SOUND OFF: Best range from a TV antenna

Reception off an antenna is a matter of science. There are limits to what you can do. As you get further from a broadcast tower, the power of the signal drops. It drops quite a lot, as I discuss in this article. With digital television signals, it eventually gets to a point where the amount of ambient noise is greater than the amount of signal. At that point you simply can’t get signal no matter how hard you try.

But there are options

You can put an antenna up higher, so it’s less affected by obstructions like trees and buildings. You can use a larger antenna, which will pull in the signal more efficiently. You can use a preamplifier, which will amplify the signal and the noise but hopefully provide enough usable signal for your TV.

Or, you can hope you get lucky.


Yeah, lucky. That’s the subject of this article. Sometimes things line up just right and you can get signal from 60 miles using a tiny antenna. It’s not one of those things you can predict, but it does happen. It’s not magic, though. It’s not a miracle. It’s just a combination of a number of factors all coming together. Maybe it’s because the air is incredibly still. Maybe it’s because the signal bounces off the smog in the atmosphere. (This happens in Southern California a lot.) Wind, heat, and other weather can help or hurt signals.

But, it’s all pretty random. When we quote a likely range for a TV antenna, it’s the range we think you can get reliably. That doesn’t mean you can’t do better on a rare day under unrepeatable circumstances.

Tell your stories

I’m curious what our antenna enthusiasts have to say on this one. How far away have you been able to get signal? Speaking for myself, I have occasionally gotten signals from 65 miles away using a paper-thin antenna. That antenna is supposed to work for 30 miles or less.

I’ve also seen where someone got signal from 90 miles using a large UHF/VHF antenna put up very high. And, in the ultimate feat of “DXing,” I’ve been able to get KSL-AM, which broadcasts from Salt Lake City, from the California/Nevada border about 400 miles away. But that’s AM radio, and that kind of range isn’t unheard of.

What’s your record for long-distance reception? Leave a comment below and see if you can beat mine!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.