antenna signal booster: antenna preamplifier: antenna distribution amplifier

What Is The Best TV Antenna Signal Booster?

In this article we are going to take a look at what is the best TV antenna signal booster on the market right now. The term “signal booster” can take on some different meanings so we will look at a couple different varieties of “signal boosters”.

They are antenna preamplifiers and distribution amplifiers.

Before we discuss, what is the best TV antenna signal booster you should buy, let’s first make sure your antenna is mounted in a location that will provide the best possible line of site between you and the TV broadcast towers.

This means you will need to figure out where these antenna towers are located in proximity to you.

For convenience, I have put together a really cool TV Antenna Station Locator page that will tell you exactly what channels are available in your area, and where your TV towers are located.

Check out the video below to get your started. Once you have an idea where the towers are located go to your antenna and ensure it is pointed in the direction of your broadcast tower(s) to give you the best possible reception.

If you’ve been reading some of the articles on this site and have followed through and upgraded to a Network Tuner or similar, then this task will be much easier for you.

If not check out my article, The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!

So assuming your antenna is near perfectly aligned and you’re still not satisfied with your reception quality, then it’s time to look at some other options.

This could include the need to install quality RG6 cable and high quality signal boosters.

Planning your HDTV Antenna Installation

This is often an easily overlooked issue that can be solved by implementing one or a combination of the following.

  1. Relocating your TV antenna installation (as discussed)
  2. Using high quality RG6 cable with good shielding and low loss
  3. Installing an antenna preamplifier
  4. Installing a high quality distribution amplifier

Since relocating your TV antenna may not be a viable option we are going to focus on points 2, 3 and 4 a little more here.

However, if you are planning a brand new installation, then all reasonable steps should be taken to install your antenna in a location that will have the shortest cable runs possible to your TV tuner or distribution amplifier.

It should be noted that signal loss is the number one reason for an unrepeatable digital signal. In general, the longer the cable run between the antenna and the tuner or distribution amplifier, the greater the signal loss is going to be.

The Impact of Long Cable Runs

There are several different sizes of coax cable used for TV distribution systems in homes.  However, we are going to focus on the most common one, RG6.

RG6 is the most commonly used size due to the excellent trade off in price, size, handling and signal loss.

Signal loss through a length of coax cable is primarily a function of two things:  Length and Frequency.  The longer the length of a piece of coax cable, the more signal is lost.

The higher the frequency of the signal passing through the coax cable, the higher the loss over a given length.  Coax 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 RG6 cable. For an in-depth article on both RG6 cables and connectors, be sure to check out these two articles once you’re done here,

When Do You Need an Antenna Preamplifier?

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.

The antenna preamplifier should be installed as close to the antenna as possible and is typically mast mounted. You can us a U-bolt type clamp to affix the preamplifier to the mast as shown.

Once your preamplifier is securely fastened to your antenna mast, connect a short piece of RG6 coax cable to your antenna, and connect the other end to the input on the preamplifier labeled “ANT. Input” or “VHF/UHF”

best TV antenna signal booster

Now run a cable from the output of the preamplifier labeled “TV OUT” or something similar. This is the longer cable depicted in the image right traveling from the preamplifier inside your house to the power supply.

The power supply or power injector, should be installed in-line once the cable is inside the building. Connect your coax cable to the port labeled “From ANT.”

Once you have the cable connected to the input on the power injector, there should be one open port, labeled “To TV”. This is where you will connect your coax cable that leads out to your television, network tuner, splitter, or distribution amplifier.

Note: Make sure to not install any devices between your preamplifier and the power supply. These can block the voltage that is being sent up the cable to power the amp, which results in a 80% reduced signal.

Over-amplifying can be worse than a weak signal. So to answer the question, what is the best TV antenna signal booster, I highly recommend the Winegard LNA-200 Boost XT HDTV Preamplifier.

When your antenna installation calls for it, this is surely one of the top performing preamplifiers at a good price point on Amazon.

If Reception Is Worse After Installing Preamplifier

If you installed you antenna preamplifier correctly and you are getting worse reception then you were before, one of the following issues could be the cause:

Signal Saturation
If your TV broadcast towers are inside 25 miles, it is possible to overdrive your TV Tuner with too much signal.

This is why I recommended the Winegard LNA-200 Boost XT HDTV Preamplifier because it’s packed with features, such as ulta-low noise and a maximum gain of 20 dB.

Amplifier is not getting power
Devices that are installed between the antenna preamplifier and power supply that do not state “Power Passive” will block voltage the voltage. Be sure to remove these devices if applicable.

Another cause of power loss is if you’re using low quality cable, especially RG59 that does not have a solid copper conductor. RG59 cable cannot pass the voltage up to the amplifier over long runs.

Therefore, be sure to use high quality coax cable such as the Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable mentioned above.

Cable damage or improper termination
It is possible that your coax cable was damaged during the installation. I’ve seen it where it will still pass a signal, however, not pass voltage.

Carefully inspect your cable installation and double check your connector terminations on each end. If there is nothing noticeable, run a new cable to see if this corrects the problem.

Why You Need An Antenna Distribution Amplifier

So what is the difference between an antenna preamplifier and a distribution amplifier? You will want to install a distribution amplifier when the signal quality at the point where your want to split off your antenna signal is strong.

You can easily test your signal strength using a good TV Signal Strength Meter.

Basic operation is simple, just select foot scan foot mode and slowly rotate your antenna until the strongest signal strength is located then run a channel scan and you will be watching your favorite local broadcast shows in standard or crisp clear HD.

So assuming your signal strength is good, a distribution amplifier will allow you to split that signal in multiple directions without suffering signal loss inherent with inserting a basic splitter.

I’ve used many different distribution amplifiers over the years and without question the best of these is the Channel Master CM3414 4-Port Distribution Amplifier.

If you are splitting your antenna signal to multiple locations, use this device in place of you splitter. This can be a quick and easy way to improve the quality of your antenna signal.

If you are curious what one of these distribution amplifiers looks like, check out the image below. This and all items in this article are directly available on Amazon.

Boost Your HDTV Antenna Signal - Channel Master CM3414 4-Port Distribution Amplifier for Cable and Antenna Signal

I hope you’ve found this article useful and I have answered the question, what is the best TV antenna signal booster.

It should be clear by now that “signal booster” is a bit of a generic term, and the question, what is the best TV antenna signal booster, largely depends on your particular installation.

Additional Resources

Still have questions on how to boost your TV reception? There are a number of excellent resources here on the site that discusses the topic of boosting your TV signal.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some of my other articles today: