HD TV needs an antenna
September 4, 2009 2:11 PM   Subscribe

We have an HD TV, but no cable subscription. antenna advice, please!

Degree of difficuly : we live in an apartment, and do not have roof access.

I've seen discussions pro and con about the viability of indoor antennas, but wanted to ask the hivemind their thoughts. used one? had any luck? which one would you recommend? are there particular features to look out for? etc.

The TV itself (no external antenna attached) doesn't find any broadcast channels when we ask it to search for signals.
posted by radiosilents to Technology (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
My husband did some research on this (we use an internal antenna because so far we have been too cheap to do anything else) and the truth is the type of antenna varies depending on what stations are near you and what channels you want to get. The one my dad gave us is supposed to be top of the line but it turned out it was next to the worst because of our location to what we needed to access.

But even that one will get reception IF we point it just the right way AND have the tv set at just the right spot in the living room. Yes, location matters.

And do know that even such things as weather and passing cars WILL have an influence on reception.

Hubby found a bunch of info on the internet but I don't know where he got it-I imagine someone else on here can be of more help.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:20 PM on September 4, 2009

Any regular tv antenna will work, it doesn't need to be a special HD antenna.

That said, depending on a number of factors, you may want one that has some directionality or signal amplification to it.

Antennaweb Will give you an idea what kind of stations you can expect to get and what sort of reception you might receive.

My advice - start with a cheap antenna and see how it goes. My cheapest wire ones work on the TV upstairs. Downstairs we had to get a 50 dollar TERK amplified antenna, and it works fairly well.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:21 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I get all of my local channels in HD on my newish HDTV out of the air with just the flimsy rabbit ears that came with my 15 year old Sony Trinitron.

It will depend mostly on how close you are to the broadcast towers in your area as to what kind of antenna you'll need. If you're close like I am you can get away with the cheapest thing in the store. If you're farther away it won't be so easy.
posted by birdherder at 2:24 PM on September 4, 2009

Best answer: You say you have no "cable subscription." If that means that your apartment is wired for cable, try running a cable from the jack to the antenna jack on your tv. Keep the TV set to the OTA mode. Try the channel search function.

Often, that will give you a bunch of channels without even buying a real antenna.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 2:24 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used an old antenna from an analog (NTSC) TV on a digital (ATSC) set, and it worked great. Also, I tried a cheap bottom of the line 12 dollar antenna from my local "Radio" store; it was marketed as an HDTV antenna, and it also works great. Occasionally I have to adjust the antenna to pick up certain channels, but I usually only have to do it once before the digital channel is locked in.

I live in a metropolitan area where the distance from the transmission towers is probably less than 20 miles, so YMMV.
posted by nefariousj at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2009

This coathanger antenna gets me around 30 HD channels, whereas the $80 one I bought from Radio Shack got half that many. It's ugly but I just stuck it behind the couch.
posted by bigbigdog at 2:37 PM on September 4, 2009 [7 favorites]

Our amplified indoor antenna worked just fine with HDTV until the June switchover, and then we lost all our reception. It didn't seem like anything we did inside the house worked, and we went to a roof antenna. I did a lot of reading of reviews before buying the indoor antenna, and it does seem like there are no universal answers -- it all depends on specifics of your town and your building.
posted by Killick at 2:38 PM on September 4, 2009

I solved the problem by hooking up two amplified HDTV antennas in series, and pointing them in different directions. Now I'm kind of bummed I hadn't seen that DIY video, though...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:09 PM on September 4, 2009

I've got a coathanger bowtie antenna indoors, using a schematic at digitalhome.ca instead of the YouTube one, and it picks up all the stations for this particular market at decent quality in a pretty marginal area. A bigger antenna on the roof might pick up stations in adjoining markets or prevent the occasional dropout, but it's not really worth the expense or effort.

TVFool is better than AntennaWeb, I'd say, for identifying which channels you ought to be able to receive, and where to point your antenna to get them.
posted by holgate at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

The key for us was using AntennaWeb to work out which direction the signals were coming from (almost due north in our case). That helped us know which window to put the antenna in, and then we just ran a long cable along the baseboard to the TV.

We bought a Philips model from Target for around $40 that works great. We'd tried a different model that didn't work for us and Best Buy took it back.
posted by davextreme at 3:25 PM on September 4, 2009

2nding Antennaweb.org. Also try TVFool.com for another opinion.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 4:11 PM on September 4, 2009

FWIW, the 2 earlier linked DIY antennas are UHF only- which means they are good for channels 14 and up (which IMHO is lacking in content). Most antennas you can buy are VHF/UHF.

VHF 2 to 13
UHF 14 to 51

I'm using this cheapo flat indoor antenna, but i'm in an area that gets fairly good reception.
posted by wongcorgi at 5:16 PM on September 4, 2009

FWIW, the 2 earlier linked DIY antennas are UHF only- which means they are good for channels 14 and up (which IMHO is lacking in content). Most antennas you can buy are VHF/UHF.

They're optimised for UHF, but pretty decent at VHF-hi (7-13), especially with a reflector.
posted by holgate at 5:43 PM on September 4, 2009

Listen to thebigdog! The coathanger antenna works great. Make 2 for 10 bucks & give the other to your neighbor.
posted by TDIpod at 8:09 PM on September 4, 2009

I think Killick really has it. Some people have been successful (whether with old rabbit ears or pricey antennae marketed as 'digital'), but it's purely anecdotal. You'll either get good reception or you won't, and I think that, most likely, if you're not going to get anything, no antenna upgrade will make enough of a difference to warrant the cost. I've been sans tv for almost three months now and I'm ready to jump out a window. Still, I'll be watching this thread with bated breath in case someone has new insights!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:28 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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