FROM THE FRONT LINES: It’s called “overdriving.”

One of our Signal Professionals confessed to having a conversation with a customer who was having reception problems. He wasn’t happy with what he was getting, and wanted to know what to do. Sometimes, it turns out, the devil is in the details.

It turns out this particular fellow was about 6 miles away from his broadcast tower with a clear view. He was using the biggest antenna we sell: The Xtreme Signal HD8200XL. It’s a monstrous beast meant for people who are trying to get signal from 75 miles away. Our customer wanted to know if the antenna would perform better if he put an amplifier on it.

Boy was he off base. The real reason the antenna wasn’t giving him the channels he wanted was that it had too much signal, and an amplifier was just going to make the matter worse. When you have too much signal, you “overdrive” the tuner, and it’s like turning the volume up too high on your music– it gets distorted and sooner or later either your ears or the equipment gets hurt. When you overdrive a broadcast signal, it gets distorted and your TV can’t decode it as well. Adding an amplifier just makes it worse.

How can you fix a problem like this? Well, Solid Signal sells attenuators and signal pads, and you can also rotate the antenna so it’s facing a different direction. Really, the easiest way to fix the problem is to put a big splitter between the antenna and the TV. An 8-way splitter will cut the signal by around 14dB, which can be the difference between a good signal and a poor one. You don’t have to connect anything to the other seven ports, although for the sake of stability it’s not a bad idea to cap them off with terminators.

Of course it’s probably better if you just use the right size antenna to begin with, but then again if you’ve gone to the trouble to install that giant antenna, the last thing you want to think about right now is probably getting up on the roof to put up something different.