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Buying Guide

How to Choose the Best Antenna for Your TV

Why Buy an HD Antenna?
A pair of transmitter towers stand on a hill.

HDTV antennas provide free options for local news, sports and the traditional television networks (including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS) that may not be available through a streaming service. 


HD, or high definition, channels available through TV antennas may have better picture quality than those distributed by the other methods. This is because broadcast channels do not use the signal compression required by cable or satellite connectivity. Signal compression is necessary to accommodate the quantity of so many shows being pushed through via cable or satellite. The alternative sound and picture quality of a broadcast channel tuned to your TV via an HD antenna may never have compression-quality issues. 


Depending on your home’s location, your antenna works by picking up potentially dozens of local broadcast stations (over 50 is common, especially in and around urban areas). Most digital stations also carry subchannels within their frequency range, increasing the programming options. If you are a fan of one specific show on one cable channel, understand that you may not pick that up, as many cable channels just do not have a broadcasted-via-airwaves counterpart. 


You can enter your address through sites such as antennaweb.org or nocable.org to learn the transmitter location and number of stations in your area.


TIP: Make sure you choose an antenna that receives both the UHF and the VHF signals. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Antennas
An HD antenna stands on a table below a television.

There are different TV antenna types based on their placement in the home.


As the name suggests, indoor HDTV antennas hook up to your television for mounting indoors. Most indoor antennas attach to your television with a long coaxial cable and have a wide, flat surface, about the size and thickness of a magazine, for mounting on a wall or window. Indoor antennas tend to be less expensive than other kinds of HDTV antennas. 

  

Outdoor HDTV antennas are designed to be placed in attics or on rooftops. Outdoor antennas tend to be larger and more sensitive than indoor antenna: the larger the surface area of the antenna, the more channels it’s likely to receive. The higher position means that it’s likely to receive long distance signals with less interference than indoor antennas.


Before purchasing, determine the distance between your television and the antenna’s eventual placement. Have an adequate length of connecting cable on hand when installing. Outdoor antennas usually come with mounting hardware and tend to cost more than an indoor antenna.

Amplified Antennas
An outdoor amplified HD antenna is attached to the railing of a deck.

Amplified antennas are designed to boost signal strength, particularly in rural or suburban areas, which need to pick up signals from a further distance. The amplifier can also compensate for signal interference caused by storms and other bad weather.


Directional vs. Multidirectional Antennas
A multidirectional hd antenna.

Standard HD antenna models can also be called directional TV antennas, as they are contructed to receive signals from a single direction. 


Specialized or multidirectional TV antennas, also called omnidirectional TV antennas, can receive digital TV signals from several sources and are designed to receive TV signals from potentially any direction. 


In general, directional antennas have fewer options than the multi-directional variety of TV antenna as it is designed to receive signals from one direction. However, since it's more refined toward a specific place, the directional antenna can increase a signal's performance and reduce interference better than a multidirectional TV antenna.

HD Antenna Location
Old antenna on a roof.

When shopping for the best HD antenna for your needs, check online for the nearest transmitter tower and the channels available to your home. If you live in or near an urban area, an indoor antenna may provide sufficient signal reception for your needs. The farther the tower is from your location, the more likely you will need an outdoor or amplified antenna. 


Digital antennas tend to be classified by range: a 50-mile antenna can receive signals from a distance of 50 miles. The longer the range, the more expensive the antenna. Some long-range TV antennas are designed to receive signals from 125 miles or more. 


Distance is not the only factor that can effect an antenna's reception. The TV station's transmitter tower height, hilly terrain and tall buildings and trees can result in interference or “noise.” 


TIP: If your house already has an old-fashioned analog antenna on the roof, test its reception too on your television, as analog or regular antennas can sometimes receive digital TV signals.

Antenna Accessories
An antenna mounting rod.

While most new televisions have digital OTA (over-the-air) tuners built in, if you have an older model, you may need a signal converter box. 


Other TV antenna accessories include mount poles and mounting hardware for outdoor antennas, detachable cable for tv antennas, surge protectors, AC adaptors and remote controls. 

If you are ready to be a cable cutter and say goodbye to monthly bills, this guide can help you know what a digital antenna is and how to make the right antenna choice for your household. If you enjoy traditional TV network shows, are a news hound, an enthusiastic sports fan or all of the above, HD antennas can provide an array of TV programming with a one-time only purchase.