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.

Here are 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.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that antenna. It’s awesome and I never hesitate to recommend it. But it’s not designed for city dwellers. If you are that close to a major downtown area and you also have a roof large enough for an 11-foot long antenna… well what can I say. You’ve made it. You’ve succeeded. I’m jealous.

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.

For the sake of stability it’s not a bad idea to cap them off with terminators. You can buy them separately, but the bag of 100 is so cheap that’s what everyone ends up getting. Yes it’s a lifetime supply of terminators, but it’s so much more effective to buy that quantity. Go on and share them with the whole neighborhood if you need to.

The right way to do it

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.

Getting the right antenna is easy. Just shop at Solid Signal for the best selection and all the best brands. Are you worried that you’ll end up the subject of an article like this one? Don’t be. We offer a free service to help you choose the right antenna. Fill out this form and a real, certified antenna technician will review your request and suggest everything you need. Need even more help? Call us at 888-233-7563 during East Coast business hours and we’ll take care of you.

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.