The “HDTV Antenna” Myth

Have you considered purchasing an expensive new "HDTV Antenna" to improve your picture or perhaps to get free HD channels? You may want to continue reading before you plunk down extra money for this supposedly high-tech product.

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“HDTV Antennas” are no different than standard television antennas.

Sure, there are antennas which work on HDTV’s (which is most of them), but there are no special antennas which exist for receiving extra HD channels or that will make them appear clearer than analog antennas.

Viewing HDTV
If you own a newer TV (2007 or later), you don’t need any special equipment to view broadcast HDTV channels. If you have an older model, you may need a digital TV converter box to convert the signal. Then you’ll need an antenna, and any regular VHF/UHF television antenna will do.

The “HDTV antenna” is simply a fancy name, and sometimes a fancy design, for the standard television antenna which has been available for many years to receive VHF/UHF broadcasts.

What started as a misleading marketing term aimed at fooling people into thinking they may need this “new” item has now become a de facto term used even by legitimate companies.

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CNET
In an article about watching HDTV, CNET writes, “There are lots of outdoor HDTV antennas available today, and choosing the right one may seem like an intimidating process.” At the end of this same article, however, we read, “If you already have an antenna for analog TV, it never hurts to try hooking it up to your digital TV to see what stations you can grab. Also, many people get perfectly good reception of DTV stations using a standard outdoor antenna as opposed to one that’s marketed for HDTV reception.”

Unfortunately, CNET failed to point out that those antennas marketed for HDTV do not possess special qualities over “regular” antennas.

HDTV Primer
The glossary at HDTVprimer.com states unequivocally that there is nothing special about an HDTV antenna:

An antenna made for analog TV will work fine for DTV.  There is nothing different about an antenna for DTV or HDTV. Unscrupulous people have labeled their antennas “HDTV Antennas” as a marketing ploy. The honest antenna makers have had to re-label their products likewise to avoid losing sales.

Best Buy
In their “Guide to TV Antennas” Best Buy states that “If you own an HDTV with a built-in or external over-the-air HDTV tuner, an antenna is all you need to view these shows in HD with no ongoing costs or fees.” There is no mention of a speical “HDTV Antenna” anywhere.

Consumer Reports
In an article entitled Indoor HDTV antennas get a warm—but hopefully not fuzzy—reception, Consumer Reports doesn’t specifically point out that “HDTV antennas” possess no special qualities over regular antennas. The article does state, however, that even “old rabbit-ear antennas” work for HDTV. It was also mentioned that the only requirement for the antennas they tested were that they picked up VHF and UHF (channels 2 through 69).

antenna

Denny’s Antenna Service
An excellent article by Denny’s Antenna Service clears up many of the myths surrounding antennas and HDTV (see link at bottom). In this article, it is written:

“Just because someone claims a compact modern looking TV antenna is an HDTV antenna or a Digital TV antenna doesn’t mean it works any better than any other TV antenna for digital/HD reception.”

Other statements in the article include, “there is no difference between a TV antenna and an HDTV or digital TV antenna” and “the fact is HDTV antennas don’t even exist.”

“Clear” Antennas
A popular marketing ploy lately has been the advertisement of “HDTV antennas” such as Clear TV or Clear Cast. The marketing of these antennas give the appearance that they offer something unique to HDTV reception, which they don’t. They may work fine, but they are in no way new, unique, or special in comparison to other television antennas.

Please read our review of Clear TV for more information.

What is the best HDTV Antenna?
Choosing the right antenna for HDTV reception will depend on your location, surrounding geography, and local broadcast stations. See antennaweb.org for an excellent tool for choosing the right antenna for your location.

Bottom Line
If your antenna can receive VHF and UHF – channels 2 through 69 – then you will be able to receive anything these “HDTV antennas” can.

There are many reasons why you may want to add an antenna to your television in order to view locally-broadcast HD programming, and standard TV antennas will fit the bill nicely. They also don’t come with the price tag associated with so-called “HDTV antennas” which are simply regular antennas with a fancy name.

Sources

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