“Should I get a UHF or VHF antenna?” We get this a lot at Solid Signal, and we usually recommend a combination VHF/UHF TV antenna.
When people have a choice, they often become confused. No one wants to live with the regrets of making the wrong choice, so they’ll agonize over which way to go. This often leads to them making no choice at all. Unfortunately, this often happens to those who are considering cutting the cord. When asked if they would like a VHF or UHF antenna, the sweat starts to gather upon their forehead. Most people don’t know what UHF and VHF are, let alone be able to make the right antenna choice. The good news is that this isn’t a hard decision to make once you have all the facts.
VHF and UHF
In layman’s terms, VHF stands for “very high frequency.” It refers to the range of radio frequency electromagnetic waves from 30 MHz to 300 MHz. It’s commonly used for VHF are FM radio, TV broadcasting, and similar systems. UHF stands for “ultra-high frequencies,” and while it defines the whole range of 300 MHz to 3 GHz, TV broadcasting only takes place from 470 to 700MHz. The rest of the UHF frequency range is used for cell phone communication.
Today’s over-the-air TV stations are broadcast on VHF or UHF frequencies. A VHF antenna receives stations broadcast on the VHF frequencies, while a UHF antenna picks up UHF broadcasts. Since TV’s switch to digital broadcasting, about 74 percent of the stations are UHF. These are channels 14 through 51. Twenty-four percent of the stations moved to VHF. These are channels 7-13. Fewer than two percent are on Low VHF, which are channels 2-6.
The Truth About TV Channel Numbers
While it seems easy to say that VHF is channels 2-13, and UHF is channels 14-51, things get a bit tricky. TV’s switch to digital reassigned many stations to radio frequency numbers different from their station numbers. For example, New York City’s CBS affiliate is channel 2, but its true RF station number is 33. You can still get to this channel by punching 2 on your remote control. Then there’s New York’s ABC affiliate, which is both channel 7 and radio frequency 7. It’s safe to say that TV stations didn’t want to move up the dial after they’ve spent years – and hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars – to brand themselves on their existing station number.
Differences in station numbers and radio frequencies exist in every TV market. There are websites to help you determine the RF frequencies for every channel in your area. If you can’t decide between a UHF or VHF antenna, this can help you. Here’s one thing you could do:
- Make a list of your favorite over-the-air TV shows.
- Find an online listing of TV channels, program listings, and radio frequencies for each station in your market. (Note: In most cases, you have to consult two or three different website to get all the info.)
- Take note of which of your favorite shows and channels fall with the UHF/VHF designations.
- Make your decision based upon where the majority of your favorite shows and stations reside.
Or… There’s An Easier Way
Let us save you the time and trouble of all that research. If you were to actually do it, here’s what you’d discover: One or two shows that you can’t live without will fall within the VHF range. The rest will be on UHF. This is usually how it works out for most people in most TV markets. And this is why we usually recommend a combination VHF/UHF TV antenna. In most cases, it’s enough to receive the stations you want without having to sacrifice any particular show or station that you’ve come to love.
You also don’t really have to worry about radio frequency numbers. Leave that to geeks like Stuart and me who write for the Solid Signal blog. Thanks to something called the Program and System Information Protocol, or PSIP, you don’t have to concern yourself with differences between channel and radio frequency numbers. In short, PSIP tells your TV what channel you really want when you push its numbers on your remote control. For a more detailed breakdown of this, check out Stuart Sweet’s article about PSIP. But why worry about all of this stuff when you can get an antenna that does everything you want in the first place? This is why a combination UHF/VHF antenna is the way to go.
Now is the Time to Cut the Cord
A UHF/VHF antenna is a great way for many people to cut the cord. And, since September is “National Cord-Cutting Month,” we’ve slashed the prices on three of our top combo antennas. If you’re thinking about cutting the cord, now is a great time to do it. Everyone here at Solid Signal is happy to answer any questions, including matching you with the right TV antenna. There’s no better time to cut the cord and save money while doing it. But you have to act quickly. If you’re ready for free TV and no cable bills, call us at 877.312.4547, or check out our selection of the best antennas now!