While many of the major streaming platforms make live TV possible, the feature is often locked behind a steep subscription hike. If you've cut the cord and parted ways with your cable or satellite provider, buying an HDTV antenna is the best way to source live sports like the Super Bowl or the Olympics, as well as news, classic TV, and other programming on your new TV—without any monthly fees.
What You Should Know About Buying an HDTV Antenna
What Is an Indoor HDTV Antenna?
When you think of a TV antenna, you might picture the classic rabbit ear design from the 1950s. While those are still around (and still work, though not well), most modern HDTV antennas are made of thin plastic.
Antennas are basically just receivers that are able to tune into signals broadcast by local sources, typically along the UHF (ultra-high frequency) or VHF (very high frequency) bands. Assuming you're located close enough to a broadcast source, your HDTV antenna can receive that signal, free of charge.
What Are The Benefits of an HDTV Antenna?
An HDTV antenna provides free, live broadcast TV with no need for a recurring subscription. You pay once for the antenna, then you’re free to watch whatever TV signals it can find, all in high definition.
As stated above, though, there are a few caveats to this unlimited TV smorgasbord. Such limitations include your available channels being limited to what's available in your geographic location and how finicky signal quality can be depending on environmental factors.
How Do I install an Indoor HDTV Antenna?
Installing most HDTV antennas is very easy. You just attach the antenna to your TV's coaxial input via the included coaxial cable. If the antenna has signal amplification, you’ll need to connect it to a power source as well (otherwise the coax is the only necessary connection). From there, you just mount it to your wall, ideally out of the way of foot traffic, which can interrupt the signal.
How Do HDTV Antennas Work?
Your local TV stations are constantly broadcasting HD signals, typically on the UHF (ultra high frequency) or VHF (very high frequency) bands. An HDTV antenna basically just tunes into those frequency bands, allowing your TV to pluck programming right out of the air. This is a great way to supplement streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ with live TV.
Of course, this means the available channels will be limited to what's available in your area (if any). Depending on your location, you could get over 100 channels or close to zero. To find out, you can employ a service such as Antennas Direct, which can tell you which channels are available in your area based on your zip code.
Also, because the signal is line-of-sight, your placement of the antenna can significantly affect its performance. We recommend testing out a few different locations to find out where the signal is better or worse. We also recommend mounting the antenna out of the way of foot traffic or other passing objects, as that can cause the signal to drop out momentarily.
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