Digital TV - Antenna Basics - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Digital TV - Antenna Basics

RCA Digital TV Converter Box RCA Digital TV Converter Box
Winegard HD 1080 VHF-UHF Antenna Winegard HD 1080 VHF-UHF Antenna

Understanding TV Signals
As in analog TV signals, digital TV signals are broadcast in two main frequency ranges: VHF and UHF. The VHF channels range is 2-13, while the UHF range is 14-83. Prior to the transition WGEM was assigned a channel on the UHF band as a temporary location to broadcast our digital signal. This was assigned so we could keep our VHF analog station on the air. On February 17, 2009, we turned off the analog VHF, digital UHF and transitioned back to VHF digital broadcasts only. We are now on channel 10 digital. Instead of providing 1 channel we now provide 3; 10.1 (NBC), 10.2 (CW) and 10.3 (FOX).

Analog vs Digital reception
The digital signal is quite different from the analog signal. With analog you could adjust the antenna and normally receive some type of signal, maybe the signal was noisy or you would have ghosting. Not so in digital. You must maintain a constant signal to maintain the quality of the picture. Many say either "you have it or you don't." If you notice freezing or pixilation that is a good indication you might have a weak or interrupted signal.

Over-the-air digital reception provides the best picture quality and it's FREE
Most cable and satellite companies offer plenty of channels to choose from. By doing so they must use data compression or other techniques which can compromise picture quality, resulting in a "soft" image, distracting video artifacts (distortion), or both. Off-air antenna reception is the best way to enjoy digital TV and High Definition TV at the full resolution the TV stations intended.

Before you pick up that new antenna make sure you know what you are buying. Know which questions to ask. Many local discount retailers sell only UHF antennas. If you purchase one of these you will not receive WGEM. You need a combination VHF-UHF antenna to receive all the digital stations in the market.

In the Quincy-Hannibal Television market there are four digital television stations broadcasting a total of 9 digital signals. Digital TV allows multi casting or the ability for broadcasters to provide multiple digital TV signals. In order to receive these signals you must have a converter box or digital TV with ATSC tuner and the proper antenna.

VHF Digital TV
WGEM-NBC 10.1, WGEM-CW 10.2, WGEM-FOX 10.3

UHF Digital TV
WQEC-PBS 27.1, WQEC-PBS-HD 27.1, WQEC-PBS 3, 27.3

What type of antenna should you use?
1. Determine the distance from the broadcast towers. If you are less than 10-15 miles you may be able to use a set of rabbit ears although an outdoor or attic antenna is recommended. Make sure this type of antenna is capable of receiving UHF and VHF signals. These will cost from $14.00 to $80.00 depending on the features. Digital TV needs a constant or steady signal in order to produce a clean picture. If you notice your picture begins to pixelate or freeze that is a good indication of a weak signal. You need a better antenna or position your current antenna in a different location.

2. If you are having indoor reception issues an outdoor antenna might be the answer. Newer antenna designs allow for placement outside the window or under the eve of your house. All you will need to do is choose the proper antenna for this placement.

3. If you live more than 20 miles from the broadcast towers you may want to consider a roof antenna. Consult with a professional before you choose the antenna for your location. In general the larger the antenna surface, the stronger the signal it will provide.  The relative strength of the signal an antenna can deliver to your TV or converter box is known as the gain and is measured in decibels (db). The higher the db rating, the greater he gain.

4. If you have an older antenna it's possible it may produce enough signal to satisfy your digital TV or converter box. Normally the biggest problem with older antennas is the coax leading to the antenna. You should use RG6 antenna cable for the best performance.  Weather can also have an affect on older antennas by breaking-off elements or corroding connectors causing a weak signal. If your older outdoor antenna works for you great, but be prepared to replace the coax or the antenna itself.

5. You may be able to use an antenna in your attic. The effectiveness of any antenna in the attic is decreased by up to 50%, so keep this in mind.

6. Amplified antennas can improve your antenna performance or cause real problems. An electronic device is placed in the coax line between your TV and antenna. It amplifies the effect of the antenna and can improve the signal to your receiver. There is a potential drawback of an amplified signal. It can actually make a strong signal worse. You would not want to use an amplified antenna if you live near the transmission tower. This will cause too much signal into your receiver and result in a bad or inconsistent signal.

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