OTA (Over-The-Air / Digital Antenna)

During my *spare-time* I got my OTA (Over-the-air) digital antenna to receive signals and display HDTV on my Mythtv box at home in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. The antenna is just fastened to my back deck by a couple of clamps. Not bad for an outdoor Digital antenna that cost just $30 CDN

A lot of retailers overcharge for OTA antennas. Here is a link to inmax.ca, a store that sells OTA antennas at a reasonable price: [ inmax.ca ]

I’m using a Hauppauge HVR 1600 Dual Tuner card / NTSC (cable-analog) / ATSC (digital).

231 WNLO

This list will grow as the U.S. switches to digital broadcasting (ATSC) by the end of June, and Canada switches to digital by August 31, 2011…

I get excellent reception – with digital, it is “all or nothing”. The only problem is that with many of the channels the playback is “choppy”. I noticed a similar problem with my Haugepauge HVR 1600 NTSC (cable-analog), but there was a shell script to fix that problem. I suspect that it has to do with my Mythtv settings, or I need to use another script – one way to confirm this is to use a Linux application called Kaffeine to see if the reception for Digital TV is choppy as well…

On the other hand, I do notice in Mythtv that the channel WNED – TH runs perfectly without the “chop”. I will provide future postings under the Mythtv category as soon as I solve that problem…

Another issue that I want to solve is to have guide information display for those OTA channels. I have created a schedulesdirect.org account, and have set up for OTA, but apparently I am not following the proper procedures, or missing a subtle step… I also want to know how to record between NTSC and ATSC channels – I press Y to switch between NTSC and ATSC halves of my Haugeppauge card, but when i select recordings (when I get EPG to work), will it automatically switch for the recording?

My intention is to have the Mythtv box at the cottage receive FTA satellite, and OTA signals, and allow automatic recording of programs… This will require that I make the computer “quiet” (i.e. a better quietter powersupply). I am close to also getting FTA sat to work at my cottage… more about this in a later post…


~ by Murray Saul on May 6, 2009.

35 Responses to “OTA (Over-The-Air / Digital Antenna)”

  1. great info!! I think I’ll try those apps later.

    my dad got a HDTV Antenna too. We were surprised it actually better than Rogers basic channels. We had problem with choppy channels too. And it gets worse in last few weeks. @@ Since he only put the antenna just in his room near the window. We are planning to install it on the of the house in the summer. Hopefully we can watch all the channels, hehe… 🙂

  2. Hi Murray, I also live in Orangeville. You talked about getting OTA on your computer – I don’t understand what you mean that the playback is choppy. I’m not very techie on this subject. Can I do this on my TV (not computer) in Orangeville and have decent HD reception on a few channels? I’m sick of paying Rogers.

    • First, OTA only works on Digital TV (eg. HD TV). If you have a traditional CRT TV, then you would need a converter box to receive OTA signals.

      When referring to “choppy” I am running an computer app to bring in the OTA signals, and display on my monitor (since it is digital). The choppy element is only related to my situation.

      If you DO have an HD (i.e. flatscreen digital) television, then you connect the OTA antenna to the back of your HDTV with a TYPE F connector (i.e. the same type of connector that you used to connect coaxial cable from rogers to your TV). But NOTE: you probably need a different type of cable (called RG6 or “satellite cable”). You can get that cable at most retailers, but I suggest avoiding “The Source” (way too expensive). I suggest Home Depot…

      If you liked this post, try my recent blog post, to see how we are “getting hosed” technically, and “open source” software is the better way to go (in my own opinion):

      Here’s the link:

      You don’t need to be a “super-techie” to do this stuff anymore… 🙂

      Hope that helps,
      Murray Saul

      • You mentioned that WNED-TH plays smooth for you.
        I’m guessing you are having the same issue as I am having..
        the HD channels are playing choppy on your mythtv setup..
        I have the same hauppauge hvr-1600..
        the problem for me lies in the PCI Video card.
        Seems I need to upgrade to a AGP or PCI-Express to get optimal performance.
        I can get my HD smooth using some hacks I found around the forums..

        Now my goal is to get the Toronto listings working properly, all the ones from buffalo are working great.

      • Hi.,
        You recently posted on my blog regarding OTA with Mythtv Hauppauge HVR1600 PCI with choppy reception.

        You metioned
        I can get my HD smooth using some hacks I found around the forums..

        Would you be able to direct me to those hacks or discuss them…

        Murray Saul

  3. Thanks for the info Murray. I think I’m going to take the plunge – and yes – I do have a Digital TV. Nancy in Orangeville

    • There are a lot of good resources over the Internet to research the best type of OTA setup (including ones that are in placed in the attic)… I have read that an “inline” amplifier may help boost signal reception (I’ve heard good and bad things about that). I recommend collecting as much information you can.

      For example, here is a link (but don’t just rely on just this one:

      [ OTA Antenna Tuning ]

      “Armed” with as much information possible, then go to the retailer “loaded” with good questions and ask for lots of options. If the retailer can’t supply the answer, that are many others around – especially in the Mississauga, and Toronto areas…


  4. Murray – do you have a rotor for your antenna? Are all the channels coming from the same direction? Im thinking about putting it in the attic – but I read that the nails and water on shingles could be a problem – and I think I need to point towards them. Since I have a HDTV, do I need any kind of HD box, or does the TV have all that it needs.

    • I don’t have a rotor for the antenna. Mine isn’t in the attic, so I can’t comment.
      I get Toronto and Buffalo stations from just pointing southwards…

      But one of my colleagues mentioned that at those low prices, it is possible to buy two (one for Toronto, one for Buffalo)
      and they can be in close proximity to each other without producing “distortion”… You can get a device that feeds both
      antennas into one source…

      Hope that helps,

  5. Quote “those low prices” – where and what do you suggest? I’m moving to my new house in August, so I’m doing all the research now – but this is definitely the way I’m going to go.

  6. Thanks Murray!

  7. Hi Murray,
    I to am in Orangeville and I’m encouraged by your results. I have been thinking of going OTA for some time now but was unsure if we could get much being up on the escarpment. Have you rescanned since the US digital conversion and if so how did you do.

    • Yes, I have rescanned since the US digital conversion, with the same results. I’m using a cheap ($30) ota antenna though, you may get better results going to a better ota antenna…


  8. Thanks. I am looking at a bigger set up. I’ll let you know how I make out when I get around to doing it.


  9. Another question for you Murray -I’m working on my new house – I haven’t moved in yet, but I’ve but up my new antenna and I’m running the cable before the drywall goes up (old house – big reno). I have a HDTV that needs a box (in this case Rogers) to display the HD channels. With my new antenna do I need a HD receiver?

    • If you use OTA antenna, you don’t need a box (unless you have an old CRT TV) that doesn’t have the Digital or ATSC connect (just like the old coax connector). If you TV is flat screen (HD), then it should be digital and you don’t need a box. If you have antenna and RG6 cable, why not try it out first?

      Please fully read may additional opinions below!

      I’m using a different configuration that you – I use my Personal Computer that has a dual TV capture card. NTSC (Cable) and ATSC (Digital – i.e. OTA antenna). My computer is downstairs in my basement (with a drop-down ceiling) which provides flexibility – although I can see your dilemma…

      If your TV has a digital receiver and you are only interested in OTA antenna to give the reception, then RG6 cable should be used as opposed to regular Coax cable, to be connected up to the HDTV… But you shouldn’t take my advice as law! I’m NOT a contractor, just an OTA enthusiast!


      You should really do homework here and speak to experts (I don’t consider myself an expert, just a hobbyist). You need to supply as much information and “senerios”.

      Here are just a couple of senerios:

      1. You just want to use OTA digital antenna to receive channels.


      2. What if down the road you want to swtich to Rogers or Bell Satellite? Should you have two cables placed in (RG6 AND regular coax cable)? Think of the long-run here!


      3. What if you want BOTH OTA digital AND Rogers cables (perhaps basic coverage). This would require multiple cable runs. How can the HDTV receive both feeds? Does this require a splitter box or a switch box?

      This process is like playing a game of “chess”. You sometimes need to “look several moves ahead” at some different senerios and go with a solution that gives you the most FLEXIBILITY in case you change your mind and switch station providers… Drywall is a permanent thing! I assume that you want to live there a long time, but what if you sell and potential buyers want regular coax cable and NOT RG6 cable?

      I recommend that you talk to a professional BEFORE proceeding with the cable run(s). I can’t speak on behalf of the people builing your house, but sometimes contractors will give their “advice” which is the “path of least resistance” (e.g just one coax cable run instead of using RG6). A professional (perhaps from the store that sold you the OTA antenna) may provide you an unbiased and flexible solution for the “long-run”. There is a store in Mississauga called “Save and Replay” that seems to have staff that is very knowledgable…

      This investment in time to get the correct solution may sound like a “pain”, but it is worth the hassle! This house is a big investment. This is just my opinion… It is good to get several perspectives.

      Good luck,

      Murray Saul

      • Is it possible to use the Rogers Cable box with the OTA cable?

      • Are you talking about the RG6 cable? The black cable for Satellite receivers? I have, and it works.
        It is a bit of “overkill” since it is a higher quality cable for SATELLITE RECEIVERS and OTA antennas, but yes, it will work.
        I don’t know where you buy your cable. I live in Orangeville ON, Canada, the I find the best price for RG6 cable (believe it or not) is Home Depot….

        Hope that helps,
        Murray Saul

  10. Thanks for the info Murray – I put in the cable today – and I think it’s RG6 – I’ll have to check tomorrow. I’m hoping my work today is ok as the drywall goes up on Tues.

  11. Old post, but I stumbled onto it while looking up some Orangeville OTA info. Hello fellow orangeville people. I just bought a cheap antenna, and am trying to run it in my apartment. I am barely getting any reception. I have a south facing window, and am attempting to get it setup closer to the window. Fingers crossed. It’s good to hear some people are having some success.

    • Yes, I still get a lot of stations.
      Unfortunately, I don’t seem to get RTN consistently (not at all in the summer).
      But I did get Syracuse at the end of the summer!

  12. Hi Murray,

    Great posts this has been really useful for me in my quest to go OTA. I’ve been in Orangeville for 3 months and have still resisted the urge to have Rogers start draining my bank account. But I’m starting to go a little nuts without any hockey.

    I’m curious about a couple of things, you said you’re using the 30 dollar antenna, is that the ANT-2092? Your previous article mentioned that you were thinking of trying out a Preamp. Did you ever have any success with this?

    • I have now a 8-bay OTA antenna on the roof, and I did buy a channel master pre-amp.
      The reception is good, although I don’t get RTN consistently….
      I get about 12-15 channels consistently… Height is usually the key… There is someone in Shelbourne that is also getting very good reception…

      • That sounds like a significant improvement over your post above that mentions 8 channels.

        I’m south of Broadway fairly well elevated, with a clear view South East from my second floor office. I’m going to visit inmax today and find out more. Maybe I will just start with an antenna in my office and mount it on my roof in the spring.

        Thanks again. You’re very generous with your time to help all of these posters and readers.

  13. Yes, I find it important to contribute. If you are encouraged by what you see here, you should see my WIKI on using Ubuntu Linux and all the interesting links (especially Mythtv and Music Studio Production).

    Here is the link: http://zenit.senecac.on.ca/wiki/index.php/Ubuntu_Guide

    I find using Linux and using open-source applications has saved me a lot of money and learned to “break-free” from proprietary software…

  14. At this time I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming again to read more news.

  15. I’ve learn several good stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting.
    I surprise how much effort you place to create this type of fantastic informative site.

  16. I live in the west end of Oranville and have HDTVs and cannot get any stations at all. I run the scan for channels and get none. I bought a
    phillips antenna with pre-amp and still nothing not even 1 station?

    • There are so many variables here:

      What type of antenna is it? Inside? Mounted in attic? Mounted Outside?
      Pre-amp is good idea but what about your height? Any obstructions? Are you using satellite cable?
      Is cable checked for nicks or breaks? Are you using an existing cable that hasn’t been used in a while and may be defective.
      I could go on and on (and on)… Good to keep “working the problem” 🙂

      What type of antenna? 4-bay? What range of CHANNELS does it support? (eg. ch 22 – 70. Ouch! May be losing ch 2 – 21, although I don’t think that affected a lot of digital channels in Orangeville)

      I average approx 20 guaranteed channels with an 8 bay antenna on the roof with pre-amp…

      In summer reception, approx 28-30 channels…


  17. Heres the Antenna


    I just attached it right to the TV in the house 2nd floor to see if I got any stations. the cable is brand new from the antenna

    Thought maybe something funky with the TV, but tried 2 diff TVs and got zero stations.

    • Again, could be a dozen reasons (including defective antenna – that does happen).

      I use the 4-bay, 8-bay antennas and they have worked fine.
      Even the el-cheapo ($21) 4-bay bowtie antenna allowed me to pick up approx 13-15 stations in Orangeville when I used it before.
      Not certain about your antenna – never have used that one before.

      A good place to talk to is Save and Replay in Mississauga:


      Perhaps they could comment on your antenna…

      FYI and good luck 🙂


    • Perhaps you did this already, but I will ask this:

      Does you antenna require pointing? If so, are you pointing it in the right direction?

      Did you use the resource like ( http://tvfool.com/ ) to check the direction to point towards?

      Just asking… I would phone Save and Replay as well…

      good luck 🙂

    • This will be my last comment (sorry for so many)

      The GTA (i.e. Toronto) possibly has the best OTA reception in the world.
      Why? Simple. Toronto is by Lake Ontario and there are a LOT of Canadian and American stations nearby.
      By the way, a little known fact is that TV signals (broadcast) don’t degrade as quickly over water as they do over land. This may seem weird, but for several days (weeks) in the summer I actually got Syracuse (i.e. a diagonal travel across lake Ontario, plus special atmospheric conditions (trop.)).

      Now, let’s look at Orangeville… Let’s be realistic. Orangeville is quite a distance away from Toronto…

      This puts Orangeville in the “deep fringe” category where “deep fringe” antennas work best (like 4-bay, and 8-bay bowtie antenna and MANY other types). Perhaps your antenna is not a “deep fringe” antenna. Again, best to talk to the experts (like at Save and Replay as one example).

      Getting anything technical to work requires the fine art of troubleshooting. By testing with a couple of TVs your are demonstrating troubleshooting (awesome!). But may require more troubleshooting (eliminate the obvious in order not to get “spun-off”). Two golden rules of troubleshooting:

      Rule #1:
      Don’t give up, eventually you will win – even if that requires buying a better suited antenna and using resource I gave you.

      Rule #2:
      Ask questions: What am I doing differently, or am I missing something (read on Internet) or what have I eliminated so I don’t have to go back there

      Good luck on your troubleshooting, and let me know how it went (but give it time 🙂 success doesn’t come overnight, although it would be nice! )

      Murray Saul

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