June 18, 2008
| by Ben Hardy
Although the old engineer adage “the uglier the better” is still given as antenna selection advice, manufacturers are working hard to find a middle ground. Among the 10 antennas we’ve selected you’ll find “traditional”-looking pieces with multiple branching elements that hearken back to the antenna-laden rooftops of yore, sleek outdoor units designed to appeal to the aesthetic-minded folk who want their antenna’s lines and style to complement those of the new flat screen (never mind that the two will sit on opposite sides of the house), and compact indoor models that can perch above the television set like a center speaker in a surround sound system.
Hopefully you’ve done some research. And by that we mean hopefully you’ve read up on Over-the-Air HDTV and gone to AntennaWeb.org to plug in your zip code to determine proximity to towers, available stations, and antenna recommendations. Match the Antenna Selector color wheel results for your location with an antenna that features the same colors on its packaging and you should be good to go. It’s pretty simple.
Unless you are going with an indoor antenna. Or you have a bunch of buildings around you. Or the terrain between you and the broadcasting towers looks like the Black Hills. Ok, so it’s not necessarily that simple. There are plenty of variables to be considered. You should know that indoor antennas will not have the helpful Antenna Selector color wheel on their packaging, because reception with indoor antennas factors in even more variables. Instead, look for the CEA Indoor Antenna Mark logo.
The antenna’s range and directivity rating should be considered. The former will depend on the terrain between you and the broadcast towers; for the latter, the rule of thumb you might consider is that the multi-directional antenna is best when the towers are not far away and situated in different directions from your home, and directional antennas (particularly the big ones with lots of elements) are effective when towers are farther away.
Know the stations that you are looking to pick up. This will determine the “band” rating of the antenna you choose. Stations broadcast in VHF (Channels 2-13), UHF (Channels 13-69), and sometimes both. Some stations will be changing their frequency with the February 2009 transition, and this information is available to the consumer. A combination UHF/VHF antenna will pick up both. Since very few stations will be broadcasting in the low VHF band (Channels 2-6), it’s becoming more common to see VHF or combo VHF/UHF antennas designed for the high band VHF (Channels 7-13), which can result in a sleeker, more compact unit.
Antenna installation can be risky business, mostly due to power lines. If you have any doubts, hire a professional.
1. AntennasDirect Lacrosse
The new “Lacrosse” from AntennasDirect was designed to combat the aforementioned “the uglier the better” advice given to many antenna-seekers. Tailoring it for the UHF band helps give it the small, futuristic (or at least more modern) design. Including “remote sensing technology previously only available to the military” probably hasn’t hurt sales – currently the amplified version of the Lacrosse is out of stock.
2. AntennasDirect SR15
The SR15 is a sturdy outdoor antenna built for areas prone to extreme weather. The 8-sided boom will hold up in high-winds, and the extremely high directionality of the unit is suited for areas where multi-path distortion rears its ugly head. With only 15 elements the SR15 packs a nice UHF punch in a tight, muscular design.
3. Winegard HD7694P
Winegard’s HD7694P is one of 5 antennas in their HD-769 series. This powerful directional antenna pulls in stations from up to 50 miles away. This series of antenna was designed with an eye on the 2009 digital television transition, which will see the majority of markets featuring at least one channel in the high VHF band (channels 7-12). By selecting the high VHF band and UHF band, Winegard was able to slim down the HD7694 by reducing the number of elements.
4. Channel Master Omni-Directional SMARTenna
Channel Master’s SMARTenna looks like it’s about to blast off into outer space. The saucer-like design should suit most forward-looking houses and consumers, while 360⁰ of amplified reception make sure function and form are equals. Mounting surface options include roofs, walls, chimneys and attics. Combo VHF/UHF reception is ideal for post-February 2009 OTA HDTV and digital TV.
Between watching re-runs of the The Jetsons and convincing his Insteon and Z-Wave controls to get along, Ben Hardy is immersed in the world of home automation, home control, and home networking.