Skip Navigation

What You Need to Watch HD

Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer DJ at community radio station WTJU, where he is a regular host of the American folk show "Atlantic Weekly," as well as the world music program "Radio Tropicale."

More from Steve Kindig

To experience true high-definition television in your home, you need a source of HDTV signals and a high-performance display screen that can reproduce the remarkable detail and color of HDTV images.

We describe the basic ways to receive high-definition programs below. Once you know what type(s) of HDTV signals are available, you'll have a clearer idea of what equipment you need to watch them.

Over-the-air broadcasts

Most digital stations broadcast in the normal UHF range (channels 14 through 69), so you can receive them with a UHF antenna. Some stations use the "high-band VHF" range (ch. 7-13), and a few are "low-band VHF" (ch. 2-6), so you may need a UHF/VHF antenna. For antenna info that's specific to your address, visit the Consumer Electronics Association's antenna selector website.

Over-the-air broadcasts

    What you need:
  • HD-compatible TV
  • indoor or outdoor UHF or UHF/VHF antenna
  • local HDTV broadcasts (they're free!)

See our article on how to choose and install an HDTV antenna for more info.


Cable HDTV

Don't confuse "digital cable" with HDTV via cable — while it's true that all HD cable channels are digital, not all digital channels are high-def. 

    What you need:
  • HD-compatible TV
  • HD-compatible cable box
  • HD programming (subscription required)

Digital satellite TV

If you live in the contiguous 48 states and have a clear view of the southern sky, you can probably receive HDTV programs via satellite.

    What you need:
  • HD-compatible TV
  • HD-compatible satellite receiver
  • HD-compatible satellite dish
  • HD programming (subscription required)


Blu-ray — high-def movies and more

High-def disc players — including Blu-ray player — can deliver an excellent high-def picture, with resolutions up to 1080p. See our Blu-ray players shopping guide for more info.

Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.