IS IT POSSIBLE? An antenna that works better WITHOUT an amplifier?

It’s more than possible. I’ve talked before about how an antenna amplifier isn’t the answer to every single problem. We all remember this guy:

Remember how his answer to everything was “More Power!” Remember that about 98% of the time, adding more power to his projects caused them to go horribly, horribly wrong? When it comes to antennas, the percentage isn’t that high but it’s higher than you think. The wrong amplifier can actually cause your reception to get worse. If your TV gets too much power through the coaxial cable, there are several problems that can come up. A TV with a good tuner will reduce the power throughout the broadcast spectrum which could mean that marginal channels don’t come in. A less expensive tuner could actually be damaged by extremely high power levels, although that’s rare. What is most common is a situation called “overdriving” where the channel just doesn’t come in as well as it would without an amplifier.

All of this amplifier science is very difference than it was back in the 20th century, because back then antenna signals were analog and today they are digital. Analog signals respond very differently than digital ones, and in fact analog signals tend to respond better to amplification than digital ones by the simple fact that digital signals do better at extremely low power levels than analog ones. An analog signal can be amplified so that it’s snowy but still there, while a digital signal is usually close to perfect up to the point where they just don’t work at all. This has reduced the need for amplifiers for many people, but there are still several cases where an amplifier does help. The most important thing is making sure the amplfier isn’t actually hurting you.

How can you know ahead of time that your antenna will benefit from an amplifier? If you are using a 4-way or 8-way splitter, an amplifier will probably benefit you. Signals that are a long distance away sometimes respond well to amplification, and sometimes not. If all your signals are within 30 miles or so, and you’re not using splitters, you probably don’t need an amp.

The best thing to do is get a system that works well with or without amplification. Our Televes antennas use “passive amplification.” By that we mean, they work whether or not the amplifier is powered. If you unplug the power adapter (or if you don’t even use the power adapter) the antenna still works. Other antennas don’t have this feature and you’re stuck using the amplifier whether you need it or not. If you choose a different brand of antenna, it’s usually best buy an antenna without a built-in amplifier so you can do tests with and without the amplifier in place.

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 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.