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Guide to TV antenna installation

Free HDTV With An Off-Air HDTV Antenna
by Katerina Mitrou


If you're excited about the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting, you're like millions of others who love HDTV. It's the only way to get the ultimate in crystal-clear picture and sound. But did you know that you can actually use an off-air HDTV antenna to receive local signals, in Hi-Def? With the coming of the digital revolution, antennas aren't going the way of the dinosaur - more TV lovers are using them to receive HDTV without having to pay monthly subscription fees to a cable or satellite company.

But using an antenna to receive digital signals is more than just cost-effective. Not everyone realizes that HDTV signals sent over the air are the best you can get. The recent crossover from analog to digital signals has made snow and ghosting, the worst culprits of picture distortion, remnants of the past. In the digital world, for both standard and high definition, it's cut and dry: you either get a crisp picture or nothing at all. Although most local programming is not high-definition, at night when stations switch over to primetime shows the signal comes in as full widescreen HDTV.

There are many more reasons why using an HDTV antenna to receive HDTV signals is a good idea. The first good reason is that local digital TV broadcasts are ubiquitous. It's true that you can find the best selection of channels in big cities and urban centers, but over 99% of American TV households can gain access to at least 1 digital station, and 89% have the capability to get 5 or more. And it's very easy to find out what's broadcasting in your area - just check out the web for a list of available channels.

Secondly, over-the-air digital reception offers the highest quality pictures. Why is this the case? Because cable and satellite providers let you choose from a large number of channels, they are forced to compress the data, which compromises picture quality. Lower picture quality may include a "soft" image, and video distortions that can be quite distracting. Using an antenna means you can watch HDTV in full resolution.

And an off-air antenna gives you access to every local channel. Sometimes with cable and satellite companies, you may receive a wide selection of channels, but due to bandwidth restrictions, every local channel may not necessarily be included in the package. If they do offer these channels, it's most likely not available in high-definition, which is disappointing once you get used to HDTV. Even worse, sometimes contract disagreements between local cable companies and broadcasters make it so that certain major networks may not be accessible via digital cable TV.

Another bonus: off-air HDTV antennas may even let some people access non-local channels. If you set up the proper equipment and take advantage of the right reception conditions, you can pick up out-of-town channels, some even carrying sports programs that are normally blocked out locally.

Probably the most important benefit of using an antenna is that you can get HDTV for free! Over-the-air signals are free once you purchase and set up an antenna, so there's really no reason not to try it out for yourself.

Don't forget the tuner...

If you don't already have a tuner integrated into your HDTV, you'll need to purchase a HDTV tuner in addition to the HDTV antenna so you can receive digital signals on your HDTV-ready TV. For people currently subscribed to a HDTV package from DIRECTV® or DISH®, you're in luck because the HD satellite receiver you already own might also have over-the-air HD tuner capabilities.

When first attempting to pick up signals with an antenna, you're going to have to do some work. Because TV signal transmission is "line of sight" it can be difficult to get decent DTV reception over 70 miles away (beyond the curvature of the earth). It can also be a challenge to receive signals if mountains or tall buildings are located between the transmission tower and your home. The first thing you have to do is find your local stations' transmitters.

The Consumer Electronics Association has a great website, called Antennaweb, which is helpful in finding the information you need. Here you'll find a list of analog and digital TV stations. They even provide recommended antennas for each station to plan for ideal reception.

What's Next

To locate TV stations near your home (or for those in rural areas, TV stations in nearby cities), it's easier than you'd think. But remember: if you really want to make the most of your HDTV experience, it's important to properly install a high-quality antenna, as this means you might be able to pick up signals from stations over 50 miles away.

 

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