Component Reviews

Terk HDTV antennas – HDTVi Indoor and HD-TVS – Slim Profile Outdoor HDTV


Published on April 1, 2005

 

No. 2 [No. 1] •   April 2005

Terk HDTV antennas – HDTVi Indoor and HD-TVS

Slim Profile Outdoor HDTV

HDTVi Tech Data:
Type: Indoor
Operating bandwidth: 12.5 MHz
Output impedance: 75 ohms
Mounting options: vertical or horizontal
Dimensions: 13.5 “ W x 9.12” H x 16.5” D
Shipping weight: 3.25 lbs.
Warranty: 1 year parts & labor
SRP, HD-TVS: $149.99
SRP: HDTVi: $39.95
TERK Tchnologies Corp.
63 Mall Drive
Commack, NY 11725
1-800-942-8375

Intro

I determined a a couple years ago to make my “HDTV-Ready” Pioneer RPTV actually capable of receiving the many HDTV signals we were blessed with having in Portland (earlier than in many other cities). I began by researching both DTV tuners (since no HDTV-capable sets came with built-in tuners at that time) and antennas. I checked with a couple of dealers in the immediate area and they suggested what sort of rooftop antenna to purchase. The main point I got was that there was no need for a rotor since all the TV towers were pretty much on the same hills. I purchased a seven-element Yagi at Radio Shack and had a major struggle trying to mount it on the high chimney of my two-story house. I had to ask the assistance of our handyman and even with his help turning it and my watching the set thru a window we couldn’t get reliable reception. I had to resort to hiring professional antenna installers, who after an expensive struggle of their own left me with exactly as poor reception as I had before they came.

If you are presently HDTV-capable, you have probably discovered that digital TV is entirely different from analog telecasting in that it is normally either on or off. If the signal falls below a certain point you just get a “no signal” sign on your screen – no ghosting, snow or artifacts we are familiar with from analog TV. If there is an in-between border of poor reception it is usually seen as huge areas of the image going pixellated or moving images reverting to stills frequently. We were able to get a fairly good picture from the local PBS station, channel 10, but at that orientation all the other channels were either not there or cut out seriously. When pointing the Yagi directly at the towers – which are only about five miles away – reception on most channels was the absolute worst. We finally settled on pointing it almost directly away from the towers and leaving it there. It evidently was picking up a reflection off something. Someone suggested it might be just the leaves on the trees it was pointing into since in winter reception got even worse when they fell off.

Downsizing Antennas for Urban Use

Having the signal disappear totally at the most crucial times when I was watching a tense program such as “24” led me to check into other options for OTA reception (Over The Air). I saw that on the Terk web site a reception chart recommended smaller, less direction antennas for urban areas without 15 miles of the transmitters. They could even be indoor antennas in some cases, as long as the construction materials of your house didn’t block the signals getting to them. I requested these two smaller Terk antennas for review and after spending some time with both I realize that I was grossly misadvised by the dealers and Radio Shack, who said the big Yagis were what hi-def early adopters in the neighborhood were putting up.

First, there was no need to get a big antenna capable of receiving both VHF channels 2- 13 and UHF 14 – 69. All the HDTV transmitters are in the UHF range. One dealer had suggested I get a bow-tie UHF antenna, mount it separately on the side of the house where I could point it, and install a coaxial switch between it and my rooftop Yagi. The Yagi was entirely too directional for my location and brought in too strong a signal for the tuner. In fact I improved reception somewhat on most of the channels at one point by investing in a small attenuator (which I must admit was recommended by a Radio Shack clerk). What was needed for my urban situation was a less directional antenna, since I am so close to the various towers that in fact they are in different directions as seen from my location.

The Terk HD-TVS Slim Profile Antenna

This is a rather small antenna designed for outdoor mounting anywhere. Although only 16 inches square, it is designed for both VHF and UHF frequencies. The squarish shape is similar to a Winegard antenna called the Square Shooter. The Terk mounts with a strong foot bracket and mounting mast and can be oriented to point different ways on the bracket. It has a 20-to-1 front-to-back ratio which aids in situations plagued by reflected signals.

I reasoned that even though the rooftop Yagi was picking up a very strong signal from the stations, that signal was being fed thru about 70 feet of 75-ohm coaxial cable to get to my HDTV tuner. So I decided to keep the cabling short with the HD-TVS by installing it on the side of the house there the cable for the Yagi came into my AV equipment area. Also, this would allow me to orient it differently for best results on different stations. Unfortunately, most of the stations are not in that direction, and my house was in the way for pointing it properly. Moreover the bracket didn’t allow for that much rotation of the antenna – it would be almost 180 degrees. The results were actually not as good as with my rooftop Yagi.

The Terk HDTVi Indoor Antenna

This is a cleverly-designed little metal sculpture which my wife actually likes – so there. It is engineered for local digital and analog telecasts in both the UHF and VHF ranges. The UHF is handled by the fish-skeleton-looking section which plugs into the base unit. Highly directional, it can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, and I found in my situation the vertical orientation definitely worked better – perhaps due to the many reflections. 75 ohm cabling is the shortest of all since the antenna is very close to my RPTV. The VHF channels are picked up by standard rabbit-ear telescoping dipoles that come out of the sides of the unit. If not required they can be folded up against the back of the base and are fairly invisible.

The HDTVi should be situated as high as possible in the room. It has a small footprint so there is little problem. I have mine on a flat surface of one of my tube amps near the window; reception was less good when on top of the matching tube amp eight feet further into the room. And when I simply placed it on top of my RPTV – just 1 1/2 feet lower – half of the hi-def channels disappeared. If you have aluminum siding on your house or if it’s stucco you can probably forget about this indoor antenna. Foil-back insulation in the walls can also block signals to it. Of course the HDTVi doesn’t have the gain of an outdoor antenna, so I no longer use the R.S. attenuator I had with my rooftop Yagi.

How It Worked

Great, in a word! Solved all my HDTV reception problems and caused me to cringe over all the time, money and death-defying ladder-stretching (not by me, mind you) that went into the struggle to mount and orient the rooftop HDTV antenna. The indoor Terk has to be very slightly rotated for Channel 10 reception but can be left pretty much alone for the other six HDTV channels. In fact, Channel 6 – which was impossible to receive at all with any antenna I tried – now comes in steadily and beautifully. It still wasn’t received at first, but then I turned up to maximum the gain on the Radio Shack amplified distribution box I use and there it was – as well as steadier reception on other channels.I didn’t test the NTSC-reception abilities of the Terk as yet, but now that many of the stations air their regular telecasts on one HDTV channel and their hi-def on another, I’m not sure there’s any need. (The tuner in my old Betamax was better than the one in the Pioneer anyway.) I didn’t miss one cliffhanging minute of 24 last night! I think I’ll put a classified on Craig’s list for a Yagi antenna and mast cheap – if someone is willing to come and take it down themselves…Oh.oh – just thought about the insurance situation…

- John Sunier




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