Need some advice on an HD antenna...

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by The Mad Hatter, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. The Mad Hatter macrumors 6502a

    The Mad Hatter

    Oct 12, 2004
    Well the wife finally relented and gave the OK to cut the DirecTV cord.

    So can you help a guy out, what are some good makes/brands of HD antennas?

    Also, what are the connections on them like, and is it better to install them in my rafters?

    Yes, I know, a lot of questions, but I haven't hooked up a TV antenna in over 30 years (you know, the ones with the flat brown 2-wire connections). ;-)

    Thank you in advance for any helpful advice.
  2. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    The good news is that the new antennas work exactly the same way as those antennas from 30 years ago (except we called them UHF antennas then). The use of coax is more common instead of twin lead, but the rules are the same. The higher the better, and stay away from metal obstacles if you can.

    What you need for an antenna depends on where you are and where your local stations are. To get started, I recommend a peek at

  3. The Mad Hatter thread starter macrumors 6502a

    The Mad Hatter

    Oct 12, 2004
    Thank you Alrescha, that'll get me started.
  4. NukeIT macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2013
    I just cut the cable myself. Went with an indoor antenna (live in a condo) and a HDHomerun connected to my Mac as my DVR.
  5. 1251division macrumors member

    Oct 8, 2012
    I prepared to cut the cable back in 2011 by installing an antenna, and finally switched over indefinitely in 2013. While in transition, I had my antenna and cable lines routed through an A-B switch, which was great for using both concurrently by avoiding the hassle of disconnecting/connecting the coax cables constantly. I installed my antenna in my attic, and am using a pre-amp to boost the signal since I'm going through the roof. I'm about 40-mi from the signals, and I would assume installation height is 25-30ft from the ground. I get a great consistent signal (extremely rare digital distortion blips/signal loss). Only thing missing is a quality HD DVR for recording OTA broadcasts. My main setup currently is an Apple TV, supplemented by the antenna for local news/sports. Cable news and a majority of sports is the main thing missing, but life has gone on just fine without.

    Equipment is:
    (Mounted on PVC pipe 'pole' and braced by 2x4 sections picked up at Home Depot. I think it was either a 1-1/2" or 2" diameter PVC pipe, and the installation hardware--C-clamps--came with the antenna. Just take the hardware with you if you go to the store.)

    (Requires electrical receptacle, I had one in my attic near my heater.)

    A-B Switch:

    I used TV Fool to locate the signal source, and used my phone's GPS compass to aim/align the antenna. All I had to to was type in my address to look up my local stations. Extremely handy.
  6. The Mad Hatter thread starter macrumors 6502a

    The Mad Hatter

    Oct 12, 2004
    Thanks guys (and/or gals ;-) You've shown me the way to finally cut the DTV/cable cord.

    I REALLY appreciate it.

  7. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    Yep, that.

    I bought one of the big outdoor antennas from Fry's Electronics for around $50. I stuck it in the attic. The advantage there (in my opinion) is that you get the surface area and height of the larger array, but it's not directly exposed to the outside to protect from wind and lightning strikes.

    It had a coaxial pigtail on it, that I connected another coaxial cable to and ran along the side of the house to where I needed it. Radio Shack even sells a little flat coax that can go under a window.
  8. Menel macrumors 603


    Aug 4, 2011
    I've got a Mohu leaf from amazon, was highly reviewed on LifeHacker.

    Thumb tacked it up on wall behind my TV, hidden. Does absolutely amazing. Don't use often, but last two weeks, Cosmos coming in over the air on FoxHD is absolutely stunning!
  9. HobeSoundDarryl, Mar 17, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    There's so much to this question and- IMO- the worst answer is the "I have a ______ and it works great" because a pile of those implies that there is one best choice.

    The antennaweb suggestion is definitely a great place to start as it will reveal several important things like relevance (your area, direct lines to towers or mountains/obstacles, all the towers generally in one direction or towers all around, etc). Stuff that like plays a BIG role in selecting the best antenna for any person.

    Higher the better is generally universally true. Bigger the better also tends to be true much of the time (meaning, if antennaweb suggests a size for your location, you shouldn't assume that the next size up is "bad"; in other words, antennaweb is answering a question that is not about "best" but about "minimal size" akin to a Mac built in about 2002 being good enough for the bulk of someone's uses but that doesn't automatically mean you should only consider buying a Mac from 2002).

    If you happen to be in a house that has an old antenna already up there, hook it up as a test. It will probably work just as good as any new antenna you might buy (and is probably already optimized for direction to the towers, etc). "HD" and "Digital" antennas are generally marketing spin vs. "analog" antennas that are already in place on many houses. Sometimes, the old ones are BETTER than the new, more cheaply made ones.

    As very general answer:
    1) consult antennaweb,
    2) shift up a size from their recommendation (go a little bigger than they say) for a little added insurance,
    3) unless you must, don't subjectively pick the spot for the antenna but get up there and try different locations (even a few feet can make a difference),
    4) higher the better,
    5) if your towers are all around you, a remote-controlled rotor can be HUGE,
    6) if your towers are far away, a signal booster can help but don't assume max boost is the best (signal boosters boost both good and bad, so a max booster will boost good & bad to the max; there is a concept of signal overload which can be just as bad as receiving too little signal),
    7) this is one of those things where the difference in price between finest quality and cheapest quality might be $200 at worst AND it's one of those things that once it's up there, you probably use it for 10-20 years. As such- IMO- letting price dominate your decision seems like the wrong way to go at a pursuit of high quality. For instance, if you spend $200 on what appears to be the ideal antenna per all of the above, $200/15 years = the equivalent of about $13 per year. Short answer: get the good one.
    8) Chasing extra signals about 65-75+ miles away is like fools gold- they'll sometimes come in solidly but other times be impossible to find. One can get consumed in trying to break the laws of physics by tweaking these, endlessly chasing the extra channels too distant to be reliably locked. Exception: if you are on a mountain top with clear line of sight to towers even 100+ miles away, you may be surprised at the reach. Otherwise, don't be seduced into thinking you're in a very special situation where the laws of physics are bent in your favor. There may be a few such places in the world but the odds are against you; it's much more likely that very distant signal locks are driven by #9…
    9) Don't gauge signal strength on a very cloudy day. Signals bounce off clouds and in some circumstances you can pick up television signals from hundreds of miles away for a while (until the clouds move/dissipate). 9B) And Nighttime signal strength seems to be superior to daytime signal strength so do your install and testing in the latter. If you test in the evening/night, you might lock on a few channels that are lost during the day.
    10) If you live in a HOA situation, be sure to search for OTARD (nutshell, HOAs are not GOD; the owner of a home has every right to receive television signals over the air via an outdoor antenna). HOAs will bluff to no end but the homeowner has the FCC with them on this matter (superseding any overbearing HOA rules/requirements).
    11) don't install on a high-wind, snowy/icy or thunderstorm day,
    12) metal antenna that touches house electric lines will yield a bad hair day just for starters,
    13) if you reject #11 or #12, be sure to have lots of life insurance.

    And one more thing: Plan for the unexpected, meaning run an extra cable or two up there that you tie off just in case you might need a companion antenna in the future. And use highest quality cable for these runs (again #7 applies to the supporting pieces like the cables where the difference between best & worst might be $20… and also get used for 10-20 years (that's $1-$2/yr).
  10. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Jun 28, 2012
    Definitely consider a rotor. Digital receivers are much more picky than their analog counterparts when it comes to making do with a weak signal. Being able to turn the antenna will significantly increase the channel selection.
  11. Bozley0621 macrumors 6502

    Mar 25, 2009
    I bought two of these: one for the bedroom and one for the living room. I couldn't ask for a better picture with a less obtrusive antenna.
  12. pinholestars macrumors member


    Oct 20, 2011
    I made one following this walkthrough:

    It works amazingly and was so stinkin' cheap to make ($6 if you don't count already having the wood and coat hangers and screws/washers). I did have to look up the best angle for where I live in Denver, though. Once I got it in the right spot, I haven't had to mess with it again. And it's been almost a year now.

    Side note: It's super-ugly, so you probably would want to hide it in your roof space or garage.

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