May 13, 2009: ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Frustration over DTV's digital cliff effect may have some people ready to jump off an actual cliff, but all signal is not lost. Antenna manufacturer Antennas Direct offers some tips on how over-the-air antenna users can avoid complete signal loss, known as the digital cliff effect.
"The FCC realized people need more than just a converter box for DTV. So it extended the deadline for the digital switch to June 12, giving people a chance to get the equipment they need," said Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct. "But people often need more than just a converter box; they need to know what to do to get a reliable signal. Digital frequencies are sensitive, and the signal can drop off for a number of reasons."
The digital cliff effect is a term used to explain "all-or-nothing" characteristics of digital signals - you either get them or you don't. The following are some causes of digital cliff and tips on how avoid them from Antennas Direct:
* Your home is located in a valley - Digital frequencies have line-of-sight characteristics, which means hills and valleys can block reception. To ensure a clear line of sight, you will need to elevate your antenna by placing it in a higher location, such as your roof.
* Your antenna is indoors - Due to higher frequencies, digital signals have a harder time penetrating building materials. You can lose up to 40% of your signal with an indoor installation. You can try moving your antenna near a window, but outside installation is recommended.
* Your antenna is not pointed toward the transmitting towers - You need to make sure the front of your antenna is pointed in the direction of your transmitting towers. Antennas with some directional characteristics tend to be more successful for digital reception. To find the location of transmitting towers in your area, go to www.antennapoint.com.
* Your home is located more than 50 miles from the transmitting towers - Distance can affect digital reception. If you live far away from the transmitting towers, you will need a long-range antenna. Also, antenna elevation or possibly the addition of a low-noise antenna pre-amplifier can help.
* Your home is located less than 2 miles from the transmitting towers - Signal interference can be caused by what is known as "multipath," or reflected signals which bounce off buildings or other surfaces. Consider using a short-range, directional antenna and keep it away from metallic objects. A variable inline attenuator may also make a difference by lowering the level of reflected signal.
* You are using more than 100-foot of cable, splitters or other accessories - The farther signal must travel, the weaker it becomes. You may want to invest in a low-noise, mast-mounted antenna pre-amplifier.
* You have the wrong antenna - More than 74% of all DTV broadcast stations will be transmitting signal over core UHF frequencies (Channels 14-51); about 24% will be assigned high VHF frequencies (Channels 7-13); and less than 2% will use low VHF frequencies (Channels 2-6). An antenna with high performance on the UHF band will be essential. It is important to know the frequency assignments of your local stations. For a quick reference of your local digital assignments, visit www.antennapoint.com.
"There are other causes for signal loss, including bad cables, low-power transmitters or bad digital tuners," Schneider said. "So it is important to consult with an antenna manufacturer or retail specialist who understands the topic."
About Antennas Direct
Antennas Direct is a St. Louis-based manufacturer of over-the-air antennas specifically tuned for core DTV frequencies. Its ClearStream antenna series has been widely recognized by broadcast engineers and industry specialists for its superior design and performance for DTV reception. Antennas Direct, a 2008 Inc. 500 fastest-growing company, has invested major resources into the discovery and implementation of new antenna technology and continues to test and modify antenna designs, raising the bar by which antenna performance and appearance are measured. For additional information on Antennas Direct, visit www.antennasdirect.com.