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Old 01-17-2018, 03:43 PM
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Dan Schafer Dan Schafer is offline
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TV Antenna Station Scanning 101

Hi All,

Just wondering about scanning today's TVs for receiving air broadcast signals. I have one of those Walmart, RCA square, flat, wall-mount antennas (used, hand-me-down, no manual). Do/can/supposed to...?, these antennas operate in one permanent spot (mounted on the wall)? I currently need to move the antenna around to receive certain stations. I have 3 wall mounting hooks inside the cabinet the TV resides in. One for facing South, West & North (viewing facing East). I'm on Lake Erie so I can't get too much from the North. On very unusual, rare days I can get London Ontario. (Wonder if having a proper antenna I could get it all the time?)....dream-on. My two questions: Should the finished surface of that square antenna be facing the proper direction when on a wall? Would you do a separate scan for each direction and see which comes up with the most stations? Seems the signal strengths vary from the stations. Almost a month will go by then suddenly one has to mess around with the antenna placement.
Anyone's 2 cents or helpful links on the subject appreciated.

Old man trying to catch-up
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Last edited by Dan Schafer; 01-17-2018 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:06 PM
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Electronic M Electronic M is offline
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If one side is better is something that depends on what is in the box. Some antennas are only good from one direction (ones with reflectors particularly) some are close to ideal omnidirectional. 'Black box' tells us nothing.

Dipoles are common antennas (think rabbit ears/UHF bowtie). Assuming it is a dipole neither broad flat side will be better but both will be equally optimal and 2 of the narrow sides will be terrible the rest will be the better side of in-between. Different stations from different directions will be best received with re-aimed antennas. Many indoor ants especially the cheap and or gimmicky ones categorically suck.

The signals will vary a LOT over the next few years. ATSC 3.0(incompatible with the ATSC we've had since '09) recently passed. Stations are trying to adopt 3.0 and lots of things are changing behind the scenes...When it is all over your current ATSC tuner(s) will probably be doorstops like analog tuners have become.

A professionally installed roof or attic antenna will outperform all indoor types. If you want to get fringe stations from opposite/perpendicular directions two or more antennas aimed at the TV sites then combined to a single ant lead for your TV may be optimum.

One thing that may help is to find a TV or tuner with a signal strength gauge in the menus. I Keep some Zenith DTT901 boxes around because the menu has manual tuning of the carrier channels with such a guage...I can see the effect of turning the ant and of different ants on reception. It speeds up experimentation exponentially.
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Old 01-18-2018, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Electronic M View Post
....

One thing that may help is to find a TV or tuner with a signal strength gauge in the menus. I Keep some Zenith DTT901 boxes around because the menu has manual tuning of the carrier channels with such a guage...I can see the effect of turning the ant and of different ants on reception. It speeds up experimentation exponentially.
+1 Scanning is a terrible way to check or adjust an antenna. Scanning is useful only to find new channels (and erase inactive ones previously stored) if the antenna is already optimized. A manual input of the RF "air" channel and monitoring of signal quality, such as with the Zenith box, is the only way to dial in your antenna. I now have 13 years of experience using my Samsung STB and others, but very little has changed.

I will be very disgusted when ATSC 3.0 replaces what we now have. I'm sure OTA users of all modes will be steered toward a new TV. At least my antenna investment is safe
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Last edited by DavGoodlin; 01-18-2018 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 01-18-2018, 05:03 PM
mgross0 mgross0 is offline
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Where I live, in central Phoenix, I have to move the antenna to get different channels. For example, most channels come in fine, but PBS and NBC only come in if the antenna is on the floor. I don't know why, and I have tried several different indoor antennas, some of which were rather expensive. The RCA/Alphaline/Winegard is as good as any of them.
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Old 01-18-2018, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mgross0 View Post
Where I live, in central Phoenix, I have to move the antenna to get different channels. For example, most channels come in fine, but PBS and NBC only come in if the antenna is on the floor. I don't know why, and I have tried several different indoor antennas, some of which were rather expensive. The RCA/Alphaline/Winegard is as good as any of them.
Most of the Phoenix valley has line-of-sight to the transmitters and should get good results, but I recall from tests there, there are some areas with a strong ghost (can't recall from what) that makes a more directional antenna of some use.

I also note that Phoenix has 3 UHF and 3 high-VHF stations, so the compact flat-panel antennas are somewhat suspect.

I do NOT flatly recommend TERK antennas, as they made some poor performers early on, but this particular model, with log-periodic UHF, and VHF dipole wands seems to be one of the best indoor antennas for mixed U/V reception:
http://www.terk.com/indoor-antennas/?sku=HDTVI
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Old 01-19-2018, 06:25 PM
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Ahhh!, Didn't think of Electronic M's reply about the field strength metering. I have a Westinghouse LCD TV....I'll look to see if it has a signal strength gauge in the menu. If not I do happen to have a Zenith digital tuner (not sure which model, hope it has that feature) I can hook-up and try....great idea!! Yes, I can see how "It speeds up experimentation exponentially".
Thanks again
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Old 01-21-2018, 10:48 AM
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Those patch antennas suck. I just use an outdoor combo VHF/UHF combo antenna from the 1990s with the UHF tail pointed towards the stations. The VHF yagi part of the antenna is still good for FM radio use

I'm about 35-40 miles from said TV transmitters.
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Old 02-27-2018, 11:33 AM
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The full-spectrum outdoor antennas are still the best.

Our local (Middle-Pa not Philly) channel swaps have resulted in 3 less UHF channels disappearing from now-shutdown transmitters. What really bites is those 3 tower locations were covering areas that are poorly covered by the one VHF and two UHF transmitters at Harrisburg, the exception being WGAL-8 at York, which is 32kW @ 1306 feet height above average terrain, covering a considerable area in comparison.

The operational savings of shutting off a 500 kW to 1 MW UHF channel and using a 30 kW VHF cannot be ignored, so the reduced coverage is the compromise.

There are now two more subchannels each on two VHF-hi and two UHF channels. Harrisburg's WHTM-10 is half the power of WGAL-8 and also half the height, making a fringe VHF antenna necessary at only 35 miles.
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Old 03-11-2018, 06:26 PM
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NowhereMan 1966 NowhereMan 1966 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavGoodlin View Post


+1 Scanning is a terrible way to check or adjust an antenna. Scanning is useful only to find new channels (and erase inactive ones previously stored) if the antenna is already optimized. A manual input of the RF "air" channel and monitoring of signal quality, such as with the Zenith box, is the only way to dial in your antenna. I now have 13 years of experience using my Samsung STB and others, but very little has changed.

I will be very disgusted when ATSC 3.0 replaces what we now have. I'm sure OTA users of all modes will be steered toward a new TV. At least my antenna investment is safe
That's the only good thing, my 1959 Rembrandt rabbit ears (hooked to the 1982 Zenith) made of brass do a wonderful job picking up TV signals.
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Old 03-21-2018, 12:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Schafer View Post
Hi All,

Just wondering about scanning today's TVs for receiving air broadcast signals. I have one of those Walmart, RCA square, flat, wall-mount antennas (used, hand-me-down, no manual). Do/can/supposed to...?, these antennas operate in one permanent spot (mounted on the wall)? I currently need to move the antenna around to receive certain stations. I have 3 wall mounting hooks inside the cabinet the TV resides in. One for facing South, West & North (viewing facing East). I'm on Lake Erie so I can't get too much from the North. On very unusual, rare days I can get London Ontario. (Wonder if having a proper antenna I could get it all the time?)....dream-on. My two questions: Should the finished surface of that square antenna be facing the proper direction when on a wall? Would you do a separate scan for each direction and see which comes up with the most stations? Seems the signal strengths vary from the stations. Almost a month will go by then suddenly one has to mess around with the antenna placement.
Anyone's 2 cents or helpful links on the subject appreciated.

Old man trying to catch-up
I live 30 miles east of Cleveland, near Lake Erie; the city's seven TV stations transmit from a location 40+ miles southwest of me, so I am in what could well be considered a near-fringe area. My TV reception using an indoor antenna (a flat, UHF-only one) is surprisingly good on most stations, although the antenna does not receive channels 8 and 19, the latter being the CBS and MeTV affiliate for my area, the former being the FOX and Antenna TV affiliate (as (bad) luck would have it, my two favorite DTV subchannels, beside COZI TV on channel 3.3). I've tried the antenna in different areas of my apartment, with no change. The problem with channel 19 is it is on VHF DTV channel ten, which apparently does not reach my area; I don't know and don't care why channel 8's main signal doesn't reach here, since I don't watch FOX. I finally gave up on OTA TV and am now watching TV via streaming video, which gets every station in Cleveland with subchannels, and even a couple of stations (PBS and ION) in Akron. Since I live in an apartment building, I cannot use any kind of outdoor TV antenna, despite the FCC's ruling regarding such antennas in apartments.

I had cable for years, but I gave it up when Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) started its streaming video service a couple months ago. I had some problems at first with the service getting the wrong local TV stations for my area (Cincinnati (!) instead of Cleveland locals), but after I don't remember how many phone calls to the cable company that was corrected, so now I'm getting all the correct local stations. Since getting this streaming "cable" service, I have absolutely no use for traditional cable anymore. Between that service (streaming cable), my Roku Internet device, DVDs and VHS video tape, I am enjoying TV more than I have in years, especially now that I have no more reception problems.

BTW, since I have the streaming video service from Spectrum, I am also not the least bit concerned about TV eventually changing to the ATSC 3.0 standard, since it affects only OTA television reception. I read somewhere (don't remember where), however, that ATSC 3.0 is already in effect, so that gives me one more reason not to give it a second thought.

The station you get on occasion from Canada is CFPL-TV, channel ten, in London, Ontario. This station is seen quite often in northern Ohio (the part near the south shore of Lake Erie, anyway; I used to see it quite often before I got cable in the early '80s), which is giving Raycom Media fits left and right due to co-channel interference from and to channel 10; the company owns channel 19. The company should have, IMO, put this station's DTV signal on a UHF channel from the start, instead of on a VHF channel that is giving them no end of trouble in the form of complaints from the Canadian station, and vice-versa. I realize the decision to put the DTV signal on channel 10 was largely a financial one, but the station is losing viewers east of Cleveland right and left because the VHF channel 10 OTA signal does not reach that area; this means, of course, less advertising revenue. I think the station's management should bite the bullet and correct this issue before they lose any more OTA viewers, which they very likely will if this goes on much longer. Not everyone wants or can afford cable or satellite. Just because TV is now all digital does not and should not mean rabbit ears and other types of indoor television antennas cannot be used any longer; in fact, in some areas, indoor antennas work amazingly well with DTV. I would use one on my TV if not for the reception problems on channel 19 I mentioned earlier; however, as long as I have streaming cable service from Spectrum (I intend to keep it indefinitely, as it seems to be working very well even as I write this), I honestly don't need an antenna.

The reason you sometimes must move your DTV antenna, especially when changing channels, is that DTV signals are not of equal strength in any given location; that is, there can be dead spots, where you get no signal at all, and there will be "hot" spots where the signal is excellent. I don't know where you are located in the Cleveland area, but even being on the lake you will have the same situation. The Cleveland TV stations' towers are all located southwest of the city, in the suburb of Parma. I don't know whether you are using an indoor TV antenna or an all-channel outdoor one; however, if the latter, I would point it directly southwest, which will aim it directly at the towers. This orientation worked well for 60 years with analog NTSC TV signals, and should work just as well with DTV if you keep in mind the RF hot and cold spots I mentioned.
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Last edited by Jeffhs; 03-23-2018 at 08:10 PM.
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