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Updated DTV Antenna Buying Guide


Terk antenna

June 12, 2009 was the deadline in the U.S. to convert to digital broadcasting.  All full power stations stopped broadcasting analog signals.  Are you satisfied with your reception?

To receive the digital signals, you either need to buy a new TV with a digital tuner or else purchase a converter box, like this Philco TB100HH9 Digital to Analog TV Converter Box, to use with your old TV set.

What Antenna Should I Use?

Rabbit ears are the traditional VHF antenna design.  UHF antennae have traditionally used a hoop or bow-tie design.  While not its specialty, a VHF antenna can pick up UHF signals and vice versa. There is also a new type antenna designed to pick up both UHF and VHF signals that I like; nicknamed the Terk Silver Sensor, it looks a bit like a futuristic airplane with rabbit ears.

Many, but not all, digital broadcasts are on the UHF band so, depending on the television market you live in, an antenna designed for picking up UHF and VHF signals probably makes the most sense.

The antennaweb.org website attempts to recommend antennae based on your location, the location of stations it thinks you can pick up, etc.  In my view, the site makes the process more complicated than it needs to be for most people.  It applies a color code to each of your stations and then recommends a different antenna type for each color.

Before buying an expensive rooftop antenna, mounting it, grounding it, running cable, and adding amplification, I recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Try your existing antenna.  It may work fine.
  2. Try the Terk Technology HDTVi VHF/UHF HDTV Indoor Antenna, aka the Silver Sensor, antenna.  I live 40+ miles from DC and Baltimore television stations, yet can get up to 48 stations free over-the-air with this antenna. At $30, I think it is well worth a try before going through the hassle of a rooftop antenna.   Update 8/20/09:  With a version of the Silver Sensor without rabbit ears, I had difficulty picking up two major TV stations in my area (ABC-WJLA and CBS-WUSA) after they switched their broadcasts from UHF to VHF on 6/12.  After purchasing the Terk HDTVi, which does have telescoping rabbit ears, my problems were solved.  I highly recommend this antenna.  

Downside to Digital TV

Despite it’s advantages (more stations, clearer picture, etc.) there is a major downside of the DTV conversion.  The government claims that the VHF band will be freed up for emergency response services, presumably to save lives.  However, unlike analog broadcasts which can come in snowy or only with sound, DTV reception is more of an all or nothing deal.  Signals can just cut out completely in bad weather.  It would be sad if lives are lost because people can no longer receive emergency broadcasting in an emergency over-the-air.  I recommend using a battery or hand-crank radio in the event DTV reception is lost.

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