Isaac Bennetch on 7 Dec 2014 19:48:01 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] No TV Over the Air?


This is a topic about which I can ramble on aimlessly for a while. :)

On 12/7/14, 5:12 PM, Casey Bralla wrote:
> So I'm starting to try to cut the cable TV cord, and I bought a nice Samsung 
> smart TV on Black Friday.  Imagine my horror, however, when I attached a brand 
> new (amplified) RCA set-top antennae and got ZERO channels.

That's completely plausible, especially if you live in a low area, have
mountains blocking your reception, or -- as you indicate -- use an
indoor set-top antenna.

Digital over-the-air broadcasts are line-of-sight, which doesn't mean
you literally have to be able to see the transmitter site, but does mean
things like a mountain or building between you and the transmitter will
affect your reception. Back when broadcasts were analog, people lived
happily with some "snow" in their pictures due to low signal level, but
now that we're digital in many cases that correspondingly low signal
level means the noise floor is too high to decode the stream, so there's
basically no usable signal. This is one of the shortcomings of the
digital conversion; people who used to have acceptable signal now don't.
Another problem is that the frequencies used for TV have shifted from
the analog days and don't propagate as well. Anyway, all that to say
that yes, there are technical limitations and reasons why you might have
trouble getting a signal out there.

Solutions include things like mounting your antenna higher, getting a
better antenna, or using a powered antenna (or putting an amplifier in
line). You've already got the last one covered. I have no experience
with the Amazon Basics antenna recommended by Lowell, but it sounds
interesting enough that I may pick one up. Sadly, there's not one
magical solution. has some good resources and
seems to be the de facto over-the-air antenna resource, but doesn't have
any advice about your city. Also check out which doesn't seem to be
nearly as helpful as I recall it used to be.

> Thinking I must have done something wrong, I searched the web 
> (
> ) and found that I'm basically on the outer edge of digital TV reception 
> because I'm 38 miles from downtown Philly and 41 miles from Lancaster.
> I can't believe that prior to digital TV and cable, people in my area had to 
> erect antennae towers to get TV.
> I could install a real antennae in my attic, but that would entail running 
> antennae wire, and then I'd have to choose between Philly and Lancaster 
> stations.

You wouldn't need to choose -- although having a directional antenna is
better, you might be able to get away with an omnidirectional antenna
that doesn't need to be aimed and receives signals from all directions.
Running cable is a pain, but if your house is wired for TV, you might
try using that wiring rather than running your own between floors.

My house has TV outlets in the basement, first floor family room, and
second floor master bedroom. If I got rid of cable and switched to a TV,
I'd put an antenna in the attic, from where I could easily drop a new
cable down inside the wall to the second floor outlet to connect to the
existing bedroom outlet -- which then is connected to the first floor.
There is a chance I'd have to reverse the direction of a splitter in the
basement, since the bedroom cable would now be the input instead of an
output. That would save me having to run a new cable through too many
walls. In this case, I'd probably also get a signal amplifier to boost
the signal level -- between the splitter and the length of the cable,
there's probably considerable loss in this scenario.

I'm not swearing this will work, or that another solution won't, but if
you go to the extreme of putting your antenna up higher this is one way
you might try. Personally, I'd certainly try the Amazon antenna first,

> How does this square with y'all's experiences?  Is it expected that I'd have 
> so much trouble getting reception at 40 miles from the source?   OK, I know 
> that line-of-sight is always preferable for TV & radio, but this seems 
> ridiculous.   

I have cable TV, but my parents live over 50 miles from the transmitter
site, have an antenna on their roof or in the attic that is directional
and can be rotated, and have good signal from most (possibly all) of the
Philly stations. I believe they at one point had a set of rabbit ears
only which gave very poor results.

> Anybody have any comments or suggestions?

My suggestion is to try a better antenna, and try mounting it up higher
(attic, root, second floor balcony, etc). Outdoors is a better mounting
location than indoors. Unfortunately, you're below the threshold of
getting good signal and there are several ways to improve it but no way
to know how much would be good enough. Experimentation is pretty much
the solution.

Good luck and sorry for the length,
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