With the switch from analog to digital (DTV) over-the-air television, viewers have found that although the antenna they used to receive analog TV still works somewhat, they need an antenna that can improve the received signal enough for digital reception. They often find that in addition to signal boost, or gain, they need to make sure that the antenna is well-designed for UHF frequency reception, which they may not have used before.
Digital Needs a Solid Signal
With analog TV, viewers could see both picture and static with decent audio if reception was not good. "Closed captioning" was often jumbled. With digital TV, viewers are receiving data and bad reception means a loss of picture or sound quality such as pixelation (boxes of color on the screen) or sound that stutters or drops out completely. A better antenna can help avoid these problems. An added preamplifier or an antenna with a built-in preamplifier will also boost signal reception.
Choosing DTV-Specific Designs
DTV-ready TVs and converter boxes need a stronger signal. Many TV stations also are now on UHF channels, which may be harder to receive over long distances. VHF was more dominant for analog broadcasts. Channels no longer correspond to frequencies, so even low-numbered stations may be using UHF frequencies. DTV antennas take this into account. There is a wide variety of set-top, attic, and outdoor antennas to try, all designed to meet challenges of DTV reception.
Selecting a New Antenna
Online tools (see Resources) show where local TV station transmitters are located, which helps show the distance over which the antenna has to receive as well as the direction the antenna must be pointed if it is directional. The FCC tool shows estimated signal strength for an outdoor antenna at 30 feet above ground. This can be helpful in selecting indoor or outdoor antennas and even non-directional indoor antennas. Selecting for easiest installation for the range is best, but be ready to return and try other antennas if necessary.
Installation and Checkout
Wiring from a new DTV antenna will use new coaxial cable with an F-type connector. Make sure to use a quality cable in good condition with connectors tightly secured to keep moisture out. Use the DTV box or television's signal indicator to check signal levels. An antenna rotator will position an attic or rooftop antenna for multiple stations. Set top antennas should be positioned for the best signal on the viewer's favorite channels. Check each station's reception, and have the DTV tuner or box re-scan the channels to lock in current channels.
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