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Best Terrestrial/OTA HDTV Setup For an Apartment?

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the i-want-my-i-want-my dept.

Television 238

thesandbender writes "I don't watch TV but keep an HTPC for watching movies. One of my relatives is very ill and I'll have a lot of family rotating through my apartment and I'd like to have a few more options for entertainment. I'm running Vista MCE and bought a Hauppauge HVR-1800 with a DB8 HDTV antenna and I've used AntennaWeb to point the DB8 in the best direction. The results have been terrible and I'm looking for recommendations / suggestions for hardware and setup. I am on the first floor of a three-story apartment building and I can't mount any external antennas (I know this is a major issue). Thankfully almost all the transmitters are located in the same place so a good, compact directional antenna might be effective. And please... no platform bashing. They all have their issues (I have a lot of h.264 encoded files... hardware/GPU acceleration on Linux is very, very limited at the moment)."

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Not enough gain? (5, Interesting)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656873)

Try a masthead antenna amplifier. Get a good quality one and (hopefully) it will help compensate for the god-awful frontend in your TV tuner.

(Yes, I know masthead amps are really to compensate for long cable runs, but a low noise amp at the front upping things by 10-12dB is sometimes all it takes.)

Re:Not enough gain? (5, Informative)

Knackster (858532) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656917)

The low noise benefits of mast mounted pre-amplifiers are good. Remember that most ota hd channels are in the UHF range so get an amp with gain in that band. Also: Try for aiming. Lots more information available to use.

Re:Not enough gain? (3, Informative)

digitalaudiorock (1130835) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657477)

Important note!...I don't know where the original poster is (or if they're even in the U.S.), but in many areas, as of the 2/2009 switch to all digital many DTV stations are moving from their current UHF frequencies to the VHF frequency where they now have their analog broadcast. In the New York area this is true for ABC, TheWB, and PBS, whose DTV broadcasts will be moved to 7, 11, and 13 respectively. I don't believe this is true for any VHF frequencies lower below channel 7.

...not that that stopped a slew of companies from screwing the public by marketing over-prices UHF-only antennas as "HDTV" antennas.

Re:Not enough gain? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657567)

I've been watching terrestrial ATSC with an indoor antenna and a MythTV box for several years now. I agree -- amplification is key. In my case, I don't have the luxury of power near my antenna, so I just installed an inexpensive (~$25) powered amp near my PC, and it had a very positive effect. You can pick one up almost can even try the A/V section at your local Target/WalMart.

Cabling to your antenna is also important if it's any distance from the PC. I recommend you keep it at least across the room from the PC, which can generate quite a bit of RF noise. Plus, the extra cable length will give you room to maneuver/aim your antenna. I suggest RG-59 (coax) as opposed to twisted pair. Again, you can get it cheaply at WalMart.

For an indoor antenna, I use a small outdoor UHF-only antenna I got at Radio Shack for ~$25. (It's basically just the small front piece from a full-size rooftop antenna -- a ~3' "spike" in the middle of a V-shaped reflector.) It takes up some space, but works a lot better than indoor antennas I've tried.

Lastly, it will take some amount of experimentation... AntennaWeb will give you a good idea where your local transmitters are, but indoor antennas are subject to lots of reflections and noise, so you might get better results by aiming the antenna a few degrees off of the "correct" orientation...left, right, or even vertically.

Only solutions... (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656879)

1- violate your lease and get your antenna higher.
2- get cable tv.

sorry but you cant find a magical antenna that will pull in signals without getting it off the ground. you have to get an antenna into the air and away from obstructions. you can try to get a pair of high gain UHF bowtie array antennas from wineguard or channelmaster, but those will look very ugly and take up 4 feet by 3 feet in your sliding glass door.

Re:Only solutions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657061)

Or stream tv over ip - either from the broadcaster (e.g. bbc iplayer or whatever US equivalents are) or from your own streamer (slingbox, orb etc.) located at a remote location where this is an adequate signal.

Re:Only solutions... (1, Informative)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657223)

Yeah, just cough up for some basic cable service for a few months. Most of the traditional cable companies don't do contracts so signing up for a couple months and then ditching them won't result in termination fees.

Re:Only solutions... (1)

Lachlan Hunt (1021263) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657485)

Or move to a new place with a landlord that doesn't impose such ridiculous restrictions, such as prohibiting external antennas. (This might be a little more costly and time consuming than other possible solutions, but it's always available as a last resort.)

Re:Only solutions... (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657557)

original poster says he has a DB8, which is already extremely large. Perhaps multipath is the problem?

I like your style, young man (-1, Troll)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656919)

I'm running Vista MCE ... And please... no platform bashing. They all have their issues (I have a lot of h.264 encoded files... hardware/GPU acceleration on Linux is very, very limited at the moment)


Re:I like your style, young man (5, Funny)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656959)

"hardware/GPU acceleration on Linux is very, very limited"

As opposed to being a system requirement for the command line on Vista?


Re:I like your style, young man (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657027)

what does Vista crappy command line interface have to do about TV. It is really about the right tool for the right job. And sometimes GASP! Linux isn't the right tool for the job. It is not that it can't do the job adequately (TiVo has proven that (However TiVo took advantages of Linux's strength to be a good appliance OS (Yes I have programmed in LISP))) but it is not really the right tool for the job, Espectailly if you just want to get it up quickly and running right, with little effort. Normally if you get new hardware they tend to have drivers for Windows, Linux is hit or miss. While I am a Mac Fan myself it isn't always the best solution for these type of things as there is chance the OS will not support it like Linux and the fact that you kinda need to choose from Apple brand hardware which has gaps in its offering making it difficult to get the right computer for your needs. For this case Vista is probably the best choice.

Re:I like your style, young man (1, Insightful)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657083)

Woah! *ducks*

I didn't intend on enticing that sort of response. I didn't even mention Linux ( except for quoting ). I was merely making a joke about the above-acceptable hardware requirements to run Vista.

However, I will make a small rebuttal. Vista is not always the right tool for the job. OS X is not always the right tool for the job. Linux is not always the right tool for the job.. but it is flexible enough to be.

And hardware support has always done me well in Linux, even with a random USB wireless dongle I was given during a trip worked without any issue or fuss. I do understand that not everyone has such a good experience.. yet :)

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657159)

However, I will make a small rebuttal. Vista is not always the right tool for the job. OS X is not always the right tool for the job. Linux is not always the right tool for the job.. but it is flexible enough to be.

Ummm, that's not a rebuttal. You're simply restating his point.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657209)

The rebuttal is that, unlike systems tied to companies ( and therefore only develop in their interest ), Linux is flexible enough to be the right tool for every job. Sorry if I didn't ( or still am not ) being clear.

Re:I like your style, young man (2, Insightful)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657233)

Gah, ignore that. I just realised what you meant and you're right, it isn't a rebuttal.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657583)

Ummm, that's not a rebuttal. You're simply restating his point.

Not really, the "use the right tool for the job" argument sadly has come to mean "my platform is the right tool for the job". Thus by reiterating the point the post is actually contradicting the parent.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657187)

I was merely making a joke about the above-acceptable hardware requirements to run Vista.

You play with fire, you are bound to get burnt.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

dem0n1 (1170795) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657529)

You play with fire, you are bound to get burnt.

Jokes are not fire, they are Ether. Pour them on a smolder and then you have a nice flame going.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657203)

It wasn't a personal attack. It was to generally quell the Windows sucks for everything attitude.
However I rebuttal your rebuttal. Any OS has the chance to be just as flexible you just need to write the right code to make it work. Being that all code goes down to 1 and 0 essentially before you start your code is half done. You just need to flip about half of the bits to get it to work. Even with having full source with Linux, limited source with OS X and no source for windows, All those platforms all for custom drivers to be programmed, and allow you to create apps to run with those drivers.

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

AlterRNow (1215236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657447)

I'm glad to hear it wasn't a personal attack and I would like to assure you I don't have the 'Windows sucks for everything' attitude. I would be hard pressed to think of something it bested Linux in from my experience though.. (I mean by its own merits, not just because things get developed for it ). As I said before, I've had less hardware issues in Linux than XP ( the former no problem with my on-board LAN, the latter still doesn't support it "natively" in SP3 )

I find Linux to be more flexible because anyone and everyone has the choice/chance to improve it. Only Microsoft/Apple can improve Windows/OS X.

Re:I like your style, young man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657379)

... as if the submitter had any real reason to bash Linux. What exactly is your problem?

Re:I like your style, young man (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657735)

if theres no corporate free key for all, then vista isnt the right choice ;)

People pay for an OS? MS should pay us to use their OS really.

XP is good enough.

Get satellite tv (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24656931)

If you're in the US, you can tell the land lord to piss off, they can not stop you from getting a satellite dish. I had a similar problem with my HOA, and Fed law trumps HOAs and landlords.

Re:Get satellite tv (5, Informative)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657095)

You only have the ability to do this when it comes to sticking a dish on your porch. You still don't have any rights to have the install guy go nailing a dish where ever it may be needed to get a signal.

If your porch faces north or if there's no place on the porch to get a signal due to buildings or plants, you are still out of luck.

The best thing he can do is just stick an antenna on the porch or in a window frame and hope for the best.

Speaking of outdoor antennas, go to some place like Best Buy with a no-hassle return policy. Get a cheap model, try it, if it doesn't work, take it back and keep upgrading until you've got something that works. It's a nice way of doing a bit of experimenting on their tab. More expensive doesn't mean better, as I get all the local HD channels with a pair of rabbit ears hooked up to my setup.

Nothing looks as cool as a $4200 panel with a $5 radio shack pair of rabbit ears stuck on top of it. :)

Stay away from Best Buy (4, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657225)

Nearly all of the B&M electronics retailers sell absolutely horribly shitty antennas. (There are occasionally decent ones but it's RARE.)

If you want to get a good antenna you need to go to a specialty store (likely online) or in many cases you'll have luck at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes.

Look for products from Channel Master or Winegard. Both make good antennas and preamps. There are a few other good brands but those are the two that come to mind first.

If you fail with CM or Winegard - get cable. Unfortunately reliable terrestrial HD can be difficult. I don't even bother in my apartment. Everything else about your setup is fine, your OS makes no difference if reception is bad. Garbage in, garbage out.

Re:Stay away from Best Buy (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657589)

The DB8 is not a bad UHF antenna. It's designed for people who live up to 70 miles from the stations

Re:Get satellite tv (1)

bconway (63464) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657157)

Can you cite which Federal law allows you to mount satellite dishes on property you don't own?

Re:Get satellite tv (5, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657239)

Section 207 of the Federal Communications Law of 1996: [] (PDF format). See Section 2 of the Introduction:

In practice, under the amendment to our rules, renters will be able, subject to the terms of our Section 207 rules, to install Section 207 devices wherever they rent space outside of a building, such as balconies, balcony railings, patios, yards, gardens or any similar areas.

Re:Get satellite tv (4, Informative)

Flying Scotsman (1255778) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657243)

47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000.

Read more about it here [] . The rule applies to "video antennas including direct-to-home satellite dishes that are less than one meter (39.37") in diameter (or of any size in Alaska), TV antennas, and wireless cable antennas."

There are some restrictions. For example you aren't guaranteed the right to mount your dish/antenna on a common area such as a roof or a wall. However, balconies and patios are fair game. As another poster else-thread mentioned, if your unit faces north, you're pretty SOL as far as dishes go.

Re:Get satellite tv (1)

bjschrock (557973) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657257)

47 CFR 1.4000 []

Re:Get satellite tv (1)

Azreal (147961) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657269) []

Rental property that is part of an "exclusive use area" such as a patio or balcony is covered.

Re:Get satellite tv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657207)

The regulations are here


Re:Get satellite tv (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657481)

Yes they can. Furthermore, any stunts like that will earn you a large bill as a general contractor is called in to make good the damages made. That doesn't mean filling a few screw holes, it'll be tearing down the wood and replacing it, or getting a stucco professional.

Re:Get satellite tv (2, Funny)

mcai8rw2 (923718) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657643)

If you're in the US, you can tell the land lord to piss off, they can not stop you from getting a satellite dish. I had a similar problem with my HOA, and Fed law trumps HOAs and landlords.

Wow... you guys have federal law saying you can have satallite dishes on your houses! "Oh say can you see, sitting in front of tv!"

Re:Get satellite tv (1)

sukotto (122876) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657883)

You assume the OP is renting.
I own a condo with a "no mounted antennas" rule... which seems fairly common here in NY).

Just like the OP, I have a north facing apt on the bottom floor of a 3 story building... and a "no mounted antenna" policy.

Sure I could have an unattached antenna (say, on a pole in a 5-gal bucket of cement). But when you're north facing you're pretty much sol when it comes to reception.

Idea (2, Insightful)

legoman666 (1098377) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656941)

Put a cheap antenna on the roof for the time being and run a small/thin copper wire (or something not easily visible on the outside wall of your apartment) down the side of the building and through a window.

Or just get cable for a few months.

Re:Idea (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657149)

That will not work. you MUST use RG6 or better (I suggest RG6 Quad Flooded for best HDTV antenna installs.)

running a thin copper wire will simply make him get crappy reception. you have to run the right stuff for the right job. and that's RG6...

Re:Idea (1)

legoman666 (1098377) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657329)

Are you sure you don't need MONSTER CABLES?

Re:Idea (1)

Jon_S (15368) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657563)

Not to mention that lack of a grounding wire can get you in serious trouble if the antenna gets hit by lightning.

Re:Idea (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657775)

I believe he means 'quad shielded', not quad flooded.

You can also pick up RG59 solid conductor, if it's quad-shielded, for runs up to 50 m or so. Anything above that, and it's RG6, from 50 m to 100 m. From 100 m to 300 m, RG11 will be needed. These distances are out of spec for most cable companies, but they will work in a pinch.

If you do run it along the outside of the building, make sure it's the flesh-coloured kind, which is designed to blend in with most light-coloured buildings.

You may not be able.... (5, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656953) mount an external antenna, but you may be able to mount one inside a window. The glass should be more radio-transparent than the walls.

I strongly recommend the HDTv Antenna Labs [] website: especially the HDTv Antenna Reviews [] .

No external antennas? Sue! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24656955)

The FCC allows for mounting of external attennas, and your apartment complex is acting against the law by not allowing them. On the other hand, even mounting outside on the first floor won't help much.

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (0, Troll)

onecheapgeek (964280) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657053)

The FCC can not tell a property owner he or she must allow an antenna. The FCC can not dictate anything in regards to property. In fact, a property owner not allowing external antennae would not fall foul of any federal law, since the only federal laws in regards to renting property are that you do not discriminate based on any of the legally protected classes.

That said, he should check into local zoning laws. But that has nothing to do with the FCC. A state or city may allow such a thing, but in most cases I would say that a tenant can not install his or her OWN antenna. The owner, manager, or maintenance staff would need to do it.

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (3, Informative)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657131)

The FCC can not tell a property owner he or she must allow an antenna

I don't think that's true. This seems pretty clear [] .

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657199)

Yes, it does:

"The rule does not apply to common areas that are owned by a landlord, a community association, or jointly by condominium or cooperative owners where the antenna user does not have an exclusive use area. Such common areas may include the roof or exterior wall of a multiple dwelling unit. Therefore, restrictions on antennas installed in or on such common areas are enforceable."

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657469)

The parent was making a claim that sounded as though a landlord may refuse ANY type of satellite installation, and I am arguing that this is not true. While your point that a renter cannot install a satellite dish in the common areas of a building is true, it's not the point I was making. I was trying to clear up the misconception that the FCC has NO involvement in the laws regarding this issue.

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (2)

onecheapgeek (964280) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657283)

I was referring to roof-mounted antennae (as did most everyone else - sorry if I was unclear), so no he cannot be prevented from putting one on his balcony. But he can be prevented from mounting it to the wall or drilling any holes in the balcony proper in order to mount it.

Someone find him a tripod or clamped antenna mount and it'll be all good. Or he could find a low profile type of omni antenna and work with his landlord to get it put up and wired properly. Most property owners are extremely receptive to things which have the potential to increase rent value and having antennae runs available to any resident does just that.

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657137)


Re:No external antennas? Sue! (1)

Limecron (206141) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657205)

You're right, it was Congress, not the FCC, who passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which by law allows a renter to install an antenna (satellite or terrestrial) in an outdoor area which they have exclusive use of. []

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657221)

The FCC can not tell a property owner he or she must allow an antenna.

The tiniest amount of googling shows that your statement is demostrably false. This FCC document [] clearly states:

The rule prohibits restrictions that impair a person's ability to install, maintain, or use an antenna covered by the rule. The rule applies to state or local laws or regulations, including zoning, land-use or building regulations, private covenants, homeowners' association rules, condominium or cooperative association restrictions, lease restrictions, or similar restrictions on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has an ownership or leasehold interest in the property.

Re:No external antennas? Sue! (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657351)

"The rule does not apply to common areas that are owned by a landlord, a community association, or jointly by condominium or cooperative owners where the antenna user does not have an exclusive use area. Such common areas may include the roof or exterior wall of a multiple dwelling unit. Therefore, restrictions on antennas installed in or on such common areas are enforceable."

So, yes, his landlord CAN tell him he can't mount an *external* antenna.

Another antenna with good results (for me) ... (3, Interesting)

HP-UX'er (211124) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656963)

... is the WINEGARD SS-2000 16" Square Shooter HDTV Antenna [] . It looks a lot better, and comes with its own mounting equipment. Can also be mounted on existing satellite antennas.

Re:Another antenna with good results (for me) ... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657263)

While Winegard is a pretty good brand, that looks like a crappy antenna. I'd suggest something from the Channel Master 422x series (or Winegard's equivalent), unless some of those HD channels are VHF, in which case it gets MUCH harder to find a compact high gain antenna.

Ooops... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657305)

That DB-8 antenna he has is pretty similar to the Channel Master 4228, which is one of the highest gain UHF antennas you can find.

The guy that submitted this needs to:
1) Move that antenna to the porch!
2) Try a mast-mount preamp (warning, if one of those stations is nearby and very strong this can make things worse.)
3) Get cable

Re:Another antenna with good results (for me) ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657495)

Better yet, hardhack your own. Build an open source Gray-Hooverman antenna. [] []

I built one just for fun and it works great.

use a recorder (1)

extirpater (132500) | more than 6 years ago | (#24656985)

1- find a friend with a nice setup
2- record your tv show to a disc with his tv
3- bring disc to home and watch.
4- don't kill me just a boring day.

A movie library (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657005)

The best movies are not playing on TV in general anyway.

Get fast internet and have a selection of streaming movies and tv shows from the internet.

HD is only all that great for movies that can actually use all that extra detail such as documentaries and such. I wouldn't focus on HD as much compared to selection for overall entertainment value.

Sounds like your best option is to bribe the landlord to get something better setup. For most people that's cable or FIOS but I guess you can't get them ??

A media library of movies and TV shows might be your most practical method. Hard drive capacity has gotten so huge and cheap it's not hard to have an endless supply of new content ready to go and easily searchable.

A netflix account might help, but in general you want to target the viewing audience, that is get stuff people in the house tend to like.

TV is only so rewarding for anything beyond lots of stream of mediocre programming. That's why god made movie channels and DVD's :P

Re:A movie library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657089)

Not a bad idea. I haven't had cable for almost a year and I actually setup a media server (using [] fuppes running straight to my ps3. Albeit, I download countless movies and tv shows which is probably against some copyright laws but...I don't care. Its cheaper to buy a big hardrive then it is for cable.

Re:A movie library (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657153)

Its cheaper to buy a big hardrive then it is for cable.

That's because you're not paying the content creators anything.

I don't care.

Ooh, you're behaving immorally and you don't care. Big up to you! (I'm guessing it'll be at least 8 years before you're legaly culpable anyway.)

NetFlix (3, Insightful)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657091)

Netflix has a $99 box (one time)+ monthly fee [] that will allow you to get on demand movies from them. They have other plans coming that will work on other devices - I can't find the link for that one.

Or, get an unlimited borrowing plan and take out a bunch of movies at a time.

Re:NetFlix (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657499)

If he wanted to watch Netflix on-demand he could use the PC he already has hooked up to his tv!

Re:NetFlix (1)

BitterOldGUy (1330491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657839)

I'm not so sure about that. What I mean is, I watch movies on my PC (has to use IE to download and view) and the quality isn't that good. You really notice it with text. For example, I watched Logan's Run over the weekend and the beginning text on my monitor was unreadable. I'm assuming that the on demand box they have will deliver better quality.

This Works For Me (2, Interesting)

shotfire (1190219) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657023)

I made a modified version of this with some wire, cardboard, and tin foil. Works great. I have a house and this is used on the first floor, mounted right beside a window: []

I am in the process of making this, but the first one works so well, I've kind of put it off...(at least until after the Olympics): []

The key is that they are directional, to be fair, I do have to turn it around a lot for certain stations, but where I'm at they are all more or less due south.

Try a different antenna (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657031)

Go to Amazon and look at the Terk antenna (it's a long pointy thing). There is another brand of antenna that looks this. I get different results from different antennas, so you have to experiment. You also didn't tell us how far you were from an OTA source? One other consideration is to use a QAM tuner; I have a cable modem for internet, I basically put in a splitter, run one end into the cable modem, and the other end into my HD Homerun device (a dual QAM/OTA HD tuner, which attaches to your ethernet based network!). I've also used an elgato EyeTV Hybrid, but I prefer the dual tuner :-P
I now get all my channels over clear QAM, and it works much better than over OTA (sometimes I have to rotate the antenna, which was annoying). btw, this is FREE

You could just get... (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657043) actual TV to plug the antenna into. A nice little HDTV LCD with built-in and stronger tuner. For the one week I was without my precious DirecTV, I went to Wal-Mart and paid $30 for a simple powered antenna. It looked like a pair of rabbit ears, but it with an AC adapter and a knob for adjusting the gain. I plugged it into my Vizio, set to OTA and pressed auto-find.

I live in between Cinci and Dayton, and I was able to pull in ALL of those stations, plus the HD channels. In all, I had nearly 30 channels accessible to me. It lacked all of my lovely sports channels, of course, so no though of canceling my DirecTV, but it brought sanity back to the house so my 3-yr old could watch PBS Kids.

Do not use internal antennas, period (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657055)

Or, much worse, external antennas inside a room.
VHF and lower UHF ain't WiFi. At these frequencies, reflections from nearby objects are a pain in the ass for the signal integrity. Digital TV should compensate this, but I'm not sure if it could eliminate all the problems, especially attenuation due to phase inversion issues.
If you have a good line of sight to the transmitters location, get an external antenna and point it to that direction, and for FSM sake, don't put an external antenna in your room : it's asking for problems.
TV stations are *very* powerful; if you put a decent antenna out the window, the lower attenuation due to the shortest cable will compensate the lower antenna gain. Don't add an amplifier if you don't absolutely need it.

May be too much signal strength (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657063)

I had a similar problem, but the issue was not too little signal gain, but too much. How close are you to the network towers? I live in the Pittsburgh area and because I'm so close to the towers, I actually point my antenna towards the center of the state and pick up the broadcasters out of central PA. Reception is 1000% better now.

Also, reception is going to be better at night as a general rule.

Dunno about TFA, but... (1)

dvh.tosomja (1235032) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657075)

I rather choose extra-terrestrial stuff

amplified antenna (4, Informative)

greenrom (576281) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657087)

If you can find one, try to get an antenna with part number 15-1880 from Radio Shack. They've been discontinued, but your local store might still have one in stock or you might be able to find one on ebay. It's a simple indoor amplified UHF antenna and passive VHF antenna. I used it in an apartment surrounded by trees about 45 miles away from the towers and was able to get all the HD channels except CBS. CBS used VHF, that's why I couldn't get it. People on AVS forum rave about the antenna, and they were right.

Re:amplified antenna (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657393)

I have a cheapo uhf/vhf antenna from radio shack with a samsung tuner that works great and picks up all the local HDTV channels. It sure beats paying another monthly bill to the cable company.

HDTV receiver (1)

peas_n_carrots (1025360) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657113)

The HDTV tuner can make a huge difference in reception quality. I had one of those US Digital cheapy tuners and it had weak signal on a few stations. When it died I got a Samsung which has far more consistent signal strength and video quality, all using the exact same antenna and configuration.

Your antenna is more than adequate. I have a similar 4-bay antenna that's about half the size of yours. I mount it in the attic and point it towards the antenna towers which are ~20 miles away. Signal strength is excellent, no amplifier needed with the Samsung tuner.

hidden antennas or netflix (1)

Uzik2 (679490) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657127)

there are antennas that don't look like antennas, but you might have to build them yourself.
They don't perform well. Try netflix

Build GPL Gray-Hoverman antenna (2, Interesting)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657155)

Build the Gray-Hoverman antenna [] which we discussed recently. It's a grid plane with a few bent wires in front.

Re:Build GPL Gray-Hoverman antenna (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657241)

Seconded. Looks like a wire-mesh nightmade form Naked Lunch, but works quite well if you build it right. There are some other variants that may be more tolerant to it not being precise. Treat it as a sculpture.

Fine w/ Terk tv2 indoor antenna / ATSC tuner diff? (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657165)

I have a Hauppage HVR-1600.. and used it to receive OTA HD signals just fine with an old (not specifically HD or ATSC) antenna, a Terk TV-2 [] . However, I recently switched to a monitor that had a tuner (samsung 260HD). It doesn't have PIP, so I figured I'd still commonly use the HVR-1600 to have my OTA signals in a window when I was doing other things and toggle to fullscreen when I wanted to. However, I noticed the image quality I get when feeding the antenna directly to the samsung's tuner is far superior to what I get via the HVR-1600, even at full screen. The colors are far more vibrant.. at first I thought it was something to do with the monitor default settings, but I've experimented and can't get it to look anywhere near as good via the HVR-1600. Either the monitor is incapable of using the same color settings when viewing input over the DVI connector (don't have HDMI outputs on my card) or the tuner on the tv is just better. Not sure which. As it is now it doesn't matter that much in a small window, I just channge input source instead of making it full screen when I toggle. Just have to make sure the other sound feed is muted, otherwise their off by a fraction of a second (despite same signal, same antenna) which creates an 'echo' effect...

Still using the same Terk TV2. Its a non-powered indoor antenna, and reception is flawless.

Concerning his antenna issue (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657167)

for those of us with satellite and the ability to have a dish, can it also be used for OTA HD? Or if we replace Sat service can we use it OTA HD and receive that through their cable which is no longer needed for sat?

I am trying to avoid a new cable incoming to the house and figured on grafting theirs

Hulu + Netflix + Basic Cable (2, Insightful)

Brit_in_the_USA (936704) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657169)

A combination of Netflix , Basic cable and Hulu keep me very happy. Hulu(.com) has some of my favorite shows within a day of going out on air (Daily show etc.), netflix has instant streaming of old movies, and latest movies by DVD, basic cable has all the major networks. Cable modem Internet + basic Cable analogue channels should be $30 a month if you stand your ground with the cable company - they desperatly want to give you basic cable if you sign up with internet in my area.

Gray-Hoverman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657215)

A lot of folks are enthusiastic about the Gray-Hoverman [] antenna design.

There is discussion here [] .

Keo provides a detailed description [] of a design he built for use in his apartment.

Unfortunately, the pictures of his build are no longer available, but from the other forum posts and his detailed description, his version of this antenna could be replicated.

HDHomeRun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657253)

It's the shit.

Re:HDHomeRun (1)

myz24 (256948) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657815)

I have no idea why parent is scored so low because the HDHomerun is a really good device.

I'll throw out a recommendation for the HDHomerun, sensitivity is pretty good. You get two tuners that work well with a lot of different software including MythTV, MediaPortal, Windows MCE, Mac and even straight up streaming to VLC. The VLC streaming does work, but way it is done is extremely hacked together. If someone would take the time to do so, you could get a nice VLC based way to watch TV.

Other than that, I would recommend a good amplified antenna but you don't even have to bust the bank on that. I paid less than $30 for my amp'd phillips antenna and I get great results. One of the towers is 40 miles away and I still get a great signal.

How long is it needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657289)

Personally, if it's possible in your situation, I'd say just get cable for the short term. Your setup works fine for you, but relatives may have issues if problems arise. You can usually get basic cable for a reasonable price. It'll be much easier to use and potentially more dependable for your relatives.

Platform bashing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657299)

It is quite disturbing how the submitter spreads uninformed FUD about linux driver availability between the lines when asking about improved hardware setup!

Obviously this is just that kind of unrelated platform bashing he himself does not want to hear about other platforms.

Thank you very much.

change software, get amp (1)

muskieman (935340) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657333)

If most of your stations are in one direction, get a directional HD antenna and an amplifier, I like electroline, check out ebay, get a new one if you can. For cable, if all your interested in is the OTA channels, you can get the base OTA package (usually like $15/month) which is ridiculous compared to investing in a good antenna. (And you need to record QM channels, and hope vista doesn't bloc them) If you want other cable channels, you won't be able to record HD, unless you invest $250 in the HD PVR. Then you probably need to upgrade your htpc for H.264 HD video. Software is also an issue, I wouldn't recommend MCE for my worst enemy (let alone the vista version). You're better off with Beyondtv or Sage, or if you tinker Media Portal. You'll get better pvr support from these programs. Otherwise, I recommend just using the Wintv software that came with your Hauppauge card. Hauppauge also has a decent signal monitor that will let you know how well you can tune in stations.

Location Profile, and AVSForum (1)

Eldonv (209260) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657337)

Without knowing exactly how far you are away from your transmitters it's hard to recommend something. I suggest asking the folks over at avsforums

That thread under "HDTV-HDTV Technical- EV's Best Top Rated HDTV Indoor Antenna Review Test Round-Up Guide" is FULL of very smart people who can help you if you give them a full profile. There are also sections of AVSforums that are specific to different marketplaces and the reception challenges that each location has.

That being said, nothing worked for me until I got my DB2. I tried around 10 of the top-of-the-line models until I installed that (indoors). Everything now comes in crystal clear.

QAM Cable (2, Informative)

arcmay (253138) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657357)

Most cable companies offer a dirt-cheap package containing only local broadcast channels. These channels are required by law to be sent unencrypted. I pay Comcast $8/month and get all the major broadcast networks in HD, plus a few random cable channels like History and BET. Even better: Comcast gives me a $10 discount on ANY TV/internet package, so I actually save $2/month by getting the limited TV package.

Any TV tuner card that accepts "Clear QAM" will be able to tune unencrypted cable signals.

Build yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657399)

a 2-bay Gray-Hoverman and lean it against your wall facing toward your xmitters. It's open-source, too!
Mine gets me PBS from 130 km away...

Tough to identify the issue... (1)

jvschwarz (92288) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657403)

"The results have been terrible..."

This really doesn't tell us what the exact problem is. My guess is that it could be in a couple of areas:

- Signal strength. You have a large directional antenna already, unless there is something obstructing the signal, you should be getting enough for the tuner card to decode. An amplifier may help, but if you aren't getting enough signal, it's never going to work. Other poster have identified workarounds for this.

- Your hardware (CPU/GPU) is too slow to be able to decode the streams you are trying to play. This is OS agnostic, you provide no info on your HW configuration.

For the record, I have a MythTV box which plays streams fine, while recording three OTA DTV streams at the same time. So I think this is more of a configuration issue than anything else. Need more info to help identify solutions.

Silver Sensor (1)

Trip Ericson (864747) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657425)

I'd say, to start with, look for the Silver Sensor UHF antenna (now sold by Phillips as the PHDTV1). Without knowing your location, it's difficult to say what kind of an antenna you'll need, because some areas are UHF only (antennas like the Silver Sensor and the DB2 are good there) and some have or will have (after next year's analog shutoff) digital channels on VHF as well.

If the Silver Sensor does not work for you, return it and try something larger.

Winegard MS-2002 (3, Informative)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657497)

This is an amazing omnidirectional antenna that is small enough to fit in many closets if needed. The 2000 is the same antenna but with 50' of coax, which you would not need if you installed it inside.

Try this (1)

djsath (1014027) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657559)

Did you ever try just plugging the cable TV in? I've lived in apartments in the past where the previous owner's cable service was never shut off. Remember though, if you are receiving a signal, you need to pay for your cable service. Your best solution is going to be forking out 10 bucks a month for the basic TV antennas, no reception hassle.

Get cable (1)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657579)

Your situation sounds very much like mine. I live in the first floor of a three-story apartment building in a major city. The broadcast towers are just a couple miles away, but there are small hills, woods, and reflections from other buildings. So I can tune up to 20 channels, but intermittent interference can make many of the digital ones unwatchable. Being an apartment, a rooftop antenna or satellite dish is not an option.

I don't usually watch more than thirty minutes of TV a day, so I tried dropping cable and living on OTA channels. It worked so-so in the winter, but when the trees got leaves my signal deteriorated even more to the point that only a couple channels were reliable.

And then I got sick -- recurrence of cancer, return to chemotherapy and radiation. I already got the cable reconnected and it's a life saver for those days when fatigue and chemobrain leaves me as a couch potato. And soon I'm going to sign up for movie channels for those long nights when the side effects keep me awake.

So if you can afford it (or one of your relatives can make a donation to help keep everyone's sanity) then I'd recommend getting cable for a while.

Here ya go (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657585)

I found some indoor/outdoor antenna reviews. []

Here is the FCC fact sheet on pre-emption rules regarding antenna placement. Read it and determine if it is something you want to fight with. []

At my place they simply require a professional installer to perform the task.

What! No easy HDTV? It's better than nothing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24657615)

In Canada, we've got SDA (sweet dick all)

That's right, absolutely no HD broadcasts at all.

Up here, you either pay a monopolistic corporation or go without.

Distance and Direction? (1)

TydalForce (569880) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657631)

You haven't mentioned how far you are from the transmitters, or if you've got a realistic line-of-site to them (or not).

It's possible the DB8 is overkill, and you're picking up a lot of multipath. If you're not too far from the transmitters, try something smaller (like a DB2 or DB4 from the same folks).

You've got it pointed at the towers, but does that take it through a brick wall and the neighbor's apartment? Can you point it out a window to face the transmitters?

Believe it or not, directing it towards the transmitters might not be your best option. If line-of-sight is poor, you might be better off facing AWAY from the transmitters and picking up the signal bouncing off a nearby building. Try creatively positioning the antenna in a few random places (preferably facing out the window) and see what happens.

Also, do check with the folks on; there are regional-threads and people from your area can probably advise you best.

Finally, it's easier to advise if we know the geography. What's the zip code? Nearest cross street or a nearby address? Something to give us an idea what we're dealing with...

Couple Things (1)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657665)

First, the DB8 was probably overkill and is leading to signal loss on the wire.

I'm using a DB2 in a wooded, though flat, city, about 15-20 miles from the towers and my results are very good except in very bad thunderstorms. I've run the wire into my cable tv plant (with the assistance of an amplifier) and now I have free OTA to every cable drop in my house.

If you're in a modern apartment, the studs are probably metal, which means you're living in a faraday cage. Get the antenna to a window that faces towards the towers, if at all possible.

If your total cable run from antenna to tuner is more than ~100' (or ~30m) you'll be running into signal loss on the wire. Get an amplifier. That won't hurt in any case.

DIY HD Antenna (1)

dr_canak (593415) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657757)

Head over to the Lumenlab forums, where they have a forum dedicated to DIY HD Antenna's. You do have to register to access the actual pinned post (now at 58 pages) that will cover just about everything you wanted to know about DIY antenna's, including many designs. I built one for about $5.00 (US) out of wood, wire coathangers, and tinfoil, live about 15 miles from the HD towers in my area, and reception on most channels is perfect. My antenna is mounted in an attic, with no direct visual line of site to the towers (blocked by 2 story houses, trees, power lines, etc...).


Fox Force 5 (1)

barryfandango (627554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657817)

Jules: You know the shows on TV?
Vincent: I don't watch TV.
Jules: Yeah, but, you are aware that there's an invention called television, and on this invention they show shows, right?

When Tarantino wrote those lines, he gave a voice to what so many of us were thinking: why do people who abstain from television need to inform everybody about it?

Get a Zenith Silver Sensor (1)

eudaemon (320983) | more than 6 years ago | (#24657821)

I'm just here to give useful information, so mods please punish me appropriately. :-)

The Zenith Silver Sensor is considered the reference antenna for indoor reception. Most comparisons
use it as the gold standard, and everything else is given points on how close they can get to the SS.

I bought mine a few years ago when they were easy to find at Sears. If you have a Sears near you I suggest
you check their TV department; the devices are low volume and you get lucky and find one on a shelf. If not
they are available online: []

I personally used a Silver Sensor for my HDTV setup in Houston, TX. I am 15 miles or so from the antenna farm
and got decent reception without an amp. I eventually switched to QAM decoding when I found the HDHomerun
( which works with both Windows and Linux, and has the added benefit of being a
network device. For me that's a plus as I can share it.

Good luck on your OTA adventures. It is well worth the trouble when everything works. Having said that, if you can
get a cable modem connection, the cable company's cable run will act as an antenna. You can try that without actually
tuning any of the channels offered on the cable itself.

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