It should come as no surprise that the most important piece of equipment in any TV antenna system is the TV Antenna itself! In our guide outlining the 10 Steps to Perfect TV Reception in Sydney, it is the first step listed in order for you to get your TV back to picture perfect.
What Frequency Band - VHF, UHF or Combination?
All antennas are ‘cut’ or tuned for different frequencies. You can get antennas that are used for enhancing 3G or 4G mobile phone reception, antennas for FM or DAB radio, GPS antennas and of course TV antennas. Each of those types of signals are all broadcast on different frequencies.
VHF (very high frequency) bands, which are from 30 to 300 megahertz (MHz), are used for TV signals to be broadcast on the main transmission towers in Sydney, which are located in Artarmon.
UHF (ultra high frequency) bands, which are a large range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz), are also used for TV signals in Sydney, however, these are broadcast (sent) from different transmission towers that are located in hard-to-reach areas. Basically, wherever the main VHF TV signals cannot reach, the Government has kindly organised for new transmissions on other towers to make sure everyone in Sydney can still get a reliable TV signal. The location of these UHF towers in Sydney are as follows:
- Kings Cross servicing Kings Cross, Sydney CBD and Eastern Suburbs
- Manly servicing Manly and Mosman
- Razorback Range servicing South West Sydney
- Kurrajong Heights servicing the North West Sydney
- Bouddi servicing Bouddi
- Woronora servicing Woronora
From there it is simple, if the best TV signal in your local area is broadcast on VHF frequencies, buy a VHF antenna. If the best signal is on UHF frequencies, buy a UHF antenna.
Oh and just to cover them off, combination antennas are antennas that receive both VHF and UHF frequencies. They are often used by installers who do not know how TV signals work and so they can be used in a wider range of situations to ‘guess’ which direction the signal comes from. There are only a few rare scenarios in which a combination TV antenna should be used, and quite often they result in a poor quality signal, can introduce interference into your TV antenna system and cause other issues. Overall, they are more harm than good.
Low Gain or High Gain?
A TV Antennas ‘gain’ or ‘power gain’ describes how well the antenna converts radio waves arriving from a specified direction into electrical power. This is very important to introduce a strong signal power straight off the antenna. Sometimes, if a high gain antenna is used over a low gain antenna, there can be enough signal power straight off the antenna to avoid needing to install other devices, like a TV Antenna Booster or other amplification devices.
It is often the case that antennas with only very few elements (arms) will be low gain, and high gain antennas will have many elements (up to 18 elements for a very high gain VHF antenna). A top quality high gain antenna should deliver you a minimum of 10db gain (on VHF) and some will get you 14db gain or greater!
UHF Antennas - Yagi or Phased Array?
UHF Antennas generally come in 2 shapes, being a Yagi or Phased Array. A yagi is the more traditional long, narrow antenna (used for VHF antennas), whilst a phased array TV antenna looks like a square mesh board with diagonal metal patterns.
A yagi antenna should be your go-to UHF antenna under normal circumstances. It will provide higher gain and a better quality signal under circumstances where your line of sight (LOS) to the transmission tower is relatively clear.
If the LOS from your rooftop to the transmission tower is terrible, and there are a lot of hills and valleys along the way, then your best bet may be to install a UHF phased array TV antenna. These antennas are better at picking up ‘scattered’ signals which become scattered due to the radio waves bouncing off hills, trees, bushes, and other objects before they get to your rooftop. Phased array antennas are a higher cost antenna than yagi antennas, so you are best to have a signal survey from your rooftop to determine which is the best in your local area.
Front to Back Ratio
The Front to Back Ratio of any antenna is the ratio of the signal power received from the front of the antenna compared to the signal power received in the opposite direction.
Whilst some may not look like it, antennas have a front and a back and it is crucially important that you do not turn them around 180 degrees to have them facing the opposite direction. However, if you were to do so, and you had a bad antenna with a low front to back ratio, there is a very slim chance it might still work for you!
However, the best TV antennas will have a high front to back ratio, and this is why. If an antenna can receive a signal from the wrong direction, it will introduce ‘noise’ and unwanted signals into your TV antenna system. Because we know that we only want signal coming from the TV transmission tower, we ideally want to completely block out as much other noise as possible. A high front to back ratio will mean that we get lots of good TV signal from the front, and minimal unwanted radiowaves from the back.
Depending on your location and proximity to telecommunications towers, you may suffer from strong 4G (LTE) mobile phone signals in your area. Whilst this might be great for making mobile phone calls and watching 4K movies on your iPhone, unfortunately, this can result in interference to your TV antenna signals.
There are a number of stages in which you can ‘filter’ out the unwanted 4G signals. You can have an in-line 4G filter (separate device), a 4G filter built in to your TV antenna booster, or you can eliminate the 4G signal at the source and buy an antenna that has a 4G filter built-in. Note that in some cases, you may require more than one device to filter the 4G signal as it can be very strong in some areas and cause a lot of interference issues for your TV signal.
In summary, there are a number of different attributes that you should look out for when selecting a TV antenna in Sydney. No matter which attributes you decide, there is also the build quality that you should definitely take into account. Australian made TV antennas are generally made out of higher grade aluminium, as compared to some international antennas, and have a more rigid construction. You can rest assured knowing that they are designed and made for Australian frequencies and Australia’s harsh and varying climate. It’s for this reason that many Aussie made antennas come with a 25 year warranty… they are built to last!