The “Pretty Darn Good” Antenna System

Since I created this website, I find I am often asked, “What is a good antenna system if you have 2-3 TV sets?” On many occasions I have taken the time to type out what has become the “standard” response. While staring at the flashing colors of my own TV set the other day, (a somewhat rare occurrence to watch my own TV), I thought about what components would make up a moderate priced, do-it-all TV reception system that would work for at least 75% of the folks who call on me for advice.

During the last 35 years of working and living in Atlanta, GA, I have come to really know the various areas and their always unique reception characteristics. Since each “area” of the USA or the world for that matter has it’s own “interesting” characteristics some of what I have learned here in Atlanta directly applies to just about everywhere.

After looking through all my current catalogs, comparing specs and scratching my head, I have come up with what I think would work at a nominal level for darn near every analog off-air job I have ever been on that lies within about 5-40 miles from the transmitters. Since TV reception is always better when the antenna is outdoors and as tall as feasible, we shall for the moment dispense with any conditions of aesthetic concern.

CM4228HDCM 4228HD This is a UHF antenna that we have recently dusted off to help provide for HDTV reception. It has a wide beamwidth, excellent gain and is fast becoming the cornerstone of my HDTV reception systems. Also note: Although it seems that the FCC has said it will be taking back all low band VHF frequencies as soon as HDTV is better established, there is at least one high-band VHF channel in each metro area assigned to a HDTV broadcaster. We have found that in Atlanta, GA – where the VHF channels of 08 and 10 are beings used for HDTV – this antenna is quite capable of delivering the out-of-band VHF channels adequately. Channel Master says it is for 45 miles for Hi-Band VHF and 60 miles for UHF. The newest upgraded version has an integrated 300-75ohm balun and has thumbscrews to help with quick antenna construction. The size and “look” of the antenna allow it to blend into the background better when installed outdoors and it catches little wind which allows for a slightly higher un-guyed installation where necessary.

CM3677ACM 3677A This is a middle priced, middle range top dog analog performer. It has decent gain and very favorable beamwidth and directivity. By itself it can supply excellent reception to 1-2 TV’s at a distance of up to 40 miles over relatively flat terrain. Channels up to about UHF channel 30 do just fine but above that, it is best to use a pre-amplifier; especially if you require more than 2 TV’s.

CM0064DSBCM 0064DSB This is the backbone of what has been a long run in the off-air antenna business. I often tell local customers that without this puppy, there would be no Atlanta Antenna. The pre-amp gives you a 20dB gain on both VHF and UHF and also either amplifies or reject the FM band – or even a single FM channel. The input stages can handle high power low band stations while at the same time allowing the weaker, high numbered UHF channels to be enhanced.

CM9510ACM 9510A This is the old reliable Channel Master 9510 rotator. It uses a single 3-wire cable between the motor on the roof and the control near your TV. It will easily handle this antenna and pre-amp and give a dozen years of service without fail.

CM9521ACM 9521A There is also an IR controlled rotator for those couch potatoes among us. It is identical to the CM 9510A unit shown above but comes with an (infra-red) IR control. It allows for 69 memory slots which can be programmed to match your local area off-air channel numbers. Tell your TV to tune channel 30, tell you rotator to turn to the channel 30 preset, and you are aimed and ready to go!

There you have it. Go with this arrangement and you have a system with better than average ability to pull in most if not all of your local stations. You have the ability to turn the antenna to get any possible out-of-market off-air channels. You have the ability to receive some HDTV broadcasts (with additional HDTV decoder and/or HDTV ready TV). You have the signal level to connect 3 or 4 TV’s sets to the same antenna. If you have this stuff correctly installed and you are still not getting the channels you desire, it may be time to enlist the help of a local “expert”. Beyond the basics, it is experience that matters the most.