TiVO picture quality is simply worse than cable direct connected to TV

Discussion in 'TiVo Help Center' started by DaveCampbell, Sep 6, 2004.

  1. Sep 6, 2004 #1 of 41
    DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    I purchased a TiVO Series 2 last week and am REALLY disappointed in the quality of the picture, especially compared to the cable connected directly to the back of the TV.

    It is so bad, that the tennis ball 'disappeared' into the pixelated green of the court while watching the US Open today. You literally could not see the tennis ball being hit back and forth.

    The same signal that goes into the TiVO goes into the TV, using a splitter. Watching it directly from the cable looks great, watching 'Live TV' through the TiVO looks like crap. I record in the highest quality, FWIW.

    What's the deal? All I have is composite inputs to the TV, no S-Video, but I can't believe that this low quality picture is normal. I was very excited to make this investment, but my wife and kids think it stinks because the picture is so bad.

    Any ideas how to improve the picture quality?

    I have standard cable service, no cable box, etc. Would an in-line amplifier help at all? Or is the digitized, pixelated, kind of fuzzy picture normal for TiVO?

    Thanks in advance for any help.
     
  2. Sep 7, 2004 #2 of 41
    gtrogue

    gtrogue Mentally Hilarious

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    The quality of the TiVo output is always going to be worse than the quality of the signal without Tivo. The Tivo is performing AD/DA conversions and in between compressing the signal. There isn't any magic to the way it works and throwing away video information is always going to result in degredation.

    That being said, high quality, which is what the live buffer always records at, doesn't look too bad and should look pretty close to the signal without Tivo on smaller (<35") NTSC TV's. If live tv and other high quality recordings look as bad as you describe then you may have a problem with your hardware.
     
  3. Sep 7, 2004 #3 of 41
    DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. Doing just some basic Googling revealed that a line amplifier may be called for. I have added one more branch to the split so maybe I hit a threshold of sorts.

    I did notice on some FAQ somewhere that the TiVO input amps are quite different than those found on the basic TV, so a signal that appears OK on a TV may be not OK on the TiVO. That may be precisely my situation.

    I was surprised I didn't get more response to what appears a very basic cable video type of question, but I appreciate the time you took to reply.

    So now I'm scouting around for a decent cable amplifier. Best deal appears to be some older generation Viewsonics for about $20 on ebay.

    I think I need the most basic one, as I don't have broadband, no need for 2-way, etc. What the heck is the highest frequency I'd need to worry about? My cable system goes to channel 99. Is that above 450 MHz? I ask because the least expensive cable amps go to 450 MHz.

    Thanks again. I'll report back any useful info.
     
  4. Sep 7, 2004 #4 of 41
    gtrogue

    gtrogue Mentally Hilarious

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    In your case I believe that channel 94 is the highest frequency channel. It is 643.25 MHz. The aural frequency is 647.75 MHz. The full bandwidth is 642 MHz - 648 MHz.

    Each analog channel uses 6 MHz of bandwidth. Digital cable can carry up to 10 channels in that same space.
     
  5. Sep 7, 2004 #5 of 41
    Dennis Wilkinson

    Dennis Wilkinson Active Member

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    That's most likely because the question is so frequently asked around here. If you do a search for "picture quality" you'll probably find more information than you'd ever want to read.

    Long story short -- get adequate signal level into the TiVo's RF input if you're using that, and calibrate your TV.
     
  6. Sep 7, 2004 #6 of 41
    DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    I saw one valid post about 'picture quality', and it seemed focused on the sharpness debate. But the original poster seemed to be asking the exact same question I did, "why does my new TiVO have such poor video quality"?

    This seems like such a fundamental issue, I'm surprised the topic of signal level is not more prominent on TiVO forums or the TiVO site, generally.

    I'm fairly technical, but I must admit I was considering returning the TiVO simply assuming the loss of quality was just the cost of time-shifting, and something I didn't find worth it.

    Thanks for your inputs, I'll report back.
     
  7. Sep 7, 2004 #7 of 41
    bkdtv

    bkdtv New Member

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    Make sure you don't have your sharpness level on the TV set too high, as that will make any artifacts much more obvious.
     
  8. Sep 7, 2004 #8 of 41
    gtrogue

    gtrogue Mentally Hilarious

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    Also, make sure you've performed at least a basic calibration on your TV.
     
  9. Sep 7, 2004 #9 of 41
    skanter

    skanter New Member

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    While some artifacting is inevitable, the effect on PQ should be minimal
    unless viewed on a very large screen. I've watched the US Open on a 27"
    Sony and it looks fine.

    I would look for a hardware problem...
     
  10. Dennis Wilkinson

    Dennis Wilkinson Active Member

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    I know I've responded to more than a dozen image quality questions on these forums, so it does come up pretty often. As to why it doesn't show up on TiVo's site, that may have to do with how many people connect directly to the RF port v. how many are using S-Video or composite out of a cable box. I don't know what that mix is, but I'd guess there are more people in the "cable with box" category than the "cable without box" category.
     
  11. DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    Let's slow down on the calibration and sharpness ideas. I'm sure they are not trivial topics, but my situation is at a much more basic level. I'm a technologist, and one thing I hate about technology is how easy simple things can get blown up into appearing as very complicated matters.

    My situation is this:

    I have basic cable that went into my TV:
    - Picture on TV Great.

    I buy a TiVO, split the cable to TV and TiVO:
    - Picture from TiVO Bad.
    - Picture from cable to TV: Good (something noticeable).

    That's it. That's the data.

    Research says RF signal might need to be boosted. I'm OK with that.

    Experiment: Hook the cable directly to TiVO, no splitter to TV.
    Result: Picture MUCH better.
    Conclusion: Splitting the signal affected the signal level.
    Solution: Boost the signal. I'm OK with that.

    I'm currently bidding on an amplifier.

    Stay tuned.
     
  12. skanter

    skanter New Member

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    Forget the bidding. Go to Radio Shack and get an amplified splitter for about $35 and solve the problem immediately...
     
  13. ccwf

    ccwf 国際化 Member

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    There's an entry on picture quality in the TiVo top answers topic that's always one of the first topics at the beginning/top of this forum.

    The original poster's problem sounds like a signal issue rather than lack of calibration. Lack of calibration would not make the tennis ball disappear. I (and a number of other regulars here) record a great deal of tennis on TiVo, and the behavior described is certainly not normal.

    In addition to the possibility of getting an amp as others have suggested, also see if your local cable company will send a technician out with a meter to measure your signal quality. My local cable company does that for free in my area.
     
  14. DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    Thanks again for the interest and responses. I did call my cable company, and they will add an amplifier for $59.99 (spread over 3 payments!) and they do check the signal levels as part of that install, so that is good advice.

    But I also just won not one, but TWO signal amplifiers on eBay for $20 ea. One is a 4-port, the other an 8-port. I noticed the prices at Radio Shack were fairly high, and I like doing as much business on ebay as possible.

    When I did connect the cable DIRECTLY to the TiVO, the quality was MUCH better. I watched some golf, and saw the ball easily, so I think the tennis ball will now be visible when I get the signal level up.

    After I get over this little bump, I'll move on to the Wireless USB thing, and then an issue with a wireless remote extender, so the TiVO can be used in an adjacent room. I already have a set of audio / video cables run through the wall and that works fine.

    Again, I'll let you know how this signal thing goes.
     
  15. gtrogue

    gtrogue Mentally Hilarious

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    skanter is right. Go to RadioShack and get the thing. Why wait for bidding and shipping?

    You may want to try a good, high quality splitter first. They are much cheaper than an amp and you can always return it if it doesn't work. A cheap splitter can attenuate the signal like you describe.

    And I hate to break it to you but "technologists" don't have analog cable! ;)
     
  16. DaveCampbell

    DaveCampbell New Member

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    I wasn't all that impressed by the value proposition for digital cable. It seemed fairly expensive and I really thought the configuration of the set-top was a nightmare.

    Money actually matters as does my time (real technologists bill big bucks for their time) and I found a Viewsonic amplified splitter for $19 on ebay. I like to do what I can on ebay...support a great concept.

    Just hooked it up a bit ago and it WORKS GREAT. Possibly even TOO hot. But now I can mess with the picture levels on my cheap TV to make it look better. But the TiVO picture quality is totally what I originally expected.

    OK, bottom line:

    Cable splitters beware...signal quality can degrade enough to hose the TiVO yet not be noticeable on a straight connection to a TV.

    But it can easily be fixed with a powered signal amplifier. I bought mine on ebay from these guys:
    http://www.cabletvamps.com

    OK, now on to the wireless USB thing. I'll review the threads on that topic.
     
  17. skanter

    skanter New Member

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  18. Bytez

    Bytez Member

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    Try using the Motorola Signal Booster for $50 after rebate at CompUSA or circuit city for $50, search for: motorola signal booster

    Many have said that it improves their signal, great reviews and for a decent price!. :up: I currently have 2 splitters connected to this (one for my cable mode, and 2 for televisions), my Tivo is setup like yours and the channels look very clear on my 27" Sony.
     
  19. Alex_Select

    Alex_Select New Member

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    I am running a Tivo Series 2 and I have it connected from the cable box to the Tivo and then to the TV completely with S-Video and then HQ RCA for L-R Audio. This picture is horrible! When the sceen is black, you can especially notice all kinds of lines and what looks like static - very subtle. I plugged in the TV directly to the cable box, and WOW what a sharp, and crisp picture. So would the problem still be the cable strength?
     
  20. skanter

    skanter New Member

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    Are you using Best Quality on Tivo? What size TV? PQ could be slightly degraded (depending on TV size), but certainly not "horrible".
     

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