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View Full Version : How to improve Cable TV picture?


goatweed
09-18-01, 02:52 PM
I have a 36" Sony XBR400, and I am in Staten Island, NY receiving Time Warner Cable. I have heard and read that the picture quality on a high-end set is largely related to the signal strength that a Cable or even Satellite provider is using. I have even read that when possible, calling the cable or satellite company to increase the signal or have them come to the house and calibrate it would be a good idea (I think this would be more for cable than satellite subscribers). In any event, I called my local TW and got a rep on the phone who basically sounded as if I spoke Chinese to him - he said that the cable signal strength cannot be "boosted" by them from their office or even locally, and suggested that I consider a signal booster which could be bought from the local Radio Shack. Upon this (and others) recommendations, I did just that, connected it properly, and I really do not notice any difference in picture quality (not worse, but not better). I even returned the first booster I bought for a stronger one, same results. Is there something I am missing? I would also like to add that I am using a converter box that was not necessarilly supplied by my cable provider, but I tested all of this using my box and the "official" box from TW. Both put out the same quality of picture.

Brian Shannon
09-18-01, 04:21 PM
IMHO you can't.

I have the exact same TV. First of all it makes poor programming sources look awful.

Second, although they can boost the signal strength that may not help as a signal that is too strong will exhibit other problems.

My answer?

If you can switch to DSS do so. Otherwise, soften the picture and learn to live with it.

Sorry I cannot be more encouraging.

As a side note, my old TV was a 27XBR250. I went through the EXACT same thing with my cable company. A technician came to my house and the minute he saw my tv he said "well you will notice problems before anyone else because of the quality of your tv." I've had DSS ever since.

Einsatz
09-18-01, 07:01 PM
Ok, now if you boost the signal, doesn't the signal-to-noise ratio tell us that you're essentially boosting the noise as well?
I'm not a video guy but I am a networking guy and if you're getting a crappy picture, boosting the power will just increase the noise...

Check out
this S/N Ratio on Video page (http://www.cctv-information.co.uk/constant2/sn_ratio.html) which deals mostly with cctv but hey, you get the idea. Like the thing says in bold, you use crappy stuff you get crappy results.
Your TV may kick ass but apparently the CATV infrastructure in your area sucks.

Ask if you get digital cable in your area. That way you can get digital noise, like I had in Rochester, NY. Right now I'm back to Analog crap in Alexandria, VA and wish I was getting digital crap instead of analog ;)

ngp
09-19-01, 12:45 PM
I agree that getting a Satellite system will greatly improve the picture.

Also, regardless of DSS or Cable, try to have as few splits in the cable as possible....the more you have, the greater signal loss.

goatweed
09-19-01, 03:13 PM
I concur, a satellite feed would be a huge improvement over an anlog cable feed, but currently $$ is somewhat of an issue. A friend of mine has DirecTV and a basic RCA 32", and I can clearly see on his television that the quality is much better. I was just hoping there was someway to attain a better "grade" of picture with my current setup. Thanks to all who replied - much appreciated! :)

Scott
09-19-01, 06:20 PM
Originally posted by Einsatz
Ok, now if you boost the signal, doesn't the signal-to-noise ratio tell us that you're essentially boosting the noise as well?


Yes, that's exactly true. I use a signal amplifier because I have a number of splits on my cable. The amp is adjustable, and the process is to see how high to boost without distorting the picture. For example, at about half-gain, I get a great picture. If I go above 5/8 gain, the picture deteriorates quickly.

0ne
09-20-01, 04:00 AM
Line conditioners can boost the quality of your cavle signal amazingly as well as improve the sound of your system and the quality of your tv picture and save you $$$ on your electricity bill.

Here are some popular ones.

Monster 2500
http://audioreview.com/reviews/Other/product_5521.shtml

Monster 2000
http://audioreview.com/reviews/Other/product_5524.shtml

Monster 3000
http://audioreview.com/reviews/Other/product_5523.shtml

PS Audio
http://audioreview.com/reviews/Other/product_5550.shtml

try one, i bet your problem is due to dirty power, it worked wonders for me and my neighbors.

Janitor
09-20-01, 07:36 PM
Lot's of reasonable suggestions that I'm pretty sure I'm going to cover again, but what the heck - at least I'm trying.

* - That a TV is high end, doesn't mean it's going to have more of a problem with a bad signal than a low end TV. What can make a difference would be size & resolution. As size goes up, any artifacting, etc from noise do also. If resolution goes up (like in an HDTV), your set will do a better job of resolving the noise and happily display it for you where it may have been lost in the fuzzyness of an older or lower resolution set.

* - Adding gain to the signal will indeed add gain to the whole signal, noise included. Usually not a great solution.

* - Each time you split your 75ohm cable, you'll incure about a 3db loss (about 1/2 the signal!). Ideally, here's where you DO want to amplify things at about 3db per split. Youv'e got the right of that, but I'm a bit mystified as to why it goes to s**t on you when you increase the gain just a bit past some given point.

* - Line filter might be a good guess. But I suspect it wont yield the fix you're looking for. Probably worth a try, but to get a <i>decent</i> one plan on it probably being more than $100. And they can go <i>way</i> up from there.

At the end of the day, this could just be that your cable signal sucks. How does the set look with other program sources? If you're splitting the cable several times, are you sure the connections you have are good ones? Are the cables used in the runs through your house decent ones (like for <u>sure</u> 75ohm coax)?

A last question - what is the nature of your bad picture? Noise? Wavy diagonal lines? Can't pick up anything but the "All Shopping, All The Time" network (ASATT)?

goatweed
09-20-01, 07:55 PM
* - Each time you split your 75ohm cable, you'll incure about a 3db loss (about 1/2 the signal!). Ideally, here's where you DO want to amplify things at about 3db per split. Youv'e got the right of that, but I'm a bit mystified as to why it goes to s**t on you when you increase the gain just a bit past some given point.
There is only one split, right where the cable line comes into the apartment. The television set is about 3 1/2 feet away from the point of entry. The other line runs into the bedroom, which is about 15 feet away from the entry point - picture isn't all that great in there either, but its on a small (19" JVC) TV. The bedroom isn't an issue, thats just there for the wife when she wants to watch something the same time a Yankee game happens to be on :)
* - Line filter might be a good guess. But I suspect it wont yield the fix you're looking for. Probably worth a try, but to get a good one plan on it probably being more than $100.
I don't mind shelling out a few $$, my concern is getting more "bang for my buck". I shelled out $1,800 for the TV, so $100 or so more for a better picture won't hurt.
At the end of the day, this could just be that your cable signal sucks. How does the set look with other program sources? If you're splitting the cable several times, are you sure the connections you have are good ones? Are the cables used in the runs through your house decent ones (like for sure 75ohm coax)?
With the VCR, the picture looks ok - its a 3 year old 4 head HIFI Sanyo (I know, I know - I'm working on getting a better one), and DVD's look splendid (especially after I did a little tweaking with Vid Essentials). The cables are stock cables - they're white, not black, but they do have "75 Ohm" stamped on the rubber shell. I also checed the end-connections, to be sure they were crimped nice and tight, and they were.
A last question - what is the nature of your bad picture? Noise?Wavy diagonal lines? Can't pick up anything but the "all shopping all the time network"?
The wife would LOVE to have nothing but the shop at home netowrk play 24/7! Basically, its an issue of grainy picture on some channels, a slight "flickering" on other channels, or downright harsh colors (esp. reds - despite having tweaked the color and contrast). I don't see ghosting, no wavy lines - just not as clear as I think it could be. Again, I do realize it is analog cable, and digital would be ideal, if not satellite, but thats just not in the cards for me - yet.

Janitor
09-20-01, 08:13 PM
Originally posted by dvddude23

*snip*
The wife would LOVE to have nothing but the shop at home netowrk play 24/7! Basically, its an issue of grainy picture on some channels, a slight "flickering" on other channels, or downright harsh colors (esp. reds - despite having tweaked the color and contrast). I don't see ghosting, no wavy lines - just not as clear as I think it could be. Again, I do realize it is analog cable, and digital would be ideal, if not satellite, but thats just not in the cards for me - yet.

Ok, 1st. If you don't mind spending the bux on something <u>I don't think</u> will address this problem, line conditioners are pretty cool adons to the HT setup. A decent one (like the Monster 2000) will filter between all the componants connected to it, as well as filter your HT from home based noise. (like the vacum cleaner). But again, I don't think this will address your problems.

In fact, I'm not sure what will address your problems. From the description of your picture, it simply sounds like bad cable (Bad cable. Bad boy!). Not much that can be done about that except "upgrading" to DSS, which I realize isn't an option for you at the moment.

Ok. One more try at the problem though - You say you don't get ghosting. Is this true for all channels? Does TW provide local programing? If so, that's probably the best place to look for ghosting. A leaky cable (read : noisy connection) can let local OTA signal come in out of sync with the local signal being relayed by the cable company causing ghosts.

BTW - You might want to try a cry for help in the hometheaterspot.com forums. Lot's of very helpful, very knowladgable people there (and most of them can actually spell!).

WhattheFFF
09-20-01, 08:43 PM
[i]How to improve Cable TV picture? [/B]

Get Direct TV

GMLSKIS
09-21-01, 02:06 AM
I have the Sony 32XBR400 and have the same problems. Unfortunatly with regular cable on these expensive XBR's the set makes excellant reception look great but fair reception look poor. A good DVD looks as great as any picture can but cable recption runs the gambit. I will eventually get satallite which I have seen looking good on these Sony's in the store. Until you get satallite too make sure it is calabrated well and just learn to live with it. I like the THX Optimode calibration results better than from the Avia DVD for my TV.