SUMMARY I purchased the SensarPro to provide a stand-alone signal strength meter for TV system troubleshooting. It works great in this application when its operational attributes are understood and accommodated. WHY I CHOSE A SENSAR PRO As an aerospace...
I purchased the SensarPro to provide a stand-alone signal strength meter for TV system troubleshooting. It works great in this application when its operational attributes are understood and accommodated.
WHY I CHOSE A SENSAR PRO
As an aerospace engineer faced with a poorly working TV system, the first thing I wanted was better data on what channels were available, where they were located, what frequencies they were broadcasting on, and what their signal strength was at the TV location with my existing TV system. The web provided the first three, and I surveyed Amazon for Digital TV signal strength meters and came up empty handed except for Winegard''s RFL-332 SensarPro for around 70 bucks (made for RV use). The price was right for the SensarPro unit, but the reviews were mixed for using the SensarPro in other than its intended RV setting married to a winegard-compatible RV antenna.
So I bought the SensarPro unit (betting that I could get it to work with my existing TV system) AND I bought a compatible winegard antenna (the RVW-205) in case I needed a known compatible antenna with pretty good reviews. Bottom line...the RFL-332 SensarPro works like a champ as a universal signal strength meter, but one needs to block the 12V it feeds into the antenna coax when used with non-compatible antenna systems. In its intended application the SensarPro sends out 12VDC from the antenna input coax jack to power the preamplifier that is located in the Sensar RV antennas. If a 12V compatible preamp (as is used on the Winegard antenna) is not located upstream from the SensarPro, this 12VDC needs to be blocked using a DC blocker located on the antenna terminal of the SensarPro. For the DC blocker I used a unit from eBay similar to Amazon''s "DC Voltage Block Coupler Adapter 5-2300 MHz Voltage Blocking Female to Male Nickel Plate Insertion Voltage Block 1 Pack Coaxial Coupler Audio Video DC Volt Blocking Adapter Connector."
Because the SensarPro is designed for wall mounting in an RV, it does not come with a case. So I made a case as shown in the attached photos of my repackaged SensarPro unit, both inside and outside. The box is the Hammond 1591DSBK ABS Project Box Black sold on Amazon, and I acquired the output-terminal lock nuts from a 2-pack of Allen Tel CT721 In-Line Splice F-Connectors from Amazon. There is room inside the box for a Li-ion 12V battery, but I chose to just put a 12V power jack on the box as shown. This allowed me to either plug the box into a 12VDC power adapter, or use a 12V battery for portable testing applications. My 12V Li-ion battery and power adapter is a Talentcell 12V DC Output Lithium Ion Battery Pack For LED Strip/Light/Panel/Amplifier and CCTV Camera with Charger, Multi-LED indicator Black (3000mAh) sold on Amazon.
HOW DID IT WORK OUT
I used the SensarPro as both a stand-alone unit (with the voltage blocker) on my existing TV system as well as with my Winegard RVW-205 antenna driven by the Sensar Pro (without the DC blocker).
I found the unit very easy to use and it allowed me to quickly gather SS data on all the available TV RF channels and to measure the difference at different points in my antenna system (up near the antenna and down at the TV location after a 100 ft of coax. The one caution is to understand where DC voltages are being transmitted in ones cable system (for example to power antenna preamps and splitters) and to locate and use the SensarPro accordingly.
Note that the SensarPro channel readout is the RF channel value, not the broadcast TV channel number. For example, NBC Channel 3-1 in my area, is broadcast on UHF channel 35, so its signal strength shows up under RF channel 35. I used TVfool to map out the TV RF transmitting frequencies for the channels in my area.
For the TV system I assembled, I used the Winegard RVW-205 antenna mounted on an existing rotator on top of a 45-ft tower and powered the RVW-205 using a 15VDC voltage injector (PCT 120 VAC/15 VDC 300mA Injector) together with a PCT Power Inserter MPI-1G sold by Amazon. I also inserted a CM Model 3412 2-way 11dB-gain Splitter to split the signal for two TVs and pick up a bit more gain.
For my first test of the system I eliminated (bypassed) the 15VDC voltage injector and the powered splitter, and used instead, the Winegard SensarPro at the location of our main TV to power the RVW-205 antenna. The SensarPro, in addition to powering the preamp in the RVW-205, has a variable gain function that is supposed to provide additional gain similar to the powered splitter. The results of this test (with the SensarPro at its max 20 gain setting) were OK, but not up to expectations, probably due to the 120 ft of coax in the system at this point.
Next, I removed the SensarPro and added in my new PCT 15V voltage injector to power the RVW-205 antenna (with no power splitter yet at this point). What happened?...noticeably improved reception with the SensarPro out of the circuit. I had noticed this earlier when using the SensarPro to measure the signal strength of my original system. The SensarPro (even at max gain setting of 20) degrades the usable signal a noticeable amount.
As a final step I added in the CM Model 3412 2-way 11dB-gain Splitter between the RVW-205''s voltage injector and the TV. Result...another big jump up in reception quality. Now, almost perfect reception on all channels. In mapping out our channel options we now get over 50 stations of very clear reception with rarely any pixelization or audio dropouts.
***The SensarPro worked like a champ as a very flexible and easy to use signal strength meter to map out the signal strength of each RF channel with both conventional TV antenna systems (using a DC blocker to block SensarPro''s 12VDC output on its antenna terminal) and in its intended application with a powered Winegard RV antenna.
*** When powered by the SensarPro, Winegard''s RVW-205 antenna system lost performance as compared to its performance when powered by a fixed 12VDC supply. The SensarPro''s variable gain may help when receiving close-in high powered stations that overload the TV, but my situation involves just deep fringe reception with no nearby stations. For my application the SensarPro degraded performance even at its max gain setting of 20.
*** When powered by a separate 12V supply and amplified by an additional powered splitter, the Winegard RVW-205 RV antenna works extremely well (see my separate Amazon review for the antenna). BTW...For those using the RVW-205 in its intended RV application, ChannelMaster powered splitters are 12VDC powered, so they can run directly off the RV 12VDC system.