Imagine if someone offered you a vehicle for $1,000 that ran forever without fuel, yet they couldn’t guarantee the it would gain you to any type of of her favorite destinations. This each other the dilemma that cord-cutters confront when castle ditching their cable or satellite TV crate in favor of an at home TV antenna. Some antenna owners uncover that they have the right to just position the thing anywhere, operation a channel scan, and have instant access to all their favorite regional stations. For others, the procedure of tuning in over-the-air channels is an exercise in frustration. If the latter defines your situation, we’re right here to help, through a couple of tips to maximize your possibilities of pulling in her can’t-miss shows.

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As we uncovered in ours research and also testing because that our best indoor HDTV antennas guide, girlfriend can find plenty of good antennas priced between $25 and $100, however even a broadcast engineer can’t be 100% certain which stations any type of antenna will pull in at a particular location. Over there are just so many variables affecting the performance of an indoor TV antenna, and the design of the antenna plays just one part: The qualities of her TV’s tuner, the construction of her home, the room you ar the antenna in, the method you mount the antenna, trees and also other out objects that might block reception, and also multipath interference led to by signal reflect from mountains, bodies of water, or structures all can affect antenna performance. The variety of channels girlfriend receive could even readjust from day come day or week come week.

We’ve learned the tricks us describe listed below over year of antenna testing and experimentation, in settings ranging from high-density urban locations to sprawling suburbs. We’ve also asked many antenna manufacturers for advice. Unfortunately, also after adhering to these tips, friend still might not obtain all the channels you want, yet you space almost specific to get more than if you were to just slap up an antenna in the many convenient place.


Why it’s helpful: Knowing the ar of your regional TV stations’ transfer transmitters help you make a much better decision about where to place your antenna. Broadcast signals space not small beams; castle actually much more like vast waves rolling end you at the beach. Generally, you acquire the strongest signal if the maximum quantity of the antenna is exposed come the wave, so you must position your antenna parallel come the wave front and perpendicular come the signal direction. She usually finest off place the antenna on a wall that runs at or close to a 90-degree angle to the direction the the signal.


How to do it: You can find the direction and also distance that your regional transmitters through visiting AntennaWeb or RabbitEars, or you can use one of two people of the free smartphone apps from RCA and also Winegard, both of i beg your pardon are accessible for iOS and also Android and also work with antennas of any brand. The RCA application is specifically nice because it reflects you i beg your pardon direction to orient the antenna because that optimum reception of any details station.


In some cities—such together Denver, new York, and also San Francisco—most of the TV transmitters room clustered together atop a mountain or a high building, i m sorry makes positioning your antenna easier. Yet most cities—especially those in flatter areas, like Atlanta, Boston, and also Houston—have TV transmitters in multiple locations. In these locales, if you suggest the antenna so that your favorite networks come in reliably, you might sacrifice agree of some various other channels.


The two websites mentioned above will also tell girlfriend if any type of of your neighborhood TV stations broadcast in the low-VHF tape (radio-frequency channels 2 through 6), which has much much longer wavelengths and also thus requires a much longer or broader antenna for optimum reception. Many little indoor TV antennas struggle to traction in low-VHF signals, no matter where and how you place them. (Note: The channel number that shows up on your TV display screen is a “virtual channel” that may not reflect the yes, really radio-frequency channel the terminal uses—for instance, what you see as TV channel 2 can actually it is in transmitting on channel 28.) If one or more of your favorite networks transmit in the low-VHF band and you can’t pick them up through your indoor antenna, girlfriend may have actually to think about an out antenna.


Why it’s helpful: If you’re having actually trouble tuning in preferred channels, utilizing a signal-level meter deserve to make it faster and easier to place your antenna to traction in the strongest signals. A meter eliminates the time-consuming trial-and-error procedure of put the antenna, running a channel scan on your TV come see just how many networks you get, do the efforts a various antenna position, and also rescanning to check out if you get much better results. A signal-level meter responds in just a few seconds, fairly than the 10 minutes the a TV channel scan frequently takes, therefore you can evaluate all potential antenna location in a minute or two rather than an hour or two.


How to do it: part indoor antennas, such as the RCA ANT3ME and also Winegard Flatwave Amped Pro, come with a integrated signal-level meter. Just move the antenna approximately until you find the place that gives you the the strongest signal ~ above the meter, operation one channel scan on her TV, and also you’re done. In ours antenna tests, both of this antennas came to be top performers as soon as we optimized your positions making use of their integrated signal-level meters.


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If her antenna does no come v a signal-level meter, you deserve to buy an add-on signal-level meter, such together this model from KKmoon that we tested. However, we uncovered this cheap meter fussy to use because it requires you to adjust its sensitivity to fit the features of her antenna. This no difficult—you just turn a knob till the needle is much more or less centered on the meter. But in ours case, the meter jumped approximately a lot, when the audible ton accompanying it regularly shifted madness in pitch and also volume. We discovered the meters developed into the RCA and Winegard antennas an ext helpful and less frustrating come use.


Why that helpful: place the antenna close to the ceiling typically produces the best results because it put the antenna above the level the low-lying objects in adjacent rooms or outdoors that could block the signal. This is part of the reason, in our experience, wall-mounted antennas generally outperform antennas placed on height of a table or TV stand. However, this is just a basic rule; the building of her house, the orientation and position that the wall, and whatever is on the other side that the wall surface might actually cause worse reception if you mount the antenna high up.


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In most situations, a TV antenna will obtain the most networks if you mount it high, near the ceiling. Photo: Brent Butterworth

How to carry out it: The only difficulty you’re most likely to encounter when mounting one antenna near the ceiling is the the cable could not be lengthy enough. All of our picks come v at least 10 feet the cable, i beg your pardon in most dwellings should be sufficient to place the antenna up close to the ceiling. You have the right to lengthen any antenna cable with an expansion cable and also coupler.


Why it’s helpful: Even though it’s generally ideal to mountain the antenna flat against a wall that operation perpendicular to the direction that the signal you want to receive, the construction of her home and also other variables in and around your residence may make other positions work-related better.


How to perform it: Although relocating an antenna approximately to different positions top top the same wall surface can positively impact performance, we’ve uncovered that you’re likely to see a bigger distinction if you relocate the antenna to an adjacent wall surface that runs at a 90-degree edge to the very first wall.


Mounting the antenna on an exterior wall surface may produce better results than mounting the on an interior wall, even if the exterior wall surface is oriented in the dorn direction—just due to the fact that there’s much less of your house or apartment building for the signal come penetrate.


Positioning the antenna on one adjacent wall surface may no be good for aesthetics, as it could make hiding the antenna and also cable more difficult—and you might need an expansion cable if the cable had with the antenna isn’t long enough.


Why it’s helpful: In most urban areas and many suburban areas, a appropriately positioned indoor antenna should have the ability to pull in many or all neighborhood network-affiliate TV stations in addition to several elevation stations. However if you’re much more than about 30 mile from many of your neighborhood TV transmitters, if you in a thick urban area where multipath interference is a huge problem, or if one or much more stations transmit ~ above a low-VHF channel (something you can find out on AntennaWeb or RabbitEars), it’s worth her time and also trouble to download a rooftop antenna, provided you live in a location where it is possible. It’s much easier for the larger facets of a typical rooftop-antenna design to pull in both weaker signals and the much longer wavelengths of low-VHF signals.


My rooftop antenna consistently outperforms all the indoor antennas i have tested; at my house, it commonly pulls in about 150 Los Angeles–area channels, while the best indoor antennas usually height out roughly 100 channels. The antenna I use is a huge model through eight “bowtie” elements, comparable to this Channel grasp model. It occurred to it is in the winner of an antenna roundup ns performed years ago using a radio-frequency spectrum analyzer. Ns wish I might tell you the antenna’s brand, yet that would typical climbing increase on mine roof, and it has actually probably to be discontinued, anyway. It works great in Los Angeles, where almost every one of the TV transmitters sit atop mount Wilson, however in other cities, an antenna with a motorized, swiveling base can work better.


How to do it: The ambitious do-it-yourselfer that has access to their roof deserve to probably download a rooftop antenna in about three hours. That’s just how long it take it me to mountain my out antenna ~ above the roof and also then run the cable through an exterior wall, through my attic, down right into my living room wall, and finally to a wall jack. Yet for the three hours of work, mine reward has been 15 years of perfect TV reception—and i later included a splitter to get the exact same clear signal in various other rooms of mine house. If you’re do not want or unable to mount the antenna yourself, that a job that need to be well within the capability of any type of home handyperson for hire.


No matter what type of antenna friend choose, security a little time to set it up ideal will pay off in many hours of viewing pleasure. Finest of all, that antenna will never price you one extra penny and won’t asking you because that your credit transaction card number or password.

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Brent Butterworth is a senior staff writer covering audio and musical instruments at Wirecutter. Since 1989, he has served as an editor or writer on audio-focused websites and magazines together as house Theater, Sound & Vision, SoundStage, and also JazzTimes. He regularly gigs on twin bass (and periodically ukulele) with Los Angeles–area jazz groups.