Choosing an HDTV Antenna for Terrestrial Digital Reception

“This isn’t your dad’s TV antenna !”

You may have heard that:

“There’s no such thing as an ‘HDTV Antenna’, that’s just marketing spin.”

True ?  Technically, ‘Yes’ … but practically, ‘No’ :

Yes, it’s true, digital television signals are transmitted on electromagnetic frequency waves, just as analog television was. And true, the antenna cannot tell the difference.

HOWEVER, because the vast majority of FCC RF channel assignments (broadcast frequency) have changed, most VHF Low Band stations and VHF High Band channel assignments have moved to UHF Band channels. Most areas are predominantly covered by UHF stations now, with only 1 or 2 VHF-High channels (RF 7-13) being the norm. VHF-Low transmissions (RF 2-6) are now quite rare. Accordingly, Terrestrial Digital HDTV Antennas should be design-optimized for either UHF or maybe adding a VHF High antenna, depending on the RF channel assignments for the stations in your area.

IN CONTRAST, most older design antennas covered all channels 2-6 (VHF Low), 7-13 (VHF High), with a UHF (14-69) segment, usually of much lower performance.

A key issue is that an antenna designed for all bands necessarily must compromise performance overall.

The next issue is that the antenna elements needed for channels 2 through 6 are much larger, over 8-1/2 feet wide for channel 2, to about 5-3/4 feet wide for channel 6, and sizes in between for channels 3, 4, and 5. The problem is that most markets no longer use any of these channel assignments. So you have a whole bunch of metal up there that not only may serve little or no purpose, but interferes to some degree with reception on the channels you are aiming for, and, because of the much larger size the whole antenna is much more susceptible to damage from wind and weather, etc. Just take a drive through your neighborhood and see the poor condition of most of these antennas from the previous era.

Ok, so supposing your market is the norm and does not include stations broadcasting on RF channels 2-6. Or, if rarely it does with only one or two, the vast majority are on UHF channels 14-69, with perhaps a 1, 2, or 3 stations on VHF channels 7-13.

This is no mere coincidence. The FCC and the broadcast industry knows that it is easier to achieve MUCH more antenna gain at higher frequencies, because the wavelength is much shorter, and thus, much smaller and thus more elements can be employed, as well as smaller and more effective reflector elements are possible, both of these factors contributing to gain figures 8-10x over what is practical on VHF. The result is better reception with far less broadcast power needed. Analog stations of the past typically transmitted with MEGAWATTS of power, sometimes up to 50 Megawatts, and even as much as 100 Megawatts. That’s a whole lot of watts. Terrestrial Digital Television, in contrast, is usually broadcast in the several hundred Kilowatts range of power and lower. Yes, the television broadcasting industry, too, has gone ‘Green’.

AbilityHDTV offers 10 carefully chosen antenna models for the North American market, manufactured by Fracarro Radioindustrie (Italy), established in 1933 and a leading antenna manufacturer world-wide.

Choose from our 7 UHF models, 2 VHF-High models, and 1 VHF-High/UHF Log-Periodic combination model, depending on your distance from the stations you wish to receive.

We recommend employing several antennas together to minimize the need for antenna rotating, which is time consuming when changing channels. Most installations can benefit by eliminating the antenna rotator altogether. Please consult the Tech Corner article “Multiple Antennas” to read about this simple and effective reception strategy.

To find the stations broadcasting in your area, together with complete information about the RF channel used, signal strength, and antenna bearing (pointing direction), please visit these resources:

www.antennaweb.org A tool for prediction of reception at your address.

www.tvfool.com Another reception mapper, with excellent “radar plots” of transmitter coverage.

www.dtv.gov A television reception modeler offered by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).