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OTA problem

Discussion in 'TiVo Premiere DVRs' started by guyincog, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

    205
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    Jun 2, 2007
    Those of you following this thread know I've been watching it carefully. Well, I managed to snag a closeout 320GB Premiere to test OTA reception at my location, so I can finally contribute my first-hand experience to the discussion.

    I've conducted three different experiments in three different scenarios, and below are my results. (Long post warning)

    First, the receiving environment: Multipath hell. At the bottom of a hill, surrounded by houses and trees, with frequent air traffic overhead or nearly overhead.

    Distance from towers is roughly 15 miles, with one station 40 miles away. It is worth noting that the trees are not yet full of leaves, so that is one variable that could further complicate matters later in the year.

    Test 1: Original Series 3 (OLED) vs. Premiere in main viewing room. Antenna is a Winegard SquareShooter and rabbit ears in the attic attached to the respective UHF and VHF inputs of a Channelmaster 7777 preamp. Signal was spit once to allow connection to the TV and Series 3 at the same time. For this test, I moved the antenna connection from the TV tuner to the Premiere. Both the Series 3 and premiere were running simultaneously for direct comparison.

    Results: Within minutes after completing setup, air traffic could be heard nearby. Both the Premiere and Series 3 were tuned to a channel broadcasting on UHF35. The Series 3 maintained a rock-solid signal despite the air traffic nearby, while the Premiere broke up constantly. To ensure that the cable going to the premiere was not the problem, I replaced it with a different cable. Same result. The series 3 was stable, the Premiere broke up regularly.

    At this point I decided to see if I could move the antennas to improve performance. I used the real-time signal meter (and some help via phone intercom) to maximize signal strength and stability. As others have reported, the meter on the Premiere gives much lower values than the Series 3 that do not necessarily indicate stability.

    After some tinkering, I managed to get the problematic station to around the low 60s, and managed to improve reported signal strength for most channels.

    Returning to live TV revealed much improvement, but the Series3 still held on better in the face of the air traffic and a north wind of about 12MPH.

    Test2: TivoHD vs. Premiere in a bedroom installation. Antenna is a Terk HDTVi connected to the combined UHF/VHF input of a Channelmaster 7778 preamp. Signal is split 3 ways to the TV, TivoHD and a PC. For this test I moved the PC connection to the Premiere. Again, both the HD and Premiere were running simultaneously for direct comparison. Air traffic was still present, but given the difference in room position, the sound was less noticeable.

    Results: The premiere fared better than in test one, but there were two channels, one on UHF 23 and one on UHF 32, that the Premiere could not pull in without incessant pixelation and breakup. It would momentarily clear, but not for long. The TivoHD was rock solid on both channels that the Premiere had issues with.

    Aside from these two channels, the Premiere's performance seemed acceptable, but was a little more shaky than the TivoHD. Due to the lack of positioning options in the room, the antenna was not moved after initial performance was observed. It is worth noting that neither the TivoHD, the TV nor the PC had issues with either of these two stations.

    Test 3: Lower level/basement installation. Antenna is a Terk HDTVi connected to an ancient amplifier. The antenna in this case is pointed out a window at a house that is positioned in such a way as to catch and reflect the signals from the broadcast tower. The antenna feed was moved from a DTV PAl CECB converter box to the Premiere.

    Results: The Premiere actually seems to be performing well in this installation, perhaps due to the fact that it is getting the signal after it has passed through the trees, the hill and bounced off the house opposite the towers. Even the station located from a different tower 40 miles away seems to be coming in stable. The Premiere currently remains in this room to see if reception remains stable during the rest of the trial period.

    So in tests 1 and 2 the Premiere proved inferior to a TV, a PC, a Series 3 and a TivoHD when dealing with dynamic multipath. In test 3, it initially seems on par with a CECB at handling the static multipath associated with the nearby home opposite the towers.

    Before anyone asks, the amplifier and preamps I'm using are there because they do in fact stabilize the signal at my location. Without them no tuner I have ever tried performs as well.

    Take from all this what you will, but it seems clear to me that the issue with the Premiere's reception is indeed its handling of dynamic multipath. The Series3, TivoHD, PC and both of my TV tuners appear to perform better when confronted with the identical signal and its inherent dynamic reflections.

    If I decide to spend the additional cash to fully activate the Premiere I will post any noteworthy updates here in the future. In the meantime, I hope this insanely long post is of some help to those in challenging reception areas considering a Premiere for OTA use.
     
  2. atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

    5,740
    26
    Oct 11, 2005
    Rochester NY
    S3-2501:

    I have had about the same results as you. I have an original Series 3, TiVo HD, & Premiere all used for OTA and connect to the same TV and antenna I have seen the same results as you. Started this thread about it - it outlines the last time I had a problem and all the details about my setup.

    So I have come to the same conclusion, while the Premiere works fine 95% of the time for OTA it has more issues in adverse conditions than the original Series 3 or the TiVo HD.
     
  3. L David Matheny

    L David Matheny Active Member

    1,589
    2
    Jan 29, 2011
    SE Ohio
    That's very interesting. Thanks. My praise of my Premiere's handling of multipath (or possibly some type of overload) would relate to static multipath. I don't have planes or trucks or tree leaves or anything else moving (near enough to matter) in the direction in which my antenna is aimed. So presumably I have little or no dynamic multipath. And I assume that the type of multipath could affect demodulator performance.
     
  4. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

    205
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    Jun 2, 2007
    In my previous post I detailed a lower level installation of a Premiere that initially got pretty good reception reflected off of a house opposite the broadcast towers. However, yesterday was rainy with winds gusting over 35MPH, and every channel became unwatchable on the Premiere due to the constant breakups. I spent considerable time moving the antenna around the room but never found a a spot where the reception improved. I was forced to reconnect a DTV Pal converter box just so I could watch TV in that room. The converter box handled the bad conditions beautifully, with no picture breakups despite the on-screen signal fluctuating constantly due to the conditions.

    When I returned upstairs, I found that the TivoHD there had recorded one of the programs I was unsuccessfully attempting to watch on the Premiere downstairs, and while there were some very brief weather related breakups, the show was still very watchable.

    For now I have split the signal on the lower level to feed both the Premiere and the DTV Pal for times when the Premiere chokes. Of course, this won't help when I go to watch a recording and discover that the Premiere didn't receive it well enough for me to be able to watch it.

    I don't understand what Tivo did (or didn't do) to make the Premiere so inferior at handling dynamic multipath reflections, but it's pretty poor performance for a recent DTV receiver, to say the least.
     
  5. MacQ2

    MacQ2 New Member

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    Oct 17, 2006
    You have some pretty solid data and circumstances. What response have you gotten from Tivo when you've presented your results to them?
     
  6. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

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    Jun 2, 2007
    I've read here and elsewhere about Tivo's poor responses to complaints about the Premiere's OTA reception. At this point and time, I'm just not interested in getting my blood boiling by calling them and getting a similarly maddening response.

    I got my Premiere dirt cheap on closeout and my goal was just to experiment and post my results here in a comprehensive manner to help others thinking about the Premiere for OTA. If Tivo reads this thread, acknowleges the problem and is somehow able to resolve the reception issues that would be fantastic, but I'm not holding my breath. For now I'll just keep reporting back here if anything noteworthy changes.

    In the meantime, if anyone knows if dynamic multipath performance is something that can be fixed in software, or if it is tied to hardware, please post and let us know. If it's fixable in software then Tivo may actually fix it at some point, but if it's tied to the hardware I doubt Tivo will ever even acknowledge the problem since it would be too costly for them to fix.
     
  7. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

    205
    0
    Jun 2, 2007
    I decided to go ahead and email Tivo regarding my reception difficulties with dynamic multipath. I submitted a support form under the category compatibility & Standards/Over-the-air antenna. I basically summarized my experience and asked if there were any plans to fix the handling of dynamic multipath in software. I'm not expecting much of a response, but I'll post back with news of whatever reply I get.
     
  8. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

    205
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    Jun 2, 2007
    Here's the response I got:
    Yeah, that's about what I was expecting...
     
  9. MacQ2

    MacQ2 New Member

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    Oct 17, 2006
    Hmmm. Yes, disappointing.
     
  10. S3-2501

    S3-2501 New Member

    205
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    Jun 2, 2007
    Here's one last update from me on my experience with the Premiere OTA. I tried updating my online support ticket to press them on any possible software fix for the handling of dynamic multipath, and the response I received included the following:
    I spent another week or so in denial trying different antennas, antenna placements and amps, preamps and even no amp/preamp.

    I finally came to the firm conclusion that there was no way I could justify paying for service on a device that has such unreliable reception at my location. Today I called to cancel service under the 30-day guarantee. The woman on the phone claimed to be surprised that I was having the issue. I asked if there was any way I could exchange the Premiere for a refurbished Tivo HD or Series3 that they may have on hand, and I was told that the only way to get one of those is via Ebay or Amazon Marketplace. I expected that answer, but had to ask to be sure.

    Sadly, unless I read here at some point that Tivo has fixed the reception issues in a future software update or in a new piece of hardware, it looks as if I'll never be able to buy another Tivo again, since I have no intention of subscribing to cable or satellite.:(:thumbsdown:

    I'll keep watching this thread hoping for good news, but my guess is that that news won't be coming soon if at all.
     
  11. May 8, 2012 #231 of 260
    proudx

    proudx New Member

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    Sep 16, 2008
    audio only ota channels don't work. 32.22,32.23,etc in Atlanta.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In Atlanta we have some ota digital audio only channels that rebroadcast local radio stations. They will not tune on the premiere but tune fine on the series 3. the dvr statistics show a solid signal strength and good SNR. Has a channel lock and signal lock, with no errors showing up, but the premiere just says problem with the signal on this antenna channel, it tunes the same sub-channels that have video and audio just fine.
     
  12. Nov 3, 2012 #232 of 260
    davfromga

    davfromga New Member

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    Nov 3, 2012
    Used Series 3 OTA only (antenna array in attic, with pre-amps, distribution amp in attic, and amp downstairs behind TV) for 4 years...Series 3 unit finally died.
    Replaced with Premier...lost half my channels.
    Removed downstairs amp from system, now the Premier tunes even better than the Series 3.
    New tuners must be more sensitive, and therefore more prone to multipath interference.
    Less signa/better picture....whodathunkit?
     
  13. Nov 3, 2012 #233 of 260
    L David Matheny

    L David Matheny Active Member

    1,589
    2
    Jan 29, 2011
    SE Ohio
    Your case wouldn't really relate to multipath interference. Better reception after removing a signal amp makes it sound like the Premiere's tuners may be more sensitive to overload. Or possibly your downstairs amp was just noisy or defective somehow. Thanks for the data point.
     
  14. Nov 3, 2012 #234 of 260
    hefe

    hefe Rebus Philbin

    32,400
    186
    Dec 5, 2000
    CO via Chi-town
    Sounds like overload on the receiver, or a small signal to noise ratio or too much noise in the amp. Always best to amplify close to the antenna where S/N is high. Don't amplify too close to the receiver if you don't need to.
     
  15. Nov 4, 2012 #235 of 260
    jamkor

    jamkor New Member

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    Aug 20, 2009
    I just went looking for info on this issue today and this thread popped up. I am extremely disappointed in the OTA tuner of the Premier. I have an old antenna that worked great on the TiVO HD and straight into my TVs. I have seen that people have removed amps, etc from their setups and that has corrected the problem. Do I just need to get a better / amplified antenna? Like I said the ss on the TiVO HD was in the 80s and is now 0-50 on the Premiere.
     
  16. Nov 4, 2012 #236 of 260
    L David Matheny

    L David Matheny Active Member

    1,589
    2
    Jan 29, 2011
    SE Ohio
    The Signal Strength is just a calculated number, and apparently it's not calculated the same way by the TiVo HD and the Premiere, with the Premiere's number being lower for a given signal. What counts is the actual reception quality as indicated by the error counts, especially uncorrected errors since those cause the glitches we see and hear. Based on my experience and what I've read here, I think the Premiere's tuners are better for static multipath (reflections from nearby hills, buildings, etc) but probably worse for dynamic multipath (reflections from passing planes, trucks, etc). This thread seems to suggest that the Premiere's tuners are also more susceptible to overload from signals that are too strong. If you're close to your broadcast towers (say 20 miles or less) you may not need any amplification at all, especially if you use a proper outside antenna.
     
  17. Nov 4, 2012 #237 of 260
    jamkor

    jamkor New Member

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    Aug 20, 2009
    Thanks - I always try and include some form of quantification to these kinds of threads. I will go back and look for the error rates and counts. Bottom line is that I get constant pixelation and lag now, were i didn't before. I am about 22 miles from the antennas and will be trying a new antenna later this week. I will report back on what I experience.
     
  18. Dec 4, 2012 #238 of 260
    videobruce

    videobruce OTA is still alive

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    Nov 30, 2012
    Buffalo NY
    In the two years these have been out, no firmware corrections have been made?
    Has anyone compared another current (as in up to date technology) tuner to these?
     
  19. Dec 4, 2012 #239 of 260
    L David Matheny

    L David Matheny Active Member

    1,589
    2
    Jan 29, 2011
    SE Ohio
    TiVos are basically Linux computers. Their firmware performs (I assume) a hardware self-test while booting, then it loads Linux from the hard drive. Then Linux loads the TiVo application software from the hard drive. There haven't been any updates to the (minimal) firmware, but the software that does all the work (including managing the tuners) has been updated several times.

    I'm OTA only, and I find the TiVo Premiere's tuners to be pretty good, similar to those in my (several years old) Mitsubishi TV. I have nothing newer with which to compare them.
     
  20. Dec 4, 2012 #240 of 260
    atmuscarella

    atmuscarella Well-Known Member

    5,740
    26
    Oct 11, 2005
    Rochester NY
    Little hard to understand what exactly you are asking/saying.

    If someone is having reception issues they have to decide is the issues are being caused by a weak signal or by multipathing.

    The bottom line is the TiVo Premiere does not handle over the air (OTA) multipath issues as well as either the original Series 3 or TiVo HD. Multipath issues are not directly related to signal strength, in fact too strong of a signal can cause multipath issues.

    If the Premiere can pick up weak signals as good as other TiVos or even other devices with an OTA tuner is harder to figure out - remember the first thing a TiVo does with an OTA signal is split it which likely reduces the signal strength to both tuners.
     

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