If your telly tends to go on the fritz when the Aussies come into bat then it might be time to do something about your digital television signal. Here are some tips.
These days you might spend more time watching Netflix than free-to-air television, but sport tends to bring even the most ardent of streaming video fans back to live television. If you've mostly ignored live broadcasts during the year then it can be a rude shock to be reminded of how terrible your free-to-air picture looks.
Back in the days of analogue television a weak signal meant that you were forced to deal with the occasional summer snow storm while watching the cricket, but in the digital age a weak signal sees the picture stutter and freeze. It's tempting to blame all your woes on your antenna, but chances are the source of your troubles is closer to your television.
Living in a valley in suburban Melbourne means that my television, radio and mobile broadband reception have always been a little flaky. I also have more than my fair share of electrical and wireless gear in the lounge room, which makes my home a hotbed of wireless interference, so until now I've focused on dealing with local interference issues rather than worrying about the antenna on the roof.
When I first moved house I wrote about the process of pulling apart my lounge room to battle interference when trying to watch our first Tour de France in our new home. In a nutshell, one of the the best things you can do is to use RG6 quad-shield aerial cables, preferably with screw-in F-connectors. Also try not to put wireless gear too close to your television and avoid running your aerial cables alongside power cables.
These simple changes can make a big difference, they've certainly helped in my lounge room, but there's only so much you can do if the television signal is compromised before it even comes out of the wall. This week I finally got around to calling in an antenna expert and we improved my free-to-air signal significantly, even though we didn't touch the antenna.
Looking at the antenna from the street, the guy was confident that it wasn't the source of my problems so we headed inside. The first thing he picked up on is that I'd accidently broken my own rules and used standard aerial cable in one spot – a budget cable which probably came in the box with something – rather than opting for RG6 quad-shield cable.
After running a few tests we discovered that the most significant issue was the wall socket behind the television. The signal strength and quality improved significantly after the antenna guy popped off the wall plate, cut the end of the cable and wired up a new socket. With the improved signal we could get rid of the powered splitter in the lounge room and replace it with a passive 2-way F-connector splitter.
Sometimes a powered splitter is the best tool for the job but the trouble is they also amplify the problems in the signal. I always assumed the problems were caused by interference from the other devices in my lounge room rather than a questionable wall socket.
With the wall socket off the guy could see the cheap aerial cable that runs up through the wall to the antenna. If I lived in a single story house we would have replaced it with RG6 quad-shield cable all the way up to the antenna, but it would be a difficult job in my home so we decided to wait and see whether we've already done enough to improve the signal.
It's still early days but things are looking promising for the Boxing Day test. How is the television reception in your lounge room and what tricks have you tried to improve it?