Monday, June 29, 2009

DTV Reception Help.

Now that the digital dust has settled a bit and all local TV stations have abandoned their analog channels for the new fangled digital replacement channels, there are still many people who are having problems receiving the transmissions over-the-air using an antenna. After reading and listening to all the expert opinions and recommendations, it is no wonder that many people are confused and, in some cases, frustrated. I thought I would add to the dialog and provide some information that may help you if you are having problems getting all the local channels using an antenna. Cable and satellite subscribers can stop reading right now.

While digital and analog over-the-air TV transmissions use essentially the same technology, digital signals are more prone to problems than the analog. Problems with analog TV reception appeared on your TV as “snow” or “ghosting.” Problems with digital signals are much more evident. They result in no picture or sound at all.

No matter if you have a new digital TV or are using a set top converter box, the key to good reception is the antenna. Depending on where you live, you may either be able to use a standard “rabbit ears” antenna or you will need something more sensitive. If you get good reception on all the channels, great. If you don’t, here are some tips.

Make sure that your antenna is designed to receive both UHF and VHF signals. While most digital broadcasting is done in the UHF band, in Cincinnati channels 9 and 12 use VHF. If your antenna has both a round loop and two telescoping rods, it is a UHF/VHF model for sure. But there are many new designs so read the box if you are buying a new one.

Try an amplified set top antenna. This often will do the trick for people living in our area, i.e., about 25 miles from most of the TV transmitters. Keep in mind, though, that amplified antennas and digital signals are strange bedfellows. This might seem counterintuitive, but if you are having problems and already are using an amplified antenna, turn it off. Strange as it is, too much signal is as bad as too little signal. The amplifier almost always helped analog signals but not so digital signals. Always start with no amplifier and then add it if you are not getting the channels.

A better antenna can also help. While there is no such thing as an HDTV antenna, there are many new designs for antennas that make them more sensitive and therefore better for digital broadcast applications. Some of them look nothing like the ones we used in our youth….you know, we attached aluminum foil to them in order to get “Bonanza” to come in clearly. Manufactures like Terk have a wide selection of both indoor and outdoor models.

Speaking of outdoor models... For sure, a good outdoor antenna pointed toward downtown Cincinnati will be your best option. You can get unbiased suggestions for the right antenna for your location at Just type in your zip code and it will give you good advice.

Finally, there are some locations that no amount of amplification or antenna design or height will overcome. I hope you are not in one of these areas but, if you are, cable or satellite are your only options.

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