Tips on amps, splitters and "plans"?

How would YOU cable and amplify this setup if you had to "remake it" - 

Apparently our Tablo is the "weakest link" in our chain. Our other devices - TVs and DVD recorders, EXCEPT for the kitchen TV, receive all stations fine, the DVD recorder can record all stations fine with no issues with pixels or goofy video. The Tablo, on the other hand, has a lot of troubles - routinely has poor video due to the images being pixelated and so on.
I have to admit that much of our cable in the attic is older - circa 1982 and is RG69, not the best at all with RG6 being the best cable these days. The very long cable run to get to the Tablo and kitchen TV is pushing our luck, especially on windy or cold days and the Tablo tuner when compared side-by-side isn't quite as capable as the tuner in our LG TV or in the converter box downstairs by the Toshiba flat-screen but pre-digital tuner TV. 
So, I'm looking at replacing as much cable as I can access without ripping up sheetrock and doing what I can to maximize the signal to the Tablo, which seems to suffer most of anything we have when the signal isn't perfect.

To that end I'm seeking advice of folks who have far more experience and who are quite knowledgeable in the TV antenna and amp world (and that admittedly doesn't take as much as I normally admit)

Here's what I have-  and how would YOU improve this?

Antenna is on the roof, it's a walk-out basement ranch style house. On the west end where the antenna is, it's mostly in the open but we lie in a lower part of the township. Rural but a lot of trees, hills and valleys. Iowa is NOT flat. 
Antenna on west end of roof, cable enters attic via ridge vent, and goes all the way to the east end of the house in the attic. It then runs down the east wall to the ceiling above our finished basement (you can see the cable length - wow)
Where is exits the wall into the ceiling cavity in our lower level (finished basement) it goes south about 4 feet to an 8-way splitter in the ceiling. 
The splitter feeds into a cable that goes back north 4 feet, back up the wall a bit and to a wall jack with a splitter. This wall splitter feeds the main TV and the DVD recorder.
The 8-way has another cable running SW about 6 feet then up the wall a few inches into another wall jack with splitter, and that feeds the Tablo. 
The 8-way has a longer cable that heads mostly south across the house and up the south wall in the kitchen to the kitchen TV - no splitter there so it's simply a long cable run from the north part of the house to the south wall, and up 4 feet in the south kitchen wall to the TV there. 
Then what SHOULD BE a killer, there's a cable from the 8-way that goes ALL THE WAY back to the far west wall of the house and feeds the Toshiba TV in the basement family room. So to feed that converter box at the Toshiba, the cable goes from roof antenna on far west, clear to the east well, into a splitter, then all the way BACK to the far west, to the converter. That converter gets every single station perfectly. There's ZERO issues ever. No show ever has any troubles day or night regardless of weather so I can't blame the long cable runs to the OTHER TVs as this one has a good 50% more cable than any other run of the whole house, and yet that TV suffers zero issues while Tablo suffers a lot and in fact often can't record shows due to reception issues at the Tablo. 

How would you run this system?
Antenna on west end of the roof, living room TV on the east well, kitchen TV on the south wall of the kitchen, family room in lower level (finished basement) is back on the west wall. Tablo is in living room just a few feet from the main TV, so is using but another 5 feet of cable more than the main living room TV which gets very good reception.
How would you amp this thing?
An amp next to the antenna?
A distribution amp, too?

You guys here are experts on this and no offense, but apparent 'TV geeks' who have made a study of peak reception with class-A antenna cable systems. 

Please keep in mind - there's no way from the antenna on the roof to get directly into the basement - I used a cable that was already in the east wall that led down to the east wall TV connection as the previous owner had an antenna in the attic with a cable running down that east wall. Otherwise there's no attic to basement path for a cable without catching that older cable running through the attic and down the east wall. In fact I have a coupler in the wall and had to drill through the floor inside the east wall to extend that cable into the basement to split it into the other rooms. The other RG59 he had used is buried in insulated outer walls, no fun at all there. 

I’m reading 4 endpoints (Main TV+DVD, Tablo, Kitchen & Basement), but you say you’re using an 8-way splitter.  A 4-way splitter is basically three 2-way splitters but an 8-way is seven 2-ways, and rather than a 7 dB loss with a 4-way,  you’ve got a 10.5dB with an 8-way.

Do you have terminating resistors on the unused outputs of the splitter?

Is the “good” basement coax run RG59 also?  You said much of the cable is RG59, but didn’t specify which location was fed by anything different.

Good catches, you are right, I left out some detail but not on purpose.

I DO have the unused connections on the main splitter terminated.
But I should also know that doesn’t do a ton of good when any unused cable connections at the wall-end of the runs from that splitter are not terminated.
I do plan on picking up some more terminaters. 

I have that splitter feeding a couple of other wall connections that are currently not used as my wife has had us rearrange a couple of rooms multiple times - I got tired of pulling cable, connecting, disconnecting, etc. so although there are currently 4 main endpoints, there are also wall connections that aren’t used NOW or currently. 

That is VERY interesting information on the splitter configurations. I had no idea that’s “how they worked” from a basic standpoint. I read from one of the manufacturer sites (maker of splitters, amps, antennas, etc. that a splitter results in an approximate 3dB loss. So if 1 cable runs from the antenna and you have a single splitter to 2 TVs, each TV has a loss of 3dB, according to their site. 
I won’t question your math or theirs, it all makes sense in a way.

The long run from that 8-way to the family room TV back at the west wall is RG6.
The cable through some of the attic and then down that east wall, and into the basement is RG59 - original cable from the house. From the antenna into the attic is RG6, then a connector to join the existing RG59 that finishes crossing the attic and goes down the east wall. 
My new cable is RG6, the existing I was forced to tie onto to get from the attic to the basement is Rg59.
I could never figure out why so much electric and cable runs are in the ATTIC when the basement ceiling is almost always OPEN access. Why do such things go UP the walls, across attics, then back DOWN the walls, instead of straight down into the basement then cross the house along the floor joists.
I doubt it and I don’t want to risk tearing apart the only working cable between attic and basement trying, but I’d love to run a NEW cable all the way, home-run from antenna to basement, RG6. The only option to do so is to use the existing RG59 as a “pull string” to get a cable through the insulated wall. I have to suspect it’s STAPLED in the wall. The other option, down an INTERIOR wall, but finding the top of a wall through all that insulation without putting a foot through the ceiling also won’t be fun… 

OK, so more terminating resistors, and you may be suggesting scrap the BIG splitter, go with a smaller on that feeds only USED cables and wall connections?

This is the sort of wall plate with coax connection I use - it has 2 terminals or connectors with a splitter on the backside -

the long run BACK from the splitter to the family room Toshiba TV with converter box is RG6 cable. (although I had better double-check that as for a while I still had some older RG59, but the white cable I used was supposedly all RG6)

Kitchen TV from big splitter is all RG6.

There is no splitter at the end of that run as I expected NO second device in the kitchen ever.
The cable from the big splitter to the Tablo has the above wall plate with splitter at the end, can’t recall but believe that cable is RG6 as it’s white. Black cable was RG59, white cable was RG6 as my wife hated black cables.

I’d do one change at a time. First thing to try is either:

a) mast mounted amplifier directly after the antenna
b) distribution amplifier instead of your 8 way splitter

Option A will make sure that signal loss from the Antenna to your 8 way splitter is minimized.  Sound like that run is at least in the 50-75 ft range.  Usually you use a mast mount amplifier when you run 100 ft or more.  But since you are splitting the signal then your longest run will easily be 100 ft.

Option B make sure that whatever signal is arriving at the 8 way splitter doesn’t further get degraded by the splitter itself.

You may end up having to do both.  They way I test here at home is with a USB ATSC tuner that I plug into a laptop.  I tested the strength each step of the way and that’s what decided me on the mast mounted amp without a distribution amp in my case.

Oops - correction, actually 5  7 endpoints:

Farthest - cable coming off main splitter to a shielded underground coax feed running 250’ to my shop - inside the shop is a 2-way that feeds an auto shop TV and a wood shop TV.
Next Farthest is the TV in the family room downstairs - from antenna to east end of house, to splitter, back to west end and TV.
Kitchen TV - from main splitter to kitchen
Tablo - from main splitter to wall plate with splitter and two connectors, to Tablo
Main TV in living room, Splitter to cable up wall to wall plate with splitter, then to TV and DVD recorder.

1. Tablo (also splitter in wall plate but second connection unused)
2. Kitchen TV (no additional splitter)
3. Family room TV (with converter box but no additional splitter)
4. Living room TV  
5. DVD recorder, fed off same run as LR TV.  
6. 250’ cable run to shop, splitter, 1st floor shop TV
7. Same cable run to shop, same splitter, 2nd floor shop TV

*   4 and 5 feed off same port of main splitter to a second splitter in the wall plate.

Holy Toronto - I plum forgot about my shop TVs!

OK, add 2 TVs to the mess above…

This is the 1st floor shop TV - the shop TV splitter is mounted on the network/phone/electric board above the stove. 

And the wood shop TV in the far background - gotta have that to watch The Woodsmith Shop show on PBS…

Is that an early 80s Celica/Supra?

Oops - correction, actually 5  7 endpoints:

  I’d prefer a blueprint of the house and cable runs, but the pics of the car and radial saw are nifty! 

Bottom line - you’re blaming the Tablo.  Have you done basic troubleshooting and took the Tablo to a known good coax and/or taken a known good TV to the coax the Tablo is on?  What were the results?

Before you start throwing any money at this, determine if that coax run to the Tablo is the issue. 

Blaming the Tablo - well, yes and no. I had thought the tuner was as strong as the TV and other devices but when placed on the same cable we had the TV on, it's having a hissy fit any time there's a few pixels showing where the TV simply shows the show and the DVD recorder records the shows pixels and all. Tablo seems to think "bad reception, can't record" where everything else keeps going. And the Tablo seems to believe there's "no signal" before our other things reach that conclusion. 
HOWEVER, I also am not so sure there's not something wrong with this Tablo as it's freaking out not letting me watch shows or record more than one at a time........... "no receiver" which is a WEIRD message when trying to play a recorded show. 

We had the TV on the exact same jack as Tablo is on now. The current Tablo line is actually the best in the house! (and shortest)
I've noticed that when the Tablo shows pixels as in not perfect reception the TV is clear. 
I've also noticed that the downstairs Toshiba TV with the converter box is clear when the main tv is a bit less than perfect and Tablo chokes on recording as if there's any hiccups in the signal, Tablo stops recording where the DVD keeps on recording and the TV shows what it's got to show until or unless the signal is totally lost.
I did a ton of testing last night. I had multiple TVs and devices on and moved cables around and found the Insignia converter box has a GREAT tuner that pulls in things others deem too weak, the LG TV is next and the Tablo is a bit behind that. 
The coax to the Tablo is the best, newest and shortest from the main splitter. 
So in a way, yeah, did the basics. The Tablo sits where the TV was sitting and the TV did great there. The TV is along the east wall with old cable that has connectors in it and a splitter. If anything the TV and DVD recorder should be doing horrible!

I got on a coat, gloves and dust mask and went into the attic last night. The cable from the antenna to the east wall where it goes down the wall, to a connector and then another length runs from there to the large splitter - that attic cable is RG59 and longer than needed.

I started a run of new RG6 high-end cable but got stuck trying to get up through the ridge vent so stopped for the night about 11pm. I got the cable down an interior wall into the ceiling in the basement. It's a 50' cable and doesn't quite make it to the splitter. 
I already have new RG6 to the Tablo from the splitter, did that when wife decided to have the TV on the south wall. That lastest about 4 months and we moved the TV back to the east wall - and I put the Tablo where that new RG6 cable had been run for the TV - on the south wall. So the TV has spliced cable, a mix of 59 and 6, the Tablo has a new RG6 that's a bit shorter and 1 piece. 
I removed the splitter from the wall jack the Tablo was on as I can't see a second device going there any time soon so it's a straight run of new cable from the main splitter to the Tablo, no splitter between Tablo and main splitter. 
I still have to have a wall jack/splitter between the main splitter and the TV as the DVD recorder sits with the TV so it's main splitter to wall jack with splitter, then to DVD and TV and they still do fine even with that setup. 

The prior owner had an attic antenna. He had a run of cable from the attic antenna to a splitter and from that splitter in the attic he had runs to 4 locations - kitchen, and 3 in the living room to electric boxes in the wall with coax wall jacks. We did not use any of those, and the kitchen one is buried as we totally gutted and remade the kitchen.
I put an antenna on the roof and ran a cable from my roof antenna into and through the attic and connected my cable to one of his cables that went down the wall to a wall jack. I used his in-the-wall cable that went into a box and connected another cable and extended that into the basement where I connected to my splitter. 
So I ran cable from antenna into attic, connected to his cable that had run from his splitter to the wall jacks and used one of his runs down a wall to get me into the basement. The cable in the wall is thus 1982 vintage RG59. 
The cable I ran in the attic is 1994 vintage RG59.
I figure my cable and his combined mean a good 75 feet to get to the splitter in the basement. And from there another 50 feet back to the basement family room TV. 
So basement family room converter box and TV are running through an easy 125' or MORE. 

From the splitter it's got to be close to 20' of cable to reach the main TV jack and splitter and then another 6 to the TV for over 100' from antenna through main splitter and through second splitter to TV and DVD recorder.

And from the splitter to the Tablo that's 12' to the wall jack and another 6 from the jack to the tablo. 
Just shy of 100' from antenna to Tablo if you figure 75 attic through wall into basement to splitter, then splitter over to south wall, up wall and to Tablo.

When I saw that mess in the attic, and knew what was in the east wall as far as his original cable stapled to the studs and my connecting to it and running it down from the wall box into the basement to reach the splitter down there, I said "#$% it", start over with NEW cable and invested about $100 in cable last night and spent the night in the attic and fishing cable through an interior wall so I can abandon his 1982 cable in that east outside wall forever.
The reception was so bad last night for some reason I wasn't able to get Scorpion and was super PO'd so it motivated me to get the cable done right, remove extra crap, etc. 
I figure I had been lucky to get by for so long on that mess - especially since after going 75' from antenna to splitter, then 25' from splitter to south outside wall of house and another 150' to my shop splitter, then another 25' to the upstairs TV, I was REALLY lucky! 

That run alone was antenna to farthest shop TV likely 350' of cable and 2 splitters and 3 connectors to join cables. 

I like the idea of a house plan and cable layout to help here - I'll work on that. Great idea!
Youse guys is good.

BTW - that's a 1982 Eagle SX/4. 

the wood shop is 30' x 15' and has power miter saw, drill press, antique wood work bench, table saw, RA saw, planer on stand I made with outfeed rollers, larger router table, dust filter system hanging from the ceiling and a dust collection system connected to each tool and a hose at the bench can be used to vacuum or connect to sanders, recesses in the wall between the trusses for storage and a whole-house type fan in the south window for the summer. 

The auto shop is 30' x 36' 15' ceilings, 12x12 doors, and infrared heat running down the center of the ceiling. 

Well, here’s my thoughts.  If you disconnect your antenna from the 8-port’s input and use an F-81 to isolate and test a single drop and you’re pleased with what you get on your TV, then you probably don’t need a preamp on your antenna, you need a distro amp to push all the lines sharing the antenna. 

Now, most stations are broadcasting on a “real” UHF freq even though they may have a “virtual” channel appearance of their old spot in the VHF band, examples in my area are channels 6 & 7.  Checking the specs of a $15 Magnavox 24dB 2-port distro amp I have, that 24db was the VHF gain, but the UHF is only 20dB.  The output at each port was 20dB (that unavoidable 3.5dB loss per split) for VHF and 16dB for UHF.  Looking back at that drawing I made, you’ll see with that 8-port you’re losing 10dB at each output.  So with the antenna connected to the input of that amp, using your 8-port splitter on one output of the amp you theoretically have overcome the loss of the splits and have an extra 6dB at each of the eight outputs to power your runs.  If you connect a 4-port splitter to each amp output, you’d have 8.5dB at each.  But considering you have that 250’ run to the shop, let’s consider using one output of the amp for the 8-port for the residence drops and dedicating the other output of the amp to the shop, giving that run a more robust 16dB.

If you look here you’ll find a coax loss calculator.  Your highest frequency is going to be less than 700MHz, so look at the 750MHz field to determine your worst case loss.  At 250’ of RG6, with 16dB to start with and losing 14dB by the time it gets to the end, you’re down to 2dB, and then you’re splitting that for the two TVs, so you’re in the hole -1.5dB.  That kind of indicates to me that without any active pre or distro amplification now, if you’re receiving anything out there, you’ve got plenty of signal out the antenna and sure don’t need a preamp.  And because of that, I’m wondering if you need any amplification on those shorter runs in the house, just maybe a 10dB or so boost out to the garage. 

I put a 4 way splitter in last night to experiment, removing the 8 for now. That leaves the shop un-TV’d but that’s ok for an evening. 

If the highest frequency is going to be 750 then the splitters that are 5-2500 are a waste for standard digital TV -  900 would be fine? 

If the highest frequency is going to be 750 then the splitters that are 5-2500 are a waste for standard digital TV -  900 would be fine? 

Not necessarily a waste, but I don’t see that much of a cost savings in using passive splitters with the lesser bandwidth.

The highest TV frequency would actually be 692MHz (channel 50). 

Geesh, any sort of amp, pre or distribution amp is a “special order” around here, there’s no place you can just run to over lunch and buy one. 

Craps - it was going to be 38 today, great time to hit the attic, the ROOF and other areas as it goes down the toilet again after today for our area.
I was hoping to hop out over lunch and quickly grab what I need and finish it all up BEFORE NCIS as I don’t DARE mess with Gibbs’ night or my wife would be rather “unpleasant” about it. Sun, 38 degrees, enough time to get up on the roof, into the attic, run whatever cable is left and finish it all up before 7pm CST but no one here carries that sort of stuff.
I know my wife is always asking “can’t you just go out and get what you need” and my response is the boiler-plate “honey, this is IOWA, you don’t just run out and buy anything unless it’s pork, beef or corn-related.” A local theater marquee used to call Des Moines “the armpit of the midwest”, when it comes time to needing parts and supplies for anything, they nailed it.

But,Shadows, it’s Iowa so you can have those huge workshops and,I presume, get great bacon! Bacon makes anything better :slight_smile:

And drive my 1936 F20 tractor around almost any time of day and get no complaints (they had no muffler - just a short exhaust elbow directing the exhaust over the hood to the left)

OK, 50’ RG6 cable strung from antenna half-way through attic, then down an interior wall and into the basement ceiling. Ran short so put another 12’ onto it and then into splitter. I even had a better looking matching transformer for the antenna so used that. NOW it’s all brand new cable, RG6 quad shielded (yeah, fancy overkill but what the heck) from antenna to splitter and from there it’s a 12’ from the splitter to the Tablo, also RG6.

I spent 90 minutes going from roof to attic, to roof again, to attic again, back to roof, etc. to get that cable through the roof ridge vent and out to the antenna. UGH, I hate that dusty insulation and crawling on narrow planks to I don’t drop through the ceiling…

Better results?

Geesh, any sort of amp, pre or distribution amp is a "special order" around here, there's no place you can just run to over lunch and buy one. 

Ping me using my username (all lower case) at the domain on the website I uploaded the splitters drawing to.  I have three of those 24dB two ports and I’ll send you one to play with.  I bought a couple more so I’d have two identical ones to play with combining my antennas and just said to heck with it and bought a second Tablo.  Two of the amps are still in the box and all of them are just sitting in the floor of the shop. 

I just haven’t come to the point where I sell my unneeded stuff on eBay yet.  Too much of a packrat.   :wink: