Easier way to tell source of reception problem(s)

So a happy user (aka wife) is watching her fav. show on the Tablo App running on an Android Player.

Then the show pixelates, or worse, freezes. Sometimes the audio keeps going.

Whatever the problem, I get yelled at “FIX IT! Fix it NOW!”

Sure, but how the heck do I tell what is causing this? It could be:

  • Signal drop (cliff effect)
  • Network problems (over WiFi)
  • Some internal cache or buffer issue in Android or the App

I really need a diagnostic log or something from the App and Tablo to tell me or at least give me a clue what is going wrong.

I’m not an experts but I think Pixelation and freezing is most likely reception. Network issues and buffering go hand in hand and should not cause pixelation.

I see you were on the thread that the HDHomeRun and the IOS app was discussed in. It does cost some money but that is how I fixed the problem. I ended up needing a good pre-amp and distribution amp in addition to tweaking my antenna location and orientation but the HDHomeRun helped me verify what the problem was and validated my solutions.

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Correct pixelation is almost 99% of the time due to poor OTA signal. There are a bunch of reasons for poor signal - antenna is not big enough, antenna is not pointed correctly, cable run is too long and needs a preamp installed at the antenna, or the 4-way split in the Tablo degrades the signal too much where then a distribution amp is need just before the Tablo.

Network issues cause buffering not pixelation.

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This is the biggest challenge with OTA. you can set up you antenna and have great reception one day, and terrible the next. This can be due to what the other said, but weather can also play an issue. I had a quirky scenario where in the winter, my original setup of antenna in the attic was great, but as soon as the trees behind my house came in for the winter with full leaves, it would deflect my signal enough to cause issues. Two tips 1) Get you antenna as high as possible with least amount of obstacle between you and the broadcast antenna (i.e. attic, or even better, roof). 2) Get a preamp which should also help


To provide a bit more background in my endeavour to solve pixelation issues on a select few channels with the Tablo I had to do the following, which is quite a bit. The point is that it is not just simple enough to be able to watch TV on your HDTV tuner and expect it to work perfectly with the Tablo tuner.

  1. I had to replace my Winegard Flatwave Amplified antenna (FL5500A) with an Eaglestar Pro Amplified antenna (53-6165-1AV) [aka a bigger antenna].
  2. I moved my antenna from one location to the next [aka correctly pointing antenna].
  3. I replaced my RG59 cable with RG6 cable as the long cable run (approximately 50’) was resulting in too much signal loss. Signal loss on old RG59 cable is much higher than RG6 cable. A preamplifier may have solved my problem here but I figured let’s try new cabling before going down this route.
  4. I then split my OTA antenna with a 2x1 splitter, one cable directly to the HDTV and one cable to the Tablo. This caused just enough signal loss to result in pixelation on the Tablo but not on the HDTV. Thus I placed a Winegard HDA-200 distribution amp just before the splitter and it solved all my problems.

Winegard Distribution Amplifier:

Old antenna:

New antenna:

Thanks for the details! We should all be providing more details so we build a decent body of knowledge.

My first test with the Tablo was with a $3 Refurbished RCA “bow-tie” digital antenna I bought from the dollar store. The kind you have to assemble. Its 3 pieces of plastic with conductive traces on it that are clamped in the middle by a plastic shell. I don’t think the wires make electrical contact. The thickness of the plastic must be such that it acts like a capacitor, so radio waves have no problem passing through.

I just wedged this thing between window panes of a South facing window on my top floor back-bedroom. The plastic easily slipped between the windows, and I pushed it in until the plastic clamp was wedged in, this let it stay put at the top of the widow frame - and horizontal.

I then used the iPad App to scan and I got the local CHEX TV and all of the local Toronto towers (~10 total channels). I could see WNED PBS but it was too weak. Could not even detect CHCH in Hamilton. Still, not bad for $3.

Next I borrowed a used Digiwave ANT5013. These things are expensive but claim a total signal gain of 43db. Its a rectangular plastic box with an external device that I was told is an amplifier, but I suspect its really a power injector (12V @ 50 mA).

Just holding this thing in one hand, vertical, at the top of my south facing window I get ~18 channels. Almost all are 5x5. In addition to what the bowtie got, this added PBS (WNED) which is very important to the spousal unit and I. And it got CHCH 11 in Hamilton.

Based on this I next put the Digiwave outside on an old Satellite J-pipe half-way up the West wall of my house, pointing South.

This got a few more US network channels, maybe 20 in all. But I was suspicious that it was a poor location for OTA. So I hired Able TV & Antenna Service in Whitby to come over and move it to my roof. Norm Jr. is a great guy. He was skeptical of the Digiwave so he had a CM antenna in his truck in case the results were lacking.

So, now the Digiwave beast is on my roof, facing South. And I get around 40 channels. Its actually really hard to count them in the list. I also wish there was a way to SAVE that list to PDF so I could keep history and post it here!!

During the channel scan it says “found 48” just before the screen flips to the “add to guide list”. I can see a batch of channels “51-1” to “51-6” that Norm says are new and rather East of Rochester, so its hard for a South facing antenna to grab them. He admitted (reluctantly I think) that I’m getting 5x5 signals from Rochester and other US towers that are usually very hard to get. Not that he is endorsing my antenna. In fact, we both say “wait until winter”. Lets see how it handles next Winter’s storms and this summers Sun. Maybe by next spring it will falling apart… And I guess I owe my buddy a few $ for this thing. Looks like I’m keeping it… heheh At least I have not taken it apart (yet).

In Summary, my current setup is Digiwave ANT5013 direct to my Quad Tablo. And I get:

  • Total 37 channels (I just re-counted them in setup)
  • 6 are 1x5 (51-1 to 51-6)
  • 1 is 41-2 an SD version of 41-2 so I don’t select it.
  • 30 channels are all 5x5. (at least today, clear and sunny)

Now - belatedly - it occurs to me I could feed this signal into my existing Rogers installed COAX. There is a splitter 10’ from where the Tablo is, and cables to 5 rooms. I think they used RG6 for everything too. I wonder if I would need a distribution amp?

  1. How long is the cable run from the antenna to your Tablo?
  2. Where is the amplifier that came with the antenna? Is it close to the antenna or close to the Tablo?

Heh. Looking at the TV FOOL report for my address (L1Z 1A9) it appears this Digiwave is very directional.

There is a group of channels 26-1, -2, & -3 from WNYB. I’m getting them 5x5 and that tower is 102 miles away!

But I’m not getting CKVR, only 50 miles away. its NNW to me. I’m getting CHEX which is almost the same distance but NNE of me.

I wonder if there is any documentation online for the Digiwave ANT5013 sensitivity pattern?

  1. Roof top down to my basement. Thats 3 floors so… 50’ of cable?
  2. That is a really good question. The “dongle” does not look weather resistant - at least the DC input jack shows no signs of being weather sealed. And it has a 6" coax on the “output” side. I took these hints to mean its actually a power injector, the AMP is inside the antenna. And I attached this to the Tablo, so it has a 50’ run of cable to the antenna.

It took me 3 different antennas and 2 different locations over an entire summer to finally “get the antenna” issue locked down correctly…

If I did it over … I would probably pay a professional to do the antenna selection/installation … its a one time fee and I feel probably worth it if you are some distance away from the broadcast towers (I am 50+ miles) …

Yeah, I hired a pro to determine position and install this Digiwave ANT5013.

My primary issue now is the Tablo is not telling me what I need to know to determine if I need an AMP or a new antenna - or both.

Its been 30+ years since I hooked an antenna to a TV. I wonder if modern TVs give a signal strength indication for stations?

HDTVs do not provide signal strength numbers, but again I have found their levels are not reliable. It will say good signal but then I get pixelation on the TV, so I have resorted to fixing issues with trial and error. I say test out a distribution amp and see if you can put that amp near the antenna.

I have a 32 inch Coby LCD that has a signal strength meter built in. It seems to be pretty accurate too.

Thanks for the info. Not familiar with that brand. I have 2 Samsung’s (one smart) and an LG (dumb).

I think (expect) they all have ATSC tuners so Saturday’s project will be splicing the antenna feed to each one at a time to see what they do with the signal. I have Roger’s HD PVRs on 2 of them, so it will be interesting to see what they make of the antenna signal while I rejig the wires…

Anybody local to Ajax with a HDHomerun I can buy or borrow for a week?


Heh. The power injector for your new antenna (53-6165-1AV) looks identical to what I have.

My setup is similar to yours. I have a 2:1 first to get signal to the Tablo. The other side then goes to my in-house splitter to feed all my rooms.

So your saying your problems “went away” only after you added a distribution amp before the 2:1 splitter?