In this article we look at 7 ways to boost your HDTV antenna signal right now. Keep in mind that your specific installation, location, distance from towers and many other factors will impact which or any of these methods will work for you. This article is intended to serve as a reference for different methods I have tried over the years in order to maximize my HDTV antenna signal quality.
In my experience, this is not an exact science (I’m sure I’m going to have all the antenna theorists ticked off at me about that one), however, for the average guy like you and me, this is largely going to be an exercise in experimentation and trial and error. Every method I will list below I have tried at some point in time, some were successful for my particular installation, some were not. The nice thing is none of these methods are overly expensive to try, certainly all of them are less a one month CABLE BILL!
Enough talk, let’s unveil the 7 ways to boost HDTV antenna signals right now!
Method #1 – Adjust Your Antenna Direction or Location
It’s important to understand that no one antenna or antenna type will deliver excellent TV reception in every location. The main factors determining reception are the distance and direction from the TV station transmitters to your home. The transmitter’s power and the height of its tower also matter.
If you live within a few miles of the broadcast tower, and the signal path is relatively unobstructed, you may be able to get solid reception using a small indoor antenna. However, as you move farther away, getting usable signal strength becomes trickier. This is where careful antenna selection and installation become essential.
First, it’s probably a good idea to discuss the two broad categories of TV antennas that are out there so you can understand which category your specific antenna fits into. The two classes are omnidirectional and unidirectional, so let’s take a closer look at both.
OmniDirectional are antennas that will receive a signal from all directions because they offer a 360 degree field. So if you have one of these types of antennas there is really no need to “point it” in any specific direction. In this case if you are not getting the results you think you should be getting your only option is going to be to find a better location on your house or property.
If you’re in the market for a good omnidirectional antenna I highly recommend the Mohu Sky 60 4K Ready Antenna.
UniDirectional antennas have a much narrower beam width, typically between 25 and 35 degrees. These types of antennas are much more resilient to noise and are ideal when your broadcast towers are clustered together in one general direction or area. It is important to note that TV signal transmission is “line of sight.” Getting reliable reception beyond the curvature of the earth (roughly 70 miles) is difficult. Mountains or tall buildings between the broadcast tower(s) and your home can also cause reception problems. So, the first step is to locate the transmitters for your local stations and point your antenna that way.
I personally use two unidirectional antennas in my setup. If you’re interested in checking out my current system check out this article The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now. If you do, you will see that I am using the Channel Master CM-4228HD Antenna, I highly recommend this antenna for both affordability and quality.
Method #2 – Install an Antenna Preamplifier
TV signals from you antenna generally become weaker as it travels through your coax cable to your TV or network tuner. If the cable runs are too far or you are splitting the signal in one or more locations, then the signal at you TV may become too weak and you may need to install a preamplifier.
Preamplifiers are typically installed on your antenna mast as close to the antenna as possible and will amplify you signal before the line loss occurs. You can see below the bottom view a Winegard mast mounted antenna preamplifier.
On the left is the coax cable coming from the antenna output connection going to the preamplifier ANT. INPUT connection. It is important to keep the coax cable length from the antenna to the preamplifier as short as possible for the best results.
On the right is the coax cable that will travel inside your house to the power supply/injector ANT. connection. It’s important that no signal splitters be installed on this cable between preamplifier and the power supply (or at least without the use of voltage blocks). Also, there should be a ground block (lightning arrestor) installed on this cable at the location just before the cable enters the house.
The preamplifier is a great solution when you signal strength is degraded due to cable runs, splitters, etc. The degree a signal amplifier increases the signal strength is measured in decibels (dB). The higher the amplifiers dB rating the greater the signal strength is increased.
However, care must be taken not to over over-amplify. Over-amplifying can be worse than a weak signal. Simply put, when too much signal is present overload can and does happen. Signal overload can occur in the amplifier, the TV tuner or both. To alleviate this problem I highly recommend the Channel Master CM-7777HD TV Antenna Amplifier with Adjustable Gain amplifier as shown below.
Like I said above, most people think more is better when it comes to signal amplification and it’s just simply not the case. If you’re like me you’re not going to have all kinds of fancy equipment laying around to measure your “actual” signal strength, the good things is, with this amplifier you won’t need to! Though the use of an easy push button you’ll be able to set the level of gain up to a maximum 30dB and then test your reception quality.
If you think it’s doing more harm then good, simply push the button again to switch to the low setting of 17dB which in most cases will be a safe amount of gain and make a noticeable difference in signal quality.
Method #3 – Install an Distribution Amplifier
Well you might be thinking “What’s the difference between a distribution amplifier and the preamplifier we just discussed?”. Simply put, a distribution amplifier is helpful if you have a “good signal” at the splitter, but not after splitting.
Distribution amplifiers are usually one piece and are meant to be used indoors. They are used to overcome splitter loss and are generally used in larger installations where you have to split off to multiple locations, however, depending on your particular installation and whether or not you are running multiple feeds off a splitter to multiple TV’s then this could be a quick and easy way to improve the quality of your signal.
I’ve used many different “drop-amps” as they’re called over the years, however, by far the best I’ve used is the Channel Master CM3414 4-Port Distribution Amplifier. Use this device to replace the splitter where you’re feeding your TV’s and you should be good to go. One note, you will need an AC outlet within about 4 feet of this guy as it does need to be powered.
Method #4 – Use Two Antennas Instead of One (With A Coupler)
Antenna Stacking is a method used to increase the gain by placing two antennas side-by-side or more typically one on top of the other as shown below.
By pointing the two Channel Master Antennas in the same direction, as is shown in the image on the right, you effectively double the gain output of the antenna and also increase its range. This is a common way multi-bay antenna’s are being sold today.
Really the 8-bay antenna is just two 4-bay antennas ganged together to give you a stronger signal and better reception. Just a tip, antenna ganging works better when the two antenna’s are touching metal-to-metal and pointing in the same exact direction.
Antenna stacking or ganging is going to required the use of a coupler, combiner, or signal joiner, all of these terms effectively meaning exactly the same thing. Because you now have two separate antennas you need to “combine” those two signal into a single cable back to your tuner or TV.
It is important to keep the antenna cable lengths as short as possible and the exact same length so the two antenna signal are joined “in-phase” with each other. What you want to avoid is the two signals being “out of phase” with each other because the signals will cancel causing poorer reception then you had before ganging them. I’ve used and recommend the Winegard CC-7870 All Channel Coupler.
Admittedly, when you receive this thing from Amazon you’re going to think that they rummaged through their dusty basement and pulled this thing right out of 1950, but to be honest it does the job very well!
Antenna Ganging is not the same thing as stacking which is why a chose my words carefully above. Just so you’re aware when checking out other sites or when you come across these terms (what am I thinking, why would you go anywhere else!), antenna ganging is used when you want to point two or more different antennas at two or more different broadcast towers (check out our HDTV Channel Map for towers near you!) and then combine those different signals into a single cable similar to above. The Winegard CC-7870 All Channel Coupler will work for this as well, but to be honest I have not had a lot of success with antenna ganging.
Method #5 – Install High Quality Coax Cable
This can’t be understated enough. Getting yourself a roll of high quality RG6 cable with good shielding and low signal loss is paramount, particularly if you have to run the cables a fair distance to your tuner.
Signal loss is the nemesis of a high quality repeatable signal to your HDTV antenna system. In general, the longer the cable run between the antenna and the tuner, the greater the signal loss is going to be. Without getting too technical, the best practice is to keep your cable run as short as possible!
There are three standard sizes of coaxial cable used for TV distribution systems in homes. These are RG59, RG6, and RG11. RG59 is the smallest, and RG11 is the largest. RG59 is generally not used anymore due to its high signal loss over length, but it was a very common cable type in older cable installations. RG11 is the largest, has the least amount of signal loss over length, but is bulky, hard to install, and relatively expensive when compared to RG6. RG6 is the most commonly used size due to the excellent trade off in price, size, handling and signal loss. The following information is specific to Series 6 coaxial cable.
Signal loss through a length of coaxial cable is primarily a function of two things: Length and Frequency. The longer the length of a piece of coaxial cable, the more signal is lost. The higher the frequency of the signal passing through the coaxial cable, the higher the loss over a given length. Coaxial cable loss is normally specified in dB loss per 100 feet of cable. For RG6 cable, you can expect losses as follows:
Channel 2 (approx. 60 MHz) …………… 1.5 dB/100’
Channel 13 (approx. 216 MHz) ………. 3.0 dB/100’
Channel 24 (approx. 536 MHz) ……….. 4.5 dB/100’
Channel 51 (approx. 698 MHz) .…..…. 5.6 dB/100’
It’s important to remember that these losses are provided for 100 foot lengths of cable. If only 50 feet of cable is used, the loss will be half of the value given above (i.e. 2.8 dB of loss at Channel 51).
I recommend Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable or an equivalent high quality cable.
Method #6 – Buy a Better Quality Antenna
Before you go off to Amazon and buy your shiny new HDTV antenna, an important first step is learning what signals you can receive at your home and how strong those signals are. I’ve put together an HDTV Channel Map that can help you if you live in the Buffalo-Toronto region.
There are other websites, with more advanced tools (I’m working on it…) that can analyze virtually any address in the U.S., using factors such as distance to the transmitter and local topography to give a fairly reliable prediction of what to expect in terms of reception and how powerful an antenna you’ll need. Two in particular are TVFool.com and AntennaWeb.org, I’ve used both of these sites over the years and they do a pretty good job.
Another important aspect is the direction the signals are coming from. In most instances, you’ll find that the tower(s) seem to be clustered in a general direction, which is why a unidirectional antenna is usually my preferred choice. Above I recommended the Channel Master CM-4228HD HDTV Antenna.
If you’re in a location where the signal are coming from multiple directions than your choices here become a little more limited so you may want to consider an omnidirectional antenna. As discussed above, I’ve had good success with the Mohu Sky 60 4K-Ready Antenna.
What about Indoor Antennas? If you’re considering an indoor antenna, be realistic about what you can receive at your location. In the days of analog broadcasting, weaker stations were sometimes received with acceptable picture quality as long as you were willing to put up with some ghosting and static. That simply won’t fly with digital TV signals. Because of the nature of digital signals, you’ll either see a really good picture, a picture that cuts in and out with annoying regularity, or nothing at all.
That said, sometimes you simply have not choice but an indoor antenna, if you’re say living in a condominium or an apartment building. If this is your situation and you want to give an indoor antenna a try, I recommend the Mohu Leaf 50 TV Indoor Antenna, it combines good overall performance and range at a good price point.
I actually picked one of these up for my mother who lives on the top floor of a 22-story high-rise apartment building and she gets, with the exception of two channels, all channels in our broadcast area! The height she is at definitely is an important factor with this installation and I wouldn’t expect the same results in my two-story house.
Method #7 – Buy a Better Quality TV/Network Tuner
Okay, now on to the tuners. My current setup leverages two SiliconDust HDHomeRun EXTEND HDTV (2-Tuner). I have to say I’m a huge fan of these devices and this company in general. What these tuners allow you to do is stream your antenna signals to any device connected to your network…this is awesome right!
The cable companies have just recently started advertising this capability with their systems…I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years! I’ve recently done an article featuring my current setup, I high recommend you check out the article The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!
Each one of this tuners is a “dual tuner”, meaning, each antenna signal you bring in (there is one coax connector on the back) will effectively become two separate antenna signals. Meaning for each tuner box you have you can watch two different channels on two different devices. Example, I’m watching one channel on my tablet and my son is watching another different channel on his tablet.
Each tuner has one RG6 coax F-type connector and one RJ45 Ethernet connector to go “hard-wired” to your router. These tuners also support wireless to your router, however, when at all possible I always recommend going wired – that said with the advances in wireless technology, namely, Wireless AC, this isn’t as important as it used to be say 10 years ago!
With this software you simply install it on your device and it will automatically find your tuners on your network and you’re watching antenna TV in Full HD…it doesn’t get any easier than this! The other feature of the software is that it will take all you tuner devices and merge them into one complete (multiple channel instances) list and serve them up to your various devices.
Another solid tuner box (I don’t personally have one but a friend of mine does and he LOVES IT!!!) is the Tablo 4-Tuner.All Tablo units include dual band Wi-Fi enabling Tablo and the antenna to be placed in an optimal location for OTA reception. This box will allow you to browse, record and stream up to four simultaneous live or recorded HDTV programs on your iPad, Android tablet, laptop, smartphone, or your big screen TV using Roku, Chrome cast or Apple TV.
Anymore it just makes sense to go with one of these network tuner boxes. They are built with the latest tuner technology that you just won’t find in a television set. If you have a different model or are going to purchase one of these units from Amazon, leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some of my other articles today:
- Best Android Box for IPTV
- Why You Need a VPN for IPTV
- How To Watch Live Sports Without Cable
- Next Gen TV – The Future Is Now!
- Sling TV vs Fubo TV – Which One Is Better?
- Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV
- What Is IPTV? Everything Cord Cutters Need To Know
- How To Watch IPTV On PC
- FREE TV – The Ultimate Cord Cutters Guide
- Are VPNs Safe? Find Out Here!
- HDHomeRun Premium TV Available Now!
- How To Watch Live TV On Your Computer
- MECOOL KM8 TV Box – Sorry Nvidia Shield TV
- Best Long Range Outdoor HDTV Antenna
- 7 Ways To Boost Your HDTV Antenna Signal!
- What Is The Best TV Antenna Signal Booster
- How To Properly Ground A TV Antenna
- Are 4K OTA Broadcasts Available Right Now?
- The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!
- The Best External HDTV Network Tuners
- Everything You Need To Know About ATSC 3.0
- Are IPTV Subscriptions Legal?
- How To Get A 4K Signal
- How To Watch TV While Camping
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my Top 10 Antenna Picks for this year and leave me a comment!
The Antenna Guy!