In July 2009, the Federal Communications Committee mandated that all broadcasting stations switch to a digital signal. This improved the picture and sound quality of television signals and opened up many U.S. households to TV channels they did not previously have access to. To access these free TV signals, you must purchase and install a digital TV antenna. When shopping for a digital TV antenna, there are several factors to consider to find the right one for your household.
VHF and UHF
VHF stands for "very high frequency," while UHF stands for "ultra high frequency." They are frequencies reserved for TV stations that are below channel 14 on your TV's channel settings. If you want to watch stations that are attached to low channel settings, you may need to purchase a VHF, UHF or joint VHF/UHF antenna. VHF is a lower frequency, so the antennas tend to be larger than UHF antennas.
Uni-Directional Versus Multi-Directional
As the name implies, uni-directional (UD) antennas point to a fix spot (usually the location of the satellite sending out the frequencies), while multi-directional (MD) antennas pick up frequencies from a nearly 360 degrees around them. While MD antennas can pick up more signals, UD antennas can pick up weaker signals from satellites that are further away. If you know the location of the emitting satellite and it is far away, you might prefer a UD antenna. If, however, there are multiple emitting satellites in your area and they are close (as in urban centers), a MD antenna might be preferable.
Indoor Versus Outdoor
Indoor antennas are positioned on or around your TV, while outdoor antennas are positioned on or near your home. Because indoor antennas tend to be smaller, they have less surface area than outdoor antennas, resulting in a lesser ability to pick up a satellite signal. Outdoor antennas, however, are often bulky and require a fairly elaborate installation. Typically, however, the smallest outdoor antenna will perform better than the strongest indoor antenna.
Amplified Versus Non-Amplified
Many indoor antennas use electronic amplifiers to increase the signal strength between the antenna itself and the TV. While amplifiers provide a clearer image for smaller, poor-performing indoor antennas, they also tend to amplify all signals that are picked up and transmitted by the antenna. This includes sound signals as well as static signals. While amplifiers are beneficial for a weak signal, they can be detrimental when amplifying the static of a fuzzy signal.
- "Antenna Engineering Handbook"; John Volakis; 2007
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