How to get the best Over the Air (OTA) signal

Clip that Cord.

Like many, I have considered "cutting the cord" for a very long time. I don't like cable companies and I really don't spend that much time in front of the TV anyway. And when I do, I often rent a DVD from Red Box, or download something from Netflix. So, I decided to push off the cable company and use an Antenna and Over the Air signals for my local TV Stations. That ultimately led me to implementing MythTV on a Linux box to use as a DVR/PVR but more on that later. My first hurdle was how can I get the best signal possible. I originally built my own Antenna out of wood and copper wire, something similar to this and it worked really well. I ultimately bought a more robust version at Home Depot, but both the one I bought and the one I built were directional antennas. I got lucky as it turned out thats what I needed for where I live (Los Angeles). But I learned a bit on how to get the best signal and how to figure out what antenna to buy along the way.

First, this site This site is your friend. If you put your zip code and address into the site, it will tell you what you can expect from what kind of antenna. I found the sites results to be a bit conservative as I was able to get away with less that what the site was recommending. But it is a great bit of information. Once you have entered your address information and clicked "Submit", you see a table of channels that are color coded. Click on one of the colors and it will tell you what the color means and what kind of antenna it maps to. Very cool.

But here is the secret sauce (or what really helped me). Here in Los Angeles, we are lucky in that the TV towers are all in the same spot so a directional antenna is recommended and needs to be pointed directly at those towers. Also, the higher the antenna the better which is always the case. I went with mounting the antenna in the attic (in the highest possible location). But how could I make sure the antenna was pointed in the best way possible to get the strongest signal from the antenna? Well this is what I did and it worked pretty well. Again, looking at the results from, it tells you where to point the antenna in degrees from North. This is the information that is needed.

I downloaded the Free Android App Smart Compass for my smart phone. Similar compass apps exist for free on the IPad as well such as this one. But once you have a smart phone with a compass on it, you can use the phone to position the wood (or whatever you are using to mount your antenna) to the correct location.

I had to get my antenna to 32-33 degrees, but once I did that, there was much joy in the house. Now we can get all the great channels and some odd ones as well. And it seems that there are quite a few channels showing old "Fly Nun", "I Love Lucy" and "Partridge Family" episodes to keep even the kids happy. But the key really was hitting that 32-33 degrees. One can also buy a signal amplifier like this one on if needed. The trick to these though is you will need power close to your antenna as it is best to amplify the signal directly coming out of your antenna. So far I have not needed to do this (I almost did but once I figured out the positioning trick I have plenty of signal).

I now realize I need a DVR as my old VCR is not compatible with HD (and we needed HD to go along with the Antenna right?). So, as so many others, I am rolling my own. Ill post more on this baby but I have already been running MythTV for a bit now and think its going to fit the bill nicely. One could also use Windows Media Center, but I am just not that fond of Windows.

Let me know if you have any questions



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