Take a look at this antenna.. There are a lot of parts there. Each one of those horizontal bars is called an “element” and when you put them all together, you get a powerful antenna that can get 80 mile reception without the need for an amplifier.
Does the number of elements really matter? It certainly does. The more elements you have, the more each element can be fine-tuned. Every element is actually its own little antenna in its own right, and it an be fine-tuned to receive a range of frequencies or just one single frequency. The bigger the range of frequencies that an antenna’s tuned for, the less powerful it is. That means that if you have a single-element dipole (like a rabbit ears antenna) it’s going to need a lot of adjustment to pick up all the frequencies you want. On the other hand, an antenna like this HD8200U with 69 elements can have each one precisely tuned to a single channel, and that means max power.
The number of elements isn’t the only factor, though. If you only need UHF, as much of the country does, you’re not even using half those elements, and UHF frequencies respond much better to a single-element antenna than VHF does. It’s also important that the antenna is mounted in the right place, without obstructions, and that an amplifier is used when needed.
The bottom line is… if you need to pick up a lot of VHF stations from far away, you’ll want an antenna with a lot of elements. Otherwise, you may be better off with something simpler.