Looking for that free tv
October 2, 2010 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Going cable free and looking to choose the best ota tv antenna.

I've been trying out OTA tv in NYC and was wondering if anyone had specific antenna recommendations. I've been trying out this $10 antenna from radioshack and have found that I can get all of the regular OTA HDTV channels, CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, My9, PBS at various times depending on which way I turn the antenna. I figure with a slightly better antenna I can get all of the channels clearly without having to move the antenna around all the time.

I'm on the UWS on the first floor if it matters. My tv is next to the window and is facing south. I'm planning on putting the antenna on the windowsill.
posted by jourman2 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My husband built one out of coat hangers, a few screws and washers, some wood, and a part from radio shack. There are plenty of tutorials on how to do it if you google around. It worked great for us for our year without cable. (We got it back for college football. We are weak.)
posted by chiababe at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2010

AVSForum is a pretty good source of information on this topic. You can check the appropriate area here and might also want to look into the local reception forum over here.

I suppose the question you want to ask yourself is, "how obtrusive an antenna am I willing to tolerate?" If you don't really mind how it looks or have creative ways of hiding it, look for something like this with a comparatively high gain of 11.2 dB.

If a higher gain antenna does not fix your directionality issues, it may be something you just have to live with. If you really don't want to adjust the antenna manually when you switch channels, there are such devices that can be programmed to do it automatically; however my impression of these is that they're mostly for larger, outdoor installations.
posted by indubitable at 10:17 AM on October 2, 2010

Also, you'll want to match your antenna with the bands that your favorite channels are broadcast on (most television is broadcast in the UHF band, but there are also a few on VHF, so depending on what you want to watch, you should tailor your antenna selection accordingly). To get an idea of how much antenna you're likely to need at your location and where your local transmitters are located, TVFool is a decent reception forecasting tool.
posted by indubitable at 10:34 AM on October 2, 2010

At my house, the coaxial cable that provides content (if you had cable) also works as a good over the air antenna. I get so many channels that I just never got around to purchasing an HDTV over-the-air antenna.
posted by sorrenn at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2010

I was going to say what sorrenn said. If it matters, I am nearby.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 5:22 PM on October 2, 2010

You should realize that no indoor antenna will work as well as an outdoor antenna. That's not to say that your indoor antenna will not be good enough, though.
posted by Sukiari at 8:00 PM on October 2, 2010

Best answer: The major stations' transmitters are on top of the Empire State Building. The big thing is to make sure you get an antenna that works on VHF and UHF. 7, 11, and 13 are transmitting on VHF (rabbit ears work best) and the rest are on UHF (bow tie is best).
posted by Gridlock Joe at 8:24 PM on October 2, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, all. I tried the cable route. I have RCA and apparently they've switched to mostly digital signals which you need a converter box for.

Gridlock Joe, it's interesting that you mention the uhf/vhf dichotomy. I bought a few antennas to test them out and I've gotten to the point where cbs, nbc, fox, and my9 work perfectly, but abc, cw, and pbs (the vhf channels) don't at all. I'm still using rabbit ears (the radioshack antennae referenced above), though, not a bow tie - so you'd think the opposite would be happening.

Any specific suggestions for tweaking the antenna? Do I need two antennas? Looking at antennaweb cbs and abc coming from pretty much the same direction (214 and 215 degrees) so I'm not quite sure what else I can do.
posted by jourman2 at 9:54 PM on October 2, 2010

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