How To Test Your Antenna Signal: TV Signal Strength

In this article we will focus on how to test your antenna signal strength, as well as look at some of the better TV signal strength meters readily available on Amazon. To answer this question, “How to test your antenna signal”, it will be helpful to look at the different aspects that make up your antenna signal as well as those aspects that tend to diminish it.

So how do you test your antenna signal? To test your antenna signal, follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect the antennas RG6 coaxial cable from your television or tuner.
  2. Attach the antennas “F” connector to the socket on your antenna signal meter marked “Antenna”.
  3. Connect your television to the socket on your antenna signal meter marked “TV”.
  4. Turn your antenna signal meter ON, and tune-in the lowest broadcast channel for your area.
  5. Slowly rotate your antenna 360 degrees and stop at the highest antenna signal strength (usually indicated by LEDs).
  6. Use a compass to read the direction of the highest antenna signal and record the result.
  7. Continue this pattern (steps 4 and 5) for each channel recording each result.
  8. Use your compass readings to calculate an average for optimal signal strength if you do not have a rotor and point your antenna in that direction. If you have a rotor, create a list of optimal directions for each channel.

What is an HDTV Antenna Signal?

An HDTV antenna signal is a radio frequency that is measured in noise margin decibels NM(dB), and power ratio in decibels-milliwatts or Pwr(dBm).  The first reading, NM(dB) tells you how “clean” the signal is and the second one tells you how “strong” the signal is.

More modern digital broadcasts are transmitted in what is known as the UHF band (Ultra High Frequency) between the range of 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz). The other frequency, which is less common for digital over-the-air broadcasts is the VHF band or “Very High Frequency”. This band operates in the lower frequency range of 136-174 MHz. In general, VHF channels are number 2 to 13 and UHF channels 14 to 51.

That said, the channel’s physical broadcast frequency is not always the same as the channel you’ll see on your television. For instance check out the channel mapping below for channel 6 in Richmond VA.

Antenna Signal Strength
Image source: https://www.tablotv.com/blog/vhf-vs-uhf-frequency-cord-cutters-ota-tv-antenna/

You can see that the “Virtual Channel” is channel 6, while the actual “Digital Broadcast Channel” is 25. Since most digital broadcasts are transmitted in the UHF band, almost any modern HDTV antenna you purchase on Amazon will be optimized for this band. Some will support both the UHF and VHF bands as well.

HDTV Antenna Shopping Tips:

If you’re in the market to purchase a new HDTV antenna, here are couple of quick tips to narrow down your selection:

  1. Ensure the antenna supports Full HD 1080p digital broadcasts.
  2. Make sure the antenna is capable of receiving digital broadcast signals 50 miles or greater.
  3. Choose an antenna that support UHF or is dual band UHF/VHF capable.

For a solid performing antenna, I recommend the 8 Element Bowtie Indoor/Outdoor Antenna on Amazon. It has a 70+ mile range, supports dual band UHF/VHF, can be mounted in your attic or outdoors, and is simply a cool and stylish looking antenna. Most outdoor antennas will have both long and short prongs, or prongs and loop and therefore will support both UHF and VHF frequencies.

Image source: https://www.tablotv.com/blog/vhf-vs-uhf-frequency-cord-cutters-ota-tv-antenna/

Importance of Cabling and Connectors

I actually did two full on articles with respect to these topics. An often overlooked aspect of any antenna installation is the coaxial cabling used and the connector types. Overlooking these two simple aspects of your installation can have a drastic impact on the quality of your antenna signal. For a full review of these topics I will refer you to the following two articles:

  1. Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV
  2. What Are The Best RG6 Connectors

In these two articles I cover off everything you need to know about coaxial cable and RG6 connectors. Be sure to check them out once you’re done here. While we are on the topic of cabling and connectors, be sure to check out my YouTube video that shows you everything you need to know about how to test your antenna cable.

How To Test Your Antenna Signal

The above method is a tried and true way to test your cable for defects, however, this article is intended to show you how to test your HDTV antenna

signal strength. To do this you will need to purchase an antenna signal strength meter readily available on Amazon for a reasonable price.

I recommend the KING SL1000 SureLock TV Signal Meter. This meter is simple to use and inexpensive.

Once you have your meter in hand follow these simple steps to test and dial-in your antenna for optimal signal quality.

Step #1:

Disconnect the antennas RG6 coaxial cable from your television or tuner. The idea here is to install your antenna signal meter in-line between your antenna and your television set or tuner. This will allow your antenna signal to pass through the measuring device so that you can find the optimal direction for your antenna for a given channel.

Step #2:

Attach the antennas “F” connector, or more commonly, “RG6” connector to the socket on your antenna signal meter marked “Antenna”. Make sure this is the cable coming in from your antenna.

Step #3:

Now connect your television or tuner to the socket on your antenna signal meter marked “TV”. This will complete the in-line connection from your antenna, to your KING SL1000 SureLock TV Signal Meter, to your television.

Step #4:

Turn your antenna signal meter ON, and tune-in the lowest broadcast channel for your area. This will be the starting point for our tests.

Step #5:

Slowly rotate your antenna 360 degrees and stop at the highest antenna signal strength. On the KING SL1000 SureLock TV Signal Meter this will be the green LEDs. The more LEDs that you have illuminated, the higher the incoming signal strength is.

Step #6:

Use a compass to read the direction of the highest antenna signal and record the result. If you don’t have a compass (who really does these days right!) they are fairly inexpensive to pick up. I recommend this inexpensive wrist watch compass on Amazon for the task.

Step #7:

Continue this pattern (steps 4 and 5) for each channel recording each result. What you want to do now is increment to the next channel and repeat steps #4 and #5. Tune in the channel and record the direction  of the highest signal level for that channel.

Step #8:

Use your compass readings to calculate an average for optimal signal strength if you do not have a rotor and point your antenna in that direction. If you have a rotor, create a list of optimal directions for each channel. This YouTube video below show you how the KING SL1000 SureLock TV Signal Meter is used not only as a signal strength meter, but also as a antenna signal troubleshooting device.

Additional Reading

Well there you have it, How To Test Your Antenna Signal! If you enjoyed reading this article and want to check out some more great articles right here on AntennaJunkies.com, be sure to check out the articles below!