September 1, 2009
Q: I have a question about how to get better TV reception. We have an outdoor antenna but only get one channel really well. Is there some type of booster you’d recommend that would help pull in other channels? Thanks. — Jerry & Yvonne Franke; via e-mail
A: Yes, there are boosters, called preamplifiers. The preamplifier is a two-piece system: the amplifier is mounted on the antenna pole and the power supply goes inside.
Preamplifiers can be very helpful in increasing the signal level (making it possible to get more stations), but keep in mind that they don’t improve signal quality (sharpness, brightness, tone, etc.).
Geographic location obviously plays a large role in signal strength. If you’re in the valley of a very hilly region and quite far from a television transmitter, you’ll have a much harder time getting reception than if your cabin is located on top of a hill, with a large open space around it and the nearest signal just down the road. So before buying a preamplifier, use a signal level meter or consult a local electronics dealer to verify the strength of your signal. There won’t be much to amplify if there’s not much of a signal.
Your difficulty in pulling in other channels may mean you simply need a better or different antenna. For example, different antennas are required for VHF and UHF frequency bands, so if the local television station primarily broadcasts in UHF and you have a VHF antenna, therein lies the problem.
You may also want to visit the Web site, www.antennaweb.org, which is a mapping program put together by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). You can use this site to find out the best type of antenna to get for your location.