I wanted to share with you the details of my personal living room antenna setup. Over the years, I've tried many different indoor antennas, amplifiers, splitters, and configurations to squeeze out as many free TV channels as possible. I've finally gotten it to where I'm picking up all of the broadcast stations that are available in my area.
Oddly enough, in spite of all of the gadgets I've tried, my optimal antenna setup turned out to be very simple! There was no magic except for lots of experimentation with antenna location.
Just to give you some background, I live in Santa Monica, California, about 27 miles away from the TV transmitters on Mt. Wilson. Even though the Station Finder reports many green (strong) stations, my signals are not that strong inside my condo because the windows face the wrong direction.
I have only one TV in my condo. It's a ten-year old 46" Sony LCD with built-in digital tuner in my living room. Nothing unusual here.
Over the years, I've switched back and forth between these antennas but in this setup, I'm using the Cable Cutter Metro because it fits cosmetically where I have it now (you'll see this later).
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For many people who want an indoor TV antenna though, I still recommend the Mohu Leaf (with a separately-purchased RG6 coax cable) because it's cheaper with about the same performance, and it's less noticeable on a white wall.
Over the course of many months, I experimented to find the best location for my indoor antenna - one that would get me the most channels.
My TV signals come from the East, but unfortunately my windows face North. Furthermore, my windows (actually sliding patio doors) are recessed from the side of the building, so signals from the East are blocked. Even though I have lots of strong "green" channels on the Station Finder, my indoor reception is not that great.
I experimented with positions all around my TV and window but never could get solid reception for all of the stations in my area at the same time. In one position, PBS and the upper channels would be good, but the lower ones would be flaky. In another position, the lower channels would be good, but the upper ones would be bad. If you've done your own antenna experiments, you know what I'm talking about.
I was getting desperate, even considering an outdoor antenna, when I tried something crazy: putting the antenna on the inside of my front door. This gave a tremendous improvement in reception! So, that's where I have it now.
I chose the Cable Cutter Metro (formerly called the "Aerowave") over the Leaf in this case because it's almost invisible on my door and just by dumb luck fits almost perfectly in one of the recesses of my door:
My front door is further out than my windows, so it has less obscured line of site to the transmitters. Plus, it's solid wood with no metal, unlike my double-paned windows with screen.
The lesson from this is to go ahead and try whacky locations for your antenna like laying it flat on the floor or putting it on a door. Windows usually work well, but not always.
Doing antenna experiments requires a cable long enough to put your antenna in a wide variety of locations in your room. Often the cable that comes with the antenna is of poor quality, or it's not long enough, or both (which is the case with the Mohu Leaf).
I have a variety of lengths of RG6 coax cable which I use to experiment with. If you have a Mohu Leaf, I definitely recommend buying a selection of RG6 cables in different lengths.
Because I do lots of antenna experiments, I ended up using two RG6 cables spliced together, allowing me to insert amplifiers, splitters, etc. in the signal path. Doing this sacrifices a little bit of signal quality, so you shouldn't do this. Just use one RG6 cable long enough to reach the ideal location, but not too much longer than required.
I have a second antenna (a Mohu Leaf) in the skylight of my condo attached to a Tablo for recording. This is the highest point in my condo and has good reception. If you have a skylight, definitely try putting your antenna in it!
Using the Tablo means that I don't have to run the antenna cable all the way to my TV. It just goes to my Tablo, which connects to my home's Wi-Fi network. I use the Tablo app on my Roku to view live or recorded TV on the Tablo.
In case you're wondering why I use separate antennas for my TV and for my Tablo. Well, the Tablo is great for recording but not so great for channel surfing. It takes a long time to switch between channels using the Tablo. I like the ability to turn my TV on and instantly surf around.
I could have used used my downstairs antenna for both my TV and my Tablo, but I had the extra antenna, and I had this set up for an experiment, so I just left it. You don't need to use two antennas for a TV and a Tablo.
I experimented with various types and brands of TV signal amplifiers. While they gave some improvement on certain channels, the net effect was negative so I ended up not using any!
In my experience, when you have strong TV signals around, amplifiers do NOT improve reception. If all of your channels are weak, they might help. But, don't expect magic "night-and-day" results from using an amplifier, and be prepared to return it if it doesn't work for you.
I now watch dozens of free broadcast TV channels. This includes all of the major networks, several PBS channels, and many local stations.
So, after all of my antenna experimentation, my optimal setup ended up simply being a flat indoor antenna attached directly to my TV! I'm not using a powered antenna, amplifier or splitter. I am using good RG6 coax cable with just enough length to do the job.
Of course, the TV reception in your home will be different and unique. But, I believe that in most cases it's best not to spend a bunch of money on different antennas and amplifiers. Instead, use good quality RG6 cable and experiment with different antenna locations in your home until you get the best reception.
I hope this has helped. What is your antenna setup like? Please share below. I'd love to hear about your favorite antenna or ideal setup! - Brian
Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.