My Personal TV Antenna Setup

Oct 1, 2017

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.

Where I Live

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.

Los Angeles Stations
My location in Santa Monica relative to TV towers on Mt. Wilson

My TV

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.

My Antenna

After testing many indoor TV antennas, the Mohu Leaf has prevailed year after year in my tests as the best overall indoor TV antenna.

Mohu Leaf Antenna
Mohu Leaf Antenna

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My Antenna Location

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!

My front door is further out than my windows, so it has a more direct line of sight to the transmitters. Plus, it’s solid wood with no metal, unlike my double-paned windows with metal screens.

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.

My Cables

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.

My Second Antenna

I have a second antenna (another 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!

Mohu Leaf antenna in skylight

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.

Tablo Dual Lite DVR
Tablo Dual Lite DVR

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 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.

No Amplifiers

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.

My Channels

I now watch dozens of free broadcast TV channels. This includes all of the major networks, several PBS channels, and many local stations.

Summary

So, after years of antenna testing, the best indoor TV antenna that I’ve found remains the Mohu Leaf! 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

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Brian Shim

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34 Comments
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Les
Les
5 months ago

If I hook up an antennae on my smart TV where I gave Direct TV streaming, can I still toggle between channels? I am only doing this temporarily while CBS is in a contract dispute with AT&T.

vmusa
vmusa
3 years ago

Our new Sony TV is integrated into our external and much better sound system. We have cut the cable cord, and are now ready to add indoor antennae. Would the external sound system remain functional, or would the external antennae push out the sound only from the TV speakers? Thank you.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  vmusa

Hi,

I don’t know how your system is hooked up, but I assume you’re connecting your antenna to your TV, then taking the audio out from your TV to your external sound system. If that is the case, the sound system should work fine with your antenna setup.

Best,
Brian

Joyful
Joyful
3 years ago

Just got antenna working, receiving all major networks, had to use outside antenna , using clearstream 2 max , only got some channels with antenna inside, thank you for explaining what a small difference can and did make! You mentioned something if I still have internet through same provider might have to do something else ? Is it still possible to hook up outside cable box/internet so i can run to 2nd tv or do i do that inside , or at all ? Joy thank you

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Joyful

Hi Joy,

Congrats on getting the major networks! Great job!!

No need to do anything with your Internet provider, unless you’re also getting cable TV from them and want to cancel that part.

Here’s how to run multiple TVs off of a single antenna:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/need-separate-antenna-tv/

Not sure if that answers your question. Let me know.

Best,
Brian

Jonathan Osborn
Jonathan Osborn
3 years ago

I live in a downstairs apartment in a two story building in Santa Monica. I have no East facing windows. Being a Luddite, I’ve only just purchased a Digital TV. (I’d been relying on Roku since I cut the cable a couple years ago to watch my CRT TVs). I’m debating getting an indoor antenna, but don’t want to waste money if only an outdoor antenna will get adequate reception, and am not up to negotiating with landlord on installing outdoor antenna. Is a Mohu Leaf likely to get any reception in my sort of situation?

Brian
3 years ago

Hi Jonathan,

My windows don’t face East either but I am able to get a lot of channels with my first-floor north-facing Leaf or Cable Cutter antennas after a lot of experimentation with antenna position.

Even if you don’t have any north or east-facing windows, you should still get a lot of channels with the Leaf. However, you probably won’t get all of the major networks. For example, you might not get ABC channel 7 and channel 13, but channel 4, 5 and 9 will be solid with channel 2 flaky. Just a hypothetical example.

The key to getting more channels is to experiment with antenna position in your room. And, get a better RG6 coax cable. More hints here:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/antenna-tips/

If you purchase on Amazon, you can always return your Leaf pretty easily if it doesn’t work well for you.

Best,
Brian

spanet po
spanet po
3 years ago

We have never had cable or internet. We used a outside antenna until all went digital. If we tried an outside antenna again, are there people who can install for us? We live in a bungalow and have no windows facing north where towers are. We used to get cbs, abc and nbc. We also got ion, pbs, get tv. All of a sudden we lost all major local tv stations and only get ion, and pbs. I moved antenna everywhere and still abc, cbs, nbc, get tv etc have never returned. Any suggestions?

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  spanet po

First of all, try re-scanning for channels. They may have simply changed frequencies.

But yes, an outdoor antenna will likely give you more channels. You’ll have to check for local installers near you. But before doing that, check the Station Finder to see how many stations you could theoretically get:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Best,
Brian

disillusionist
disillusionist
2 years ago

I have an old antenna in my attic from before cable was available, maybe 30 years ago. Do you think that antenna could be hooked up and used again? Are the newer antennas using different technology?
I could get good coverage from that vantage point and possibly not have to put in new connecting cables. My zipcode is 75205

Thank you.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  disillusionist

You can absolutely still use that old antenna!! The frequencies are the same. Give it a try!!!

Best,
Brian

disillusionist
disillusionist
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks, I will.

Gary Pearce
4 years ago

These don’t always work in the Uk, just depends on the reception or if you have line of site of the main transmitter. But for a Outdoor Tv Aerial try http://adicommunications.co.uk

dc
dc
4 years ago

I’m in 95136. We are a family of four, all heavy internet and streaming users. I work from home and my three kids stream video quite a lot or play online video games. What I’ve found when trying to cut my cable is that we ended up going over the 1TB/mo data limit that Comcast has. This is what has prevented me from going 100% without cable. Any suggestions around this? I haven’t looked at other internet providers to see if they don’t have this limitation because I am still within contract with Comcast. Just wondering if other have run into this situation where you are trying to save on cable and end up going over the data limit which then incurs another charge. In the end with all the subscriptions and charge for going over 1TB, it came out to about the same as having cable.

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  dc

Hi Diana,

That is a tough situation. I don’t have any magic solutions other than to look for a different provider in your area. Here are some ideas from a different source:
https://www.howtogeek.com/338306/how-to-avoid-going-over-your-home-internets-data-cap/

Best,
Brian

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