Q: Does the part of the country in which you live make a difference in what type of outdoor antenna you use?
A: No matter where you live, a large, directional outdoor antenna with a rotor to turn it toward the desired station's broadcast source is the ultimate in performance. Some people might view this as overkill because a smaller indoor antenna will suffice for most viewers, but going big is advice that never fails for TV fans who want the best. (A large outdoor antenna might not be practical or even possible for many people, but that's a different issue.)
That being said, some antennas are better for certain situations than others. It depends on how many stations you want to pick up, the distance you are from the source and the terrain between it and you. AntennaWeb (antennaweb.org), an online tool provided by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Technology Association, will help you find an antenna suited for your particular location and viewing needs.
The site provides a list of stations available for your area, along with a color code for each. The color corresponds to the antenna type you will need, from a small, multidirectional indoor antenna to a large, directional outdoor antenna with a powerful signal pre-amplifier.
Acting on the letter writers' behalf, I entered their ZIP code on the website. I found a variety of options starting as low as $10.
A yellow-coded indoor antenna would provide 18 stations and their associated subchannels. This is the smallest, least expensive antenna type available. A Channel Master FLATenna (channelmaster.com) should be adequate.
Going up one step to green, an amplified multidirectional indoor antenna would provide four additional stations. The Amazon bestseller is the 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna (1byone.com).
The red code is a medium-sized, directional outdoor antenna. This could add another six stations, bringing the total up to 28. The next step up is blue, either a medium-sized directional antenna with a pre-amplifier or a large directional antenna without a pre-amplifier. Either would yield two more stations, for a total of 30. Finally, a violet antenna setup, a large directional antenna with pre-amplifier, would tune in a 31st station, picking up a signal from a town that is 97 miles from the writers' home.
As you can see, there are diminishing returns as you move up in size. Even so, if you are going up on the roof anyway, why not just do it right and do it once? The investment will pay off for decades. A $149 Winegard HD7798P antenna combined with a $69 Channel Master CM-7777 pre-amplifier is hard to beat. A rotor will cost about $100 more, and I recommend professional installation. (winegard.com)
If that's more than your budget will tolerate, the violet-coded Spectrum Antenna Motorized Outdoor HDTV Antenna SP-615 is a great value. It has a built-in rotor with remote control for only $109, and overall the reviews are positive. (spectrumantenna.com)
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.