There’s a real controversy about amplified antennas and it doesn’t help the matter that most of the arguments use words like “should” and “might.” Antennas are supposed to be science, right?
An antenna amplifier, like any amplifier, takes in a signal and puts out a much stronger signal that has the same characteristics as the old signal. If the signal was noisy to begin with, it will be noisy coming out, too. Add to that the “noise figure” of the amplifier, which in simple terms is the amount of noise that’s added in just by the amplification process.
Here are some cases when you might want to use an antenna amplifier:
Compensate for long cable runs.
If you run a long cable, you can put your antenna up higher, or close to a window, in the attic or on the roof. However, long cable runs cause signal loss. An amplifier can help with that.
Use one antenna for multiple TVs.
A splitter causes more signal loss than almost any other part of your antenna system. Adding an amplifier will help the signal stay strong as it travels through the house.
Bring in fringe signals more reliably.
This one is a little controversial. Remember that you’re not just amplifying the signal but the background noise. A distant signal might have so much noise that it’s not worth amplifying. However, there is a case where an amplifier should help. Digital TV tuners “lock on” to a signal before they start processing. If they don’t have the ability to lock on, they won’t even try to process the signal. There are cases when amplifying the signal can strengthen it just enough that the TV is able to lock on all the time.
Foes of antenna amplifiers point out (and rightly so) that it’s often better to use a larger antenna to pull in a stronger signal rather than trying to amplify a weaker one. It can be less expensive to put a larger antenna up as well, as amplifiers aren’t cheap. On the other hand, you may not have the option of a larger antenna, if you live in an apartment or simply can’t get up on the roof yourself.
When using an amplified antenna, there are two things you really should be aware of. First of all, every amplifier introduces some level of noise into the line. With high-quality amplifiers that noise is minimal and there’s plenty of power to overcome it. However, lower-quality amplifiers can actually make things worse as they add so much noise that the amount of signal added doesn’t compensate.
The other thing to be aware of is that every amplifier needs power and that power is usually supplied by a power source inside the home. It travels over the coaxial cable up the line. However, that current will only travel up the line reliably if you’re using cables with a solid copper center conductor. Most home store and discount cables do not have that all-important solid copper center conductor. If your cable isn’t up to the job, the amplifier won’t work. That’s why it’s important to have an antenna like this Televes DigiNova Boss that will work with or without power. Most amplifiers will not work if you pull the plug, leading to total signal loss.
At Solid Signal, we’re here to give you the best advice we can so you can pick the antenna that’s best for you. We have a good selection of larger antennas as well as antenna amplifiers so that no matter what you choose you’ll find what you need.