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Step-by-step HDTV Antenna Selection

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Things to understand and mistakes to avoid when buying an HDTV antenna.

Here is the list of what I believe is the important stuff you should know before buing an HDTV antenna. It looks pretty basic, but believe me, it could help many people to avoid wasting money buying useless junk and then spending hours trying to get HD signal out of it. Here we go.

There is no such thing as an HDTV antenna!

The first thing to know is that there is no such thing as an HDTV antenna. Your antenna has no idea whether your signal is high definition or not, pretty much as it doesn't care whether you are watching Fox News or NBC chanel. Antenna is just a piece of metal resonating at some particular frequency and having desirable electrical properties and radiation pattern. You may have Ultra High Frequency (UHF) antenna or Very High Frequency (VHF) antenna, but Fox News antenna or HDTV antenna is pretty much nonsense. To be fair, there are some antenna properties that are important for HD signal reception. Without going into a technical discussion, the bottom line is that the only reason you see HDTV antennas in the market is 'cause it sells better. HDTV is a fancy buzzword. As a rule of thumb, HDTV optimization is the less important feature to look at when buying an antenna for HDTV.

Outdoor HDTV antennas: directional vs. omni-directional (or multi-directional)

Directional antenna can certainly pick up hd signals from a more distant towers. However, as the name implies, a directional antenna should be aimed in a particular direction. Directional antennas are perfect for you if the transmitting towers of all networks you want to watch are located more or less in the same direction from your location. Otherwise, you may end up with the powefull antenna receiving only one TV station. Of course, if you are really far from the towers you have no choice but to use a directional antenna and sometimes several directional antennas if you want to receive broadcasts from different sites.

The highest customer rated HDTV antennas (only antennas having more than 3 reviews are shown):

Antenna Placement Directivity Amplifier Band Area Total Reviews Average Rating
RCA ANT751 Outdoor Directional No VHF/UHF Red 3592 4.5 Read reviews
1byone OUS00-0566 Indoor Multi Yes VHF/UHF 2254 4 Read reviews
AntennasDirect C2-V-CJM Indoor/Outdoor Multidirectional No VHF/UHF 1197 4.4 Read reviews

More antenna reviews ...

Directional indoor HDTV antennas

There are few very popular indoor HDTV antenna models. Many of them are pretty good if you are close to the transmitting towers, but prepare to "play" with the antenna and move it around every time you change the channel. That may be really annoying.

Outdoor is better than indoor

Yes, even better than the amplified indoor antenna in most cases. Sometimes, people tell me they bought an amplified indoor HDTV antenna because the performance of their old directional outdoor antenna was poor. Somehow they thought that the indoor antenna will do better 'cause it is amplified, it is HDTV antenna and it is new (!?). Please, don't do that. If your old outdoor antenna does not work, check the cables, aim the antenna in right direction, and if it still doesn't work, buy an outdoor antenna with a higher directivity/gain or if you are in the violet/pink zone consider buying pre-amplifier (yes, for the outdoor antenna).

You get what you pay for

HDTV antenna is the cheapest component of your HDTV system, but its impact on the HD signal reception is huge. That's why I am not a big fan of low budget antennas. After you have already spent a fortune on your plasma HDTV monitor, you want to get the most out of it. When the difference between a mediocre antenna and a star performer is atmost $50, it hardly make sense to go for a second rate antenna.

Go to Step 1: Check your HDTV tuner! --->