When you’re looking to cut cable’s ballooning costs, a one-time purchase of a TV antenna can be significantly less than even a one-month cable bill. Best of all, there’s no monthly subscription fee. The antenna pulls in free over-the-air TV stations that include the commercial networks, PBS affiliates and independent stations in your area.
Depending on the program, you’ll receive HDTV (1080i or 720p) quality with 5.1 discrete channels of digital sound. The picture from an over-the-air antenna may actually look better than what you get from an overly-compressed channel provided by a cable system trying to squeeze in as many channels as possible.
Antennas are mainly categorized as indoor or outdoor and passive or amplified. Rabbit ears telescoping from ancient TV sets have largely been replaced by new designs that nab signals for use by today’s DTV sets. The majority resemble a miniature pine tree with metallic limbs or a flat rectangular plate. An antenna offered in passive and amplified versions can look identical with the main difference for the latter being a power adapter you connect to an electrical outlet to boost the signal.
An antenna is not a tuner. The former simply gathers a signal from the air and funnels it down a cable attached to your TV. Every TV contains a digital tuner that you command with the TV set’s remote to change the channel. Because the majority of American households subscribe to a cable or satellite service that typically provides a proprietary tuner embedded in a set-top box, the internal tuner in most TVs is bypassed and ignored—unless you deploy an antenna.
If you never connected an antenna to a TV, you’ve probably never run the TV’s setup routine that scans TV broadcast frequencies for finding receivable channels and locking them into memory. Once your antenna is connected, you’ll want to run the routine several times, changing the location or orientation of the antenna each time in pursuit of the optimal position to receive the most channels. Make sure you attach the coaxial cable that comes with the antenna to the correct RF port on the TV. Some TVs have two, with one meant for the feed from a cable TV operator.
It may look like a mini metallic Christmas tree, but the Terk Technologies HDTVi VHF/UHF HDTV Indoor Antenna is engineered for Digital TV reception. Meant for grabbing both UHF and VHF HDTV broadcasts, the tree design helps eliminate reflected signals that can interfere with reception. VHF stations are picked up by a dipole you extend. According to Terk, the antenna’s high-gain elements pick up distant stations and its high back-to-front ratio rejects unwanted signals. The UHF portion of the antenna can be positioned vertically or horizontally.
The Terk Technologies HDTVA Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna uses the same design as the HDTVi but adds a power injector that you plug into a wall outlet. Amplification provides a gain of about 12 decibels for VHF channels and 11 dB for UHF. According to Terk, the antenna can pick up broadcast stations up to 45 miles away assuming there are no obstructions. It and the other antennas in this roundup are unable to gather a signal when positioned in a basement.
Taking a different design approach, the Terk Technologies FDTV2 Omni Directional Passive Flat Digital HDTV Antenna is a one-piece rectangular plate that stands erect on a stand. It can be placed in a window or even flush against the window glass, though you’ll want to experiment with a variety of positions. Once you’ve found the best location, you can lay the antenna flat, hang it on the wall or stand it upright.
The Terk Technologies FDTV1A Flat Digital Omni Directional Amplified Indoor Antenna (Black) and FDTV2A Omni Directional Amplified Flat Digital HDTV Antenna (Black) are amplified versions of the plate design. A power adapter and removable in-line amplifier with built-in coaxial cable are included. The major difference between the two is that the 1A lies flat and the 2A stands up. Functionally, they are identical.
The Terk Technologies TV4 Low-Profile Indoor TV Antenna uses what Terk calls “complementary symmetry” technology that employs two tuned elements for receiving VHF and UHF stations. The low-profile design allows the antenna to stand less than 5 inches tall. The passive antenna can be rotated for best reception.
Installing an antenna on the outside of your home potentially provides better reception than an indoor antenna since the signal travels down a connecting cable rather than having to penetrate building walls or windows. Also, an outdoor installation usually means placement at a higher elevation than what’s possible inside. The upper wall or roof of a building will almost always provide better reception than a ground-floor location.
The Terk Technologies FDTVO Omni-Directional Amplified Flat Outdoor Antenna puts a flat antenna on an arm connected to a plate meant for mounting on the side of a building. The antenna can be oriented horizontally or vertically. The FDTVO’s 360° reception pattern eliminates the need for constant adjustments, according to Terk. A removable amplifier and power injector are included.
If you have a satellite dish already installed but don’t want to pay your satellite service for the delivery of local stations you can attach the Terk Technologies TV44 Amplified Clip-on Outdoor Antenna right to your satellite dish. With its 26.5-inch span and semi-circle design, the TV44 antenna clamps onto the edge of your satellite dish and pulls in VHF and UHF channels without interfering with Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) reception. Because the dish must be pointed to a fixed position in the sky, the TV44 is designed to receive signals from all directions at once. An amplifier boosts weak signals and reduces noise. Cable segments and diplexers are included for running the local station signals along the satellite cable into your home and splitting them off to the tuner in your TV.
The Terk Technologies HDTVo Amplified Directional HDTV Antenna may look like a giant bug but its hybrid design is tailored for receiving all available UHF and VHF HDTV broadcasts in your area. The antenna can be mounted outdoors, on a wall or roof, or in the attic. A power injector is included for connection to a wall outlet. Incidentally, if you have a satellite dish, it’s possible to run the HDTVo’s signals along the dish cable. You’ll need to purchase a set of diplexers like those included with the TV44.
If you plan to use an outdoor antenna with multiple TV sets, you’ll need a splitter and extra cables, both sold separately. They include Monster Cable RF Splitters and Terk TRG12 RG6, a 12-foot coaxial cable.