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Thread: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

  1. #1
    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Never dabbled with this before, but since I'm now flirting with dropping cable TV (gasp!) for at least a little while, I'd like to pick up a 'decent' antenna that would allow any one of my 3 HDTVs (One big one, two little ones) to at least catch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS over the air and in HD.

    I live in New Castle, IN, so I'm not exactly close to a big city. That's about 45 or so miles away from Indy.

    What would be the "right" antenna for me given where I live?

    What should the price for said antenna be?

    Thanks for anything you can help me with!

  2. #2

    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    I bought the cheapest thing they had a Best Buy a few years back. I think it was about $25 or so. I'm on the west side of Indy and I get 14 different channels or so. I'm not sure the antenna makes that much difference (could be wrong here) since we're dealing with digital as opposed to analog - so I'm not sure spending a lot of money will be worth the difference. Even when the dish goes out during storms, the antenna still works fine.

    antennaweb.org will help you figure out where the different transmission towers are and how to point your antenna. Great website.

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    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    What channels do you get?

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    4, 6, 8, 13, 20, 59. And a few offsprings of each.

    29-2 (THIS), 8-2 (weather) 13-2 (weather), 13-3 (some sort of sport-ish station) and a some others that I've deleted from the list.

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    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Bigger the better... If you live near the transmitters that's not always true but once you get down the road you need the bigger antenna. MAYBE an antenna booster as well but your mileage may vary there since you aren't THAT far away. Remember, the booster goes OUTSIDE -very- near the antenna. That way it's boosting signal and sending a hotter signal down the coax, not boosting the weaker signal after it's already been degraded by 100' of cable length.

    You can probably point your antenna towards Indy and get the networks fine without a motor... But you might have other stations you could pick up if you had a rotor for it. And it's possible you might be unlucky and need to point the antenna slightly different even for different Indy stations. That's one of those things you won't know until you try. Personally, I'd get the rotor anyway so I could try and get other stations. I'm thinking you'd be on the fringes of some Ohio channels. You might wonder why that would matter since they might be the same networks as the Indy channels... BUT that could mean different NFL games and maybe some different college basketball or football options.

    Also, higher the better too. 40' tower is great.... 20' is better than 10'... an antenna on the ground is better than no antenna... and so on...

    Most stations are broadcasting on UHF now but I think Indy has at least one that is on VHF. So make sure your antenna is capable of both VHF and UHF reception.

    If the antenna has to go INSIDE (like in the attic) then not only do I recommend the biggest you can get but also I'd recommend the booster for sure at that point).

    Even with digital TV the antenna matters. It's the same as always. The closer to the towers, the smaller you need. Really, nothing has changed with any of that. Obviously, snow is a thing of the past but if the signal isn't strong enough instead of a snowy picture you just won't get ANY picture. Or on the fringe it will break up and go in and out of lock (as to be basically unviewable).

    As for antennas that call themselves "HDTV Antenna" that is snake oil. As long as it's VHF/UHF and the proper size for your distance then you are as good as it will get (other than tweaking ant height). Any antenna is capable of HDTV reception... although some might just promote the HDTV aspect not so much to lure unsuspecting buyers but to just make sure uninformed consumers don't overlook their antenna...
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

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    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Sorry, I should have clarified that I'm looking for an indoor antenna only.

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Okay, using the AntennaWeb site, after entering in my information, the channels near me are:

    (Antenna type, Call Sign, Channel, Network, City/State, Compass Heading, Miles From, RF Channel)

    Code:
    *	red
    uhf	WIPB-DT	49.1	PBS	MUNCIE, IN		360°	12.1	23
    *	blue
    uhf	WRTV-DT	6.1	ABC	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	43.9	25
    *	blue
    uhf	WHMB-DT	40.1	IND	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	44.2	20
    *	violet
    uhf	WFYI-DT	20.1	PBS	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	43.9	21
    *	violet
    uhf	WXIN-DT	59.1	FOX	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		272°	44.0	45
    *	violet
    uhf	WDTI-DT	44.1	DAY	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	44.2	44
    *	violet
    uhf	WTTK-DT	29.1	CW	BLOOMINGTON, IN		272°	44.0	29
    *	violet
    uhf	WNDY-DT	23.1	MNT	MARION, IN		303°	33.9	32
    If that means anything to anybody.

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Not to scare you completely away from it but it may or may not be as simple as just throwing up an antenna on a tower with a rotor to point it at whatever broadcast tower you want to receive broadcasts from.

    Keep in mind that the broadcast sites are different geographically, and that you will need the ability to basically point at roughly the Verizon Wireless (Deer Creek) area for some, North Meridian for others, and a little to the south side of Indy for still others, and that is just for Indy, and every time you change a channel that is broadcast from another tower you may have to use the rotor to tune in your signal (could prove maddening if you want to record things while you are away that would require rotating your antenna to tune in the desired channel). Also, keep in mind that digital signals behave more similarly to satellite signals and can be more susceptible to fade from heavy rain, wooded areas in your near vicinity in line of sight with the transmitters (though only being roughly 40 to 50 linear miles you should have the towers at a more favorable angle than I have between New Castle and Muncie almost in Mt. Pleasant over by Randolph county an average of more like 50 to 60 miles), hills in the way (depending on how far north you are in the New Castle area that might be an issue) or other obstructions.

    I actually went to the trouble of moving my antenna to higher ground and buying an Archer antenna supposedly designed to have a longer reception range. However, where my antenna originally was actually had an advantage over where I moved it to due to reflectivity from the aluminum siding on my house that apparently helped to focus the digital signal. Unfortunately for me, the amplifier up on the actual antenna (my system has both one on the antenna and a second one in the house) went bad (we think) quite a while ago, and we haven't gone to the trouble of renting a lift to get up to the antenna to change it (40' antenna tower).

    Also, apparently it is possible to get too much signal strength and losing reception due to that as well. So, for some channels the signal may actually need to be attenuated (reduced) as opposed to amplified depending on your situation, which would then require other equipment and possibly a second antenna or more depending on your situation.

    Also, many stations have had to adjust their broadcast patterns due to the digital format and its different behavior and the potential for interferring with other stations with nearby fringe areas, so who knows, you may be able to get some Dayton channels (I could for a while, but not as well as I did when things were analog).

    It is no longer quite the same as the good old analog days from what I have learned so far...

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
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    Okay, using the AntennaWeb site, after entering in my information, the channels near me are:

    (Antenna type, Call Sign, Channel, Network, City/State, Compass Heading, Miles From, RF Channel)

    Code:
    *	red
    uhf	WIPB-DT	49.1	PBS	MUNCIE, IN		360°	12.1	23
    *	blue
    uhf	WRTV-DT	6.1	ABC	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	43.9	25
    *	blue
    uhf	WHMB-DT	40.1	IND	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	44.2	20
    *	violet
    uhf	WFYI-DT	20.1	PBS	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	43.9	21
    *	violet
    uhf	WXIN-DT	59.1	FOX	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		272°	44.0	45
    *	violet
    uhf	WDTI-DT	44.1	DAY	INDIANAPOLIS, IN		273°	44.2	44
    *	violet
    uhf	WTTK-DT	29.1	CW	BLOOMINGTON, IN		272°	44.0	29
    *	violet
    uhf	WNDY-DT	23.1	MNT	MARION, IN		303°	33.9	32
    If that means anything to anybody.
    Yep, they are showing you what direction you need to point your antenna from your geographic location to receive each individual channel listed, as well as basic recommendations for antenna types that would, in general, be applicable for each channel (I think that is what the colors mean, and I assume there is a legend that shows that), as well as the actual location on the "dial" that each channel now resides at (very different from the analog days).

  14. #10

    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    I'm just a few miles closer to most of those towers and I receive everything just fine. I put the antenna where I had a spot for it - not according to the website.

    I just don't think it's that complex. Get an el-cheapo, put it inside somewhere, scan, see what you get. If it works - cool. If not, move it around a little. Fine tune it. If it still doesn't work, return it and buy a better one and repeat the process. Everyone that I know that has messed with one has had zero problems getting the cheap stuff to work just fine.

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  16. #11
    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    And you're talking cheap and indoor-only?

  17. #12
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Hicks... Define "Indoor" for us a little. Are you looking for rabbit ears type of 'indoor' antenna or something that goes in the attic? ...Or something else?
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

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    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Something that just sits right near the TV, doesn't need to be mounted, doesn't need to be in another room. So I guess "rabbit ears" to answer your question.

  19. #14
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Years ago, before i got my cable hooked in my new house. I bought some simple RCA Rabbit ears that were made for HD signals, and it worked amazingly well. Though I live in Indy. I was also able to steal wifi signals from the neighbors router, once that ended I finally decided to get the cable hooked back up.

    If I were you I'd head over to the local radio shack or best buy and just buy a set top HD Antenna. The great thing about digital is that its either all there or not. So you don't get any fuzz. You might get your picture cutting out intermittently though.

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Actually, instead of the typical "rabbit ears", where the "ears" were primarily for VHF, get a UHF antenna. That is where the signals are. Even though a number of companies like to put "HD" on everything, there is not really an HD antenna. Rather, they are UHF antennas simply labeled HD.

    If I remember correctly, a number of years ago, there was an antenna called the Silver Sensor that had pretty good reviews for an indoor antenna. Whatever you buy, try to buy from a store with a good return policy. If the one you pick out doesn't do the job for you, simply return it and move up to the next level.

    Do I remember right, that you are north of Indy? Maybe New Castle or Muncie? If so, it should not be too difficult. There is mainly flat land between you and the towers. That helps a bunch, right there.

    I would even go so far as to call one on the stations engineers and ask for advice. Couldn't hurt, right?

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom White View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote

    If I remember correctly, a number of years ago, there was an antenna called the Silver Sensor that had pretty good reviews for an indoor antenna. Whatever you buy, try to buy from a store with a good return policy. If the one you pick out doesn't do the job for you, simply return it and move up to the next level.
    Silver sensor was highly recommended and still is it seems. Only problem is that antenna was highly directional and UHF only. It will pick up many of the Indy stations but WISH 8 probably not.

    As others have suggested...I would hit a Big Lots and pick up a $2.00 pair of rabbit ears and see what you get. If you're not dealing with hills and many trees you could be amazed at what you get.

    I've had a Channel Master for years but lightning played havoc (yep it was grounded) and fried my pre-amp. But if possible, going outside as BBall mentioned is the way to go.
    You know how hippos are made out to be sweet and silly, like big cows, but are actually extremely dangerous and can kill you with stunning brutality? The Pacers are the NBA's hippos....Matt Moore CBS Sports....

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Heck maybe he should try a paper clip first.

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Decided to buy a cheap one to start with and see what I get.

    Got a good price (I think) on Amazon: Just over $9.

    Should get here tomorrow. I'll report back after I try it out.

    http://www.amazon.com/RCA-ANT111-Bas.../dp/B000HKGK8Y

  24. #19

    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    I think that will work just fine. Keep us posted.

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    You might try making one.

    How to Make a Digital TV Antenna, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRS4GMGJr7M

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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Decided to buy a cheap one to start with and see what I get.

    Got a good price (I think) on Amazon: Just over $9.

    Should get here tomorrow. I'll report back after I try it out.

    http://www.amazon.com/RCA-ANT111-Bas.../dp/B000HKGK8Y
    OK, take a look at the picture on Amazon. You may already know this, but just in case - The loop portion of the antenna is the UHF section. The wands (or ears) are the VHF section.

  27. #22
    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Cheapo only pulled in two PBS channels and some local weather channel.

    Bought a near $40 one that is omni-directional and has an amplifier tonight from Walmart. Same channels.

    I'm returning it tomorrow.

    Not sure I'm up for bigger measures right now. Don't really want to screw with anything else because it seems like the next step is something setup outside....

  28. #23
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    Cheapo only pulled in two PBS channels and some local weather channel.

    Bought a near $40 one that is omni-directional and has an amplifier tonight from Walmart. Same channels.

    I'm returning it tomorrow.

    Not sure I'm up for bigger measures right now. Don't really want to screw with anything else because it seems like the next step is something setup outside....
    Omni Directional isn't likely what you need. Seeing how you didn't pull in much to begin with you more than likely need a directional antenna... and a 'powered' (or 'amplified) one at that.

    You can put a rooftop style antenna in your attic... so that gets you into a bigger antenna but doesn't involve towers or climbing on the roof.

    This is assuming you have an attic...
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

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  29. #24
    Wasting Light Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    I do, but it's unfinished and not easily accessible. I think I've (at least for now) reached "screw it, it's not worth it," territory.

  30. #25

    Default Re: So I'd like to buy an HDTV over-the-air antenna; what do I need to know?

    I have this one outside my bedroom window. I figured it was better than paying monthly for another direct TV box when generally all I watch in bed are DVDs, late local news, & network football when the other TVs are taken. It picks up far more than indoor rabbit ears did for me. If you can put it in the attic you might be fine. The remote it comes with turns it, but it is a little tricky to get the hang of it. I rarely have to change the direction though, and it gets everything within 30 miles or so, and all for the price of rabbit ears. I think it is the same, though I got it from 1saleaday.com

    http://www.amazon.com/Remote-control...692638&sr=1-28

    fair warning: It has to be mounted on something- I had a spare PVC pipe (maybe 1" diameter?) that it fit on, and I U-bolted the pipe to a fence about 5 feet from my bedroom window. It also required drilling a small hole in the window fame for the cord.
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