An Antenna is an Antenna, Right? Page 4
At this point, the White Castle Slyders were living up to their reputation, so I took the reading at this wooded site very quickly in order to finish up and get home to bed. Here, I was at the edge of a forest preservation, pointing the antennas into the trees. There weren't any large structures in the direct signal path, and I had to add a preamp to the StealthTenna. All antennas performed well at this location and needed very little tweaking.
30 Miles from Transmitter
This testing site was in the heart of suburbia, so what better spot to do our field test than in the parking lot of a mall? We had a good line of sight to the transmitter, and, amazingly enough, the yagi still didn't need a preamp! However, I would suggest the use of one in a permanent installation. At this distance from the transmitter, weather and temperature will cause the signal to fluctuate. The digital signal flexed its muscle once again, producing a perfect picture. The analog, though, was unwatchable because of the large amount of snow and ghosting. A couple of times, the signal was weak enough to lose sync and roll or completely lose color. Even though we were past the suggested usable distance for the HDTV60, it worked well. The StealthTenna needed a little adjusting but worked great once it was pointed in the right direction.
The most exciting part of this antenna Face Off was finding out that DTV works! Especially at the 1- and 30-mile markers, the digital signal really outshone the analog signal. The analog picture was so bad at these two distances, it was virtually unwatchable. The robustness of the digitally transmitted signal is a major breakthrough, despite what the folks at Sinclair say (see our News section).
The antennas we used were, for the most part, designed for urban use. We pushed their limits by going beyond the suggested usable area for each antenna, and they performed admirably. Of course, by no means is our last test point of 30 miles considered the fringe of reception. Depending on the terrain, the fringe area can easily be 60 to 70 miles. There are those who take extreme measures to get signals as far away as 134 miles! I know one fella who has a Channel Master Parascope parabolic UHF antenna with an 85-foot tower and a 7-foot diameter. Yes, 7 feet!
Although we may have thought that antennas would be obsolete by now, it seems that the tried-and-true methods are the still the best. Cosmetics seem to be the only real problem with resurrecting antenna technology. Take heart, however, as the new antennas are a little stealthier and more attractive. You'll probably hear fewer complaints from your homeowners' association or local government if you go with one of the newer high-tech models. If they do complain, just give them your speech on your legal telecommunications rights granted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (see sidebar). The two new designs tested, the Terk HDTV60 and the Channel Master StealthTenna, are definitely statement pieces. They say, "Come watch this year's Super Bowl in HDTV at my house!"