Thursday, May 1, 2014

Can I add a preamplifier on any HDTV antenna to increase my signal range??


I have a HDTV antenna .....but I live farther from a large city and need to increase my signal range. I am wondering if I could add a amplifier to my antenna to increase the range so I get better reception on my tv.

If you know a signal is reaching your antenna, but it is "too weak" to maintain quality reception, a preamplifier may help strengthen that signal. An amplifier won't "pull in" any TV signal that isn't already hitting your antenna. Possible tell-tell sign the signal is reaching your antenna: observe the screen when you do a channel scan: sometimes your TV tuner will reject a weak signal that flashes on your screen (then disappears).

The TV antenna receives the same signal with or without a preamplifier. Without a preamplifier you have to count on the signal strength gained (antenna gain) by the antenna to deliver the signal to the TV. Sometimes just getting a better antenna or a different type of antenna (e.g, directional), or placing the antenna in a different spot (e.g., outside, higher, away from metal, trees, other buildings) might be a better solution.

It is possible to overdrive your TV Tuner with too much signal if an amplifier is used to boost signals from a distant station when you have strong nearby signals. In other words, it might make your reception of nearby strong signal channels worse (or you'll lose them) than without it!

HDTV Questions?


I'm thinking about getting an hdtv but I'm not too familiar with the way it works. I have a xbox 360 and I know that will look excellent but I got some questions about watching shows and all.

1) Will the current channels I have through Directv look better on a HDTV, worse or the same?

2) Are the options to get rid of window bars good or is it better to just watch the shows in 4:3 ratio.

3) Just by attaching my satellite reciever (directv) to the hdtv will I also get the HD version of local channels like FOX, CBS and ABC for free?

Anything else I need to know will help out too, thx in advance for any help.

1 - It will depend greatly upon the channel. For example, daytime game shows are generally of very poor quality and they will look worse than normal on your HDTV. On the other hand, DirecTV high-definition feeds will look FANTASTIC compared to what you're used to.

2 - That's completely up to you. You'll have to try it out and see what your preference is. Personally, I find that it's generally best to leave 4:3 programming at 4:3 although I sometimes stretch is slightly on the horizontal axis. I find most of the "stretchies" to be unwatchable as the distortion is way too much.

3 - Yes, as long as they ARE your local channels and you have a way to feed them through your DirecTV receiver. What I mean by this is that "local channels" has two meanings: 1 - what we normally think of as local channels (i.e., the same channels you pick up off-the-air) and 2 - the channels that DirecTV calls local channels (i.e., network broadcasts that may or may not be local to you).

In the case of #1, you will need to feed your local channels through your DirecTV receiver (e.g., via the coaxial cable coming off an antenna and connected to the rear of your DirecTV receiver) and then, if the program is in high-definition, you will be able to watch it in high-definition on your HDTV. This assumes, of course, that you're using a high-definition DirecTV receiver.

In the case of #2, you will receive what you've paid DirecTV to provide you. If it's their version of "local channels" and there's a high-definition program on one of those channels then you will be watching that program in high-definition on your HDTV.

Be advised that DirecTV has seven exclusively high-definition channels (73-76, 78-79, and 509) available for $5/month (at least, that's what I'm paying for them). These are a combination of sports, movies, and variety programming with 509 being an HBO high-definition feed.

A number of issues to keep in mind:

1 - To get the best quality image, buy the best HDTV you can afford today. How to know which is the best in your price range? Check out for buying guides to all of the sets using current HDTV technologies. There are other sites as well; I've found this one to be unusually well-qualified to critique leading-edge equipment as well as the stuff we mortals can afford.

If you're into film, the one factor on which current digital (i.e., non-CRT) technologies tend to fall flat is black level. In the event you're not familiar with the term, it simply refers to how black the blacks in a film (or TV program) look. In the perfect case, black looks black and, if you're used to a CRT, you'd expect no less. LCDs are probably the most extreme example of blacks not only NOT looking black but looking gray instead and sometimes (in the worst cases) a light gray at that. Try watching Dark City on a set and you'll quickly get a feel for the meaning of black level.

My solution to that problem was to buy a set using LCOS technology. I found it to do a better job with blacks than LCDs or plasmas and better than most DLP sets. Nobody calls their sets LCOS - Sony says SXRD, JVC says HD-ILA, etc., but you can sort through all the nomenclature without a lot of effort.

2 - Resolution: To get the best picture on your set you'll want the original feed to be converted from one resolution to another as FEW times as possible. Picture quality is diminshed each time the image is converted to another resolution.

To explain further: a program is sent to DirecTV (or over the air) in a particular resolution, DirecTV rebroadcasts it in the same resolution (so far, so good), your DirecTV receiver receives the program in that same resolution and the receiver does one of the following two things: a - it passes it out to your HDTV at the incoming resolution, or b - it converts the program to another resolution.

To jump ahead a bit here, your HDTV is a digital device and has a single resolution it will display. This resolution is "baked into" the set and you cannot change it. If the program comes into the set at a different resolution, YOUR SET WILL CHANGE THE RESOLUTION TO ITS OWN NATIVE RESOLUTION.

If the DirecTV receiver has already changed to resolution to a resolution that is not native to the HDTV then the HDTV will change it again for a total of two resolution changes. Not good!

An example of (usually) the best way to have all this working:

a - A program is broadcast at 480i (this is the NTSC TV standard that's been in place since forever),

b - The DirecTV receiver receives the program at 480i and DOES NOT change it before sending it onto your HDTV, and

c - Your HDTV converts the signal to its native resolution (e.g., 720p) and you sit back and enjoy it.

Notice that in this example you've caused the DirecTV receiver to send the signal out just the way that it came in. I highly recommend that you set your receiver up this way for the following reasons:

a - Your DirecTV receiver may not output a signal that is native to your HDTV; in which case, your HDTV will need to convert the signal again - resulting in two signal resolution conversions and a noticeably degraded image (everything else being equal), and

b - Your DirecTV receiver has a video processor (this is the chip that does resolution conversion) that is INFERIOR to the video processor in your HDTV; so, why have an inferior chip do the conversion (or, in the worst case, the first of two conversions) at all?

Just set your DirecTV receiver up so that it DOES NOT change the resolution of incoming programming - no matter what that incoming resolution is. Let your expensive HDTV do the heavy lifting.

My Samsung DirecTV receiver has a NATIVE-1 setting for its output resolution and this means "Don't change the incoming resolution - just send it out as is." Alternatively, I can choose from a variety of output resolutions, including one that is native to my HDTV, but, as I've said, my HDTV does a MUCH better job of video processing the image into its native resolution than the DirecTV receiver can ever hope to do. This will be true for your HDTV, too.

A couple of other points. To get the best out of your HDTV, consider purchasing (and using!) a DVD that will help you to calibrate your set. One example is Digital Video Essentials (DVE). This DVD will lead you through setting up your HDTV so that it looks its best in terms of brightness, contrast, color balance, and all of the other important factors that can make a noticeable difference in your ability to enjoy the full value of your set.

Last, but not least, if you are REALLY into film, consider having a professional calibration done. These generally range in price from $300 - $500 and, while the price may seem extravagant, it WILL make a very noticeable difference.

If this is of interest, I would recommend selecting a calibrator and asking him (or her) which set they recommend for your viewing needs. Then, buy the set (assuming you like it!) and calibrate it yourself using DVE (or its equivalent) and, if you're happy with the results, stop there. If you'd like to go further still, then make an appointment with the calibrator after ensuring that he is going to be able to do more than you did (e.g., by going into the service menu to access lower-level functions than your user menu allows you to get at).

One source of calibrators is CEDIA is the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association and, while their members generally do much more than calibrate sets, one of their members would certainly be able to help you. You can find members located near you at this CEDIA page:

Hope this helps. I've spent part of the past year doing what you're contemplating doing and have learned a lot. I'm also looking at a larger, better picture than I used to - poor programming aside (as I mentioned earlier, poor programming just looks WORSE in high-definition and nothing is going to change that).

P.S. Having mentioned various products and services I should say that I have no relationship or affiliation with any of these manufacturers or organizations.

Good luck and happy viewing!

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