NICE AND EASY: What does a signal finder do, exactly?

Signal Finders like this one from King Controls make it easy to aim an antenna without hurting your back or even having to get up on the roof. They’ll tell you what direction you can find signals, and if you note the compass heading then all you have to do is point your antenna the same direction and you’re done. They’re not essential, but if you aim more than one antenna a month, they’ll save enough time to pay for themselves.

How does a signal finder work?

The signal finder is really just a very, very directional antenna. We use a measurement called “beam width” to determine how off-aim you can be with an antenna. If the antenna’s beam width is 60 degrees, that means your aim can be up to 60 degrees off before the signal drops. With a signal finder, the beam width is more like 5 degrees, so it’s very precise. is.

The signal finder also has a little bit of logic in it to figure out how strong a signal is as well which makes it easy to figure out if you’re seeing a reflection or if you’ve honed in on the actual broadcast signal itself.

What can you use a signal finder for?

Signal finders tend to be pretty much tied to the kind of signals they find. The one above is for television signals. There is a similar sort of thing for satellite, but you probably don’t really want it.

We sell this signal finder at Solid Signal.  It does what it says it’s going to do: detects satellite signals. Except, there’s a bit of a catch there. It detects those signals, sure. But you don’t know which satellite you’re detecting and that means there’s a fair-to-middlin’ chance it’s the wrong one. Not only that, it doesn’t detect most DIRECTV satellites at all.

Should you make the jump to a signal meter?

The term “signal finder” is used for devices like the one in the picture that look for all frequencies at the same time, while a “signal meter” only listens on one frequency at a time so you know what channel you’re getting. Signal finders are a lot less expensive.

Which is right for you? The answer to that question depends on what you’re trying to measure. For antennas, I don’t think you need much more than what you see there unless you’re a serious installer like me. There’s a lot more information you can get from TV signals, but the average person just needs to know where to point the antenna. You can do that pretty inexpensively.

On the other hand, for satellite or cellular tests, you should probably use a signal meter. Our preferred signal meter for DIRECTV is the AIM,  while we recommend the WilsonPro or CellLinq meters for cellular, depending on exactly how much information you need. The WilsonPro meter is good for general measurements, while the CellLinq really lets you delve into signal quality. That’s the sort of information you’d need if you were a cell tower installer, but most folks don’t need that level of information.

No matter what you need, whether it’s the simplest signal finder or the most complex spectrum analyzer, you can find what you’re looking for when you shop at Solid Signal.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.