HD Antenna for Tuner Card

I'm a little confused and I was hoping someone could straighten me out. I have a 50" Sony HDTV as well as an ATI TV Wonder 650. The 650 says it can record Over-the-Air HD channels with the use of an external antenna. On my TV, however, I have no external antenna, only the cable coming out of the wall into the cable box, and I receive the over the air HD channels just fine (note that my digital cable package does not include the HD channels). Why am I able to receive the over the air HD channels on my TV without an antenna, while the tuner card says it needs one? Do I really need to go get an external antenna for my card? If so, any suggestions for which antenna I should buy?

Note: I also live within 10 miles of the broadcast towers. Can someone help me out?
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  1. either your tv has a built in antenna, or you live really really close to a hd tans. either way, an external antenna would pick up more chan. and better image quality.
  2. For those who are interested, I may have answered my own question. I searched around on http://www.hdtvtunerinfo.com/hdtvpctunerqam.html and I believe the reason my TV can get the HD signals without an antenna and my ATI TV Wonder 650 cannot is because the TV is QAM compliant and the tuner card is not.

    According to the site, QAM capable cards can receive the HD channels without an antenna simply by plugging in the cable from the wall provided you receive cable service. However, not only does my card not support QAM, even if it did, Vista currently does not support it either. Not to say it won't in the future, but as of the date the info was posted on the site, QAM cards won't work in Vista (at least as far as the cable-delivered HD signals are concerned).

    This info would have been very good to know when I was originally picking out tuner cards, so anyone who can elaborate further, please do. Also, if anyone has any recommendations for a good antenna to use for the "Over-the-Air" HD channels, please let me know.
  3. Just to correct myself, Vista may support QAM cards after all. I found the following article on microsoft.com that talks about the varying types of video signals that are supported by Windows Vista.


    Specifically, it says:

    "QAM. Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) is the digital cable standard in the United States. Windows Media Center supports QAM signals with a Digital Cable Tuner in the United States."

    The top of the article said that the discussion applied to Home Premium and Ultimate, so I'm assuming we should take Microsoft's word for it.

    Sorry for any conflicting information.
  4. Check out this link:


    From my reading broadcast information is sent on various standards:

    NTSC is analog.
    ATSC is digital.
    QAM64 is digital cable.
    QAM256 is HD digital cable.

    Encryption is seperate from the transmission standard.

    I think what MS is stating is that you need a tuner and service provider to get broadcast content (OTA or Cable) in Media Center. You also need the windows drivers for that tuner. The tuner and service provider determine what is available to Media Center provided there is a driver for the tuner. You will see tuner cards claiming to be able to receive one or more of the standards, sometimes needing different input connections for them.

    Hope this helps.
  5. Your best source of info about this can be found at thegreenbutton.com. ATi sells a QAM tuner to OEMs, who can apply for and achieve CableCard certification so that you can plug a CableCard into the tuner card and receive both non-encrypted and encrypted QAM digital cable - HD or otherwise.

    Some tuner cards are beginning to appear that support unencrypted QAM, but I'm not sure whether those are compatible with Vista or require a separate tuner application to view. Read the specs carefully. Even if it says, "Supports MCE" or "Supports Vista", that doesn't mean it supports QAM on MCE or Vista - it might just be OTA that it supports.

    There is a network-based appliance that can also tune unencrypted QAM signals and that you can jury-rig to MCE and Vista to watch digital cable through the Media Center interface.
  6. I did some quick research for you.

    The ATI Wonder allows you to receive over the Air HDTV.

    In other words, it has an ATSC tuner (also has a standard analog tuner for regular broadcast). This means, if you connect a TV antenna to the card, and you have local TV stations near by (that are broadcasting over air HD, which most do now days), you can receive them via the All in Wonder 650 using the ATSC tuner.

    This tuner does not work for cable. To receive the cable HD, you must have the service and their box.
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