Digital TV Antenna Basics

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You may laugh and say that TV antennas are a leftover from a forgotten time. With your 500 channel satellite package or your 14 premium cable movie channels, you’d be right to scoff. Until you get your bill. Many viewers are embracing digital TV antennas to get the same audio quality and stellar that you pay big bucks for; all for free. There are several advantages to OTA (over-the air) reception and I’ll discuss those along with how to choose the best antenna for HDTV in your area.

Broadcast HDTV channels are the best of the best

The digital television transition is bringing with it solutions to the 2 most annoying troubles of analog broadcasting; snow and picture ghosting. Digital TV channels allow for a crisp, ghost-free picture and clear sound. All local content is not yet broadcast in HDTV, so it’s typical for stations to broadcast their digital TV channels in standard definition during the day and switch to a full widescreen HDTV broadcast during the “prime time” hours.

If you’ve never experienced what a digital TV antenna can do for you, here are a few reasons to consider one:

  • Over-the-air (OTA) digital TV channels are free. With the exception of the costs you incur for your antenna, receiving digital stations with an HDTV antenna is free.
  • You get access to all your local channels. Many satellite and cable companies will not carry all of the local stations in your area. On many systems, you have access to some of your local stations in exchange for an extra monthly fee.
  • Free access to out of town stations. It’s possible that with the right equipment you can receive out of town stations and often be able to catch sporting events that are “blacked out” in your area.
  • Local digital TV channels are everywhere. Although the largest concentration of digital TV stations are in metropolitan areas, 90% of US viewers can easily get 6 or more digital TV channels.
  • OTA reception has the best picture quality. While your satellite or cable company may offer 500 channels, this comes with a price. They use data compression techniques that lower the audio and image quality of your broadcast often adding distortion or artifacts.

Of course in addition to your HDTV antenna, you will also need some sort of HDTV tuner to receive these digital TV channels, more often than not on newer TVs this ability is already built in. If you have an “integrated” HDTV, or it mentions an ATSC tuner, you are ready to rock. Also, if you currently subscribe to an HDTV package from DISH or DIRECTV, your receiver almost certainly includes an over-the-air HDTV tuner.

Finding your OTA digital TV channels

One of the best ways to find specific digital TV information for your address is the AntennaWeb.org website. You simply put in your address and it will return a list of the digital stations in your area. It allows you to look at both analog and digital TV stations in your area, or you can filter it to show digital broadcasts only. Since many stations broadcast from the same area, they will be clustered together on your results page. Now that you know what digital TV channels are available in your area, it’s time to pick your antenna.

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