Question: Antenna reception dilemmas

bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#1
My current setup is a Mohu leaf antenna, placed in a second-floor window, with a 50 ft. quad-shielded coaxial cable running to a downstairs TV (and the Mohu-provided amplifier on the TV side of the cable).

On a good day, this provides the best reception we've ever had here ... but most days, it's still frustrating. It seems very dependent on the weather and other factors I can't determine. The main channels that we're not getting consistently and want are channel 4 (ABC) and channel 11 (NBC). Both have come in at various times, including when I placed the antenna there a few months ago, but now 11 cuts out and 4 seems to have disappeared completely.

I've tried every imaginable location in the house for this antenna, and this was the best, so I thought I was done... but then it stopped working as well. I don't really want to move the antenna again and risk losing the channels I already get.

Is there a better amplifier to try? If I got a second antenna to go into the same TV, but which can be moved to a different room, which I'm considering, is there an easy way to switch between them without unscrewing everything each time? Are there any tricks that will improve the leaf style antennas' reception?

For various reasons, it's not possible to put an outdoor antenna here. I'm also on a budget and if there's not an under-$100 solution to this problem, I will just have to live with the current situation. I'm not expecting miracles! But I thought I'd try to get some advice in case there's a solution I haven't considered. Thanks!

My signal analysis:

TV Fool
 
#2
If you have tried every other possible place for the antenna and its still not pulling in well, you might just want to leave it where it is and try and make the best of it. Better to have some channels and learn to live and make do with them. I personally would be afraid of losing what I already had and ending up with worse reception if I tried moving it. Good luck!
 
#3
I would suggest a small outdoor antenna placed in a south facing window if you have one. Something like this.
Stellar Labs HDTV 30 Mile Bowtie Television Antenna | 30-2420 (302420) | Stellar Labs or this
Antennas Direct Clearstream Convertible Indoor/ Outdoor HDTV Television Antenna | C1C | Antennas Direct
Finding a way to mount it, or hold it in place could challenge ones creativity. Reliable indoor reception is always a challenge. The fact that you have received signals using the leaf antenna tells us that it should be possible.
Switching between two antennas can be done with an A/B switch.
High Isolation Switch - A/B | 33-1485 (331485) | Distributed By MCM or Remote Control A/B Switch: Two In, One Out | 32-4425 (324425) | Distributed By MCM
Steve
 
#4
:welcome: bunny22! I want to compliment you on a nice, thorough writeup.

My current setup is a Mohu leaf antenna, placed in a second-floor window, with a 50 ft. quad-shielded coaxial cable running to a downstairs TV (and the Mohu-provided amplifier on the TV side of the cable).
I'm sorry you got that model. I don't think anyone here would have recommended a Leaf for your situation, and honestly, Mohu went way overboard in their ads when they rolled that thing out.

On a good day, this provides the best reception we've ever had here ... but most days, it's still frustrating. It seems very dependent on the weather and other factors I can't determine. The main channels that we're not getting consistently and want are channel 4 (ABC) and channel 11 (NBC). Both have come in at various times, including when I placed the antenna there a few months ago, but now 11 cuts out and 4 seems to have disappeared completely.
Not too surprising, with your TV Fool Report. You have no stations "in the green" and nothing in line-of-sight. That makes indoor reception very problematic.

I've tried every imaginable location in the house for this antenna, and this was the best, so I thought I was done... but then it stopped working as well. I don't really want to move the antenna again and risk losing the channels I already get.
I don't blame you a bit.

Is there a better amplifier to try?
With an indoor antenna going to only one receiver, I honestly doubt you even need an amplifier. It might be doing more harm than good! But I don't think you can unhook the amp from a leaf+. I believe it's rigged to choke off signal if you do that.

If I got a second antenna to go into the same TV, but which can be moved to a different room, which I'm considering, is there an easy way to switch between them without unscrewing everything each time?
Yes, that A/B switch Steve linked to is an option. But I feel if you get a real antenna going, you'll never want to switch to a Leaf again!

Are there any tricks that will improve the leaf style antennas' reception?
Sadly, no. The only thing that makes the Leaf attractive is the ease of sticking it flat up against a window. In other respects, the numbers we have indicate it's outperformed by a $10 loop / rabbit ear combination.

For various reasons, it's not possible to put an outdoor antenna here. I'm also on a budget and if there's not an under-$100 solution to this problem, I will just have to live with the current situation. I'm not expecting miracles! But I thought I'd try to get some advice in case there's a solution I haven't considered.
We might have some solutions for under $100.

The first thing I want to ask is why you need 50 ft. of cable!? Such a long stretch takes about 3 dB off the signal, which means it cuts it almost in half. If you could cut the coax down to 25 feet or less, you wouldn't need an amplifier, and that saves some big bucks. Is there no south facing window on the first floor where your TV is located? Or could you run a shorter length of coax down the side of the building? (You can get flat coax to run through a window.)

I notice you have no antenna height entered in your TVF Report. I'd try different heights to see if 2cnd floor versus 1st floor really makes that much difference at your location.

I think Steve definitely has the right idea in setting you up with a real metal antenna. A goofy plastic toy isn't going to make it with your signal levels. But I'd go even further than Steve to a 4 bay bowtie. (That's what I had to do in my indoor situation.) Something like this:
Stellar Labs HDTV 60 Mile Fringe Bowtie Television Antenna | 30-2425 (302425) | Stellar Labs

I think you need the extra 5dB of gain. It's about 32" X 20" X 3.5". Any way you could prop that up close to a window and make it look OK? You can leave it in the cardboard box it came in, if that helps. Again, an amp would actually be counterproductive if you have less than 30 feet of cable.

I don't think we can worry too much about WWCP Fox or WTAE ABC on your report. If those comes in it will be a small miracle. Same goes for anything farther down. We also have to cross off WJMB coming from the opposite direction. So that leaves just 6 "important" stations to worry about -- and two of those are high VHF. I assume the leaf isn't getting high VHF RF11 or RF13 at all. (If it does, it's not going to be reliable enough to make anyone happy.) The same is true of the bowtie antennas Steve and I recommended -- VHF is pretty much out of the question -- though a 4 bay might latch onto 11 or 13 on a good day. So that's going to leave you with 4 stations (about 10 channels): KDKA CBS, WPGN Fox, WPXT NBC, and WPMY MyNetwork. Total cost $32 plus any extra cable you have to buy (about a dollar a foot.)

I can't promise those four stations, but it seems likely.

If you find you really miss The CW and PBS, we can talk about adding a VHF dipole after you get the above up and running. That would add less than $20 including the UVSJ combiner. A decent amplifier would bust the budget, but I doubt you need it, even with 50 ft. of cable.

Any way you can return the Leaf+ for a refund?? There's no way you can use that amp on a different antenna.

Good luck!
Rick
 
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bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#5
Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. I will keep them in mind and let you know how it goes if I try another setup. I have to take a closer look at the antennas you mention before I decide.

A couple thoughts -

Since you say it will be a small miracle if I get ABC WTAE-4, I'll probably just write this one off. I used to get it more reliably a couple years ago, and it even came in on several occasions since I set up the Mohu a few months ago, but not reliably.

So this leaves NBC WPXI-11 as the only one I'm really concerned with that is giving me problems. I get it maybe 10% of the time where it is watchable, and the rest of the time it cuts out too much.

With my current situation, I'm already getting KDKA-2 (CBS), WQED-13 (PBS) and WPGH-53 (FOX) reliably, and WPCW-19 (CW) and WPMY-22 (MyNetwork) maybe 50% of the time. I really don't care about any of the other channels, it would be nice, but not worth any hassle.

I respectfully disagree with your opinion of the Mohu, at least in comparison to loop/rabbit ears. The models you linked to may be different, as I haven't tried those exact ones yet. I have had several rabbit ears over time, most were much more than $10, and it was always a pain in the neck attempting to get reception. Even with its problems this is the best reception we've had since the digital switch, and it doesn't require moving the "rabbit ears" 10 times an hour, it just stays on the window. I was able, on a "good day," to get every single channel I've ever gotten with rabbit ears, and about 4 I didn't even know existed. Also, I have relatives 30 miles closer toward the city, with an outdoor antenna, and their reception is hardly better than the Mohu, they just have problems with different channels. Obviously every situation is different, so perhaps I'm the exception. I got it months ago, and it's taped to the window, so it wouldn't be possible to return it now, and I'd probably keep it for a secondary, hardly-used TV even if I got a different antenna for the main TV. (And if, as you say, the antennas you're suggesting won't pick up PBS or CW, I'd keep it for that since PBS comes in perfectly now and the CW at least sometimes).

I definitely need an amplifier. I've tried with and without for every antenna I've had including the Mohu (yes it is a separate piece) and without an amplifier I get ZERO reception. Not a single channel. Regardless of cable length or location. Again, maybe I'm the exception or the ones you're suggesting are different.

I need 50 ft. of cable to reach from the window to the TV. Yes, I measured. No, I can't get away with a shorter cable, except by less than 5 feet. Yes, I tried the antenna in downstairs windows with a shorter cable, and this did not work any better (maybe it wasn't any worse overall, but it wasn't better either). I know there's signal loss with cable, but the lower position must negate any advantage in my situation. (Even though a different height barely looks different on the signal analysis, the change is very slight).

It's probably worth a shot to try the $26 one (I know my reception is bad enough that I'd be highly surprised if the cheaper one works). If I can get at least NBC with it, I'd consider it a success.
 
#6
I respectfully disagree with your opinion of the Mohu, at least in comparison to loop/rabbit ears. The models you linked to may be different, as I haven't tried those exact ones yet. I have had several rabbit ears over time, most were much more than $10, and it was always a pain in the neck attempting to get reception. Even with its problems this is the best reception we've had since the digital switch, and it doesn't require moving the "rabbit ears" 10 times an hour, it just stays on the window. I was able, on a "good day," to get every single channel I've ever gotten with rabbit ears, and about 4 I didn't even know existed. Also, I have relatives 30 miles closer toward the city, with an outdoor antenna, and their reception is hardly better than the Mohu, they just have problems with different channels. Obviously every situation is different, so perhaps I'm the exception. I got it months ago, and it's taped to the window
Everything you say about the Mohu is completely explained by that last statement: "it's taped to the window." You can't tape an ANT111R to a window, and that is the sweet spot for most people stuck with indoor installations. Even one inch closer to the window can make a huge difference, because if the transmitter isn't directly line-of-sight, the signal might have to tunnel, or refract, around the window frame or the wall itself.

I was only saying that the gain figures for the Leaf, published by Solid Signal, are no better than for a rabbit ear / loop combo. In fact, for high VHF, the Leaf has negative gain. There are other flat antennas of that type with better numbers, like the HD-Blade.

I definitely need an amplifier. I've tried with and without for every antenna I've had including the Mohu (yes it is a separate piece) and without an amplifier I get ZERO reception. Not a single channel. Regardless of cable length or location. Again, maybe I'm the exception or the ones you're suggesting are different.
No, you don't understand how they tricked you. First of all, the visible "separate piece" isn't the amplifier. It's the power supply (called a "power inserter") to the amplifier. The amplifier is inside the antenna itself. The whole thing is rigged so the amplifier in the antenna chokes off any signal if no power is supplied. Almost every amped indoor antenna is rigged to blow up this way, so thousands of people think they "need" a preamplifier.

Check out post #46 in this recent thread, for an explanation on preamplifiers: http://www.dtvusaforum.com/antenna-r-d/54207-lost-channels-antenna.html

In particular, here's what AntennaCraft says: "The sole purpose of an amplifier is to offset signal loss due to long cable runs (over 75'), splitters, multiple TVs or other factors." They want to sell preamplifiers, but not the ripoff type in indoor plastic antennas.

I need 50 ft. of cable to reach from the window to the TV. Yes, I measured. No, I can't get away with a shorter cable, except by less than 5 feet. Yes, I tried the antenna in downstairs windows with a shorter cable, and this did not work any better (maybe it wasn't any worse overall, but it wasn't better either).
The lack of any difference can be due to the amplifier. That's the one thing a preamplifier does -- it covers up losses from long cable runs and splitters by amplifying the signal before any extra noise is added.

You have to get rid of some of these preconceptions, if you want to chomp on your RF carrot, Bunny. :becky:

Rick
 
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#7
A little more ...

I want to add that I was fooled by the amped indoor antenna scam too! It took me about a month of study -- before I even found this site -- to figure out what was going on with my plastic-amplified-ripoff. When I finally got a real metal antenna (a CM-4221HD with no amp) and put it right next to the plastic toy, it was about five times better.

Moderator dkreichen1968 is our top expert on antennas, IMHO, and he has a policy of not recommending amps for indoor installations. In fact, he got a little ticked off at me for almost recommending an amped indoor, a couple years ago. If you have to split to two TVs, it's still cheaper to get two unamplified antennas, than one with amp plus splitter.

Good Luck,
Rick
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#8
Bunny,

Check your local Craigslist under electronics / antenna from time to time and you may find a good antenna on the cheap. As an example, here is a Channel Master 3018 in Pittsburgh, new in the box for $20.00. That's a steal for the right person. Channel Master CM3018 Antenna

Jim
 

bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#9
Everything you say about the Mohu is completely explained by that last statement: "it's taped to the window." You can't tape an ANT111R to a window, and that is the sweet spot for most people stuck with indoor installations.
Regardless of the reason, my OPINION is that the Mohu provides better reception than rabbit ear IN MY SITUATION. You can spout all the technical detail you want, but if it doesn't change the fact that I can place the Mohu in a better location that it is physically impossible to place the other antennas, and doesn't change the practical outcome of the reception I get, it really doesn't matter all that much to me.

No, you don't understand how they tricked you. First of all, the visible "separate piece" isn't the amplifier. It's the power supply (called a "power inserter") to the amplifier. The amplifier is inside the antenna itself. The whole thing is rigged so the amplifier in the antenna chokes off any signal if no power is supplied. Almost every amped indoor antenna is rigged to blow up this way, so thousands of people think they "need" a preamplifier.
If this is correct (and I admit that I'm not an engineer, and my own knowledge may be inadequate) then it is false advertising and ILLEGAL. The FCC should not have approved the products, and class action lawsuits should be filed against every company involved.
 

bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#10
Bunny,

Check your local Craigslist under electronics / antenna from time to time and you may find a good antenna on the cheap. As an example, here is a Channel Master 3018 in Pittsburgh, new in the box for $20.00. That's a steal for the right person. Channel Master CM3018 Antenna

Jim
No offense, but if the antennas I've purchased from reputable companies are not satisfactory, I sure as heck wouldn't buy one off craigslist.
 

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member
#11
No offense, but if the antennas I've purchased from reputable companies are not satisfactory, I sure as heck wouldn't buy one off craigslist.
bunny,

The Channel Master 3018 antenna I posted (Craigslist link) is a known winner and at $20.00 it is or was a real steal for someone.

Here you go: another copy is currently available on Amazon at $99.99: Amazon.com: Channel Master CM 3018 UHF / VHF / FM HDTV Antenna - 60 mile range (CM3018): Electronics

Yeah, another new identical antenna in the box at five times the cost.

'scuse me for posting the great offer. FYI, none of us are here to direct you to bad purchases.

Jim
 
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bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#12
'scuse me for posting the great offer. FYI, none of us are here to direct you to bad purchases.
My response was not meant to disrespect you or your advice on the antenna. But the fact that you chose to describe it as a "steal" proves my point. Whether or not the antenna you suggest is good, I'm not willing to take a chance on buying something like that from a stranger on craigslist where there is no fraud protection whatsoever. The chances of it being stolen, broken, not what it is supposed to be, etc. are far too high for my taste.
 
#13
Regardless of the reason, my OPINION is that the Mohu provides better reception than rabbit ear IN MY SITUATION.
That's correct. I just thought you'd be interested in knowing the Leaf isn't nearly as good as it claims to be.

You can spout all the technical detail you want, but if it doesn't change the fact that I can place the Mohu in a better location that it is physically impossible to place the other antennas, and doesn't change the practical outcome of the reception I get,
WHY would it be impossible to place another antenna in the window? I specifically asked if there was any way you could prop that Stellar Labs in the window. I also mentioned another possibility: the HD-Blade. You could also probably stick any 2 bay bowtie in your window.

it really doesn't matter all that much to me.
Then why ask for advice? It sounds like you really want someone to come to your house and fix it up for you.

If this is correct
I haven't stated anything speculative. These topics have been covered thoroughly and repeatedly right here in this forum. Believe me, if I were that far off, a half dozen experts, who hang out around here, would jump on it mercilessly. :eyes:

(and I admit that I'm not an engineer, and my own knowledge may be inadequate) then it is false advertising and ILLEGAL. The FCC should not have approved the products, and class action lawsuits should be filed against every company involved.
Nonsense. The companies do not say the amplifier improves reception for everyone. They don't say it improves anything for MOST people. They just say it amplifies the signal, which is true. What they fail to mention is the first thing the signal hits in the TV is an amplifier, so all signals are at the same level when they reach the demodulator. The amplifier is useful for people with very long cable runs or splits to several TVs, as I mentioned. I really don't see what there is to get so hot about.

Fringe and many other people have bought antennas through Craig's List that work just fine. An antenna is just a hunk of metal with a certain design. If it's all in one piece, and looks good with the manufacturer's label on it, it's good as new. But I do NOT think he was suggesting that antenna for your indoor situation. He was just using it as an example.

Rick
 

MrPogi

Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
#14
Hey, there, bunny...
Considering all your signals are not line - of - sight, I would really go with the Stellar Labs 4-bay @ about $38 delivered. If you can hang it in the same window as your Leaf it would give very good results. Pull your 100 ft cable and see if you have any unneeded length, perhaps a shorter coax can be used. If you can't get the cable shortened, a pre-amp may help - I would suggest an RCA TVPRAMP1R for about 23 bucks. But use a pre amp only if needed! I use one myself, but only to overcome the loss from splitting 6 ways.

Understand that 11 (CW) and 13 (PBS) are VHF, and this antenna is not designed for VHF - but it should still receive them. If you still have problems with these 2 channels after installing a good antenna, there are a few tricks we could suggest to get them more reliably.
 
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bunny22

DTVUSA Member
#15
WHY would it be impossible to place another antenna in the window?
"Taping to the window" and "placing near a window" are two very different things, as YOU said in your previous post:

Everything you say about the Mohu is completely explained by that last statement: "it's taped to the window." You can't tape an ANT111R to a window .......... Even one inch closer to the window can make a huge difference
As for anything else, I didn't come here to argue pointlessly, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Thank you everyone for your suggestions, I'll keep them in mind and update if I try anything different.
 
#16
"Taping to the window" and "placing near a window" are two very different things, as YOU said in your previous post:
Nope. Not what I said. You can put the elements of a Stellar Labs 4 bay bowtie right up against a window. The reflector doesn't need to be flush against it. The elements are what capture the RF waves. If the window is too small, there are the other options I mentioned: a 2 bay or the HD-Blade. That's why I asked whether the 4 bay would be practical. I can't sit here in Wisconsin and measure your window for you.

The base of most rabbit ear / loop combos makes putting those particular elements flush against the window impractical, which is why I, RFSteve and MrPogi never recommended an ANT111R. We all agree substantially on what you ought to try, but apparently you know better than every expert on these forums.

As for anything else, I didn't come here to argue pointlessly, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.
Seems clear at this point, that's exactly why you came here!

Rick
 
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