When I began researching antennas, I found there were more choices than I had imagined there would be. Antenna TV is simple in theory, but there were very few websites with simple explanations of how it all worked. (It inspired me to build this site) Take your time, read reviews and talk to someone near you that already has an antenna.
I had already cut the cord on my cable and was streaming 100% of my TV and movie content when I began tinkering with an indoor antenna. Surprisingly I was able to tune a few local channels but it was not going to fulfill the full range of local news, sports and national network content I was hoping to tune. It was time to go to an outdoor antenna.
Outdoor Antenna Quest
While shopping I convinced myself that I wanted the smallest antenna I could find that would allow me Over-the-air (OTA) reception. Somehow I was a little self-conscious about putting an antenna on the roof of my house and how it might look. Now that I get crystal-clear FREE HDTV via my antenna I am completely over the initial concern on how it would look or what neighbors would think.
Location, Location, Location
I live in a fringe reception area, North-East of San Diego, CA. My home is nestled in a small inland valley where true line-of-sight to both of the local broadcast tower sites I needed was going to be questionable. Distance wouldn’t be my problem, but the topography was not in my favor according to my antenna reception scan. After a couple weeks of research and reading reviews I settled on the Channel Master CM-2018. Someone relatively near me geographically had written a fairly positive review which convinced me it would be worth trying for $42.99 on Amazon.com.
HDTV Antenna Review
The CM-2018 is a medium to long range directional antenna capable of tuning UHF and High VHF. Channel Master claims it has a 45-60 mile range (I’d guess with perfect line-of-sight this might be possible).
Upon arrival I carefully unpacked the tall thin box. Following the instructions, the antenna is easily unfolded and assembled into it’s functional shape. Be careful, antenna elements and the assembly is somewhat fragile as it’s constructed from lightweight aluminum.
I had one small issue with a hinged plastic tab that was cracked. A zip-tie had me back in action and likely stronger than before.
The most complex step in assembly was trying to decipher how the coaxial balun was to attach to the antenna. The instructions covered a range of models and honestly could have been more clear or better suited to my specific antenna model, but after studying it carefully I was able to figure it out.
I mounted the antenna initially at roughly 4′ above my single-story roofline, attached the coax through my grounding block and instantly got reception of 50% of the channels I was targeting. I went back to my FCC antenna scan and re-positioned the antenna and got a stronger more reliable signal, but I was still not getting two major networks (CBS and ABC).
Two weeks later I came back and modified the mast to a height of 14′ above the roofline. Eureka! It’s amazing what another 10′ of altitude does for reception. With more fine tuning of the direction I now tune everything I had hoped for about 99% of the time. Keep in mind my location is pretty questionable.
Overall I am thrilled with the results I get with the Channel Master CM-2018. For the money invested, and with a little tinkering it has really delivered value!
I would recommend going a size larger than what you think you need if you are in a challenging location. Going to a taller mast helped my reception remarkably, but I’m not ready to go any taller so to improve my reception now I’d lean toward a larger antenna.
While today’s antennas resemble the ones I remember as a kid, they are designed to tune Digital TV signals (DTV) and some also tune FM radio. If you are in a location that can receive Over-the-air broadcasts you’ll be amazed by the quality of the picture you can get with a good antenna.