Not All TV Tuners Are Created Equal

I have been happy with my Hauppauge HVR1600 TV tuner PCI card for my Mythtv computer system at my home in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. My only issue is getting a few OTA (Over the Air) stations to provide consistent reception. I am a big fan of RTN (Retro Television Network). I was hooked on RTN when I setup my FTA (Free-to-Air) satellite system at my cottage. Unfortunately, due to bankruptcy issues, RTN was moved to a different and harder to reach satellite (AMC9, as I last recall)…

When I setup my OTA system at home, I was happy to discover that RTN was available from Buffalo, New York. Unfortunately, the broadcast signal is not very strong, and I seldom get a consistent signal (unless in the summertime with unusual atmospheric conditions). A preamp can be used to help “keep” signals that tend to fade-in and fade-out. I have purchased a pre-amp, but I have not connected that to the antenna location since the roof is covered with snow, and I don’t want to kill myself. Currently the preamp is connected halfway up the RG6 cable.

So I have been doing a lot of reading and research to find ways to get this station to work consistently. A colleague at work mentioned he read a posting indicating that the sensitivity to detect OTA signals vary between TV tuner cards. He mentioned that in the posting it ranked the Hauppauge HVR 1600 tuner to be closed to the bottom of the list. He mentioned that he was curious why a ranking standard wasn’t available to help potential consumers compare TV Tuners to choose the best product for their needs…

I don’t have anything against the HVR1600, but I’m starting to believe my colleague’s assertions. Before Christmas, myself and a few other friends purchased a Hauppauge HVR-850 USB NTSC/ATSC TV Tuner card for a person that lives on a farm and would benefit from a Mythtv system with an OTA antenna. This card cost $60 CDN, and was less than half the price of my HVR1600 PCI card. To my surprise, when I scanned the OTA channels, this device picked up several more stations than my card! D’oh!

Around New Years, I purchased a Sony Bravia 32 inch HD TV. I used a splitter to send the other OTA signal to that HD television set. Again, when I scanned for OTA stations using the Sony Bravia TV, I picked up more stations than my HVR1600 card! No doubt the Sony Bravia HDTV has a more sensitive TV Tuner.

Here is a chart of the stations that my Sony Bravia HD TV detects.
Cells highlighted in blue indicate signal is not always consistent.


2_1 WGRZ-HD NBC – Regular Programming
2_2 WGRZ-US US – Sports
2_3 WGRZ-RT Retro Television Network (RTN)
5_1 CBLT-DT CBC – English
17_1 WNED-HD PBS – Regular Programming
17_3 WNED-TH PBS – “Think Bright”
23_1 WNLO CBS – Warner
25_1 CBLFD-D CBC – French
41_1 CIII-DT Global
44_1 OMNI 2 Independent
49_1 WNYO MYTV – Fox Affiliate
49_2 WNYO MYTV – Fox Affiliate
51_1 ION (Life Channel) Independent
51_2 ION (Children) Independent
51_3 ION LIFE Independent
51_4 WORSHIP Religious
57_1 CITY TV Independent
64_1 OMNI 1 Independent

I like the HVR1600, and I will use it for NTSC (cable) signals, but I would like to get another TV Tuner card for OTA. I would like to get a card that is very sensitive, which will probably cost more.

Here is a link to a TV Tuner card which (I understand) is very sensitive for OTA reception:

I will post my discoveries at a later date in the spring (when the snow melts) and when I have money to afford a more expensive TV Tuner card 🙂



~ by Murray Saul on January 16, 2010.

8 Responses to “Not All TV Tuners Are Created Equal”

  1. Egads, what a great set of articles, both MythTV and OTA, and free software… Your blogs (starting about a year ago) helped me solve my HVR-1600 setup problem. I had done significant Google searching prior to today concerning this. I installed MythTV on a Debian Linux system because I have several years experience with their package manger, update cycles, etc.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.


    DG (Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)

  2. Wonder what difference the 850 would make for me..
    I can’t seem to get NBC and City TV…if I get one working, the other one no longer does.

    Not sure why.

  3. What kind of antenna are you using in Orangeville to pick up that many stations? How many of those stations are detected by the HVR1600? I’m using the same card in Cambridge, ON and I don’t get nearly as many.

    • I’m using an 8-bay (bowtie) antenna on my roof facing southwards. I also have a pre-amp, but top unit of pre-amp is only hooked up half-way to antenna (expecting friend to climb roof to make pre-amp connection correct.

      My Sony bravia tv tuner is more consistent with picking up channels like RTN (buffalo), but my HVR1600 card picks up consistently 13 stations, with RTN occasionally…

      Try the website and enter your postal code to see your coverage, and in which direction(s) you should be pointing your antanna..

  4. Hi Murray,
    Thanks for all your blogs. You said you would post on the new TV tuner – did you find any improvement? I have noticed that the Hauppauge 1600 lacks sensitivity and misses quite a few channels. I would love to identify a more sensitive tuner.
    Thanks again.

    • No, I never did buy another TV Tuner card.
      What I’m going to do is experiment with using FTA SAT (unencrypted channels only) to connect to my Mythtv system.

      I’m going to place my FTA dish on the roof of my house and buy a rotor. I would like to see if I can get Retro Television Network from the AMC9 Satellite. I don’t get consistent reception on my OTA antenna (even with a preamp) for RTN.

  5. Your system is pretty good. I made the bowtie antenna and put it in attic. I got all stations as your’s but weak 15.1 15.2 and 15.3 that only show at good weather. I wonder if the pre-amplifier will make the difference. Which pre-amplifer are you using?


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