There are so many TV antennas on the market today that it can get pretty overwhelming. Enter your zip code in the station finder tool on this site's home page to see how many stations you can get. If you get a lot of strong (green) and medium (yellow) level channels, an indoor antenna is probably fine. If your location has only weak channels, you will need an outdoor or attic antenna.
In general, you should try to get an antenna that is optimized for both UHF and VHF.
I don't recommend purchasing a rabbit-ear antenna, because there are much better options which I will describe below. But, if you have one already, give it a try. Just to show you what these look like, the one above is the one I had lying around in a closet from years ago.
The Indoor Antenna I Use
The Mohu Leaf is a super-flat indoor antenna made in the U.S. with performance on par with or better than much bulkier metal antennas. (I live in an an apartment, so I can't put an antenna on the roof or attic.) I use the Leaf and it's fantastic in terms of performance, and hide-ability. You can simply hang it on a wall. You can read my full review here, or find it at Amazon. I highly recommend it.
If you are not able to put an antenna in your attic or roof, this is a good option. (In full disclosure, I have received free Mohu Leaf antennas for review. But, I also receive lots of other antennas for free which I don't recommend.)
Powered Indoor Antennas
(not recommended for most people)
Powered (amplified) antennas seem like a great idea. If a channel is weak, the amplifier will make it strong so your TV can receive more channels.
However, after doing extensive testing, I personally have seen no improvement in performance by using powered antennas over non-powered antennas. I am not the only one. Many people online have found the same thing. If you want a detailed explanation why, check out my blog article on amplified antennas. But it could be that I just don't have any weak channels in my area, so there is no difference in performance. I live in a medium-sized city. If you live in or near a medium or large city, I don't believe an indoor powered antenna will give you any better performance than a passive (non-powered) antenna. Save your money and get the passive version.
Having said that, there are some circumstances where an indoor powered (amplified) antenna can be beneficial:
- If you live in the middle of nowhere with no close stations, a powered antenna might help. If you enter your zip code into the Station Finder and all of your stations are yellow and red, you might benefit from an amplified antenna. If you have any green stations, I wouldn't recommend it. That's because when you amplify a signal, a strog station (green) can actually drown out weaker ones, resulting in worse performance than a passive antenna.
- If your cable run is long (like 30 feet or more), an amplified antenna might be beneficial. If your antenna is in the attic or roof, you probably want an amplifier.
- If you are driving more than one TV, an amplified antenna might be beneficial.
If you fall under one of the three categories above, here are three amplified indoor antennas that I would recommend: Winegard FlatWave Amped, NorthVu NV20 Pro, Mohu Leaf Plus.
(In full disclosure, I have received free review samples of the FlatWave Amped, NV20, and Leaf Plus).
If you want to attach an amplifier to an exisitng attic or roof antenna, you can find a selection of amplifiers here.
An outdoor or attic antenna will give you the most channels, hands down. That's because it's both higher up and above the walls of your home. Of course, outdoor antennas are more of a chore to set up and tweak, and you probably can't use one if you live in an apartment (like me). You'll have to run a long cable to your TV, then you'll need someone watching the TV while you tweak the antenna on the roof or attic. If you live far from the TV stations however, this is your best (and perhaps only) option.
Here are some good outdoor/attic antennas. The more expensive they are, the greater range they will have.
Much has been written about antennas. Check some of these links if you're interested. Solid Signal has a good online selection of broadcast TV antennas:
Amazon has a good selection with lots of reviews.
AntennaWeb is a definitive source for antenna information with a tool that shows available channels in your area, as well as what direction they are coming from. Click on "Choose an antenna".
DTV.gov has general information on digital TV and a good reception map to show what channels you can get.
DTV USA forum has a wealth of technical information on antennas, DTV, and a lot of other stuff.
HDTV Antenna Labs has extensive antenna reviews and broadcast maps.
Solid Signal has a GREAT selection of antennas, amplifiers, and tools to help you pick an antenna. I've ordered from them before.
tvfool.com has great TV reception maps and signal locators.
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