Once you decide to make the switch from standard-definition television (SDTV) to high-definition television, you’ll need two things: an HD-compatible TV set and an HDTV antenna. Picking out a plasma TV you like will take a bit of research on your part, but learning which kind of HDTV antenna you need is a completely different matter.
Here are several things to keep in mind as you shop for an HDTV antenna:
- UHF and VHF channel reception
- Distance from signal sources
- Location of local stations in comparison to your house
- Surrounding environment
Distance from Signal Sources
If you live in a large city such as Los Angeles or Philadelphia, you probably have more than a dozen television broadcasting stations in your area. A small outdoor antenna such as RCA’s ANT751 Outdoor Antenna would easily pull in nearby signals and provide you with a variety of HD channels to enjoy.
If you live in a small city such as Arco, Idaho, however, where the nearest TV stations are located about 65 miles away in Pocatello and Idaho Falls, you will probably need a large outdoor antenna like the CM-3020 Deep Fringe Advantage from Channel Master.
UHF and VHF Channels
HD television is broadcast in two different frequencies: UHF (ultra high frequency) and VHF (very high frequency). UHF channels (14–69) are broadcast at upwards of 300 Megahertz (MHz), while VHF channels (2–13) are between 30 and 300MHz.
Because of the frequency differences, some antennas only pick up one type of channel set. Many, including our top three picks, can receive both. However, it is still a good idea to learn which local stations broadcast in which frequencies before you buy an antenna. You can learn this by calling your local TV stations.
The geographic location of signal sources is important to consider when you're looking at HD antennas. There are two types of antennas: directional and multidirectional. Directional antennas generally have a long arm that that you point in the direction of the nearest HD signals. These antennas have a far reach, but only in one direction. If you live just outside of a city with multiple stations, the best solution is to buy a directional antenna and point it toward the signal sources.
Multidirectional antennas grab signals from all directions, so if there are stations to the north and south of your house that you want to receive channels from, a multidirectional antenna such as the ANT800 Outdoor Antenna from RCA is probably the best choice. With a multidirectional antenna, you won’t have to climb on your roof or into the attic to rotate your antenna for better reception.
A factor many people forget about while HDTV antenna shopping is the environment they live in. Trees, mountains and surrounding buildings will affect the quality of your signal reception. Some antennas are hardly influenced by such obstructions, but others are rendered useless when faced with a hill or forest. Be sure to read our HDTV antenna reviews to help you find the strongest and most effective antenna for your area.
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