Coaxial cable is an often overlooked part of your Over-the-Air (OTA) HDTV Antenna setup. In this article we will review the importance of cabling and review the best coaxial cable for HDTV.
To get started let’s cover the following topics:
- The different types of coaxial cable for HDTV.
- The impacts of cable length and signal loss on your HDTV setup.
- The best coaxial cable for HDTV right now.
- The impacts of cable splitters on your HDTV signal.
- How to improve your HDTV signal strength.
Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV – Cable Types
There are many different types of coaxial cable available on the market today. The type of coaxial cable you ultimately choose will have a significant impact on the amount of signal loss you can expect for a given length of cable.
A coaxial cable, or coax cable for short, is a heavy duty, shielded type of cable used for multiple purposes in both commercial and residential applications.
There are many different types, or grades, of “RG” cable on the market. “RG” stands for “Radio Guide” and references or indicates the capacity of the cable.
Without question the most popular and widely used RG cable on the market is RG-6 for any cable, satellite, and entertainment systems.
Since RG-6 cable is the most often used and recommended cable for over-the-air antenna installations, we are going to hone in on the different varieties of RG-6 that you are likely to encounter.
RG-6 is a heavier gauge then its predecessor RG-59, commonly used in older cable installations, and designed for high-bandwidth, high-frequency applications.
That said, I’m not even going to bother recommending to you RG-59 cable for your over-the-air antenna installation. RG-6 is the only choice here as it is the best coaxial cable for HDTV!
No discussion on the best coaxial cable for HDTV would be complete without discussing a very important aspect of the cabling which is the Shielding.
Shielding prevents ‘noise’ from interfering with you HDTV antenna signal which in turn preserves the quality of the signal.
Coax cables, or more specifically RG-6 cables typically come with two different shielding varieties: braid and foil. In fact, RG-6 cable usually (if you choose one of the cables I recommend below) comes with both.
It can be said that the more shielding you have the better it will perform. Especially when you are required to run the cable over long distances.
The foil component of the shielding is very effective at protecting against high frequency electromagnetic interference or EMF for short.
Whereas, the braided part of the shielding is used to block out low-frequency interference. Combine the two and you have a robust shielding system around your cable!
Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV – Cable Lengths
Let’s talk cable lengths and signal loss for a minute. What exactly do I mean by signal loss? Well in general, the shorter you keep you coax cable the less chance you will have of degrading your incoming antenna signal.
Signal loss is unavoidable, the only thing we can do during the design phase of our antenna setup is try to minimize it by implementing one or a combination of the following:
- Choose a top rated coaxial cable for HDTV such as the Mediabridge Coax Cable on Amazon.
- Keep cable runs as short as possible by installing a OTA network tuner (link to article).
- Install a high quality preamplifier or distribution amplifier (link to article).
Using a nice round number of 100 feet, let’s take a look at what you can expect in terms of signal loss from a good quality RG-6 cable at varying over-the-air antenna frequencies.
Please note that the units for signal loss is the Decibel (dB).
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’
Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV – Cable Testing
For this section I am going to refer you to a YouTube video I created that shows you exactly how to test your coax cable.
All you’ll need to purchase in order to test your cable is an inexpensive digital multi-meter such as the AstroAI TRMS 6000 Digital Multimeter found on Amazon.
Here’s a video on how to test a coax cable:
Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV – Cable Recommendations
I’m going to keep this section relatively short and just get right into what I recommend as the best coaxial cable for HDTV right now.
I have personally used and installed all three of these cable types myself from Amazon and have had good success with all of them.
Of course, I’m sure there will be some “nah-sayers” out there that disagree, but I’m confident that if you choose one of the following coax cables you are on the right track for minimizing signal loss. Without further adieu here is my top 3 coax cables:
- The already mentioned Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable. This is a premium 250 feet, boxed, black, quad-shielded cable. This without question is my #1 choice for any residential installation!
- If you don’t require quite this much cable then my #2 choice would be Southwire RG6 Quad Shield Communication Cable. As mentioned this is also quad-shielded cable, but comes in a 100 foot roll.
- Lastly, if you require more than 250 feet, and I certainly hope that this is not the case, then I recommend for my #3 spot the COMMSCOPE 500FT RG6 Professional Coaxial Cable. As the link implies this give you 500 feet of high quality RG6 cable at a very affordable price.
Of course you can’t go and buy the best coaxial cable for HDTV without also having a comparable compression crimping tool set. I highly, highly recommend you buy a quality product for this task.
Without question, one of the best is the Greenlee Pro Compression Set.
This tool set is designed specifically for compression crimping and is used by professional everywhere. It is designed to give you the most precise, quality compression connections, in an easy and efficient way. Trust Greenlee for this task!
Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV – Splitters
The term splitting refers to the act of splitting- or tapping- off your antenna signal. This means you intend to bring in a single antenna feed (coax cable), and then splitting it into two or more signals to run in different directions to multiple televisions or devices throughout your home.
I should warn you that splitting you antenna signal will degrade it!
Splitting is generally a bad thing, because doing so will cut the signal effectively in half if you are going from a 1-to-2 slitter, and in thirds if you are going from a 1-to-3 splitter and so on.
Now admittedly, adding more “splits” is not as linear as I’m making it seem. For a good explanation on how splitters effect signal loss more succinctly, check out this article on the Channel Master website.
Further to the splitting losses mentioned above, you will also suffer from something known as insertion loss.
Any time your “insert” something into your antenna cable run, such as a splitter, you will suffer some amount of insertion loss.
Typically, the amount of insertion loss due to the device itself is often written right on the device. That said, if you need to install a splitter be sure to find one with a low insertion loss such as:
- Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold Plated 2.4 Ghz 2 Way Coaxial Cable Splitter ,or the,
- Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold Plated 2.4 Ghz 3 Way Coaxial Cable Splitter
Generally gold is a good conductor, this is why I tend to purchase devices that have gold plated, sometimes referred to as “bifurcated”, contacts or connections.
If you need to split to more than three devices then I highly recommend that you consider a distribution amplifier such as the Channel Master CM3414 4-Port Distribution Amplifier.
I’ve use Channel Master distribution amplifiers for years so I highly recommend them!
For this section I am going to briefly discuss two common ways by which you can “boost” or “improve” your HDTV antenna signal. In fact, as already mentioned, I did a complete article that talks just about this.
You can check out our article, what is the best TV antenna signal booster when you are done here.
Basically, there are two ways this can be achieved. By installing one of a, distribution amplifier, as already mentioned above when you are required to “split-off” to three or more devices.
The other way is to install what’s called a pre-amplifier. A pre-amplifier is a great solution when your antenna signal is degraded due to long cable runs that are simply unavoidable.
The main challenge with pre-amplifiers, if you consider it a challenge that is…is that there is a little bit of work required to install them. Again I’ll refer you to the article mentioned above for more detail.
To summarize, antenna pre-amplifiers are typically “mast-mounted”, meaning, you install them as close as possible to the antenna. Also they do require power to operate and this is generally supplied from inside the house.
This can be quite cumbersome and difficult depending on your particular installation. That said, they are often the most effective way to mitigate the losses due to longer cable runs.
The trick to pre-amplifiers is to ensure that your don’t saturate the signal by installing an amplifier that injects too many decibels (or gain) into the line.
This is why I always recommend the Channel Master CM-7777HD Amplifier with Adjustable Gain.
As the link implies, this amplifier has the option of selecting an adjustable gain setting. This way if you’re not too sure how much you need, you have some options.
This is a great product, again brought to you by Channel Master, that will solve your signal quality issues in a snap!