How To Get The Best Reception With Your HDTV Antenna

By Matthew Braga

Getting a true HDTV signal isn't as simple as throwing up some wire and hoping to catch whatever's near — it takes some smart placement and a few simple tweaks.

While getting screwed by the likes of Comcast and DirectTV is practically a national past time, there are still a select few who've managed to escape the clutches of America's media conglomerates. Call Grandpa crazy for using bunny ears all these years, but it looks like he was really on the cutting edge after all. Picking up HDTV signals over-the-air is actually a totally viable method for watching TV these days, and depending on where your located, can actually give you a nice assortment of channels to augment your Netflix queue.

there's actually no such thing as a high-definition antenna. All antennas pick up the same UHF and VHF signals, but only televisions or computers with HDTV tuners are capable of interpreting the HDTV streams broadcast over those frequencies. In theory, you could use an old set of bunny ears to pick up a local high-definition signal, though you probably wouldn't have all that much luck.

This might be overdoing it. Maybe.

Understandably, this can be annoying when dealing with intermittent or unusually strong signals. Thus, placement becomes very important. You can buy both outdoor and indoor antennas, which may help reduce interference, but the goal is to place your model as high as possible, with as few obstructions or buildings blocking the line of site.

With a large enough antenna, Tested HQ could pick up some decent channels.
Not all antennas are multidirectional, and thus, the direction your antenna is pointing can also make a big difference. Luckily, websites like Antennaweb have made it incredibly easy to optimize your antenna's position for optimal results. By inputting your address, and a bit of information about your antenna height and setup, Antennaweb can consult its database for information on nearby available signals. Not only do you get a list of what analog and digital signals are strongest, but the location of local transmitters, and the angle at which you should position your antenna for best results. It's similar process to setting up your own satellite dish — but your service remains entirely free.

If you've managed to cut the cord on your satellite or cable subscription, what sort of setup do you have now? Is over-the-air HDTV a viable solution, and is reception decent enough to serve as a worthy replacement? 
Image via Flickr users Kol Tregaskes and edoardo bartoccetti.