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Stronger television antennas for grabbing weak or distant signals

Among current antennas, we see great recommendations for the Terk HDTVa (Est. $40) . It uses a V-shaped, log-periodic antenna for UHF reception and rabbit ears for VHF. It also includes a 12-decibel amplifier, making it useful as a suburban antenna. Although the manufacturer doesn't specify a reception range, HDTV Antenna Labs pegs it at about 45 miles. For those in high-signal areas, Terk also offers the antenna without an amplifier as the HDTVi (Est. $30) .

Log-periodic TV antennas like the Terk HDTVa are often a good choice for city dwellers because reception in areas with lots of tall buildings can be compromised by multipath interference. These weaker reflections of the main signal come from multiple directions as a result of bouncing off of large structures or other obstacles. With analog signals, multipath interference typically shows up as image ghosts, but it can render digital signals completely unusable. The highly directional nature of log-periodic TV antennas can greatly minimize multipath problems, but it could mean lots of repositioning if the TV signals at your location come in from transmitters located in different directions.

The Terk HDTVa is an update of the original Silver Sensor antenna, which is long discontinued. Improvements include those rabbit ears for VHF. On the UHF side of things, experts note that the log-periodic design has high gain, which is important for good reception at moderate distances.

One negative for most consumers, except those in areas where multipath interference is a problem, is that the Terk HDTVa is highly directional. According to posts on AVSForum.com, that means some might need to fuss with the HDTVa more than they'd like. User reviews are extensive, and mostly positive, although the Terk HDTVa does have its detractors -- as do most indoor antennas.

The Winegard SS-3000 (Discontinued) also has its fans. TVConversionHelp.com gives it a small edge over competing choices, mainly for its ability to provide better VHF coverage. However, a thread on AVSForum.com notes that while its performance on the high VHF band is fine, performance on low VHF is only fair. Still, roundup author "EscapeVelocity" reports that the SS-3000 works well at his location, which is about 45 miles from TV transmitters.

The SS-3000 sports an unusually low, wide design measuring 5 inches by 26.75 inches, with a scatter-plane reflector at the rear. With the reflector in place, the SS-3000 is highly directional. It's also not very attractive, and TechHive.com calls it the "ugliest" model in its evaluation of five indoor antennas. "EscapeVelocity" says the reflector can be omitted -- although Winegard doesn't mention this in the manual -- resulting in an omnidirectional antenna instead. However, not using the reflector will likely reduce its range. The SS-3000 includes a 10-decibel amplifier to help draw in weaker signals. The SS-3000 appears to be discontinued, though we still see good availability at retail.

Unfortunately, there are situations where most indoor antennas -- including the ones above -- will not be sufficient. One alternative before turning to a roof-mounted antenna is to try one of the larger indoor-outdoor models. Among current alternatives, we saw the best feedback for the Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V (Est. $75) . This is a large two-bay UHF loop and scatter-plane reflector antenna, coupled with a VHF dipole antenna for complete coverage of all HDTV channels.

Despite being able to receive signals over a fairly large angle, the design is fairly directional, so it's not the best choice for those looking to receive signals from widely spaced bearings. However, the chief drawback to this antenna is its size. Measuring 20 inches long by 35.5 inches wide by 6.5 inches deep, there's no missing this antenna in a typical viewing room. Some rationalize that with this (and similar antennas) if you look at it just right, it could be passed off as a modern art sculpture, but still .... Another alternative is to place the antenna in your attic and run cabling to your set, an approach favored by many.

At the end of the day, however, if you can live with this antenna's aesthetics, it outperforms just about anything short of a large rooftop mounted antenna, at least within its specified 50-plus mile range. This antenna gets tons of user reviews at sites like BestBuy.com and Amazon.com and enjoys high levels of satisfaction -- at least in comparison to other TV antennas. Solid Signal reviews this antenna on its blog, comparing it to its own HD-Blade indoor antenna (Est. $30), and reports excellent results. If you don't need VHF coverage in your area, the original Antennas Direct ClearStream 2 (Est. $80) is still available; it is the same antenna, minus the VHF dipole.

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Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna for Off-Air HDTV Reception
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Antennas Direct C2-V-CJM ClearStream 2-V Long Range UHF/VHF Indoor/Outdoor DTV Antenna with 20-Inch Mount
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New: $119.99 $95.30   
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Terk Technology HDTVi VHF/UHF HDTV Indoor Antenna
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New: $35.99   
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