Talking tech since 2003

Those who are a part of Generation X or above are likely very familiar with broadcast TV. Cable TV hasn’t always been around, after all; once upon a time, the only way to pick up a channel was to attach a funny looking antenna to your TV. You might think that broadcast signals are gone now that we have better delivery methods (cable, satellite, fiber, etc.), but that’s wrong; broadcast is very much alive, and it’s better than in the past. Today’s signals are digital, which mean they can carry high-definition signals and better sound.

But you have to be able to receive them.

So, how can you check to see which over-the-air TV stations you can pick up? Let’s tackle that question first.

AntennaWeb

antennaweb-cableIf you want an idea of the stations you have around you (and at what distance), there’s no better place to start than AntennaWeb. Simply visit the website and plug your address into the provided box. From there, you’re shown a grid listing a station’s call letters, its digital channel number, its distance and more. You’re also shown a logo that corresponds with the network that station is an affiliate for.

You’ll also notice some color coding. Different colors represent different types of antennas, and each station is coded to show you the best type of antenna to use. You can click on the station name and the pop-up box will explain which antenna has the best shot at getting that station with cable-quality picture and sound.

Some stations you can pick up with a small, non-amplified indoor antenna. Some will require an amplified outdoor antenna that is mounted to your roof. If you just want to avoid the hassle and get the most channels, going with a more powerful antenna is usually the way to go.

Where to Buy an Antenna

I’ve done some price shopping, and I’ve found that Amazon has a fairly large selection of antennas and some pretty good prices. Your typical electronics stores will have antennas, but they’re typically marked up pretty high. I’ve found this to be the case at Best Buy, and I’ve even seen antennas at Walmart that are dozens of dollars more expensive than similar antennas sold on Amazon.

antenna

Stick to the Internet if you’re going to pick up an antenna. Trust me; it’ll likely net you the best deal. That is, unless you’re buying used.

Amplified or Non-Amplified?

This is really going to depend on how close you are to a broadcast station, and how many (if any) obstructions come between your home and the station’s broadcast tower. If it’s a pretty straight shot between your home and the station, or if the distance is short, you could probably get by with a smaller indoor antenna. If you’re a far distance away, or you have a lot of buildings in between you and the station, your best bet might be with an indoor or outdoor amplified antenna.

Have any tips you’d like to share about receiving broadcast TV over the air? Be sure to share them below, and check back for our next installment of A Year Without Cable next week.


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