Rooftop antennas

Week or March 5, 2006

Q:   I am writing regarding rooftop antennas. I dropped cable once the price reached an obscene $53/mo and satellite is not an option because neighbor has 1 tree blocking line of sight. (ironically, the ONLY sky obstruction anywhere).

I live on top of a hill, and www.antennaweb.org says that I can receive at least 30+ stations with good success.   This is probably true because even rabbit ears can bring in several stations perfectly well.

I would like to find an antenna that would work well with traditional TV broadcasts, while keeping in mind that HDTV broadcasts will soon become the norm.   In other words, an antenna that will work well for both types, currently and into the future.

I presume I will need a rotor, and mounting the antenna very high will be no issue.   My questions are: 1) which antenna (style, brand such as Channelmaster, etc.), 2) where best to buy, 3) and would you suggest immediately installing anr inline preamp (which would be much easier to install during the installation than afterward), or do you feel it largely un-necessary), and any other suggestions you may have.

Bob in Monongahela, PA

A:   More and more people are adding antennas to their new TVs because it is the best way to receive HDTV broadcasts, and some cable systems don’t yet offer all local channels in HDTV.   Not only do you get the best possible HDTV picture by using an antenna, the programming is free!   Hard to beat that deal.   Of course, you are looking to receive all your programming from an antenna, which means you probably want a bit more reach than the typical HDTV antenna offers, to maximize your programming choices.

You need a general purpose, directional UHF/VHF antenna.   ABC, NBC and CBS analog
broadcasts tend to be on the VHF band (channels 2-13) and FOX, WB and HDTV broadcasts
tend to be on the UHF band (channels above 13).   This will allow you to receive all analog and HDTV broadcasts into the indefinite future.

You are already aware of www.antennaweb.org, a great site for anyone looking to get a TV antenna.   It will allow you to enter your address and get specific antenna recommendations.   I do advise you go at least one size bigger than they recommend as I have found their recommendations to be a bit on the optimistic side, i.e. they recommend an antenna just a bit too small to do the job.   When you are talking antennas, the bigger the better!

The antennaweb site will also recommend a pre-amp if necessary.   You mentioned Channelmaster… it is my own preferred brand and what I use to receive local HDTV in my own home.

This investment is going to last you a long time and save money compared to subscription TV services, so I would do the job right from the get go.   This means finding a locally-owned TV specialty shop where you will find expert help and experience.   They will be able to order and install whatever antenna you need and probably have experience with TV reception in your own area. Of course you can use my column and the antennaweb site as a guide, and by tapping into their expertise you are all but assured great results.

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