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HDTV Antenna FACT OR FICTION ?


HDTV ANTENNAS "Fact or Fiction" ? By Denny Duplessis 2007

 

"Buyer Beware" We all have heard this a thousand times, yet many consumers continue to purchase products with false or misleading information without further investigating of the facts. One case in point is the HDTV antenna. Lets separate the facts from the fiction.

FICTION Special TV antennas are necessary to receive the free over the air HDTV/Digital signal.

FACT HDTV/Digital signal is and will broadcast on the same channel frequencies (VHF and UHF) that traditional analog television has been broadcasting on for years. The frequency band will be narrower covering channels 2 through 51. See: Real vs. Virtual Channels.

FICTION all HDTV/digital signals will be broadcast on the UHF(Ch.14-69) frequency band.

FACT Not all digital signals are UHF. Nearly every television broadcasting market in the U.S. has at least one or more VHF (2-13) channel. requiring a VHF and UHF capable antenna.

FICTION I will need to replace my current TV antenna to receive over the air HDTV.

FACT If your current TV antenna can receive both VHF(Ch.2-13) and UHF(Ch.14-69) TV signals, and is in proper working order, it is unlikely a change will be necessary.

Because of widespread misunderstanding many people will purchase two TV antennas. The first TV antenna will be purchased as a so called HDTV antenna. This TV antenna will usually be a UHF TV antenna. The well meaning dealer who sold the HDTV antenna thought all HDTV signals would be broadcast on the UHF band. After the digital transition date of 2009 many TV channels currently broadcasting on the UHF band will move to the VHF band channels leaving the consumer without reception on these VHF stations.

I believe for the most part this is an honest mistake. All broadcasters are required to broadcast their traditional analog signal until February 2009. At the same time broadcasters are currently broadcasting their new HDTV signal. Because of the limited channel space allotted for television broadcasting most HDTV channels are temporarily assigned to UHF channels, and will permanently be assigned in 2009. At this time many of the HDTV channels currently broadcasting on the UHF(Ch.14-69) will return to the VHF(Ch.2-13) frequency.

The fact of the matter is, there is no difference between a traditional TV antenna and a HDTV antenna.

Although some people would like you to think there is a difference this simply is not true.

When choosing your antenna for HDTV use the same guide lines used for selecting a traditional TV antenna. Consider the antennas quality, size, range, and how much money you are willing to spend and in most cases be sure the TV antenna is VHF/UHF capable. See TV Antenna Range.

Remember if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Denny is considered to be an expert in his field. He has been installing TV antennas for nearly twenty years. His website TV Antenna Source at http://www.dennysantennaservice.com is full of helpful tips and useful information for the do-it-yourself TV antenna installer.


2014 Update to HDTV Antenna Fact or Fiction?

As stated above in my original article several TV stations across the U.S. did return to the VHF signal band once the digital transition was completed in June of 2009. Nearly every television market in the United States has one or more VHF broadcasting TV station.

Buyer Beware!!! I can't emphasize that enough. The following is a quote from the FCC web page "Antennas and Digital Television".

"Many of the antennas currently being sold as “HDTV Antennas,” perform best at receiving UHF signals; some of these models state that they provide reception of signals on VHF channels 7-13 but actually perform less well receiving those channels. If you obtain one of these antennas, be sure it provides good reception of all the VHF channels as well as the UHF channels.
Source http://www.fcc.gov/guides/antennas-and-digital-television

Note: the term "many" is used by the FCC when describing the number of antennas being sold as "HDTV Antennas" and perform less well for VHF signal reception. I'll go one step further and say "most" antennas on the market today are primarily UHF antennas and will perform poorly for VHF reception.

My advice to those shopping for a TV antenna is as follows.

1. Indoor antennas perform very poorly for the reception of VHF signals and are only slightly better for UHF reception. Before you buy any indoor antenna check the return policy. Make sure you can get all of your money back if you're not satisfied.

2. Outdoor antennas work much better than indoor antennas. However, many of the outdoor antennas on the market provide poor VHF reception. No matter what anybody says an antenna must be of a certain size and shape to perform properly on all channels. Learn to recognize a gimmick antenna when you see it. The size of the antenna is the best clue to detect a fraud.

Fact: If the antenna is smaller than 30" long and 30" wide the performance will suffer. The test we preformed comparing our EZ HD antenna to the Winegard FlatWave Air confirms this. The EZ HD antenna is 35" long by 34" wide by 3" tall. The FlatWave Air is 14" wide by 14" tall by 4" deep. The two antennas performed almost identical when receiving UHF signals with a slight edge to the EZ HD antenna. However, the EZ HD performed much better on the VHF channels.
Source: http://dennysantennaservice.com/winegard-fl6550a-flatwave-hdtv-antenna.html#Review

 

EZ HD antenna


FlatWave antenna

EZ HD Antenna   FlatWave Antenna

 

3. Learn to recognize antenna hype when you see it. The first clue is if the antenna is low priced, small and looks really good it's likely a gimmick. Check with the Better Business Bureau before you buy. If the business rating is low or the business listing isn't available at the BBB avoid the antenna.


HDTV Antenna Q & A's

Q. Why do so many antenna dealers offer HDTV antennas?

A. There are many reasons. The number one reason is obvious to part the consumer from their hard earned money. You just purchased a brand new HDTV. You've heard that over the air HDTV is one of the ways to see your new HDTV at its best. So you surf the internet or visit your local electronics store in search of a HDTV antenna for your new HDTV. The first thing you find is an TV antenna claiming to be an HDTV antenna. It's high tech design catches your attention. It claims to be an HDTV antenna and that's what your looking for. The well written sales pitch convinces you that this is the best HDTV antenna so you purchase the HDTV antenna. Now the designer of this antenna knows that people want an unobtrusive compact antenna. One that's small and will go nearly unnoticed. They also know that the majority of the HDTV signals are currently being broadcast on the UHF channels 14 - 69. They also know that UHF frequencies use a much smaller wavelength to broadcast the signal, VHF signal wavelengths can be up to 8 times longer than UHF signals. So they design a UHF antenna and call it an HDTV antenna. This antenna can be much smaller than a TV antenna designed for both UHF and VHF and since most HDTV signals are currently on UHF no one is the wiser. When the transition is complete you may wake up and turn on your TV and find that some of the channels that were once there now have the words "no signal" written across the screen. This is because the channels that were available the day before were broadcasting on UHF and they are now on VHF and you have a UHF TV antenna. The retailer that sold you the antenna doesn't care that you lost some of your channels. All you can do now is purchase another TV antenna, one designed to receive both VHF and UHF signals. One TV reception expert referred to it this way. "Using a UHF antenna to receive VHF signals is like using a mouse trap to catch a bear, it just won't work". Before you purchase a UHF antenna for HDTV reception be absolutely certain that all of the stations you want to receive are UHF now and will remain that way after the digital transition.

Q. What do I need to get my local over the air HDTV channels?

A. Certainly not an HDTV antenna but you will need a TV antenna. A TV with a digital tuner or a set top digital tuner for your current analog TV to convert the digital/HD signals to analog.

 The TV antenna is crucial to your viewing enjoyment. In the past if your antenna system performance was sub par you still could watch TV, the picture may be somewhat snowy but you could watch it. Digital/HDTV reception is different then analog. Digital reception you either get a crystal clear picture or you get nothing at all. People have a tendency to purchase the smallest TV antenna they think they can get by with. When the performance is less then perfect they said, oh well I guess that's the best I can do. If consumers continue this practice and purchase TV antennas that are not sufficient to receive a strong signal they will be very disappointed and be forced to purchase another TV antenna. Bottom line, digital/HDTV reception is all or nothing. Don't scrimp on your TV antenna. For more information on this subject see, How to Select and Install a Quality TV Antenna System.

The digital tuner can either be built into the TV or it can be a set top tuner that converts the digital signal to analog so your current analog TV will work. Many people believe you have to purchase an HDTV to get a TV with a built-in digital tuner this is not true. Digital TV's are now on the market that are simply analog TV's with built-in digital tuners. These TV's are not wide screen like HDTV's and they cost much less then an HDTV. The picture quality is not quite as good as an HDTV but it's better than an analog TV picture. So if your not ready to spend the money on a new HDTV you may want to consider a standard digital TV.


Reprint
 

STAR TRIBUNE MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL MNNESOTA
 


Q I am writing regarding rooftop antennas. I dropped cable once the price reached an obscene $53 a month, and satellite is not an option because a neighbor has one tree blocking the line of sight. I live on top of a hill, and the FCC websire says that I can receive at least 30 stations with success. I would like to find an antenna that would work well with traditional TV broadcasts, while keeping in mind that HDTV broadcasts will soon become the norm. I presume I will need a rotor, and mounting the antenna high will be no issue.
Which antenna do you recommend? Where is the best place to buy it? Would you suggest immediately installing an in-line preamp (which would be much easier to do during the installation than afterward), or do you think it is unnecessary?


BOB, Monongahela, Pa.

A More people are adding antennas to their new TVs because it is the best way to receive HDTV broadcasts, and some cable systems don't yet offer all local channels in HDTV. Not only do you get the best possible HDTV picture by using an antenna, but the programming is free.

You want to receive all your programming from an antenna, which means you probably want more reach than the typical HDTV antenna offers, to maximize choices.

You need a general-purpose, directional UHF/VHF antenna. ABC, NBC and CBS analog broadcasts tend to be on the VHF band (Channels 2 to 13) and Fox, WB and HDTV broadcasts tend to be on the UHF band (channels above 13). This will allow you to receive all analog and HDTV broadcasts into the indefinite future.

You are already aware of http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/ , a great site for anyone looking to get a TV antenna. It lets you enter your address and get specific antenna recommendations. Go at least one size bigger than it recommends, because the site often suggests an antenna too small to do the job.

This investment is going to last you a long time and save money compared with subscription TV services, so I would do the job right from the get-go.

 

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