RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling
2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed
formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit
design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at
the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps
while typing up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got
Mail" when a new message arrived...
All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images
and text used on the RF Cafe website are hereby acknowledged.
Able Signal Amplified Digital Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Motorized 360° Rotation,
UHF/VHF/FM Radio with Infrared Remote Control
Update: My Able Signal Amplified Digital Outdoor HDTV Antenna has
been sold and replaced with a Channel Master multi-element antenna and a vintage
TennaRotor in my garage attic.
Since I do not have time to watch television on a regular basis, paying for a
cable or satellite subscription cannot be justified. My plan was to install a traditional
FM/VHF/UHF television antenna on the roof along with a
rotator. Some pretty nice models are still available
RCA, and a few others. TV broadcast stations
in the Erie area are all within 10 miles or so, so signal strength would not be
an issue. I listen to both AM and FM radio most of the day, so being able to get
an FM signal boost from a steerable antenna would be a nice bonus since occasionally
reorienting the FM dipole was needed to get a clear signal. The entire outfit would
cost less than a year's subscription price for cable or satellite television.
Once I made the decision to go ahead and order all the components, I found a
compact rooftop antenna with a built-in preamplifier and built-in rotator control
Able Signal Amplified Digital Outdoor HDTV Antenna
with Motorized 360° Rotation, UHF/VHF/FM Radio with Infrared Remote Control.
It cost a whopping $33, and the only thing else needed was a $12 mounting mast and
a $15 lightning arrestor. The antenna even came with 50 feet of coax cable. DC power
for the rotator motor and preamplifier is fed on the
center conductor and shield. A total of
$65 is invested, including mounting bolts and a few cable clamps. It was a small
financial risk to potentially keep from spending around $350 for a traditional setup,
and the installation was much simpler, to boot. Amazon has a pretty good return
plan if you're not happy with a product, so that made the risk even less.
As a matter of fact, I did contact Amazon about getting a return authorization
for the antenna since while it performed excellently for all the Erie TV stations
and even ones in Toronto, Canada, the FM gain was not very good. They approved a
return, but I decided to keep the setup since it would be worth the money just for
the television channels. While doing the antenna installation work, I relocated
my FM radio dipole antenna to the garage attic and managed to find a sweet spot
that has worked perfectly all day, every day. Now, I am in over-the-air broadcast
For those interested in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, you might appreciate a
couple photos I took of the installation. The first thing I did was put a little
effort into straightening the antenna elements so they would be more parallel to
each other than as supplied. I realize that once they were spread out on the boom
the misalignment would probably be negligible, but a little careful bending made
for a more geometrically correct antenna. The
old 'waste not want not' adage applies to antenna gain as well as to anything else.
I couldn't easily achieve a better alignment because of the way the molded plastic
element holders were oriented (loose manufacturing tolerances).
Fortunately, the most convenient place for mounting the antenna on my roof happed
to be over the garage, which has an open ceiling (no drywall). Since I was working
alone (Melanie does not like being on a roof or up in an attic), I needed a way
to hold the mounting bolt heads while I went below to install the washers and nuts.
The solution was to clamp a set of Vise Grip pliers to each bolt head and then crawl
into the garage attic to do the rest. It worked out very nicely and only required
a single trip to the attic. The coaxial cable got routed through a hole under the
shingle ridge cap with some
Duct Seal crammed around it to keep the critters
Overall, the antenna unit is pretty cheaply
made, but it received great reviews from most buyers. For $33 you can afford to
buy a new one every couple years if it goes bad. The rotator motion is smooth and
quiet. One drawback of the rotator compared to a Channel Master type is that there
is not indication of which way the antenna is pointing. It takes 30 seconds to complete
a full rotation, including the point at which is stops and changes direction automatically.
There is no forward and reverse whereby you can 'hunt' for a sweet spot. If you
rotate past the point of maximum signal quality, it will be another 30 seconds until
you approach it from the other direction. With the Channel Master rotator control,
you can note the exact position of the antenna on the controller box and return
to each position for a given channel. It has not been a problem thus far, though,
since I always tune the same station on the rare occasion the television is turned
on at all (other than to watch old TV sitcoms on DVD).
Video: Able Signal Amplified Digital Outdoor