Do old antennas work with HDTV?

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We just cancelled our cable this last week and are really trying to save cash. So we have an old TV antenna that we want to hook up today but are not sure if it'll work with our newer HDTV? We're not even sure what kind of cable it takes to connect to the TV or if it's compatible? It looks like the old style V type antenna with a big hoop connected to it.

Fringe Reception

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In many instances an existing (old) antenna will work very well to receive HDTV. The particular antenna makes most of the difference in reception, so if you could supply a photo we could give a more accurate answer.

There are some other exceptions such as the type of lead-in wire it uses: twin-lead or 'flat wire' is obsolete. RG-59 coax has about twice the attenuation or loss compared to (modern) RG-6. If there are any pre-existing amplifiers in the system, they may be obsolete.



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Radio waves are radio waves, so yes any old antenna will work to pick up newer digital signals.


Until December of last year, I was using this antenna setup. The main combo antenna was pointed at Chicago, while a now 3 year old 2 bay Winegard antenna is used for 1 station south of me. I bought that antenna in 2002 to replace a Radio Shack antenna that came down in a gust of wind. The main reason I replaced it was because it didn't work as well for UHF as it did for VHF, unlike the Radio Shack antenna I used to have that was just as long, & picked up UHF better. This antenna did get me WBBM-TV when they were broadcasting on RF 3. Another reason I replaced it was a good one, as I learned the U-bolts were weak, & snapped as I was trying to loosen the nuts. So a good gust of wind would have brought this antenna down. Most people prefer combo antennas as much as possible. I wanted separate band antennas, & chose Antennacraft CS600 for VHF (got it for a Class A VHF-Lo station on RF 4) & Winegard HD9032 for UHF (would have preferred the Antennas Direct 91XG, but didn't have the money).

If it weren't for the weak U-bolts & poor UHF reception for certain channels on the old combo antenna, I would have continued using that antenna, as it otherwise was still in good condition. I would check the condition of the antenna first (all elements & if the U-bolt is still good). If you have twin-lead line like I did, replace it with RG6 coax & a 300 ohm to 75 ohm transformer for the new coax line. I don't know if you have a pre-amp as Fring Reception mentioned, but if you have one, you might have to replace it, depending on how old it is & if it even still works. If you have a rotator, check to see if it still works before replacing it. Some of the older units are much sturdier than the newer ones that use a lot of plastic parts. If your antenna is stationery, then the next thing is to go to TV Fool to see if any stations changed the location of their broadcast antenna. Depending on what all broadcasts in your area, you might have to move the antenna if any stations moved from one broadcast location to another. If you get an account setup on this site, post your TV Fool chart for us to see. Also post a picture of your antenna so we can see what you have. If your market was VHF/UHF, but went UHF only, you won't necessarily have to replace your combo antenna if it still gets your UHF stations.

BTW, this was the antenna array I was using in the first pic, & the new one in the second pic. I still haven't made adjustments to the new setup, as I was trying to combine both UHF antenna to get both Chicago & South Bend stations. South Bend stations are on hold for right now.
Antenna2.jpg New_Antenna_Array.jpg


The old antenna may very well work, but there are new considerations for digital TV, specifically, channels have changed frequencies.

Your channel 2 may now be actually broadcasting on RF channel 33, or 13, they could be anywhere.

You must first determine the frequencies that all your wanted channels are broadcast, then look at the direction each comes from and design your antenna array with all this information in mind.

If all your stations are in the same band and in the same direction, you are truly blessed, because a simple, well defined antenna should receive them all.

The next step up in complexity is the circumstance where your channels are in the same direction, but you have a mix or VHF-low and/or VHF-high and/or UHF channels. With this mix you can use either one combo antenna that receives all the channels or you can use an antenna for each band and combine them.

With channels in greatly different directions (usually 60 degrees seperation or more) you probably will either have to use multiple antennas or a rotator. It might be possible to use one antenna with a wide spread if the stations are close enough and strong enough, but this is definitely a case-by-case project.
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That's good advice, Jim and absolutely true.

But even so, the TV antenna designs haven't changed all that much over the years. Today's antennas are coming tuned for 2-13 and 14-69 and not our top channel of 51 like the old days. Most people who have antennas may just need to replace the corroded hardware and cable and re-align. Many old antennas already have rotors too.
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