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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 12:17 PM
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kadiir
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Image quality

Hello:

I just bought the Pioneer DVD Recorder/Tivo & an 80 hour Tivo (overlapping recordings, so I needed 2) and the image quality is horrible. The former connects via component cables to a 32" Sony wega tv (flat screen crt) and the latter to a 20" sony (regular crt).

While watching Live TV it is very 'staticy" even with the RF smoothing turned on. This is the same on both Tivos (different rooms).

So far, I've only recorded one show, but at Medium quality it looked like VHS EP on a tape that has been overwritten 5-10 times.

I would expect that it would have been better than that. I basically swapped out my VCRs for the Tivo boxes so the Tivos are using the exact same hookups as the VCRs and the VCRs did not have very poor 'live' views - they looked crystal clear (for NTSC anyway).

I'm doing a 'fine' (IIRC) recording tonight to see how it looks, but I was really hoping to use medium (or lower) otherwise I'm going to run out of space fast (I record about 12 hours of shows per week and am several weeks behind).

Any ideas?

kad

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 12:55 PM
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ccwf
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So, you are using a split cable with no cable boxes? If so, are you sure your cable strength is within specs? DVRs (and to an extent cable modems) are more sensitive to cable strength issues than VCRs and TVs.

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 08:23 PM
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quote:
Originally posted by ccwf
So, you are using a split cable with no cable boxes? If so, are you sure your cable strength is within specs? DVRs (and to an extent cable modems) are more sensitive to cable strength issues than VCRs and TVs.


Yes, sorry for leaving out some detail.

The cable comes in and is split to 3 rooms - let's call them A, B, & C. A is where the Pioneer is. When it gets to A, I split it again w/ a 2-way splitter with one line going to the TV and one going to the Tivo (and then from the Tivo to a VCR).

Room B is where my cable modem lies (no TV viewing is done there).

Room C is where the regular TV is and it has the same setup as Room A.

All splitters say "SV" on them and 5-1,000 MHz and were provided by the cable company.

It would have been nice to know ahead of time that DVRs are more sensitive. Is there anything I can do to alleviate the problem? It's bad enough that I am considering returning the Tivos and going back to the VCRs

kad

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ZikZak is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 08:54 PM
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ZikZak
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It's almost certainly the splitters, then. You're using a bunch, and as ccwf said, DVRs are extremely sensitive to degredation in signal. There is a solution, though, that usually works pretty well: get a line amplifier from Radio Shack and install it upstream of the TiVo.

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 10:43 PM
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ccwf
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Furthermore, typical 3-way splitters have a ~3.5dB loss on one output port and ~6.5dB loss on the other two, and your cable company is likely to have attached your cable modem to the 3.5dB loss port. 6.5dB loss from the 3-way splitter + 3.5dB loss from the 2-way splitter + loss from the length of the cable run totals at least ~10dB of loss, meaning that your TiVo is getting no more than about a tenth of the signal coming into your home (every 10dB is a factor of ten).

Options:

  • If your cable modem can stand it, you might try attaching your TiVo's room's run of cable to the 3.5dB loss port of the 3-way splitter and the cable modem to one of the 6.5dB loss ports. That will double the signal getting to your TiVo but halve the signal getting to your cable modem.
  • Another alternative is to get one of the less common balanced 3-way splitters, which have ~5.5dB loss on all three output ports. That would also increase the signal getting to your TiVo and decrease the signal getting to your cable modem but not by as much as simply swapping ports on a 3.5/6.5dB loss 3-way splitter.
  • Get a line amplifier from Radio Shack or your cable company.
  • See if you can get the cable company to boost the signal coming into your home.
  • Eliminate the splitter in the TiVo's room and use TiVo's standby mode instead to do RF pass-thru to your TV.
If you weren't aware of the last option, try that first.

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 11:35 PM
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kadiir
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quote:
Originally posted by ccwf
[snip]
Options:
[snip]



Thanks for all of the ideas! Maybe there's hope.

quote:
If you weren't aware of the last option, try that first.


Yeah, that just occured to me this morning, but I didn't have time to test it.

It never ceases to amaze me how my troubleshooting skills go out the window when I'm at home (I've been doing network engineering & implmentation for 3 years now & desktop/server support for 7)

kad

Last edited by kadiir on 12-03-2003 at 11:43 PM

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 11:36 PM
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kadiir
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quote:
Originally posted by ZikZak
It's almost certainly the splitters, then. You're using a bunch, and as ccwf said, DVRs are extremely sensitive to degredation in signal. There is a solution, though, that usually works pretty well: get a line amplifier from Radio Shack and install it upstream of the TiVo.


How far upstream? Right after the first split (where the cable comes into the house and is split to the 3 rooms) or one of the equipment splits?

Jeff

Last edited by kadiir on 12-03-2003 at 11:44 PM

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 11:48 PM
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ccwf
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Yes, right after the first split if possible. If you get an amplifier and the quality is still bad, you might also consider replacing the 3-way splitter (which is likely internally two 2-way splitters) with two 2-ways so that the amplifier can be moved one step further upstream.

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Tristana Moore, BBC News: Arts promoter Christof Blaesius wants to rebuild the [Berlin] wall and have it decorated by artists from around the world. The idea is proving controversial.

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-03-2003 11:59 PM
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kadiir
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quote:
Originally posted by ccwf

  • Another alternative is to get one of the less common balanced 3-way splitters, which have ~5.5dB loss on all three output ports. That would also increase the signal getting to your TiVo and decrease the signal getting to your cable modem but not by as much as simply swapping ports on a 3.5/6.5dB loss 3-way splitter.



When looking at splitters at Radio Shack, I see a dB number on the connections (e.g., one had all at 7.5dB and another had 3.5dB) - is that the loss?

kad

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-04-2003 12:27 AM
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ccwf
Good holiday spirit!

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quote:
Originally posted by kadiir
When looking at splitters at Radio Shack, I see a dB number on the connections (e.g., one had all at 7.5dB and another had 3.5dB) - is that the loss?
Sounds right.

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Tristana Moore, BBC News: Arts promoter Christof Blaesius wants to rebuild the [Berlin] wall and have it decorated by artists from around the world. The idea is proving controversial.

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-04-2003 08:53 PM
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kadiir
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I put in the RS line amp in Room C just before the splitter and it worked!

At first, I did the option of running the room's run directly into the Tivo and then to the VCR and then TV. The Tivo looked better, although still 'grainy', but the VCR & TV looked terrible. So, I put in the line amp. That made the Tivo look great (what I would consider normal, actually), and while it improved the IQ of the VCR & TV it still looked bad.

So, I took the room's run, put in the amp, then the splitter w/ one output to the Tivo and the other to the VCR and then the TV. Things look fine now.

I'll try room A tonight (didn't have time). Hopefully, the larger screen will still look good.

I also want to try putting in an amp in the garage where the run from the street is split into the 3 room runs.

Would 2 10 dB amps (one before the first splitter and one after) be too much power? RS also sells a 7 dB amp that I could use for the garage.

Side note: I bought an RS splittler (w/ 3.5 dB loss per output) and put it in place of the Signal Vision splitter I had been using and the RS splitter looked noticably worse than the SV splitter.

kad

Last edited by kadiir on 12-04-2003 at 09:36 PM

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-04-2003 09:20 PM
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kadiir
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Oh, I take that back.

Last night it looked fine, but this morning it looks grainy again (maybe I was just too tired to see it properly last night; it was kinda late).

It still looks better than before I put the amp in, though, but still unacceptable.

kad

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ZikZak is offline Old Post 12-04-2003 10:41 PM
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ZikZak
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Maybe this morning you were watching a program that was recorded before you installed the amp?

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-05-2003 01:46 AM
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kadiir
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quote:
Originally posted by ZikZak
Maybe this morning you were watching a program that was recorded before you installed the amp?


Nope, Live TV and I tried about 10 channels of varying programming and brightness levels.

Most of them looked grainy (for example, black wasn't black - it had some color pixels).

I said earilier that it was unacceptable, and I should clarify that - it is now like VHS EP on a tape that has been used once or twice, but it's still annoying. I would like to see it at least as good as EP SVHS (note the S) level for Live TV (and recordings of some level below best quality, preferably basic, but I could live with medium).

Are my expectations just too high for a DVR? I thought it would be of near-broadcast quality, but it isn't even close for me.

kad

Last edited by kadiir on 12-05-2003 at 02:58 AM

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-05-2003 01:58 AM
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ccwf
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Most people consider TiVo's Best quality to be as good as or better than (but different from) the best quality with SVHS. This is less than broadcast quality, however.

Can you temporarily remove all your splits and see if that makes a difference? Did you ever have a cable company tech come out and measure your signal strength? (Amplifying a bad signal doesn't help.)

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Tristana Moore, BBC News: Arts promoter Christof Blaesius wants to rebuild the [Berlin] wall and have it decorated by artists from around the world. The idea is proving controversial.

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-05-2003 03:05 AM
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kadiir
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quote:
Originally posted by ccwf
Most people consider TiVo's Best quality to be as good as or better than (but different from) the best quality with SVHS. This is less than broadcast quality, however.


Ah, okay - now I know what to look for. Thanks.

quote:
Can you temporarily remove all your splits and see if that makes a difference?


That was going to be next step after I checked room A w/ an amp. The first splitter is out in the garage in the rafters, so I haven't done it, yet (hopefully tonight)

quote:
Did you ever have a cable company tech come out and measure your signal strength?


I emailed a ticket in from work this morning. I haven't gotten a response, so I'll call later. Hopefully, Comcast will be helpful

quote:
(Amplifying a bad signal doesn't help.)


Heh, that's about as much as I knew already with this whole thing Thanks, though!

kad

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-05-2003 07:51 PM
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Okay, I checked out the garage connection last night. I made a mistake earlier about how things are split.

From the street, there's a 1-to-2 splitter (3.5dB on both ports) in the garage. One port goes directly to Room A and it has some kind of connector (a filter, maybe) between the splitter and the cable connector (it's nearly the same diameter as the coax, just a little bigger, and about 2 inches long). The other port goes into the attic over the house where it is split again for Room B & C (another 1-to-2 way w/ 3.5dB loss each).

So, that explains why Room C looked a little worse than A (I didn't mention it before as I was attributing it to the age of the TVs - 3 years in A vs. 10-11 years in B).

I coupled the initial garage run before the first splitter directly to Room A's run and it looked slightly better than just removing A's in-room splitter (still not good enough). So, I put the garage splitter back in place & put in another line amp, this time in A just before that splitter. and it is now like C - much better but still not there, yet.

As a comparison, I looked at a prior SVHS EP recording (Third Watch) (on a tape that's on it's 3rd or 4th use) and they looked about the same.

Comcast is coming out next week (currently Monday, but I'm waiting to see if my boss will let me work from home that afternoon; if not, it'll be next Saturday as I already have plans this weekend that can't be changed, fyi).

kad

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kadiir is offline Old Post 12-10-2003 05:58 AM
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Comcast came out this morning. They tested the signal strenth in Room A with & without that room's splitter & tested it at the street. I forget what the numbers were for Room A, but the guy kept saying they were low (he was checking Channels 2 & 7).

On the street, Ch. 2 had 7dB, Ch. 7 had 8dB, and Channel 105 had 25.something dB. He called another tech who told him that they check signal on Ch. 105 and determine if it is sufficient from there.

So, he said that was normal even though he admitted that the low channels had poor signal. He said all he could do is stick in a 25dB amp (full bandwidth, I assume). He said I should stick w/ my 10 dB RS amps as the 25dB amp would probably screw up the higher channels.

Oh, he also checked my neighbors signal and it was basically the same (he only checked one channel).

So, I'm SOL as far as Comcast is concerned.

Any other ideas given this post & the correct topology as given in my previous post? Are there multi-port, low loss splitters available? If I stick an amp in front of the first spltter or on the splittler between the garage & Room B & C's splitter, won't that screw up the cable modem?

kad

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ccwf is offline Old Post 12-10-2003 07:55 AM
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ccwf
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I'm going to assume those dB figures you cited were downstream signal to noise figures. If so, they do indeed sound quite low (to compare, my Surfboard cable modem says the recommended SnR is more than 30dB, and indeed my actual SnR as measured by the cable modem is 35dB).

The best you can do with a 2-way splitter is a 3dB loss since 3dB is a factor of two.

There are amplifiers that can work with cable modems. I don't believe the low-end Radio Shack models are in this category, but I've read Best Buy sells such amps. Before you do that, turn off your cable modem temporarily, stick your Radio Shack amp in front of the first splitter, and see if that really makes a noticeable difference.

But it sounds like the main problem is that the signal entering your house and your neighbor's is low in the first place, as the cable tech admitted. I would try calling the cable company again (and maybe have your neighbor call, too) to get an explanation of why it's low and to ask them why isn't there anything they could do about it. It might take kicking this up a couple of levels (of techs) to get real action. Also, if you can get your neighbors to complain, too, that might help urge Comcast to fix the problem.

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vodtech is offline Old Post 06-01-2004 02:58 AM
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Similar problem

Hi. I'd like to take advantage of some of the expertise on this thread, so let me detail my question.

I have Cablevision digital service, which is actually a hybrid analog (channels 2-106 or so) / digital (above 106). I have a cable modem, just so we're all thinking bi-directional at the outset.

My main service comes in to my mechanical room (I live in an apartment), where three individual cable runs to rooms in the apartment start. I use only two of these right now, although I have an interest in using the third at some point in the future.

Right away, I start with a 2-way, -3.5dB splitter. One output goes to the living room, where the video equipment (TiVo, VCR) resides, so as to give it the cleanest signal. The other output gets split again by a 2-way splitter, with one output going to the master bedroom, the other staying right in the mechanical room where I've recently relocated the cable modem, which connects to a new wireless router/firewall. Moving the cable modem and firewall to the mechanical room (they used to be in the bedroom) allowed me to move my server out here, hardwired to the integral Ethernet switch, while allowing my laptops to communicate via the wireless.

Once we hit the living room, another 2-way, -3.5dB splitter is in place. One output goes to the TiVo, the other to the VCR, and the passthrough of the VCR (which is mostly off) goes to the cable box.

The signal to the TiVo (-7.0dB loss from the two splitters plus the RG6 cable loss) is pretty clean. However, by the time it reaches the cable box (-7.0dB plus an unknown loss from the VCR inline) it's not as good as it could be, particularly on some of the upper analog channels.

Let me stop here and say that some of you may be wondering about the whole arrangement of the TiVo, VCR, and cable box. Please take it on faith that I have my reasons, and that, except for maybe changing to a three-way (if I can find one) or four-way splitter in the living room, to give each of the devices a coax input, I don't want to make any changes. There's a story of how I record and why, but that's for another time.

What I'm looking for are suggestions regarding splitters and amplifiers to give me the cleanest signal. I've gleaned from reading the other postings on the thread that I'll want a bidirectional amplifier, located as far upstream as possible so as to start with the best S/N. In my current arrangement, the minimum signal loss for any of my devices is 7.0 dB (plus cable), as seen by the cable modem, the TiVo, the VCR, and the cable box in the bedroom. The cable box in the living room sees a lower, but unknown, signal.

Would I do well to get something in an 8 to 10 dB amplifier located before the first splitter out in the mechanical room? Does anyone have a brand and model for an amplifier, or amplified splitter, that is known to work with hybrid analog/digital cable systems?

Thanks.

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