on September 2, 2009
I live about 35 miles from the city where the transmitters are located, with a few trees obstructing a clear shot from my roof. But since I was determined to eliminate our monthly cable bill and go with FREE instead, I looked at many different outdoor antennas and read dozens of reviews. I also found out signals in the air are 100% HD, whereas cable compresses the signal to around 70%. But you probably already know that if you're looking for an outdoor antenna...
Anyway, after weeks of research I decided to try the DB8. When we first cancelled cable, I was getting 16 channels using RCA's "best" amplified indoor antenna. After hooking up the DB8 on the roof and aiming it in the general direction of the city, I got 35 channels. I eventually added a Motorola Signal Booster to the line in order to get the local ABC affiliate that is a little further away, bringing the total to 36 channels.
Needless to say, I love this thing. Years ago we had the conventional old school "arrow" looking outdoor antenna. It pulled in about a dozen stations, half were all fuzzy. But with digital, it's all or nothing. Fuzzy won't cut it. So I'd highly recommend the DB8. It simply works better. That, and it looks cool, the neighbors probably think I'm contacting Mars, lol.
I also found out a few other things along the way, which may be helpful if you're new at this... As with most outdoor antennas, you'll need a few other things to hook it up:
1. Antenna mast (the pole the antenna mounts on)
2. Mounting hardware (basically 3 types: wall mount, tripod roof mount, or chimney mount)
3. Coaxial grounding block (connects the antenna cable to copper grounding wire)
4. Copper grounding wire (enough to go from the grounding block to the grounding rod)
5. Copper grounding rod (9 ft long copper pole that hammers into the ground)
6. Grounding rod connector (connects the grounding wire to the grounding rod)
7. And of course, coaxial cable. If you're running custom lengths you'll also need connectors, a coaxial wire stripper and crimping tool.
A few other tips... TIP 1: I noticed every antenna mast and mounting bracket I've seen on other roofs are seriously rusted. Rusted to the point they're staining the roof. So pick up a can of Rustoleum and spray paint your mast and mounting brackets before assembly. Just don't paint the antenna or grounding hardware. TIP 2: Pick up a cheap rubber chair leg tip and stick it on the top on the mast to keep the inside dry. TIP 3: Don't underestimate the importance of grounding your antenna. You're basically putting a large lightning rod on your house, so it's worth the extra time and money to make sure the lightning goes to the ground and not your family room. TIP 4: Say a prayer that you don't fall off the roof and die.
on June 6, 2008
Buying an antenna for your digital TV receiver? It can be difficult, eh? If you live in the city near the transmitters, it's fairly easy -- any small, truly omni-directional antenna will do fine (perhaps the Antennas Direct DB2). If, like me, you live 50+ miles from the TV transmitters and they're in different directions, it becomes a challenge. Here's some tips:
- No antenna is totally "omni-directional" (receives from all directions) no matter what the ad says. Every antenna receives better in one direction than another, and the high-gain antennas are the most picky. Your TV's rabbit ears antenna might do better than a fancy high-gain antenna if it's pointed in the wrong direction. If you buy a "uni-directional" or high-gain antenna, be prepared to spend a lot of time tweaking the direction.
- Don't believe the high-gain ratings, they're mostly marketing hype. There are independent web sites by antenna nerds that rate antennas fairly, so do some research. What you'll find is that every antenna receives some channels better than others -- for instance, it may have great reception ("gain") for channels 30-60 but be terrible for channels 1-20. Ideally, buy an antenna that has has good gain for the channel(s) you're most interested in... if you know what those are.
- Antennas are highly sensitive to position, direction, and things nearby that might interfere with the signals (trees, houses, traffic, the family dog, etc). So what works for me or your neighbor might not work for you. Even a slightly different location may have a huge effect on your reception.
I have a Channelmaster 4221 and an AntennasDirect DB8, one pointed at distant Seattle and the other pointed at Canada, and both connected to an RCA A/B antenna switch. Both antennas are excellent; the DB8 is slightly more sensitive but extremely hard to point. I would rate it 5-stars except it didn't come assembled and the assembly instructions are a bit puzzling. Construction and materials are good. The Channelmaster 4221 is somewhat easier to point but still highly directional; it came mostly assembled. Gain is good in my location. I'm only rating it four stars because the construction is less solid. If you're looking at these same two antennas but unsure of what to buy, I'd start with the 4221: it's much cheaper and more forgiving about the pointing direction. If you find yourself needing better reception, perhaps buy a preamp to go with it; if that still doesn't work, maybe move up to the DB8 or a higher mounting location.
Surprise! On our HD television, our picture is far better with this antenna than it was with either cable or satellite! We found out that's because the cable and satellite companies compress the HD signal to broadcast it, and using a good antenna we can get the full original quality. Overall, we're as thrilled with this after using it for 9 months as we were when we first bought it.
Although there's a pole pictured on the box, this antenna did not come with any pole at all, even a short one. By the time we had this installed and functioning, we'd spent about $65 beyond the antenna itself (details below). We finally gave in and spent an additional $37 for a signal booster (amplifier), because we live in a relatively remote, mountainous area, and couldn't reliably pick up the signal from NBC's ridiculously weak local tower. Even without the amplifier, our antenna--mounted on a 20' pole--brought in all our other local channels (ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS) beautifully, and NBC occasionally. If NBC's broadcast signal weren't an order of magnitude weaker than all the others, we'd have been fine without the amplifier.
VERY HELPFUL: We used [...] to find out exactly where to point our antenna from our house. It gives compass readings to two decimal places, with distances to the various towers near the entered address, and a list of available channels.
What we bought in addition to the antenna itself:
* 25 feet of high-definition optimized coax cable to connect the antenna to the house: $17.88 at Wal-Mart, in the electronics section. (25 feet of regular coax cable would have been $8.88 and might have worked fine; we decided to spend the extra to help be sure we get a good, clear picture on our television.) We were able to install our antenna on a pole right next to where the cable comes in the house; someone else might need more cable than we did.
* A compass to orient the antenna properly. An ordinary compass was $4.88. My son wanted a digital compass with some other tricks for camping anyway, so he paid the difference and we got the $17.88 compass that also tells altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and probably even bedtime stories. It was in Wal-Mart's camping section.
* Two 1 3/8" by 10-foot 18 gauge top rails, sold with the chain link fence pieces at Lowe's for $9.44 each, to use as a pole. (Lowe's part number: 85193) We started with just one, but 10' was not tall enough to get a clear signal in our neighborhood. They're designed to connect together, with a narrowed end fitting inside the wide end of the next pole. Since they're also not designed to go vertically as an antenna pole, however, we added some inexpensive reinforcement: two ¼" x 2" galvanized bolts with locking washers and nuts, also galvanized so they don't rust. The bolts (part number incorrect on my receipt) were 30¢ each, the nuts (67340) were 13¢ each, and the washers (61814) were 16¢ each. (Then, when it turned out that Lowe's accidentally gave me the wrong size nut, I ran up to my local hardware store, where a replacement nut was only 9¢. Going back to Lowe's would have cost more in gas than it was worth.)
* Three 2-hole rigid straps to secure the pole to the side of our shed for stability. The bottom is set a few inches into the ground, but bracing it on the shed is what's really holding it in place. We got 1" diameter straps, which fit snugly on the pole, rather than larger ones--despite the stated diameter of the pole. I'm glad we tested these in the store to check the fit. Each was 62¢. (Lowe's part number: 54771)
* Four 6 mm lock washers (810350.5), $1.83 for a bag of four (Lowe's part number: 59378), and non-rusting nuts (M6 x 1.00 mm, Lowe's part number: 52910), $2.98 for a bag of four. The wingnuts that are provided to tighten the brackets down on the antenna, holding it on the pole, seemed too likely to work themselves loose over time in wind and weather. If they come loose, the antenna comes crashing down off the pole. For an extra $5 we could feel more certain that won't happen.
* A bag of 20 eight-inch cable ties, $1.99 at the local hardware store, for securing the cable along the pole so it didn't flap around in the wind, and for running it neatly over to the house. We only needed 7 of these, but they come in a bag of 20.
* YOU MAY NOT NEED: Motorola 484095-001-00 Signal Booster - Cable + 15db Broadband Drop Amplifier, now $31.97 (on Dec. 25, 2009) from Amazon, and a 3-foot length of coax cable, less than $5 at Wal-Mart. We got ours used on eBay for $37 with a length of coax cable and adapter to reach and connect to the nearest power outlet. If we'd bought it new, we'd have had to add enough coax cable to reach from the amplifier to the nearest power outlet--the 6-foot included cable is unlikely to be long enough--but not the 3' cable we did buy separately. The amplifier should be mounted as close to the antenna as possible; we tried every conceivable configuration and found this was indeed best. We mounted it directly on the pole near the top, protected inside an inverted 3-liter soda bottle duct-taped in place. This protection is lo-tech but very effective and almost free. (TigerDirect has a more detailed product description but currently a slightly higher price. Look there for the details.)
So, here's the summary of our additional expenses, total $101.47 in March 2009:
25 ft. Cable: $17.88
Fancy compass: $17.88
2 Poles: $18.88
2 Galvanized hex bolts, 1/4" x 2": $0.60
2 Galvanized locking washers: $0.32
2 Galvanized nuts: $0.26
Three 2-hole rigid straps $1.86
Four 6 mm lock washers $1.83
Four M6 x 1.00 mm nuts $2.98
Cable ties $1.99
Signal Booster $37.00
We've been using this for nine months now, and have more than made up for our initial investment. With this antenna, the internet, and our public library, we don't have time to watch even a fraction of the television available to us for free!
on May 9, 2007
I live over 50 miles from the stations. The DB8 is the best antenna I have found for long range reception. It is tuned for the higher DTV frequencies and is resistant to interference. It will be much harder to get the same results from a combination UHF/VHF antenna.
With my previous antenna, I could only receive 3 Of the 8 HD stations in my area.
After installing the DB8, I not only got all 8 stations with 85% or better signal strength, I was even able to improve the signal on my existing channels by about 20 points.
For the previous reviewers who had a problem, it was most likely an installation error. Unless you live very close to the towers, it's kind of hard to screw up DTV reception with a high gain UHF antenna like the DB8.
For long range reception the DB8 is best in class, but as much as I like its performance, this is probably not the best antenna for people living less than 5 miles from the transmitters, as it could possibly overload a tuner or attract multi-path interference.