So the Free To Air TV reception at your house in Sydney has suddenly gone bad. The picture has started pixelating, it then skips a frame every now and then, and the audio is constantly breaking up. There is something wrong with your TV antenna system.
10 Steps to Perfect TV Reception in Sydney
In order to get your digital TV reception back up and running again, there are the following 10 steps you need to get right for that picture and audio to get back to perfect again.
1. The Right TV Antenna
The most important part of any residential TV antenna system is the TV antenna itself. If you are based in Sydney, you will need to check whether or not you need a VHF (Very High Frequency) or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) antenna. This will depend on which TV transmitter gives the best signal in your local area. For a large part of Sydney, this will mean getting a VHF antenna and pointing it towards Artarmon in Sydney’s North. But if you are on the outskirts, or in a hilly area, there may be a different TV transmitter that provides better reception.
In addition, no matter if you pointing at a VHF or UHF transmitter, there are many different designs and sizes of antenna that will receive the signal better than others. For TV reception, the most critical design element is the antenna’s ‘gain’. A high gain antenna will receive a stronger signal power and a better quality signal than a low gain antenna. You may also get an antenna with some degree of 4G or 5G filter built-in to assist in reducing noise or interference (see more details below).
2. The TV Antenna Mount or Mast and Antenna Alignment
The type of antenna mount you use can actually improve the quality of your reception due to one important factor – height. The height of antenna mount can make a HUGE difference to the signal quality and power you receive at your TV and is often the difference between having some reception or no reception. In some areas, where you have line of sight to the nearby signal transmitter, you will only need a short ~1.4m tin or tile roof mount. In other situations, you may need a 15ft guyed masted, or even up to a 50ft guyed mast. Yes, we still install 50ft (~15m) guyed mast on the top of 1 or 2 storey buildings. This can mean up to 70ft above ground level! Thankfully, with digital TV signals, this isn’t required nearly as much as back in the days of analogue TV.
In addition to the type of antenna mount, you will also need to consider the alignment of the antenna (to ensure it is pointing towards your desired transmitter) and placement of the antenna mount on your rooftop. There may be trees or foliage (or other tall buildings) you will want to avoid, whilst trying to get to the highest point on the roof for the most reliable signal.
3. TV Antenna Booster (with 4G Filter)
Whether you have a VHF or UHF antenna, depending on your location, building height, number of TV outlets and type/length of cable runs, you may need a TV antenna booster.
Digital TV signal has two main components: (i) signal power; and (ii) signal quality. Whilst signal power can be adjusted with the assistance of a TV antenna booster (also called an amplifier), you cannot improve signal quality with any similar device.
Signal quality will be primarily determined at the antenna (type and location of the antenna). If you are experiencing poor signal quality, you will likely need to replace the antenna with a better one or relocate the antenna to a different location (normally higher) in order for it to receive more signal.
Signal power, on the other hand, can be increased with a TV antenna booster, or decreased with an attenuator. Signal power decreased for a number of reasons. You may be in a poor signal area (a long distance from the transmitter), have a large hill between your house and the transmitter, be splitting the signal between a number of TV outlets in your house, be using old high-loss cable, have long cable runs, or something else. There are many factors that contribute to signal loss in a TV system that results in the need to use a antenna booster to amplify the signal.
When using a TV antenna booster, there are 2 main things to lookout for.
The first is that you do not want to overload the signal (by turning the amplifier up too high). TV tuners can only process signal when it is received within a specific signal power decibel (db) band. The TV tuner will not work with a signal power level that is too low, and will also not work with a signal power level that is too high!
The second warning is that a TV antenna booster does not know which signals are used for TV channels, as compared to AM radio, 4G mobile phone signals, or any other RF signal. As a result, it is important that you are not amplifying unwanted 4G signals that can cause interference with the TV signals which we want to isolate. As a result, many TV antenna boosters these days have in-built 4G / LTE filters.
4. Lead-in Cable
The lead-in cable connects the antenna to the next device in your TV system, which is normally an antenna splitter located in your roofspace. The lead-in cable should be of the highest quality as it needs to keep signal levels as high as possible, and also needs to be weather (sun and rain) resistant.
As a result, we recommend the use of 50ohm quad shield RG6 or RG11 cable only. Four layers of shielding is the premium standard for TV cabling in Australia and ensures protection from the elements, but also ensures that there is no other unwanted RF signals entering our cable and causing interference.
5. High Isolation RF Splitter
The antenna splitter may look like a standard device, but beware of the small but subtle differences between the types of splitters available. The first important feature is the frequency able to be passed through the splitter. Whilst Free To Air TV reception (VHF and UHF) all sit below 850Mhz, if you need your Foxtel reception to pass through the splitter, you may have to increase the quality of your splitter to pass up to 2400Mhz. In addition, you will want to look out for high isolation splitters, as they will result in one port of the splitter not having any impact on other ports, which can cause issues that are sometimes very difficult to locate.
Splitters come in various sizes, from a simple 2way splitter up to an 8way splitter. They can be ‘daisy-chained’ so as to serve more than 8 TV outlets from the one antenna, however, each time you split the signal, you lose signal power. So, in a system where the signal has been split, there is a greater chance of requiring a TV antenna booster in order to return the signal power back to a level that can be used by your TV tuner.
Finally, splitters can have certain ports that are ‘power pass’. This means that a small electrical current can be passed from the TV outlet up the TV cable to any booster that is normally located near the antenna. Boosters need power to operate, and so without the coaxial cable allowing electricity to pass through, and without a splitter that has ‘power pass’ ports, there is sometimes no way to get it powered up.
6. Outlet Cabling
Outlet cabling runs from your splitter to the TV outlet or wall plate. Depending on the type of cable used, there are maximum distances that the signal power level will remain in tact before it becomes too low to work. If there is a very long cable run, you will need RG11 cable, otherwise, we recommend the use of a high quality quad-shield RG6 cable.
7. Wall Plates
Wall plates screw onto the wall (much like a power point) and allow you to plug in a short patch or fly lead from the TV to the wall. Wall plates don’t look like much, but comprise of a C-clip, the wall plate itself, a cover plate and a mechanism. They can come in a variety of colours and styles, so you can have a ‘double gang’ or ‘triple gang’ if you want more than one TV point in the one location, or you want to also have a data point on the same wall plate.
8. TV Booster Power Supply
TV boosters require power to operate – ie they are an ‘active’ device. Thankfully, we have a way to get power to them without placing a power point on your rooftop!
The coaxial cable that we install to send the signal from the antenna to your wall plate is actually capable of sending a very low electrical current in the opposite direction! The TV booster power injector and power supply is the device that ‘injects’ power into the cable and sends that power (normally 13V or 18V) up the coaxial cable, all the way up to your TV booster. As you already know, this will only work properly if you have a splitter with a ‘power pass’ port on the right cable!
9. TV Fly Leads
A TV fly lead is the short piece of cable that connects your TV to the TV wall plate. It should not be underestimated in terms of its importance, and we have had many situations in the past where a poor quality fly lead has caused many issues.
The first thing to look out for are that the fly lead is made of high quality cable. Again, we recommend the use of quad-shield RG6 cable.
Secondly, you will not want the fly lead to be very long, or have many joins in the cable. Given fly leads can sometimes be very low quality (especially those that come with the TV or that you can buy in your local electronics shop), you will want to make this cable as short as possible (no more than a few metres).
10. TV Tuner
The final piece of the puzzle to ensure you get perfect digital TV reception is the TV tuner that sits inside your TV or set-top box. Whilst there are situations where you have a perfect digital TV signal at the end of your TV fly lead, if the TV tuner in your TV is faulty or broken entirely, then you will not receive a reliable video/audio experience.
Unfortunately, with TV repairers few and far between, this means you can either buy a TV set-top box to perform the TV tuner function on behalf of your TV, or you will have to buy a whole new TV!
So, there you have it – 10 steps to get perfect digital TV reception in Sydney. We hope this helps for anyone trying to get their TV reception back up and running.
If you are still experiencing issues, feel free to give the Nu Life TV Antenna team a call to organise an experienced technician to attend to your premises for a free quote to fix your system.
Please note that this was intended for a small residential TV system, and in larger apartment complexes, and with Foxtel installations, there are many more factors at play and there may be additional parts and equipment required to get you back watching TV again.