Posts Tagged terk hdtva

How to choose the best HDTV Antenna for Your Home

Choosing the right antenna for your home is easier than you think.

One thing that scares potential cable-cutters is the prospect of choosing an antenna for their home. Many wonder, “do I need to climb up on my roof and mess with grounding wires and guy lines?” Or sometimes they go out and buy the Terk HDTVa, thinking that its good reviews mean that it will work great on top of their TV.

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Overview of the Report From TV Fool

Choosing the right antenna is crucial for you to enjoying your cable-free life. Now how exactly do you choose the right antenna? Simple—just worry about three things:

  • TV Signal strength
  • TV Signal direction
  • TV Signal band

You may ask, “How do you get those figures and what do you do with them?” Follow along with me now and see.

Generate a TVFool.com TV Signal Locator Report for Your Home

I know just the place to get those figures: the TVFool.com TV Signal Locator.

Once there, you enter your address. The Title for the report and the Antenna Height are optional. I’d leave them both blank at first.

Push the “Find Local Channels” button and you’ll get something back like the image to the right.

The report looks overwhelming at first, but really it’s quite simple to interpret. You just need to remember to look at the Strength, Direction, and Band of the different stations in the area. Let me show you how to read those from the chart.

 

Making Sense of Signal Strength

In the column marked NM(db) we’ll read the values for signal strength. NM stands for Noise Margin and it is measured in decibels. Essentially a number above 0 means your TV can understand the TV signal. Below 0 and it can’t. Keep in mind, though, that lower noise margin stations are tougher to pull in because they are so sensitive to the fluctuations in signal strength due to the weather, trees, kung fu fighters, interference from other signals, you name it. The higher the noise margin, the less likely fluctuations in signal will affect you.

Signal Strength

 

 

TV Fool color codes the report to give you visual indicator of how strong the signals are. The green stations are those with a signal so strong that you can use an indoor or set-top antenna to pull it. The yellow stations are signals that are a bit weaker—so they would require an attic antenna to pull it. The red stations are those that require a roof-mounted antenna. And finally, the gray signals, while they are accessible, you should seek the services of a professional antenna installer in order to pull them.

Making Sense of Signal Direction

This is the easiest part of the chart to understand. The TV towers are found in different directions. Ideally, almost all the towers will be clustered in the same direction and then you can point a strong directional antenna toward the cluster. An example of that can be seen in the image to the right, where 11 of the 12 red/yellow/green stations are all clustered in the Southwest of the radar image.

Direction

The TV Fool report shows the direction of the signal and represents stronger signals by showing a longer bar leading from the outside edge. Also shown is the channel’s real channel number—which represents what channel/frequency the channel is transmitted at, not what shows on the tuner. That’s the virtual number.

You may also see channels in purple (those are analog channels), and channels with a yellow border (those are VHF channels). We’ll worry about that later. For now let’s focus on the direction of the stations that you want to receive. Your chart will probably show one of the following scenarios:

Best Case Scenario: All your desired stations in one direction

If you live 20 miles or so from a major city, this is most likely the situation you’re in. An example of this is in the image above, which shows 11 of the 12 viewable stations to the Southwest.

This is great because you just need to point your antenna in one direction. You don’t have to mess around with antenna combiners or with antenna rotors. You just need to get a directional antenna. Directional antennas (antennas that are meant to “look” in one general direction) are also more sensitive than omnidirectional (antennas that are meant to look in all directions)—so you are able to pull in stations from farther away.

Scattered, but close

Good Case Scenario: Desired channels are scattered, but close by.

So maybe your stations are in different directions, but they are still pretty close. In this case you can still get these stations without the need for an antenna rotor. You will, however, need a good omnidirectional antenna, or a directional antenna that has a wide beamwidth.

 

OK Case Scenario: Desired channels are clustered in two different directions

If you live between two major cities, this may be your situation. You have good signals, but they are coming from two different directions. If you’re using an indoor antenna, you may have to rotate your antenna by hand to pull in stations from the different directions. If you put your antenna on your roof or in your attic, you may have to install an antenna rotor. A rotor is a little motor that connects to the base of your antenna mast and rotates it to point toward the tower broadcasting your chosen channel.

Two Different Directions

 

Another option is to combine the outputs of two antennas, but that’s something we’ll leave for a future article on GettingRidOfCable.com.

Scattered and Far

Worst Case Scenario: Desired channels are scattered and far away

Now it may be the case that the channels you want to receive are far away and in different directions. This isn’t the end of the world—you can still use an antenna to receive free TV signals, but it may require you to point antennas in different directions and combine their signals, or use an antenna rotor.

Either way, you should call the TV stations you’d like to receive and ask for tips to receive their station. You may also want to seek out a professional antenna installer in the area who knows the best way to get these free TV channels piping hot to your television.

Bands

Remember the old VHF and UHF dials on your TV set when you were a kid? Well, HDTV signals also are broadcast on the VHF and UHF bands. This is important because different antennas are tuned to either VHF or UHF—although most antennas can pick up both VHF and UHF to some extent.

VHF stands for Very High Frequency. Channels 2-13 fall into the VHF range. UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency. Channels 14-69 fall into this range. Over 73% of the USA’s TV stations broadcast using a UHF frequency.

VHF/UHF Bands

Most good UHF antennas are able to receive the high-band VHF channels: 7-13. 92% of the VHF TV channels use the high-band VHF frequencies. Why is this important? This means that a good UHF antenna is capable of receiving 97% of the channels if it is within range. However, if you have a desired channel that is broadcast on the low-band VHF channels 2-6, you may need to look for a UHF/VHF antenna or supplement your UHF antenna with a VHF one.

 

Does the Number that Shows on the TV Dial Represent How It Is Broadcasted?

Just because you turn your TV dial to channel 3 it doesn’t mean that that TV channel is broadcasted over VHF frequencies. Because the FCC mandated that every station embed a “reference” to how the channel should show in your TV lineup—your channel 3 News could actually be broadcasted from channel 45. Hence the station has a VHF-like channel number on the dial when in fact it is a UHF station. This is represented in the TV Fool Chart as Real and Virtual. Real is how the station is broadcasted and tells you whether it is a UHF/VHF station. Virtual is how it shows up on your dial.

 

Common Scenario Examples

Now that you understand the basics, you are well on your way to choosing the right antenna for your home. Let me just go over some common antenna situations so I can give you some loose recommendations for antennas.

In a city with many transmitters

If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with many transmitters, you are looking for an omnidirectional (aka multi-directional) antenna or a directional antenna with a wide beam width.

Indoor

Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna

Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna

Outdoor/Attic

Antennas Direct DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna

Channel Master 4221HD Multi-Bay UHF Short Range HDTV Antenna

Near a city with many transmitters

I actually think this is better than living in a city with many transmitters, because you can take advantage of a directional antenna and point it in one direction. My recommendations for indoor antennas remain the same, but I do recommend a different Antennas Direct antenna.

Indoor

Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna

Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna

Outdoor/Attic

Antennas Direct DB4 Multi-Directional HDTV Antenna

Channel Master 4221HD Multi-Bay UHF Short Range HDTV Antenna

Far from a city with many transmitters

This is the trickiest situation, obviously. If you are within 50 miles or so, you shouldn’t have much of a problem, but if your stations are scattered in different directions, you may need to call a professional who can help you mount your antenna on your roof. The pro may also hook up your antenna to a rotor, or install multiple antennas and combine the antenna signals.

Indoor

Hahaha!

Outdoor/Attic

Antennas Direct DB8 Multidirectional HDTV Antenna

Channel Master 4228HD Long-Range Outdoor Rooftop HDTV Antenna

I hope this served as a useful guide on how you can use TvFool.com to choose the best HDTV antenna for your home.

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Get Rid of Cable With TiVo and a Converter Box

In January 2009 I wanted to get rid of cable, so I returned my cable box for good. I no longer pay any cable bill. I get my TV shows the old-fashioned way—over the air. However, I’m a tech junkie too. I still need to have the ability to pause and schedule the recording of my favorite shows.

Also there are certain channels I need to have. I have three kids, ages six, four, and two. They like to watch kids’ shows. So that’s why I really needed to the ability to schedule recordings of PBS shows like Caillou, Thomas and Friends, Electric Company, and Wordgirl.

With those requirements I set out to build a system that would meet my picky requirements. I will show you how I did it in this article.

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Why Would You Do Such a Thing?

When I tell people about my TV setup at home, they usually respond with surprise. “Wow. I wish I could do that—but I’d sure miss my DVR.” Or, “I know I watch too much TV, but the kids would hate it if they couldn’t watch their shows.”

But you can do this. I did it for four reasons. First, the obvious one, I save money. I had the digital cable package and I was paying close to $50 a month for cable. I’m sure most of the visitors to this page pay even more than that. Having no monthly cable bill sure is nice.

Secondly, I have more free time now that I’ve kicked cable to the curb. Sure I had some good shows to watch, but there was a lot of junk on there that I didn’t watch. Plus I didn’t even like some of the shows that I found myself watching. I’d be flipping channels and see something cool, like a tiger chasing a wallaby, but two hours later I’m watching “The History of Window Cleaning Fluid.” What happened?

Now with my new setup I only record shows I like to watch and I skip commercials to boot. I can watch live TV if I want to—but I’m less inclined to, because there’s always something on in my recorded programs list.

This leads to my third reason. I now enjoy the TV shows I watch even more because I’m a lot more picky about what I’ll watch. Instead of sitting through that entire episode of the history of window cleaning fluid I’d much rather see if one of my favorite shows is ready to be watched.

And finally, I mention the fourth reason. It’s fun and satisfying to pull TV signals out of the air and watch your shows for free. I like feeling like I’ve saved my family some money. I also love the great digital picture that my free solution provides.

How Much Does it Cost?

Of course I will need to tell you what you’re getting yourself into. What will this sort of thing cost, you ask?

This is tricky because there are many ways to set this up. You may already have some of the needed parts. Maybe you want to opt for the deluxe antenna on the roof. Maybe you want to splurge and pay for a lifetime TiVo subscription (I did).

I’ve decided to create three Pricing Tiers. A “Good” solution will run you around $192.00 with $12.95 monthly fees, the “Better” solution will cost about $256.00 with $12.95 monthly fees, and the “Best” solution will cost about $776.00 with no monthly fees

Good Solution

A good solution will let you record and pause live TV. You won’t need to pay your monthly cable bill, but you will need to pay a monthly TiVo subscription fee. Still, this is really all you need to eliminate your cable bill.

Tivo Series 2 80-Hour Dual-Tuner

TiVo Series 2 (About $145)

A TiVo is like a VCR on steroids. It is also much easier to use. If you are unfamiliar with DVRs, make sure you check out the DVR Section in the Recommended Reading below.

There are many different TiVos to choose from. For this setup you really only need a TiVo Series 2 (NOTE: Series 1’s don’t have the ability to control a Converter Box). Dual Tuner is nice for flexibility, but really you only need a single tuner TiVo—but those are hard to find.

The TiVo may seem expensive, but once you own one you soon realize it’s worth every penny. Even if you’ve used DVRs from your cable company or your dish provider, I think you’ll find the TiVo’s interface superior to the other devices.

Terk HDTVa Indoor Antenna

 

Antenna (About $37)

I didn’t want to mess around with running wires through the house, so I wanted the best and easiest indoor HDTV antenna. There really is only one that fits that bill and it’s the Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna for Off-Air HDTV Reception.

What I really like about this antenna is it’s ability to pick up so many stations in my area.  I normally pull 13 channels in my basement here in Omaha.  That’s more than the other antennas I have tried. If I point it just right I can pull in 6 more channels from Lincoln (about 50 miles away).

For the price, this is the best indoor HDTV antenna you can find.  You can still get a better reception from an on-roof antenna or maybe an attic antenna, but those are usually more of a hassle and more expensive.

 

Converter Box (About $50, $10 After Coupon)

I recommend the Tivax STB-T8 Digital to Analog Converter Box.

This converter box works great with the TiVo Series 2. I’ve used a few other converter boxes, but really this one was all I needed. What’s really cool about this converter box is that it can keep the antenna signal strength on the screen indefinitely if you need it, which is helpful when you are positioning your antenna. It does have a built-in guide, but you won’t need it with the TiVo. If you do buy a higher end “smart antenna” (the box can tell the antenna where to point) this supports that as well.

Tivax STB-T8 Converter Box

If you haven’t gotten it already, make sure you apply for and receive your $40 coupon from www.dtv2009.com. This coupon can be applied to this converter box on Amazon.com.

Monthly Fees ($12.95/month or $129/year)

You will still need to subscribe to the TiVo monthly service. This allows you to download TV listings, get updates to your TiVo’s software, and download movies from the Internet.

The “Good Solution” adds up to a grand total of roughly $192.00 with a monthly fee of $12.95. If you are currently paying $50.00/month for cable, this solution will pay for itself after 5.2 months, including the monthly fees.

Better Solution

This setup is slightly better because I add an RCA Selector (so you can hook up your other devices to your TV easier) and a Wireless G Network Adapter so you can download movies to your TiVo faster and share multimedia between your home network and TiVo.

Tivo Wireless USB Adapter

We still need to buy the TiVo (about $145), Antenna (about $37), Converter Box (about $10 after coupon), and the TiVo monthly fees ($12.95/month or $129/year).

 

TiVo Wireless G USB Network Adapter (About $39)

This handy little guy gives you the ability to connect your TiVo to your wireless network for transferring shows between other TiVos, share up music and photos to your TV, and even setting up online scheduling of recordings. It gives you more download speed so you can buy movies online and watch them on your TiVo faster.

Connect your TiVo Series2 DVR to your wireless home network with this TiVo Wireless G USB Network Adapter, and enjoy TiVoToGo, multi-room viewing transfers, music and photos served up to your television, and easy online scheduling of recordings. If used with a broadband connection, it also eliminates the need for a phone line. With the TiVoToGo feature, you’ll be able to transfer programs from your TiVo box to a Windows-based desktop or laptop PC. It works with 802.11g and 802.11b wireless networks.

 

Video Selector (About $25)

Philips PH-61153 A/V Selector

This device (Philips PH-61153 4×1 Automatic Video Selector and RF Modulator) allows you to hook your DVD Player, Video Game Console, VCR, and TiVo all to the same TV. It’s smart, too, because you don’t need to directly control it. It’s smart enough to switch to the device you want to watch by prioritizing them. This also supports S-Video, which you can mix with RCA cables. That’s what I do in my setup.

The “Better Solution” adds up to a grand total of roughly $256.00 with a monthly fee of $12.95. If you are currently paying $50.00/month for cable, this solution will pay for itself after 6.9 months, including the monthly fees.

Best Solution

This is the setup I’m using. It includes all the stuff mentioned previously with the addition of a Logitech Harmony 880 Remote and a TiVo Lifetime Subscription.

Logitech Harmony 880 Remote (About $121)

This remote is truly a great universal remote. I have it set up as three activities: “Watch TV,” “Watch DVD”, “Watch VCR.” The universal remote’s LCD screen shows these custom activities and I just select the “activity” I am interested in. “Watch TV” controls the TiVo and the TV. It shuts off any unneeded devices so my video selector automatically selects the TiVo as my input device.

When I want to watch a DVD, I just use my Logitech Harmony remote for that too. I choose “Watch DVD” on the activity screen and bam! The DVD Player turns on, the video selector switches to the DVD as the input source, and my remote’s LCD screen switches to DVD Player mode. It controls both the TV (volume, TV Power) and the DVD player. I only need this one remote.

Logitech Harmony 880

TiVo Lifetime Subscription (About $399)

This one is pricey, but it’s nice for not having that monthly bill arrive from anyone whatsoever. With a TiVo lifetime subscription you will never have to pay for software updates and TV listings, ever. I’ve owned two TiVos now and I’ve insisted on the TiVo Lifetime Subscription on both of them.

You can buy a TiVo service plan at https://www3.tivo.com/store/plans.do.

The “Best Solution” all adds up to a grand total of roughly $776.00 with no monthly fee. If you are currently paying $50.00/month for cable, this solution will pay for itself after 15.5 months.

Okay, How Do I Hook all This Stuff Up?

It’s pretty easy, but if you are skittish about fiddling behind your television set, I’ll help you. Stay tuned for my next article on how to set all this up.

Caveats

Before you do this, I recommend buying the antenna and converter box first. You may not be satisfied with the channels that you get in your area. Research the return policy of the store you buy these from. For Amazon Returns, see http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=15015711&tag=groc0-20.

Also, check out the TV stations you could possibly pick up in your area.  See http://www.antennaweb.org/. You just enter your street address and it shows you what stations you should be able to see and where they broadcast from.

I placed this article out there to help you out. I own all this stuff and use it in my setup. If it doesn’t work for you, be cool, don’t blame me. I’m just trying to make the world a cooler place. I don’t claim this will work for everyone who tries it. Your area may not have the right signal strength, you may have bought faulty equipment, maybe you shouldn’t be hooking up electronics, or maybe there’s a large badger that has a nest right over your house—it could be nearly anything!

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