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Should You Use an Amplified TV Antenna?

By Brian
Published 02/20/2013
 | Updated 04/17/2021

The idea of amplifying a TV signal seems to make perfect sense: if your TV signals are weak, the amplifier will increase the signal levels so you can get more channels more reliably. A no-brainer, right?

I've tested a few amplifiers and indoor amplified antennas. My conclusion is that they can help in some situations, but there are some cases where they can actually harm your reception.  Here are a few scenarios to help you decide whether you should use an amplified antenna or not.

Scenario 1: Strong and Weak Signals in Providence RI

Providence, RI has very strong TV signals from local stations (under 10 miles away) and weaker ones from Boston (about an hour away).

I did direct A/B comparisons between the un-amplified (passive) Mohu Leaf and the powered Mohu Leaf Plus.  I tested to see how many channels they could pick up in four different locations around my apartment.

In one location in my apartment they tied at 10 channels each, a tie.  In two locations, the amplified antenna picked up a couple more stations (32 stations for amplified to 29 for passive, and 30 for amplified to 28 for passive). But, in one location, the passive Leaf picked up A LOT more stations and blew the powered Leaf Plus out of the water (18 stations to 11)!

Mohu Leaf and Leaf Plus
Passive Mohu Leaf on the left, powered Mohu Leaf Plus on the right.

These are very mediocre results for the much more expensive powered antenna!  I found similar results with the amplified NV20 Pro.  Basically it was about the same or a little worse in a few cases than the unamplified Mohu Leaf!

After I got these results, I was baffled.  Was there something wrong with the way I was testing?  How could the more expensive powered antennas be no better than the passive one?

How Can That Be?

Providence has very strong TV signals, along with a lot of weaker ones.  What happens is that the strong signals get over-amplified, which overwhelms the weaker ones, resulting in poorer reception than if you had no amplifier.

Recently, I heard from an actual transmitter engineer who works for a TV station who corroborated this explanation.

Scenario 2: Medium or Low-Level TV Signals

On the other hand, an amplifier can be beneficial when there are no super strong TV signals in your area.

I now live in Santa Monica, CA, where the TV signals all come from Mt. Wilson over 20 miles away. On the Station Finder, they are all green but they are not that strong. Using an un-amplified Mohu Leaf antenna, I can get a lot of channels, but my condo faces the wrong direction so the signals are not super strong and my reception is flaky.

Adding an amplifier improved my reception across the board and made most of my flaky channels solid!

Scenario 3: Long Cable Runs

If you are driving a long length of coax cable or more than one TV, an amplifier can improve your TV reception, IF it is placed in the right location relative to your cable run.

It should be placed at the end closest to the antenna, NOT at the end closest to the TV, or else you'll lose all of the benefit of having an amplifier.

The Bottom Line

So, TV amplifiers are not all hype - there are many situations where they can help!  You just need to know which situation you're in before buying.

If these conditions apply to you and you want to try an amp, I recommend ones made by Channel Master (go to Products -> Signal Amplifiers).  I tested their Amplify and CM3410 amplifiers with good results.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Before purchasing a powered antenna or amplifier, figure out which situation you're in.  If you're driving a long coax cable, get the amplifier.  If all of your signals are weak, get the amplifier.

If you have strong signals and want to get a few more weaker ones, an amplifier probably won't help!

Please comment on your experiences with antennas, whether amplified or not! - Brian

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

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I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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Ella Starr
Ella Starr
6 months ago

How interesting that you talk about what to do with a long length of cable. I am moving into a new home this summer. I will find a good antenna service locally as well. http://ritewayantennas.com.au/services/

2 years ago

The amplified antennae will always outperform the simple antennae just by definition but overloading of the signal is a problem. Get an amplifier with an attenuator so you control how strong the signals are.

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