Top 3 Best Omnidirectional TV Antennas
Is an omnidirectional antenna better than a regular one?
Even though this may sound like a simple question, you would actually be surprised at how many people don’t really know the answer. According to Cisco’s definition, an antenna is actually a passive device which doesn’t add any power to the signal. It only redirects the energy it receives from the transmitter. That redirection can provide more energy in one direction, and less in all other directions. (1)
If we were to translate this into outdoor TV antenna talk, you’ll realize that there isn’t a single best choice. Some will prefer an omnidirectional antenna, while others will stick to a regular one. Let’s take a look at the differences, so you have a better understanding of which one you should go for.
We’ll start things off with regular, directional antennas. They pull from 3 and 4G signals, and even though they’re very good performance, their angular reception field is not more than 45 to 90 degrees. Unless you rotate them completely, they won’t be able to receive signal from an antenna that’s, for example, behind them. On the other hand, the advantage they have is a longer range in the direction they’re facing compared to an omnidirectional antenna.
Directional antennas are best for users who live in rural areas. If you have a nearby city that has a lot of broadcast towers, you can have your antenna pointing towards the city, and you’ll receive a signal from all the towers in that direction. A glaring downside here is that a directional TV antenna requires to be set up properly – if you don’t do this, your signal reception won’t be as good as you expect it. Find a more detailed guide on why an omnidirectional tv antenna is better than a normal one here.
Omnidirectional antennas also pull from 3 and 4G signals, and have overall better performance than a directional antenna. You have a complete, 360 degree reception field, which allows for good reception from a variety of directions. This is a big advantage when it comes to installation as well, as you don’t have to bother too much with it pointing in the right direction – any direction is the right direction. This makes finding a signal much easier, and such antennas are often more cost effective.
These antennas are much better suited for people who live in urban areas, such as a city. You’re surrounded by broadcast towers, and being able to receive signals from all of them can be excellent. The range should have you covered well, even if you live in a large city, and these antennas often have all the features you may need. The fact that you’re receiving signals from more than a single tower translates into better image quality, which is always a benefit.
How do you choose an omnidirectional TV antenna?
With all the options you have out there, it can easily get confusing. And even though we’ve narrowed things down to only three truly great options, you still may not know which one to get for your specific needs. Next, we’ll discuss a few of the specifications and features of omnidirectional TV antennas. This should give you a good understanding of what features you should look for, and where it’s really worth it to invest your money.
First and foremost, check your channels and reception
Before you make your choice, you’ll want to know what channels are available in the area you live in. While you may think this is difficult, it’s actually really simple. All you need is a service that allows you to input your address, then shows you what kind of channels you have available around you, as well as the location they’re coming from. Two excellent and very popular options are TV Fool and AntennaWeb. (2, 3)
We would suggest TV Fool, as it will give you a graph and a color-coded channel list which are very well organized. It will also tell you which ones are UHF and which ones are VHF, their distance, their signal strength, everything. This gives you an idea of which channels you’ll be able to see clearly, which will have noise, and which ones are just too far or too bad.
Once you have an idea of what channels are available, see where they are and what kind of antenna you need for them. For example, if you notice that your favorite channel transmits from more than 125 miles away, the BoostWaves antenna won’t give you enough range, so that’s out of the question.
UHF or VHF or both?
This is the next decision you’ll need to make before you buy. Sure enough, you may think that “both” is the best option. However, most of the models out there that advertise both are usually good at one of them, but not both. The FCC does a great job at explaining the channels. Lower numbered channels, the ones between 1 and 13, are usually VHF. Higher numbered ones will be UHF. Even though most of the popular antennas receive both, they’re usually much better at receiving UHF channels.
Fortunately, most of the VHF channels you’ll run into are network affiliates. Regardless of your antenna, the fact that they broadcast very powerful signals means that you’ll be able to pick them up well, provided you’re close to the source. A rule of thumb is to choose a VHF-specific antenna if these are the channels you’ll want to see (TV Fool’s service tells you whether they’re VHF or UHF), and choose one that does both for everything else. If a company doesn’t specify what kind of channels it receives, it’s usually safe to assume it’s UHF.
Should you get an amplified antenna or not?
An amplifier in the antenna is something that’s not that significant nowadays. Most of the antenna manufacturers will charge you a significant premium for an amplified model, but whether you’ll notice the advantage is a completely different thing.
Amplifiers should do two things. First, they should allow the antenna to pick up channels from further away. Second, they should allow for closer channels to have a cleaner signal and better image quality. However, from our testing, we found that an amplifier is usually not worth the price premium.
Power and range
As we said above, an antenna is actually a passive device, so there’s no such thing as power in a conventional form. However, manufacturers still mention power in their spec sheets, and they’re actually referring to the antenna’s gain. The gain has a direct impact on the reception, so a “more powerful” antenna will often allow you to get better image quality, for example.
The range is the other big thing here. Sure, it matters much more if you only have a directional antenna, but it does have an impact with an omnidirectional as well. If you live in an area which doesn’t have broadcast towers around you in a close vicinity, you may want to get something that has a longer range. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by towers, range isn’t all that important, and even the BoostWaves antenna will get the job done.
Antenna height is a factor, too
When discussing height, we should mention interference. Interference is basically the hindrance that makes it difficult for your antenna to receive signals. It’s a major issue in urban areas, thanks to all the high buildings that get in the way. You also have electronic interference, from the wireless devices and electrical equipment inside your home.
The antenna height can help with interference, as well as with the range. A higher antenna, or one that’s placed higher, allows you to overcome some types of interference. It’s not just the buildings – trees and hills can also impact the signals. Sure, a strong signal will get to your antenna, but a weaker signal is already struggling, and interference can make it worse.
With an omnidirectional TV antenna, you should try to get one that’s pole-mounted. This allows you to place it higher, and considering its outdoors, you won’t have electronical interference from the devices inside your home.
Wrapping things up
At the end of the day, once you consider the features and reviews of the best models, choosing an omnidirectional TV antenna for your use case should be a simple ordeal although there are many models like the lava. If you get one, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of signals coming in from different directions.
All that’s left for you is to take a look at our top three picks, and see which one works best for you. They’re all excellent, but come with slightly different features, so make sure you choose what works for your use case.