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4. High Definition > 34. Don’t Use Portable Signal Strength Meters

Don’t Use Portable Signal Strength Meters

When working with an OTA antenna, you’ll waste your time by trying to use a portable signal strength meter. Understand why, and avoid this common mistake.

Sometimes readers ask where they can get a portable signal strength meter, thinking this will allow them to make objective studies of the signal from their OTA antenna [Hack #33] . However, a signal strength meter is not as useful as you might think. It will work fairly well for normal standard-definition broadcasts, but the fact that you’re here probably means you’re looking for HD broadcasts.

For HDTV, a strong meter reading is no guarantee that you have found a good reception spot. The ultimate arbiter of where the signal is good for your receiver is the HD receiver or set top box [Hack #30] itself. Therefore, I recommend that the signal strength readout provided by the receiver—not a meter—be used to search for the best antenna spots. The quality of the result justifies finding ways around the small problem you will discover when you try to do this: your antenna is rarely located where your receiver is! This means you (obviously) can’t see the signal readout while mounting the antenna. This is still fairly simple to solve, though. A spouse and a mobile phone, or a buddy with a walkie-talkie is more than sufficient to get around this issue.


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