I need better digital TV reception.
January 26, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I live within a mile of local TV station antennas in downtown PDX, yet I can't pick up some channels on my HDTV. Is the TV the problem? Help me get reception so I can cancel Comcast!

I don't watch enough TV to justify paying for cable, but I can't pick up NBC and Fox on my 32 inch Dynex HDTV even though I can see the hill their towers are on. I've read that I may live TOO close to the towers and that may be the problem. I'm about a mile away, so that seems a little silly... but maybe?

Do some TVs do better with digital reception - both high and low - than others? I don't have a car, so I'm leery of buying a new TV if that won't solve the problem... but I'll gladly do it if it WILL solve it. I realize Dynex isn't exactly a high end brand.

I tried buying a powered antenna from Monoprice. I also tried rabbit ears.

Any and all thoughts/help welcome!
posted by 2oh1 to Technology (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Try plugging in your info into AntennaWeb and see what it reccomends.
posted by defcom1 at 4:40 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, KPDX, OPB, Univision, CW are all on the West Hills up north of the cemetery, that's pretty well known. You might be getting building interference or problems because of the funny angle downtown has to the antennas (they are from 900' to 1800' elevation or so while the Big Pink building's top floor is around 700' elevation).

I'm thinking you need a better antenna that is suited for HD. The sad part is that the DIY antenna's seem to do better than anything. Trythis antenna mock up for size. Point it so the foil is to the east, antenna to the west (or whatever relevant direction to the TV towers up on Sylvan Hill).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:46 PM on January 26, 2011

Response by poster: I'm on the top floor of a tall building downtown near the south park blocks and have an unobstructed view of the west hills. I can see some of the towers, especially at night. I enjoy the blinking tower lights.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:58 PM on January 26, 2011

Try the DIY antenna. Search DIY HD antenna on google. I'm not at all joking when I say that these have really good success.

Anecdata: When I lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood (SE Milwaukie and Holgate area), I made an antenna out of a coaxial with one end in the TV and the other end cut off, with about six inches just being the exposed copper core, and shoved the end of it into an empty beer can. I picked up everything but KPDX.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2011

Response by poster: According to sites like Antennaweb, I should get all sorts of channels, which is why I'm trying to figure out if some TVs handle strong reception poorly. The only thing between my TV and the towers, besides at most a mile of air is a HUGE window.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:03 PM on January 26, 2011

According to the DTV reception maps on DTV.gov, NBC, PBS, and Fox are all on VHF instead of UHF like the other channels. That may explain why it's NBC and Fox that are different. How's the PBS reception?

You may want to ask your question in the AVS Forum local HDTV reception thread for Portland and see what they say. There are usually really knowledgeable folks there.
posted by zsazsa at 5:51 PM on January 26, 2011

AVS Forum is good. You should be able to get those channels with rabbit ears, especially being VHF. What kind of antenna are you using?

If you ARE using rabbit ears, the issue might be reflections. Did you have ghosting during the analog years? If so, you need to get an antenna that is highly directional so it will reject all the reflections. But then you might need an attenuator.

Another thing to try is to hook up two antennas in parallel with each other. One smaller, one bigger. The smaller one would be hooked up in opposite polarity to the bigger one. The theory being that it might cancel out the reflections and leave enough good signal for the TV to tune on.
posted by gjc at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2011

Yes, you will definitely need a UHF/VHF antenna to get all your stations. OPB, NBC and Fox are all in the VHF band, everyone else is UHF.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 6:25 PM on January 26, 2011

Thirding that AVSforum thread. Those guys will be intimately familiar with your market. Read the last several pages of posts, and if that doesn't get you fixed up, sign up and post your situation there and they'll help you out.

Congrats on cutting the cord! I strongly recommend the action you're taking to anyone who is trying to save some money and doesn't really need 500 channels. I can not believe that people actually pay $70 for cable, much less $120 and up for premium service ...
posted by intermod at 9:10 PM on January 26, 2011

A building about an eighth of a mile from my former residence negated all attempts to receive clear television reception. It was a state land management office which communicated with agents afield through two-way radio. I could see the antennas on the building's roof. In this age of cellular us everyday folk forget that there is a ton of broadcast activity out there besides phones and WiFi. So try to sleuth out if there is such a facility in your area (taxi cab garage, school bus parking lot, security patrol headquarters, utility trucks, etc). If there is then you are probably out of luck. This is the kind of stuff you can't figure out on AntennaWeb.

My currenthome just acquired a new LCD TV for X-mas. I mounted one of those square, interior HD antennas bought for less than $40.00 outside on a scavenged Direct TV mast and it works absolutely brilliantly with direct line of sight to broadcast towers 50 miles away.

I suggest go as high up as you can (remember to ground) and go cheap with your own antenna project.

I had fun with mine and it saves me a bundle.
posted by No Shmoobles at 10:11 AM on January 27, 2011

Have you tried using less antenna instead of more antenna? Like, take your rabbit ears and make them as short as possible.

It's totally anecdotal but a friend of mine always had bad or no reception of a particular local station with her rabbit ears extended to any length. On a whim, she pushed the antennas all the way in and all of a sudden that channel started coming in clearly. It seemed illogical to me but it worked.
posted by theBigKahuna at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2011

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