles from my house and is line of sight. I can probably receive its signal by holding a wetted finger in the air.


Nonetheless, it is helpful and I appreciate your assistance!
 

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What I do is very simple. I do the research at the site above, and note where there are analog UHF broadcasts from the same transmission towers as the digital broadcasts. Then I venture on the roof where the antenna will be and see if I can receive such analog broadcasts from a small Yagi antenna aimed via a compass, using a small battery-powered TV. In every case, if you can see any recognizable analog image you can get crystal clear digital reception. I already owned the TV and antenna, but even if you must buy them both will cost well under $200.


Gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
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Originally posted by Gary McCoy
What I do is very simple. I do the research at the site above, and note where there are analog UHF broadcasts from the same transmission towers as the digital broadcasts. Then I venture on the roof where the antenna will be and see if I can receive such analog broadcasts from a small Yagi antenna aimed via a compass, using a small battery-powered TV. In every case, if you can see any recognizable analog image you can get crystal clear digital reception. I already owned the TV and antenna, but even if you must buy them both will cost well under $200.


Gary
Excellent! I'll give this a try. We lost power recently and wanted to buy a small battery operated TV. Any suggestions for the YAGI? Something Radio Shack would sell?
 

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Any small Yagi or Screen/Bowtie antenna should work, the smaller Radio Shack types included. These types of antennas have "gain" which the built-in dipole of the portable TV will not. I use a Yagi because I had it already and it's directional. I simply clamped it to a length of 1.5" wooden dowel which makes a good handle, and mounted a cheap plastic compass on top of the dowel. Later I added a small "spirit level" from the hardware store to aid in getting it exactly upright. In every case, I installed a larger antenna than the one I used for the survey and digital reception was no problem. Have the antennaweb printout with you when you venture onto the roof, and checkoff those stations you can receive - this gives a good indication of where the terrain precludes reception from certain transmitting sites and towers, and which are in line-of-sight and within range.


Gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy
Any small Yagi or Bowtie antenna should work, the smaller Radio Shack types included. These types of antennas have "gain" which the built-in dipole of the portable TV will not. I use a Yagi because I had it already and it's directional. I simply clamped it to a length of 1.5" wooden dowel which makes a good handle, and mounted a cheap plastic compass on top of the dowel. Later I added a small "spirit level" from the hardware store to aid in getting it exactly upright. In every case, I installed a larger antenna than the one I used for the survey and digital reception was no problem. Have the antennaweb printout with you when you venture onto the roof, and checkoff those stations you can receive.


Gary
Thank you, thank you!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Gary McCoy
What I do is very simple. I do the research at the site above, and note where there are analog UHF broadcasts from the same transmission towers as the digital broadcasts. Then I venture on the roof where the antenna will be and see if I can receive such analog broadcasts from a small Yagi antenna aimed via a compass, using a small battery-powered TV. In every case, if you can see any recognizable analog image you can get crystal clear digital reception. I already owned the TV and antenna, but even if you must buy them both will cost well under $200.


Gary
While I am sure that works most of the time, it's not always true. I tried the same thing, even going to far as to mount a pole and get a rotor and antenna. I got the analog version of my CBS, PBS, and ABC without even a sniff of the digital. The analog CBS came in best with just a bit of ghosts while I could view the ABC but it was not very good, but neither of those could I get the digital. I should add my biggest problem is power levels. The CBS is at 96kW and I am about 35 miles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
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Originally posted by timmy1376
While I am sure that works most of the time, it's not always true. I tried the same thing, even going to far as to mount a pole and get a rotor and antenna. I got the analog version of my CBS, PBS, and ABC without even a sniff of the digital. The analog CBS came in best with just a bit of ghosts while I could view the ABC but it was not very good, but neither of those could I get the digital. I should add my biggest problem is power levels. The CBS is at 96kW and I am about 35 miles.
Shucks, it was seeming so cut and dried. Perhaps I shjould invest in a UHF field strength meter - I've seen them for $300 - $400 - and actually tune in the digital channel to measure the RF strength.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by timmy1376
While I am sure that works most of the time, it's not always true. I tried the same thing, even going to far as to mount a pole and get a rotor and antenna. I got the analog version of my CBS, PBS, and ABC without even a sniff of the digital.
What band are the DTV channels on, and what band antenna did you use?
 

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Not all of your digital stations appear to be broadcasting in the UHF band. If the FCC site is correct, if you're wanting to receive WHP-DT, you'll need a VHF antenna. And possibly a BIG one.


Antennaweb and the FCC show different channels for WHTM-DT. Antennaweb shows it on UHF channel 57, but the FCC site shows it on VHF channel 10. Ask the stations to be sure.


The FCC site , says WHP-DT has a STA (Special Temporary Authority) to operate at the miserably low power level of

.575 kW ERP. WITF-DT is only 50kw. WHTM-DT, ~16kw.


That would explain those stations being in the "red" zone for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by arxaw
Not all of your digital stations appear to be broadcasting in the UHF band. If the FCC site is correct, if you're wanting to receive WHP-DT, you'll need a VHF antenna. And possibly a BIG one.


Antennaweb and the FCC show different channels for WHTM-DT. Antennaweb shows it on UHF channel 57, but the FCC site shows it on VHF channel 10. Ask the stations to be sure.


The FCC site , says WHP-DT has a STA (Special Temporary Authority) to operate at the miserably low power level of

.575 kW ERP. WITF-DT is only 50kw. WHTM-DT, ~16kw.


That would explain those stations being in the "red" zone for you.
Thanks for pointing out that not all DTV channels are UHF. I was so focused on the things that I did not notice. WHTM-DT will be on ch 10 when they go live. I'm not so sure about needing a big antenna for it though. Fortunately, we are on a hill NE of York that has a pretty clear shot up river (Susquehanna) to Three Mile Island and Harrisburg. That combined with VHF's better coverage should mitigate the antenna issue. As for WHP, let's hope it is only "temporary."
 
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