AM21 Sensitivity Reduced - Why?

Discussion in 'DIRECTV General Discussion' started by gcd0865, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. gcd0865

    gcd0865 Legend

    Jul 23, 2008
    Hi All:

    I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to provide yet another AM21 update, in case anyone else is experiencing the same situation. My second AM21 (in use since August 2009) failed on a recording about a month ago due to insufficient signal strength, on a 25-mile station received at a signal strength of 83-85 on my tv tuner, and at pretty much the exact same level on both my first and second AM21s when they were new. Unfortunately, the signal strength numbers declined over time on my second AM21 (just as they did for the first unit), and I again lost my 50-65-mile stations first, and then my intermediate (25-mile) station. Signal level on that 25-mile station (that had originally been around 83-85) was in the mid-30s on the AM21 (but still 83-85 on my tv's tuner) when the first recording on that station failed a month ago.

    I did the usual checking of the antenna connections and wiring to/from my main receiver (upgraded earlier this year from HR21 to HR24), and was convinced that the same gradual degrade was occurring to this second AM21 unit as happened to the first. I called DirecTV, and they ran me through a series of reboots of both my main receiver and unplugging and replugging of the AM21 connections, with no change. The DirecTV rep was unable to find the AM21 on their system, but assured me that I could order a new unit from them, and the rep credited me $10/month on each of my next 6 months' worth of invoices to cover the replacement cost (which was actually $53, including shipping).

    A few days later, the new unit arrived, in the exact same kind of AM21 box as for my two previous units, but this time containing the new AM21N version of the unit (matte exterior instead of glossy, and labeled on the back as AM21N). No markings on the exterior of the box show the "N" version, though. I removed my existing (second) AM21 unit from my console, and hooked up the new AM21N without changing any of the existing wiring, using everything exactly as before (as I did previously when swapping out the first unit for the second one). Powered up the new unit, entered in two zip codes for two markets, and all over-the-air stations (even the farthest 50-65-mile stations) instantly came in again just fine (just as they did the last time when I replaced my first unit). On this (third) unit, however, I do note that the signal levels are about 2-3 points lower than they are on my tv's signal meter (I'm pretty sure they were identical before), but I guess that's close enough.

    One difference I noticed with this new AM21N unit - where the signal strength meters on both of my previous AM21 units could not show any numbers below 30 (below that, they would just drop instantly to zero), this new AM21N unit can display signal strength numbers in the 10s and 20s, even though a picture can only be decoded correctly (without dropouts) with a signal strength above about 35 (same as before).

    Like the second unit, I've placed this third AM21N unit away from my main (now HR24) receiver to avoid any possibility of heat being an issue, but I don't think that's been the cause of this recurring problem. Only thing I can think is that some component in these units must be degrading over time, making the units less usable and eventually non-usable.

    In any event, I wanted to share this with the forum in case anyone else is experiencing the same problem, and perhaps DirecTV is aware of this issue, since they readily volunteered covering the replacement cost this time (unlike the previous time, where I eventually got it covered, but at a later time). It'll be interesting to see if the AM21N version of this unit has the troubled component(s) upgraded to avoid future issues.

    Hope this is helpful to others...
  2. ciurca

    ciurca Godfather

    Apr 14, 2009
    Very interesting. I wonder if others have experienced the same.
  3. tuff bob

    tuff bob Icon

    Mar 4, 2007
    I think I've run into it - got an AM21 that is not receiving and channels now, they are all 792. Checked antenna, tried different antenna. Don't know what else to try.
  4. usnret

    usnret Icon

    Jan 16, 2009
    Ditto the above fm Tuff Bob. Mine just "went away" today.
  5. jamieh1

    jamieh1 Hall Of Fame

    May 1, 2003
    I got a AM21 and a AM21N. Ive notice that on the AM21 I have a station that is 100%. Then if I hook the AM21N to the same reciever the signal is about 87%.
  6. mloiterman

    mloiterman Cool Member

    Aug 20, 2007
    I can confirm that the AM21 is a major piece of junk. I'm on my third one and they all have died after about a year for the same reason.

    The behavior is exactly has been described by others - out of the box the unit is able to lock onto a wide range of signals. The unit will operate fine for about year or maybe 18 months and then it gradually becomes unable to lock on to signals that it did when it was new.

    Each time I have had to replace the box for $50.00 bucks. Sigh...
  7. CCarncross

    CCarncross Hall Of Fame

    Jul 19, 2005
    Both mine are over 2 years the same as the day I got them.
  8. Surveyor40

    Surveyor40 DBSTalk Club Member

    Jan 5, 2006
    I've been using the AM21 for about 3 years without issues on 4 of my DVR's. I would consider there maybe other factors causing the failure of the AM21, and not rule out an antenna system or electrical problem.
  9. say-what

    say-what Active Member

    Dec 14, 2006
    New Orleans
    I have 2 AM21's. One I got as soon as they were available, the other 3 to 6 months later. I've used these two on various HR2x's over time (HR21, HR23, HR24 and HR34) and neither has had a problem and I use a small indoor antenna. The only problem I've had is when I've moved the antenna to clean and that affects the TV also.
  10. jamsys

    jamsys New Member

    Oct 28, 2007
    I am having horrible problems with my AM21 and the HR34. Some days it finds the channels, some days it doesnt....

    My peeve is that on page it states protection for ALL your DIRECTV devices.... I am paying $5.99 a month for this. After 5 calls and the same answer I dont know what to do...... They say that since its not a Sat box, it isnt covered, but I tell them to look at their web page and it says all devices!

  11. CCarncross

    CCarncross Hall Of Fame

    Jul 19, 2005
    Exact words from the standard PP: All active DIRECTV™ Receivers, remote controls, dish antenna, wiring, connectors, switches, and dish antenna realignment.

    It does not say all devices. It is not a Directv receiver, it does not fall under any of that wording. Are you perhaps looking at the wording for the Premier plan which is like $20 month?
  12. texasbrit

    texasbrit Well-Known Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Your problem is almost certainly because your signals are too weak. The Hr34 is the only DVR that scans for signals instead of using a fixed database. The good news is that you can receive stations that are not in DirecTV's database. The bad news is that stations that have marginal signal can come and go, just as you are describing. With the other DVRs, you can only get stations that are in the database, but if the signal is low you might still receive them.
    You almost certainly need a better antenna.
  13. chrisjmccord

    chrisjmccord Legend

    Jan 17, 2013
    Does it matter what kind of antenna you get to hook up to the AM21? I guess for looks sake I'd want to get one to put in the attic, but would need to run or fish a cable down the wall to the TV. What kind of antenna would you but for up in the attic? I'm not too far away from our towers here, maybe 5-8 miles?
  14. moghedien

    moghedien Legend

    Dec 3, 2007
    According to the Solidsignal website, the THR22(Directv TiVo) will also scan with the AM21. Is anyone here able to confirm or deny this?
  15. Scott Kocourek

    Scott Kocourek Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2009
    Try these guys for your antenna questions.
  16. palmgrower

    palmgrower AllStar

    Jul 18, 2011
    I added amplifiers after the off air antennas to drive the signal, zero issues with AM21's since and marginal locks are solid locks, good luck:)

    I used a Winegard HDA100 15 dB Distribution TV Antenna Amplifier (HDA-100)
  17. Garyunc

    Garyunc Godfather

    Oct 7, 2006
    +1. Amplifier is the way to go.

    This is the one I got.
  18. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

    Dec 9, 2006
    If you're going to go with an amp, this one might be a better choice:

    Why is because it has a noise figure of 3 dB, and the radioshack doesn't bother to list theirs, which means it might be as high as 8 dB.

    BTW I also have a Radioshack very similar to that one [with only one output] and it barely makes a difference to my weak channels.
  19. texasbrit

    texasbrit Well-Known Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Yes, that is apparently true although I don't have one to confirm it.
  20. P Smith

    P Smith Mr. FixAnything

    Jul 25, 2002
    W.Mdtrn Sea
    :confused: then why not provide a link to your source ? we will follow there to see its credibility ...

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