Set Top Box

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 13:11
ThreadID: 32930 Views:7165 Replies:6 FollowUps:9
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We often camp in a poor reception area in S.E. QLD. The best reception if from the Brisbane VHF channels. I have a 34db amplifier and receive channel 2 best, but also receive the other channels, but they are not reliable. I could buy a better antenna, but would prefer to purchase a Set Top Box that may hopefully solve my problem as well as being able to use it at home for our second TV.

My inquiry is:

1. Do the set top boxes vary in receiving/boosting signal power.

2. Can anyone advise what brands / models have the best receiver.

I have looked at several set top boxes and while they vary a little in their functions, there is nothing I can find that stiulates the receiving/boosting power of the machine. Questions to salespersons are also unhelpful.

I am sure I have read something about this previously on one of the forums but my searches of the archives failed to locate it.

Brian DJ
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Reply By: hl - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 16:55

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 16:55

There is not a great deal of difference in performance between various brands of set top boxes. Even the cheapies work well, however, don't expect miracles. If the analogue signal is very poor, the digital box will not be able to work properly either.
Having said that, I have installed them in some places with pretty ordinary reception and they worked well enough, conversely, I have also set them up where reception was quite good but they just refuse to pick up one or more channels.
The more annoying aspect with poor digital reception is the fact that you will get perfect picture and sound most of the time, only to drop every now and then at the crucial point/punch line. At least with a crook analogue picture you can follow the plot.
Anyway, just get one and try, they are cheap enough these days.
AnswerID: 167240

Follow Up By: hl - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 16:59

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 16:59
And to add something. A booster is quite useless and may even make matters worse, unless you have a long cable run or want to supply the whole campground with a signal through lots of splitter boxes.
FollowupID: 422342

Follow Up By: guzzi - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 17:48

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 17:48
The other thing is you will in all probability have to run new RG 6 type coax and "F " series plugs to get the best signal.
I am also in SE Qld and suffered from variable analogue signal. I fitted a set top box feb last year and had no end of trouble until I replaced the entire coax run, the splitter, wall socket and balun on the antenna and the final cord from the wall to the box. Funnily enough all this also improved the analogue signal. Picture is DVD standard when it all works .
My entire setup before replaceing it was over 10 yrs old, wwhich was the major problem, if you have the new shielded RG 6 coax and F series plugs already it should be plug it in turn it on and enjoy.
Also noticed that some electrical appliences, cars with dodgy ignition systems and electrical storms will cause it to drop out.
Ah modern technology where would we be without it..........
FollowupID: 422349

Follow Up By: GaryInOz (Vic) - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 22:08

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 22:08
Another curly one that most ppl don't realise is that the digital channels are NOT transmitted on the same frequency as the analogue ones. Some of the "outer fringe" antennas will be tweaked to recieve the analogue frequencies (2, 7, 9, 10) better than usual, at the expense of the "off" frequencies, which are now used by the digital transmissions (13, 5, 8, 11 - IIRC).

I don't think in an urban fringe area there is going to be any benefit in trying to do it yourself, as the whole system from antenna to STB should be replaced to ensure optimum (or even acceptable) performance.

As it stands you decent field strength readings to assess what is needed.

I call that it's "Mr Antenna" time. They have the equipment, the experience, and possibly a bit of local knowledge too. Exxy, but you will only have to pay for it once.....
FollowupID: 422636

Reply By: Member - Rob R (QLD) - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 17:42

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 17:42

I have a set top box and my experience first hand is that if the signal is poor then you will not get a digital signal.


AnswerID: 167244

Reply By: Craigww2 - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 18:07

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 18:07
There is a conex ?? brand that is actually 12v. Depending on where you are in the S/E could also depend on which transmitter to look at and also what sort of antenna to look at. Have a look at it has a list of what transmitter sites serve what area.
AnswerID: 167247

Reply By: The Tinker - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 18:15

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 18:15
A set top box is a great investment, and many locations you get no picture/signal at all with analogue you get a perfect picture on digital. I travel nearly full time and like to watch a bit of television, and in places we used to get poor to no analogue television you get a perfect picture on digital at more than twice the range from the transmitter. Digital TV is far superior than what I imagined it would be in the country areas.
With digital you need to do it properly otherwise you get no signal. You will need a TV aerial that is cut to suit the new channel numbers on digital and will also do horizontal and vertical polarisation at both times, as in some locations there are both horizontal and vertical transmissions. An aerial amplifier is essential with digital and your present amplifier should work well. You will need to use RG59 cable between your aerial and aerial amplifier and aerial amplifier to set top box. RG59 can be used well with the screw on connectors from Jaycar. RG6 is not suitable for mobile use and is zero benefit and more than double the price. For mobile use Jaycar and DSE have the Digimatch aerial Jaycar cat no. LT3172 Digimatch VHF/UHF Economy 7 Element Receives $69.95 and from DSE cat no. L4024. There is no other TV aerial suitable to my knowledge that will do with the Digimatch does and is cut for the new digital channels.
As for set top boxes the Muller from Woolworths/Safeway supermarket or the MTV or Kross from Coles Supermarket at $69.00 work as well as any other box I have tried. Both come with 240v to 12v plug packs and work great directly on 12.0 volts.
If you want a signal with digital get the right aerial, set top box and the RG59 cable and you will be on your way.
AnswerID: 167249

Follow Up By: Member - Nifty1 (NSW) - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 21:42

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 21:42
Admittedly for mobile reception the antenna may be more critical but in general use ie at home a new antenna is not required to receive digital TV. The signal is a bit like digital mobile phones you either have the signal or not, there is no grey area like with analogue TV.
As far as setting a 'Set Top Box' up, in most instances it should be a case of plugging it in to power, the antenna and the TV and having a cup of tea while it tunes itself into the available channels.
FollowupID: 422388

Follow Up By: The Tinker - Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 22:05

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 22:05
Nifty there are new digital TV frequency allocations and some frequencies have been removed. If you are in an area where the transmission is in the new frequency allocation, then you will more than likely need a new aerial, unless you are in a very strong signal area. Along with the new frequency allocations, some of the transmitter locations have changed the polarisation they are transmitting in. In those locations you will need to get the polarisation of your aerial changed.
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Follow Up By: Jimbo - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 12:13

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 12:13
You haven't directed him yo your website yet Ozi. ROFLMAO
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Reply By: VK3CAT - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 11:51

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 11:51
In reading the replies to this topic, there appears to be much confusion.
Please keep the following points in mind. They predominantly deal with permanent / fixed installations but are just as applicable to portable setups.

1. Each and every Television Antenna / cable installation is different so where you may get away with something in one installation, you may not get away with it somewhere else.

2. Keeping point 1 in mind, in strong signal areas, the existing TV antenna and RG59 (thin) coaxial cable) may provide a more than adequate signal level.

3. Not all coaxial cables are the same. There are various types of RG59 available, the quality mainly being in the % of shield coverage. This may vary from about 40 to 90%. The greater % of shield coverage the better = less attenuation.! Resistance in a coaxial cable is called attenuation. The attenuation in a coaxial cable will increase with an increase in frequency, thus VHF will have a lower attenuation than UHF. Often the condition of the connections to older TV antennas is very poor.

4. In order to obtain the best possible TV signal, annalouge or digital, it is best to use quality coaxial cable (RG6 Quad shield - I pay about $110.00 per 305 metres)
with F connections to the antenna and wall socket. Multiple TV outlets will reduce the available signal to all outlets (example: 4 outlets connected via a 4 way F connector splitter will provide less than 25% of available antenna signal to each outlet)

5. The antenna will need to suit the available channels for a particular area so this needs to be checked out. In a weak signal area, a TV antenna that is tuned to accomodate the Digital as well as analouge channels will be required.

6. Example of an actual Installation here in Melbourne.
House in Hampton, SE suburbs. Old combination VHF / UHF antenna using a 4 way splitter, mostly RG59 coax to 4 outlets, 2 x TVs with digital boxes.
Back TV/ digi box receiving OK in SD - RG59 coax.
Front TV/ digi box receiving pixelated SD & no HD - RG59 coax - closest to antenna.
Replacing the antenna with a 20 element combination unit and the lead in cable and a 4 way F connector splitter provided good HD to the front TV except ABC HD which was pixelated. Replacing the cable from the splitter to the wall outlet with RG6 quad shield coaxial cable provided a good ABC HD signal. This installation was carried out in stable weather conditions so there shouldn't be any variables caused by propagation.

7. The difference between Digital & Analouge TV is similar to that of Digital & Analouge mobile phones. With Digital you tend to either get reception or not. With analouge, there is a degrade in signal but not a complete cut off in marginal reception areas.

8. A pre-amplifier will amplify any signal, wanted or not, received by the antenna. It will not increase the signal received by the antenna. They are best avoided except where numerous outlets or long cable runs are required.

9. Different digital boxes & TVs, even the same model / brand, can have different receiving levels due to factory tuning.

10. The above comments re coaxial cable etc are just as relevant to HF and UHF radio installations. The key being here that the coaxial cable runs are quite short in mobile installations so the thinner RG58 (50 ohm) cable can be used on UHF.

I hope that this clarifies things. Cheers Tony. (
AnswerID: 167343

Follow Up By: c j - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 12:43

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 12:43
Who's my best bet to get a decent setup installed in a double storey home in Bayside Melbourne? I will need new antenna installed as there isn't one at the moment.
FollowupID: 422479

Follow Up By: VK3CAT - Tuesday, Apr 18, 2006 at 13:49

Tuesday, Apr 18, 2006 at 13:49
cj, contact me via email from the vk3cat website
For the record, as well as being an unrestrited amateur licence holder & WIA education invigilator team leader, I am also an electrical contractor (22years) & open class plus endorsed master cabler.
Cheers, Tony
FollowupID: 422757

Reply By: manzi - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 16:13

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 16:13
To boost your signal by means other then using a better/higher antenna, you will need a RF-pre amplifier which is NOT a set top box. While some of these amplifiers may improve the signal for your TV, they amplify the noise and rubbish to the equal extend. In analog tv you may get a good or bad picture with varying reception, with digital tv you get a good or no picture with the sound being lost first. Set top boxes are to convert the signal from a digital to analog signal, the pre amplifiers within vary largely in their sensitivity. I use 3 of the type HDT900 from MediaStar. As digital is on UHF (not VHF!), your antenna may be a lot smaller with equal results.
AnswerID: 167367

Follow Up By: Keepleft - Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 23:43

Monday, Apr 17, 2006 at 23:43
Manzi - sorry, but DIGITAL terrestrial is also on VHF, the set top box DOES NOT "CONVERT" an analgue signal, but instead receives a completely seperate one, on naturally enough - another frequency.

The post before you is from a "VK", a licensed amateur radio operator - who in order to obtain that radio operators license - has had to study electronics and communications in order to do so.

His is the answer in thead I'd be paying particular attention.

Said with the greatest respect.
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