How to find the best TV antenna for free HD channels

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 3 months ago '17        #1
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Enigmatic1 342 heat pts342
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How to find the best TV antenna for free HD channels
 

 
You can stream a lot of TV online, but for things like the Olympics and breaking news, you'll want a local broadcast station to deliver the goods. Buying an antenna isn't like buying a toaster, though -- there is no objectively "best" antenna that will work for most people. Instead, you'll need to do a bit of research and testing.

If you want to get as many free channels as possible, including your local ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS affiliates, you'll need to consider where those broadcast towers are located, how strong of a signal they send to your location and what kind of obstructions might be in the way. Thankfully, there are some tools that can help.

Find your local channels (and where they come from)
A free website called AntennaWeb(visit this link http://www.antennaweb.org) can tell you a lot about what antenna you'll need. Just plug in your zip code and it will provide you with a list of channels, the strength of antenna they require and a map showing where those broadcasts are coming from. For example, here's what AntennaWeb returns for where I live in San Diego:

image


You'll notice that all the channels come from different directions and have different signal strengths (as noted by their colors).

For contrast, here's where I used to live in Los Angeles:

image

Here, almost all the channels came from one direction, so it'd be best served by a different antenna than the San Diego location. And unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not find that you have any channels available at all.

Pick the right kind of antenna
From the AntennaWeb list, pick the channels that are important to you and note their colors and where they come from.

Armed with that information, you can start searching for antennas. You'll want to consider a few things.

Size and range. Yellow and green channels on that list should work with smaller antennas while red and blue channels may need something bigger and more powerful. You can also note the distance of each channel from your location and compare it to the range offered by the antenna (though the antenna's range is probably lower than the specs state, thanks to buildings and other obstructions -- so always overestimate how much range you'll need).

Indoor vs. outdoor. If you're close to the broadcast towers in your area -- 20 miles or less -- and don't have too many obstructions, you may be able to get by with an indoor antenna that mounts to the wall near your TV. Here are the Wirecutter's picks for the best indoor antennas to get you started.

Directional vs. multi-directional. If you're in a city, you'll probably get more channels with an antenna that can receive signals from multiple directions, known as a multi-directional or omni-directional antenna. However, directional antennas tend to be more powerful and can grab stations from farther away -- as long as all the channels you're interested in come from one direction (which is likely if you're in the suburbs). 1byone makes both directional and multi-directional outdoor antennas that work well in my experience.

Amplified. You can get a signal from your antenna by plugging it directly into your TV, but many antennas also come with amplifiers. Amplifiers plug the antenna into a wall outlet, boosting its signal so they can reach farther. This can be good if you're far away from all of your stations (or if you have to use a coaxial cable longer than 50 feet), but it can also cause problems. The amplified version will usually cost a tad more, but it's worth trying if the non-amplified version isn't getting the stations you want.

You shouldn't have to spend too much to find a good antenna. Most of these categories should have options between $20 and $60, with amplified versions on the higher end of that range.
Once you find an antenna with the right combination of features, you're ready to try it out.

Exchange it if you don't get the channels you want

The unfortunate reality of TV antennas is that it's difficult to know which models will work for your specific location. Beyond all of the above characteristics, buildings, trees and terrain can make a big difference. The best way to find the right antenna is to test it yourself.

So when you buy an antenna, buy from a store with a good return policy -- preferably one without a hefty restocking fee -- and try it out at home. If you have an indoor antenna, place it as high up as you can, near a window if you can, and on the side of the house facing the most broadcast towers. If you can mount a larger antenna in the attic or on the roof instead of on the living room wall, all the better. It'll take a bit more work, but you're basically guaranteed better reception.

Once you've mounted the antenna, plug it into the coaxial port on your TV, open your TV's menu and find the option to scan for over-the-air channels. Once the process is finished, you can see which channels your antenna was able to find and how good of a signal they have. If you aren't getting as good a signal as you'd hoped, try moving or repositioning the antenna or plugging in an amplifier (if it came with one). If that still doesn't work, you may have to try something bigger or more powerful. After a little trial and error, you should find the perfect antenna and positioning, and you can enjoy your free, over-the-air HD channels.
hot topic and 18 others gave props
 

23 comments for "How to find the best TV antenna for free HD channels"

 3 months ago '06        #2
realgunta 755 heat pts755
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i been considering copping an antenna for a while now
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 3 months ago '15        #3
chasepayper 
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 l3altimore7 said:
Messing around with these newer antennas got me into SDR (Software Defined Radio)
[pic - click to view]

Elaborate, please.
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 3 months ago '12        #4
gizzle 21 heat pts21
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If you live in a city a mohu leaf will do the job, i get about about 25 in total plus some music channels on a clear day
 3 months ago '12        #5
gizzle 21 heat pts21
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 l3altimore7 said:
Messing around with these newer antennas got me into SDR (Software Defined Radio)
[pic - click to view]

How long did it take you to get your setup up and running?

@

[video - click to view]

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 3 months ago '15        #6
6shake6 
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reserved***
 3 months ago '08        #7
Kewop Decam 84 heat pts84
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 l3altimore7 said:
Didn't take long at all. Set up took all of 10 mins, and most of that was me trying to configure the settings inside the SDR# software to get the best reception.

Once I got up and running I started receiving TV signals, Radio, Air Traffic, Ground Transportation, Security, Police, Fire/EMS, NOAA Weater, Etc.

There are supplemental programs I had to download that would display on maps in real time where these signals are coming from.

It was def a eye opener in terms of how much RF traffic is in the air, and how much of it can be easily intercepted...
So, what actual use is there for the extra signals like transportation, police, fire, ect?
 3 months ago '06        #8
"SS" 29 heat pts29
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I use a piece of foil and get every local channel in my area
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 3 months ago '04        #9
memphis10 9 heat pts
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props to the OP.. but i got my hd antenna w/ amplifier off wish.com for $3. best investment i made along with a firestick at the time. i get all the channels plus a few other markets as well. im in the boston area myself.
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 3 months ago '16        #10
Itsjustmefools 2 heat pts
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$7 amplified antenna from amazon gets me all my local channels in HD and Im 35 miles from the sources
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 3 months ago '04        #11
ATLDOPEBOI30 74 heat pts74
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 Kewop Decam said:
So, what actual use is there for the extra signals like transportation, police, fire, ect?
Become a hero or just go around reporting news.
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xxlawlerxx slapped this ish
 
 3 months ago '11        #12
PotheadFocker 174 heat pts174
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 Itsjustmefools said:
$7 amplified antenna from amazon gets me all my local channels in HD and Im 35 miles from the sources
Link that please
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Dawknight316 slapped this ish
 
 3 months ago '16        #13
Itsjustmefools 2 heat pts
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 PotheadFocker said:
Link that please
It was from amazon warehouse so it was discounted but it was one of those flat square ones color white amplified. I stuck it high up on the wall behind my TV..

Regular rabbit ears work the best though. Find a modern looking one. My $5 rabbit ears from big lots was actually better then the one I bet from amazon
 2 months ago '04        #14
bw5011 5 heat pts
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 realgunta said:
i been considering copping an antenna for a while now
i got three from amazon on prime day for around $15 each.. different brands, they all work great. I was thinking about getting one for the entire house so I don't have them stuck all over windows everywhere.
 2 months ago '04        #15
D. Norman 6 heat pts
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I got a regular bunny ear 6 dollar antenna and get all local nbc abc cbs fox plus like 20 other stations in HD
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 2 months ago '06        #16
realgunta 755 heat pts755
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 D. Norman said:
I got a regular bunny ear 6 dollar antenna and get all local nbc abc cbs fox plus like 20 other stations in HD
yeah a buddy of mine was telling me to just cop one of those

im not seeing them anywhere though
 2 months ago '04        #17
D. Norman 6 heat pts
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 realgunta said:
yeah a buddy of mine was telling me to just cop one of those

im not seeing them anywhere though
Same brand and look exactly the same


Never have any problems
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 2 months ago '06        #18
realgunta 755 heat pts755
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 D. Norman said:
Same brand and look exactly the same


Never have any problems
thanks man

ima try that one out
 2 months ago '09        #19
iAM2 1 heat pts
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shout out to that sdr sh*t.. never knew anything about that and it seems so fascinating
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