Have you been thinking about cutting the cord, swapping your pricey cable service for an indoor antenna and free over-the-air TV? Then you'll have to make sure you can get decent reception. And just like real estate, indoor antenna reception is all about location, location, location.
Ever since the move to all-digital HDTV signals, you will either be able to pull in a TV station or not; the all-or-nothing nature of digital signals means the days of attaching tin foil to an antenna's rabbit ears to improve reception on marginal stations are gone. The good news is that the quality of the stations you can receive is often better than it was with analog TV broadcasts, and perhaps even better than cable. So if you live near a major TV market, there’s a good chance you'll be able to get many of your local network broadcasts—such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Telemundo—using an antenna.
Outdoor antennas, especially those on a roof or mast, generally offer the best performance, particularly if you're many miles from a broadcast tower. But for many of us, an indoor antenna is an easier—and sometimes the only—option. Getting great reception from an indoor antenna can be a mix of science and art. Here are few suggestions that should help you get the best reception possible from yours.
Play the field
Not too long ago, we tested 10 top indoor antennas to see how well they performed for a dozen testers spread across the New York metropolitan area. We found—not surprising—that some models worked better than others. Reception depended on distance from a broadcast tower, the terrain, and the surroundings (nearby houses, buildings, trees, and so on). Some models were directional, so they needed to be oriented toward a broadcast tower. Multidirectional antennas, which receive signals from all directions, may be better for urban locations, but they might not pull in more distant stations. One surprise was that we found little correlation between price and performance; often the cheaper antennas did as well as, or better than, the more expensive models. What all this means is that you should try a few different antennas to see which one works best, so buy from a retailer that has a no-hassle return policy and reasonable warranty.