TV Antenna Buying Guide
It is no doubt a very irritating thing when your favorite shows are on but the reception on your TV is so bad that you can neither see nor hear properly. If you are also experiencing such a situation, then the problem is not with your TV (thank god for that!), but with your antenna. You might also have been observing that reception is comparatively better in certain rather 'awkward' situations, like when you are standing close to the antenna, or have held it at a particular angle, etc. However, that is hardly the kind of solution you would want. So now that it is decided that you need a new TV antenna, let's get started.
There are four basic facts that you need to understand regarding TV antennas :
- At a broader perspective, outdoor antennas are better than indoor antennas, if you can afford them.
- The closer the proximity of the antenna to the source of broadcast, the better would be the reception.
- Height of the antenna is directly proportional to good reception quality.
- Obstructions like hills, buildings, etc. between the broadcast source and the antenna cause the signal strength to become weak.
Indoor V/S Outdoor
Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of both, indoor as well as outdoor antennas.
Indoor antennas are, first of all, a lot easier to install compared to outdoor ones, since they need to be simply fitted on top of the TV and plugged in. Further, in case there is any problem in the picture quality, you can easily adjust it to suit your requirements. Coming to the cost front, indoor antennas cost much lesser, but all these advantages are offset by the fact that the reception range and quality is not as good as outdoor antennas.
Outdoor antennas, on the other hand, are more powerful and larger in size, but are a bit harder to install. As far as the adjustments part is concerned, you don't have to worry about picture getting scrambled, since once they are set in the right direction, they simply don't need any adjustment. And of course, as mentioned above, they have a better reception range.
Types of antennas
There are mainly five types of TV antennas
Directional antennas –
These are antennas that need to be pointed towards the signal source. Quite obviously, these are the best choice in case all the channels you want to receive come from the same source. They are also very handy in negating any interference in the signal as they receive signals only from the direction they are pointed.
Multi-directional antennas –
These type of antennas can receive signals simultaneously from multiple directions. A majority of the current options in indoor as well as outdoor TV antennas are multi-directional. This is the right choice for people living in areas where the desired TV signals come from different directions.
VHF antennas –
These antennas receive channels 2 to 13, i.e., the lower spectrum of frequencies used by television broadcasters. VHF antennas can be both directional as well as multi-directional.
UHF antennas –
These antennas receive channels 14 to 83, which is the upper spectrum of frequencies used by television broadcasters.
Amplified antennas –
These antennas can improve the signal strength to a great extent, and are perfect for areas where the signals are weak. Another are where amplified antennas would work well is if there is a splitter on the cable connecting the antenna and TV, or a long cable that serves as the connecting medium between the TV and antenna. These antennas might also come with controls to allow the user to adjust signal strength.
A mention might be made of Digital/high-definition antennas – These are actually similar to VHF and UHF antennas, although some antennas are labeled as digital or HD. However, all antennas that have the capability to receive analog signals can receive HD and digital broadcasts.
Many users also have a query that if they already have satellite or cable, what is the need of purchasing a separate antenna. The answer to this is that some local stations are not broadcasted by cable or satellite providers, and in case one wants to view them, it's imperative that a TV antenna needs to be purchased. Further, in case the service expires or experiences some problems, there is always a reliable backup. Having a TV antenna might also help in savings since one would not have to pay extra for some channels.
Another handy tip is to know how you can improve the reception of indoor antenna in your home, since it already has a mediocre reception strength at best. This is done by locating a place which is free of obstacles that could impede the reception, like doors or walls. In case things still don't seem right, you can always go for an amplified antenna.
Some common terms you need to be familiar with are as follows
Boom – This indicates the distance from which the antenna can receive signals. The longer the boom, the higher would be its reception area.
Front-to-back ratio – This is the ratio of the radiated signal level behind the antenna to the signal level at the center of the main beam. The larger this ratio, the lower are the chances of interference in the antenna. However, this ratio can be misleading, as it has to be measured at multiple points, and come manufacturers might not be so honest!
Directivity – It is the capacity of the antenna to receive signals only from the source where it is pointed at. An antenna having high directivity is going to have narrow receiving angles and high front-to-back ratios. A highly directive antenna is ideal for locations where adjacent channel interference is a problem.
Operational bandwidth – This refers to the frequency range the antenna would work best in.