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SeekingHelp 15-Jan-2014 12:40 AM

Seeking to Improve My Reception And To Learn!
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I recently canceled my DirecTV service and decided to go OTA. I'll say right off that I'm not very knowledgable in terms of all of the things that influence reception and I also have a hard time with brevity. :-)

Here's a link to the results of the TV fool signal analysis tool for my address. (I'm not sure why but it said it could only resolve my address to block level.)

Right now, I have just a $10 pair of rabbit ears on the floor in my living room connected to an HD HomeRun Dual from Silicon Dust. I get most of the major networks in fairly well, but signal quality occasionally drops and causes some artificats - pixelation for example.

I am using the HD HomeRun software to monitor the signal. It has indicators for signal strength, signal quality, and symbol quality. They are shown in a percentage and also change color as they drop - green is good, yellow is in the middle, and red for low. (There is no red for signal strength though - just green, yellow, and white for whatever reason.)

For 3 of the 4 major networks, signal strength is consistently above 80% and signal quality is also generally high - not perfect but usually in the upper 70s, mostly in the 80s. For one network in particular (57.1, WBND, the ABC affiliate), the signal strength is rather weak (generally in the low 70s which is yellow and sometimes goes white) and signal and symbol quality (not sure what that is even) fluctuate pretty drastically. I've attached 5 photos of the signal quality for the one channel - they were taken in quick succession.

To my questions...

Are fluctuations in signal quality generally the result of interference of some sort or what sorts of factors influence signal quality? If interference, what are likely sources and how do you identify them? Just move the antenna to different areas and see how that changes the quality? If you have poor signal quality for one channel in particular, is that likely due to interference on that particular frequency maybe?

My understanding from what I've read is that signal strength is, at least in a sense, all or nothing - the signal is either strong enough for you to receive a channel or it's not. So, if you have a signal that is somewhat weak but consistent and still strong enough to receive the channel, boosting the signal with an amplifier would not improve picture quality at all. Is that right?

Is it also true then that artifacts are only caused by poor signal quality and not lack of signal strength?

I realize I know very little but I'd like to learn more and am just hoping to get my reception for at least the 4 major networks to be as solid as it can be - inside of whatever insurmountable limitations may exist. Any insight would be appreciated!

GroundUrMast 16-Jan-2014 5:06 AM

I currently own four HDHR type tuners, and I am quite happy with them. They are pretty good tuners, beaten by one of my TVs and better than one of the others.


Are fluctuations in signal quality generally the result of interference of some sort or what sorts of factors influence signal quality?
Short answer, 'Yes'. The interference could be from distant TV stations using the same channel, a local FM station that produces low levels of off-channel signal, electronic equipment in or near your home.... the list goes on. Another type of interference can result from the signal from the TV transmitter being reflected off of something and the reflected signal then arriving a bit later than the direct path version of the signal (like an echo). This is referred to as multi-path interference. Because reflected path signals can be caused by objects that move or vibrate, the reflected signal can change rapidly at your location, this can 'confuse' a tuner.

The solution may be to change the location or height or aim of your antenna. You may need to consider a larger antenna that is more directional.


Is it also true then that artifacts are only caused by poor signal quality and not lack of signal strength?
To a point, yes. If raw signal strength is too low, the electronic noise inside a tuner will be the dominant signal and no reception can occur. However, I'll gladly take a weak, but otherwise high quality signal free from interference over a strong signal damaged by multi-path or interference.

Use your HDHR 'Signal Quality' indication as the primary indication when adjusting the aim and/or location of your antenna. The 'Signal Strength' is a bit like a pressure gauge in a plumbing system, modest pressure is enough... you don't need maximum pressure to 'fill a glass'. The 'Signal Quality' is like a water quality test... the most important measurement if you intend to drink the water. ;)

The HDHR 'Symbol Quality' is an indication of whether the tuner was able to decode error free data after attempting FEC (forward error correction). Anything less than 100% is going to show up as loss of signal or pixelization of the video and/or breakup of the audio.

Based on your report, consider installing an Antennas Direct DB4e outside, facing south. Skip adding any amplifier. I believe you will be delighted with very reliable reception.

SeekingHelp 18-Jan-2014 3:19 PM

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Yes, I would think that with a decent antenna mounted outside (probably on the roof, though it might not have to be given my relatively close proximity to the transmitters) I should be able to get a good, consistent signal for the major networks. You mentioned the db4e from Antennas Direct... How does that compare with the Clearstream 4? Both say they have a range of up to 65 miles but I'm not sure of the differences between them. I ordered a C4-CJM (includes the mount) just because I found one new with the mount for $23 including shipping. That should suffice for me shouldn't it?

GroundUrMast 18-Jan-2014 9:51 PM

There are subtle differences in the forward beam-width of the two antennas but I doubt you'll be able to see a significant difference. Both antennas are appropriate for your application.

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