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Thread: TV Signal Strength Meter - Cheapo or pay many $$$

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    Default TV Signal Strength Meter - Cheapo or pay many $$$

    Hi all,
    Hope every one is ok.
    I rarely watch FTA, but to changes in my life (a lady want's to watch FTA crap!, LOL!), I need to sort out my bad (looks like anyway), TV picture.

    Have a digital antenna (installed 10yrs ago). Another house down the street seem to have the same antenna and I've seen the same(ish), antenna around the area, so one assumes it's a ok vanilla antenna.
    Issue I have, is that picture is a good solid colour, but then the voice will break up and pixilation occurs. It will then go good and then basically drift (voice and pixels), in and out.
    The antenna looks to be in the same direction(ish), as others around me - but it's pretty hard of course to judge from the ground or ladder next to it...

    I had a 4way splitter that goes to the main Lounge, Kitchen, Bedroom1 and Bedroom 2. Only the Lounge and Kitchen is used at the moment.
    I have installed a new 4 four way splitter and so now only the Lounge and Kitchen are cabled up - but still voice/pixilation issues.

    So to rule out the alignment to the tower, I wanted to make make sure It was ok.
    So I decided to look on Feebay for a TV Signal Strength meter... And boy what a mess...!

    All seem to be cross overs to sat DTV, from 950Khz.
    The only terrestrial cheapo I could find in the right Freq range was eBay 124239917564 - $20 - but appears to be crap!

    Tv signal meters range from $20 to $220 to $500.

    I had about 4 of those old Sat finders when I was playing around in the K-Band days - but gave them away - as one does!!!

    It's going to be a one off usage thing, so price has to reflect that.

    Cheers,
    GT250.



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    With Digital Transmission, that scenario can mean too much signal.
    Try attenuating the signal.

    I regularly have that problem withe ABC channels.

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    Dunno where you live, but you can do a cursory check here to discover if you're in a 'bad' reception area -->

    Doesn't your teevee have a signal strength and SNR display in manual tuning?

    Reschs' right...too much signal can be a problem...

    And of course, repeating the age old mantra... 'there is no such thing as a digital teevee antenna'... =)

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    Reschs: - 'that scenario can mean too much signal'.

    Great! Can't win... LOL!
    Ok, just checked that Jaycar have a Variable Attenuator LT3050 for cheapo $5 (if they have stock - which the website says they don't - and DOH, says Discontinued..)

    Wotnot: Thanks for that link. Says I have good coverage (all green), and the transmitter is 16.7km away.

    I don't fancy paying for a TV tech to come out and charge me $100 for a 10 turn of the antenna or screw in a $5 attenuator.

    So guys: Signal maybe too strong, maybe to weak... Where do I start?

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    transmitter is 16.7km away.
    Do you have another you can point at?...ie; in our area, depending on where you live, we've got 3 points to aim at - Mt Coot tha, Mt Tambornie, and Kooralbyn Lookout

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    Take the 4 Way splitter out and join directly to the TV.
    Is it better or worse ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GT250 View Post
    Great! Can't win... LOL!
    Ok, just checked that Jaycar have a Variable Attenuator LT3050 for cheapo $5 (if they have stock - which the website says they don't - and DOH, says Discontinued..)



    I don't fancy paying for a TV tech to come out and charge me $100 for a 10 turn of the antenna or screw in a $5 attenuator.

    So guys: Signal maybe too strong, maybe to weak... Where do I start?
    Do you have a Cetnaj or other electrical supplier nearby? They have those attenuators to plug or screw in.

    Here is my free 'pi times thumb' signal strength meter:
    You could try pulling the cable out of the TV while it is on and hold it so the outer cylinder of the plug is just touching around the rim the socket but not inserted. A very strong signal would still show a picture and a too weak one will not.

    BTW don't touch the metal parts of the socket and plug directly with two hands.
    Last edited by Uncle Fester; 07-02-22 at 11:53 AM.
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    Reschs's idea is sound, as most splitters have about 3.5db signal attentuation per port ; removing it will add that to the signal, and form a good test wrt too much/too little signal (but you'd probably need a female/female F connector to do it)

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    There are so many variables here.

    You said you had a 4-way splitter and have now installed a new 4-way splitter.

    Is the new splitter replacing the old splitter, or added in addition to the old splitter?

    Signals are divided by splitters by the number of ports they have, regardless whether 1 or all ports have TV's connected.

    You said you are 16.7km away from the transmitters.

    Are they line-of-sight or is there terrain blocking the signals?

    Which transmitter site are you receiving signals from?

    At 16.7km from high-power TX you may have excessive signal, but if it's a low-powered translator TX, signals may be too low.

    Another very common issue is 4G cellular signals interfering.

    Are there any cellular towers near you or between you and the TV TX site?

    If that's the case, you'll need a bandpass filter for the block of frequencies your TV signals are on.

    Digital signals rely more on signal quality than signal strength.

    You can have excellent signal strength (measured as digital channel power DCP) but poor signal quality (BER/MER - bit error ratio/modulation error ratio).

    Break-up of sound/picture is due to poor signal quality.

    TV tuners constantly correct errors in the digital signal stream to a point where there are too many errors occurring to correct them within time causing picture to pixelate and sound clicks/pops etc.

    When the errors become even greater, you lose picture and sound altogether.

    Overly strong signals cause bit errors, as will very weak signals. So too will any source of interference, even out-of-band signals and electrical noise.

    You may have something as simple as a poor connection or damaged cable, etc, but without accurate signal measurements, it's impossible to know what the issue is.

    All the above suggestions are valid.

    To accurately assess digital signals, you would need a meter that measures and displays DCP/BER/MER... not cheap.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtv View Post

    Another very common issue is 4G cellular signals interfering.

    Are there any cellular towers near you or between you and the TV TX site?

    If that's the case, you'll need a bandpass filter for the block of frequencies your TV signals are on.
    Iirc, OP is in the Gold Coast area (not sure??), but if that's the case (and given OP is talking 10years lapse of FTA teevee usage), 4G definitely happened in this period, and could be the problem here.

    You can work out the tower locations from here -->

    Also...'apparently' they're now calling 'digital tv antennas' those which come replete with a 4G bandpass built in ...(I never knew, but then I don't watch teevee =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by wotnot View Post
    Also...'apparently' they're now calling 'digital tv antennas' those which come replete with a 4G bandpass built in ...(I never knew, but then I don't watch teevee =)
    They've been labelling antennas for digital ever since digital was announced.... like colour TV antennas were introduced in the 70's.

    Yes, many antennas now come with 4G filtering in the balun, as do amplifiers.

    I use a lot of bandpass filters that only pass the group of frequencies/channels from a particular transmission site and block everything else above and below them.

    That includes anything out-of-band... other TV channels, FM radio, Cellular (all incl 4G), 2-way radio, pagers, etc.

    As we know, antennas cant tell the difference of what they receive, only the signal bands they are designed to receive.

    If the OP is on the GC, there are a few different TX sites, which is important he lets us knw which one he's receiving from.

    Also the model of antenna he has would be useful to get an idea of gain, what bands it's designed to receive, etc.
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    Hi All,
    Whew! Where do I start...

    Wotnot: I'm in Arundel and the transmitter is on Mty Tamborine. All the antenna's around me are pointing the same way.

    Reschs: The main feed off the Antenna ends in the middle of roof - where the 4way sits. I did connect (I think), just the In and the Lounge Out. the picture was more stable (Good colours etc, but still the pixelation - which took a bit longer to cut it. So it seemed to me to just 'get better'.
    When i put the Kitchen lead onto the 4 way, both of the TV's seemed better (as the lounge had just done), but still Pixelation.

    Uncle Fester: Humm, Ok, I might have a go at that.

    MTV: I changed the splitter as the old one was - well old - been in the roof for yonks.
    All the tv's in the house have the same glitching symptoms.

    For location, I'm on Berwick Court, Arundel 4214.

    Here's a rough direction

    Antenna model is N/A next door has the same one (But we don't get along so i can't ask!).

    Any of you guys recommend a signal meter that at least will tell me if the signal is weak or too much?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GT250 View Post
    Any of you guys recommend a signal meter that at least will tell me if the signal is weak or too much?
    As I've explained in detail, just measuring signal strength isn't enough.

    You need to be able to 'see' BER/MER signal 'quality' and not only for the TV signals, but also other signals which may be causing signal overload or interference.

    If you have good quality coax, flyleads and F-type splitter and checked all connections are mechanically and electrically OK (and obviously no damage to the antenna) and providing you have no obstacles like trees other buildings in the signal path signals should 'theoretically' not be too strong in your area.

    I say theoretically, as I mentioned previously, there are so many possibilities of what's causing your reception issue.

    This is a cheap meter that performs the necessary signal measurements:


    I say cheap, because if you want to 'see' what other signals may be interfering, you need something more expensive. Mine cost $10K

    Then you have to interpret the information it displays and determine a fix from there.

    You live in an area with a lot of RF and I suspect you may have an interference issue, not so much a TV signal strength issue.

    Just confirming your received TV channels are 40 to 48, not 29 to 33. The latter being a low-power translator site in roughly the same direction near Laheys Picnic Park.

    I know you said you don't want to pay an antenna tech, but given the likely complexities, paying someone with the right instrumentation to quickly identify and rectify the problem is probably the most cost-effective solution.
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    Cell towers near you....


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    4G was introduced in Australia less than 10 years ago, so I doubt your antenna/balun has any filtering.
    I would try this before your splitter first, before calling somebody:
    Last edited by Uncle Fester; 08-02-22 at 12:56 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Fester View Post
    4G was introduced in Australia less than 10 years ago, so I doubt your antenna/balun has any filtering.
    I would try this before your splitter first, before calling somebody:
    Yeah, it'd be my first try.

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    Ok.
    I'm in Tweedheads today, and I see they have a Jaycar there. I'll pop in an see if they have one.
    I was looking at my antenna yesterday and it (hard to tell really), looks to be out of line with the next door neighbours...!
    Humm,,, $20 for that box of tricks... But I might just end up buying a Signal Meter..!!

    Tell you what guys, I'm going to take a photo of the antenna when I get back from Tweedheads.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GT250 View Post
    Ok.
    I'm in Tweedheads today, and I see they have a Jaycar there. I'll pop in an see if they have one.
    I was looking at my antenna yesterday and it (hard to tell really), looks to be out of line with the next door neighbours...!
    Humm,,, $20 for that box of tricks... But I might just end up buying a Signal Meter..!!

    Tell you what guys, I'm going to take a photo of the antenna when I get back from Tweedheads.
    Looking at other people's antennae can be very deceiving even if you post a pic of yours.

    I suggest a compass to get it set directly towards the transmitter with the help of the map.
    Many smart phones have a magnetic sensor and plenty of free compass apps available but they need to be calibrated which is not hard.
    Nothing beats the real thing though.
    Make sure you are a few meters away from the steel mast though.

    That filter is still a good investment even if 4G interference turns out not the main cause.
    A borderline signal quality may provide a picture but when other disruptions come to play like bad weather, using a microwave, etc, a cleaner signal will provide better results.

    I still don't understand why you persist on a signal meter.
    Every TV and set top box I have had, has a signal strength and sometimes quality as well.
    Some even show it briefly when you change channels.
    Surely you have something that displays the signal on one of your tellies.
    Even if it is just strength you can use it to see how the signal changes when you twist the antenna, maybe a helper to call it out to you while you are on the roof.
    Keep in mind that there is a delay before anything responds in the digital world. I suggest to wait 10 seconds after you make an adjustments before you evaluate a reading.
    Last edited by Uncle Fester; 09-02-22 at 10:34 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Fester View Post
    Surely you have something that displays the signal on one of your tellies.
    Even if it is just strength you can use it to see how the signal changes when you twist the antenna, maybe a helper to call it out to you while you are on the roof.
    Keep in mind that there is a delay before anything responds in the digital world. I suggest to wait 10 seconds after you make an adjustments before you evaluate a reading.
    This is what I mentioned above, most (not all) modern teevees have some sort of signal strength display in manual tuning sub-menu ; they don't often give accurate quantitative data, but rather comparative qualitative data...ie; different signal strengths per channel, good signal strength but getting bad reception is usually a case of interference..but then you need to divine exactly what sort of interference. At least adding a filter helps to eliminate one possible cause, and narrows the field a bit. I rattled the tomes and came across this page, which is actually a good exposition of things at play here -->

    As mtv points out though, sooooo many variables, even down to the quality of cabling used in the original installation ~ if they used shit coax, it'd be about done and need replacing after a decade plus..all of it. One just doesn't know....

    Also, it's worthwhile knowing what frequencies the tower you're pointing at is transmitting...ie; out here most folks use a UHF only antenna, because there's nothing in the VHF band to tune to =) This effectively tunes out any noise in the VHF band at the antenna, and can improve reception quality....but then, dunno what antenna you've got

    Just looking at the coverage maps (no topography considered), your next closest transmitter would be at Darlington Range (near Ormeau), however it's vertically polarized so the antenna needs to be mounted in that orientation to receive it....(which a lot of folks in Helensvale don't know =)

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    OK.
    I include my antenna and the neighbours. It does look to me that (and the others I could see around), that it is not in the same direction.

    Guys, I hear you about the TV's having built in gas gauges showing strength. But the main TV does not have that. Nor the Kitchen TV (the most watched ones!). I haven't tried the Bedroom one yet though.
    My OP was about asking what recommendation for a TV Signal Meter - cheapo or $$$ one.
    And no, I don't have 'something' lying around. I've had to remove lots of 'junk' that broke me heart lads....!! LOL!

    Uncle Fester - I 'insisted on a Signal Meter' as it's the one device I could hopefully just plug it in and get the B&W answer, just a $20 or go a lot higher.






    I'm going away this weekend - the big 60 - Gulp! So I'll look at getting back on the roof if you guys think it's out of whack...

    Cheers people and I really do appreciate the feedback
    GT250.

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