The initial plan for digital broadcasting involved solely the use of UHF signals. However, modern aerials or antennas used for receiving terrestrial digital broadcasts use a hybrid VHF/UHF array, allowing viewers to pull in all channels. Using the right digital antenna whether indoors or out lets you receive fee-free, crystal-clear digital programming.
Modern digital programming uses both halves of the broadcasting spectrum. On the UHF side, digital occupies channels 2 through 13, while VHF uses 14 through 51. This may be good news for those using an existing antenna for analog broadcasting from years past. Using an indoor or outdoor antenna featuring only a UHF component will therefore only yield half of the available channels on tap. A combination antenna is needed, allowing access to all digital channels in your area and remaining easier to set up than separate VHF and UHF antenna arrays.
Directional and Omnidirectional
Directional antennas are both VHF and UHF, designed for maximum performance when the broadcast towers are within a 20 degree radius of your receiving area. These antennas are solid options as you approach the fringe of your broadcasting area, typically between 50 to 75 miles from the nearest tower. Omnidirectional arrays work well if you live in an area where you are effectively surrounded by the broadcast towers, and intend to receive them all. These units are less powerful, but often mitigate the necessity to use a rotor or dual antennas, maintaining a simpler and cleaner installation.
Indoor Antenna Options
Apartment and urban dwellers lacking the space or permission to mount an outdoor antenna are relegated to using an indoor model. Typically powered to mitigate the relatively small receiving area, these antennas are often square or use a conventional "rabbit ear" array with a round UHF portion in the center. Indoor antennas are often more difficult to properly align, contending with signal-blocking structural materials like brick, stucco and reinforcing steel bars. However, many antennas customarily mounted outdoors maintain a low profile and share many of the aesthetic qualities of indoor units. Shaped like pizza boxes or attaching to the back of a satellite dish, these units, because they're outdoors, often offer more channels and less multipath interference caused by signal bounce.
Selecting an Antenna
Resources like AntennaWeb map your physical location on a virtual map, using your address and intended antenna-mounting elevation. Using this data, AntennaWeb assigns your environment a color code, which you match to the color on antenna retail packaging. AntennaWeb usually supplies you with two or three options such as directional or omnidirectional and recommends whether you should use a signal amplifier. You then use this data to decide what your viewing preferences are, such as maximizing performance for certain channels while eschewing subjectively less-important broadcasts.
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