When you’re getting your antenna set up to access free over-the-air (OTA) TV, there are a number of steps you can take to get great reception. Aiming your antenna in the direction of TV transmission towers and placing your indoor antenna by a window or your outdoor antenna as high as possible, either on your roof or in your attic, are strategies that will help you capture the most channels and also get the best signals.
But in addition to trying out different antenna placements and running channel scans to see where your antenna will perform best, you can also buy some tools to improve the strength and signal of the channels you're getting. That way, you don’t have to worry about your TV glitching during a game-defining moment while you’re watching sports or for a signal interruption to ruin a plot twist on your favorite drama series.
Here are five tools that will help you get the most out of your OTA TV experience:
What it does: The TV antenna preamplifier is different from a distribution amplifier (more on that to come!) because it amplifies the signal that your antenna is receiving. Its purpose is to prevent any loss or glitches in your stream. Also known as a mast, these preamplifiers are able to compensate for any signal losses in the coaxial cable between the antenna and TV.
Who needs it: Antenna preamplifiers can be great for those who live in areas that are farther away from TV transmitters. This piece of equipment can also help overcome any signal losses that occur due to the long cables that run from your outdoor antenna to your television, according to Antennas Direct.
Antennas Direct ClearStream Juice VHF/UHF Low-Noise Preamplifier System
$99.99 from Amazon
This VHF/UHF preamplifier system can overcome some of the challenges including weak signals, coaxial cables that run more than 100 feet and splitters that can degrade signals as your signal is divided among multiple TVs. It works in urban, suburban and rural areas and it’s weatherproof. This preamplifier also comes with a power supply, power inserter, two 36-inch coaxial cables, two zip ties and instructions.
Antenna Distribution Amplifier
What it does: Different from antenna preamplifiers, antenna distribution amplifiers are intended for indoor use. This equipment can overcome splitter loss and can distribute TV signals to multiple locations.
Who needs it: Antenna distribution amplifiers are great for those who have indoor antennas and want to distribute the signals to multiple TVs within their home without dulling the reception.
Antennas Direct 4-Port TV Distribution Amplifier
$62.99 from Amazon
With this distribution amplifier, you can connect one TV antenna to four rooms while boosting the signal in each location to get reliable reception. The amplifier comes with a power supply, 3-foot coaxial cable for the power supply and instructions.
Motorized Antenna Rotor (aka a Rotator)
What it does: Your outdoor antenna may already be equipped with a rotor, which has a built-in motor that can turn the antenna 360 degrees for precision aiming. However, some of these cheaper, built-in options are known to fail quickly. A separate rotator can help your higher-end antenna pick up better signals.
Who needs it: A television rotator might get you more channels if you’re in between two television markets, according to the Antenna Man. When you rotate the antenna, you can pick up better signals from a particular market. You can go to the FCC DTV reception map and type in your address, and it will show you some stations you’ll likely pick up. If you see that some of the channels are weak, a rotator could help you pick them up.
RCA Programmable Outdoor Antenna Rotator
$120.99 from Walmart
From the comfort of your couch and with a remote, you can control this antenna rotator so that you can pick up better signals and get a clear picture on your screen. The rotator is designed to withstand tough outdoor weather and comes with the remote.
What it does: Some televisions do a good job picking up weak signals from your OTA antenna, while others may simply say you have “no signal” or leave your screen pixelated. Enter the tuner box, which can help pick up far away or weaker television signals.
Who needs it: The scenario: Your brand new television in your living room picks up one of your favorite channels. But then you move to your bedroom to continue watching the channel on an older TV model, and you notice that the picture isn’t nearly as good or, perhaps, doesn’t pick up the signal at all. An amplifier may solve that common problem. But chances are, if it’s an older television (models from pre-2015) that’s not picking up the channel, it might have to do instead with the tuner, according to the Antenna Man.
$29.99 on Amazon
This converter box is designed to receive Over-the-Air TV signals and it can connect right to your antenna. It comes with a TV-tuner function that can help older televisions pick up more channels. You can also use it for real-time recording or programmed recording so you can re-watch or catch up on your favorite shows.
What it does: While the aforementioned amplifiers can help strengthen and boost signals, attenuators help reduce signals when they are too strong.
Who needs it: Having your signal be "too strong" might sound like a good problem to have — but really, since TV tuners and distribution equipment like amplifiers are designed to carry only a certain amount of the signal, you may need to reduce the signal strength in order to get reliable service. If you are super close to the transmission towers in your area, you may be getting pixelation from the signals being too powerful. What's tricky about using an attenuator is there are various levels of reduction (3dB, 6dB and 12dB) for instance, so it may take some guesswork to figure out how much reduction you need.
Nooelec SMA Attenuator Kit - Bundle of 6pc
$39.95 on Amazon
Because you may need to test out how much power reduction you need, you may want to go for a bundle. This set includes values of 1dB, 2dB, 3dB, 6dB, 10dB and 20dB, which allows for selective attenuation of anywhere between 1dB-42dB in 1dB increments.
By Brittany Anas.
Watching free, over-the-air TV with an antenna is simpler than you may think. In many cases, you can take an antenna out of the box, connect the cable to your TV, run a channel scan and voila! You have dozens of local channels to surf.
The number of channels you can access and how clearly they come in is based on a number of factors, including your distance from the point of broadcast towers, the type of antenna you have and where it’s located in your home.
Not sure what kind of antenna you need? Take our simple quiz to help narrow down the options. You can also find a general list of recommended antennas here.
Pair your antenna with an OTA DVR device to record your favorite shows
Did you know you can use an antenna similarly to how you watch cable? Ditch the costly subscription fees, but keep the cable capabilities (record, pause, rewind and fast forward) with an OTA DVR device. Here are the products we recommend:
Tablo DUAL 128GB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 80 HD hours and stream up to two free broadcast channels from your HDTV antenna simultaneously.
Tablo QUAD 1TB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 700 hours and stream up to four free broadcast channels from their over-the-air HDTV antenna simultaneously.