If you want to stop paying those inflated cable bills and experience the freedom of FREE TV, then this article is for you! Today I will show you how I have put together what I think is the best HDTV antenna setup available on the market today for a minimal upfront investment.
Full disclosure, there are cheaper ways you can do this and I promise to write articles on those as well, however, if you want to install an antenna system that gets “full wife approval”, running a wire across your living room and getting signals that are hit and miss is not likely to sway anyone to cut the cable cord…especially the wife!
What Hardware Are You Going To Need?
Like I said above, what I’m going to be showing you is not a low budget antenna setup, this is for those of you who have a little bit of money (under $1000) burning a hole in your pocket to spend on a top notch system! This may seem like a lot to fork out upfront, but let’s break down the math a bit here.
Let’s say for arguments sake that your cable bill is a modest $100/month right now. Multiply that by 12 months and you’re are spending $1200 per year. What I’m proposing will pay for itself in less than a year and provide you with years of $$$ savings!
What’s more, with the setup we are going to be reviewing today, it will allow you to stream your antenna signals to any TV, Tablet, Smartphone, or PC device you have in your home and will provide multiple simultaneous connections to your antenna signals and you’ll all be able to watch different channels. Awesome right! Let’s get started.
Here is the list of devices I have in my setup, yours could vary slightly, later I will explain what each is and does, and why you need it!
Okay, so here is my current device list to make the FREE TV and signal streaming magic happen in my house!
- 2x Channel Master CM-4228HD HDTV Antenna (Later I’ll explain why I have two of these).
- 2x HDHomeRun EXTEND HDTV (2-Tuner) (Again, later I’ll explain why I have two of these).
- 1x NVIDIA SHIELD TV with Remote (I have only one of these, but if you have multiple TV’s you could put one at each TV).
- 1x NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band WiFi Router (If you have a good router already then you don’t need this, however, if your router is older, this is a good router for the money).
- 1x Coaxial Compression Tool Coax Cable Crimper Kit
- 1 roll of good quality RG6 cable. I recommend this, Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable.
Okay, seems like a lot of stuff I know, but this list will equip you with all the hardware you’ll need to build the best HDTV setup on the planet! So let’s take a look at what each of these components are and why you need them, but before we do that let’s get something straight right away.
Difference Between HDTV And Regular Antenna’s
There is literally no difference between a regular antenna and a HDTV antenna. It’s all a marketing ploy and hype started to get people emptying their wallets and spending money when the analog-digital broadcast transition occurred back in 2009.
Any antenna can pick up an HDTV signal and yes even those old rabbit ears on your grandad’s TV can too. The challenge with a digital signal is that it’s much less forgiving to factors such as bad antenna placement, therefore proper placement and direction can have significant impacts on your channel reception.
Newer antenna models in the market today are designed to multi-task by incorporating reception for UHF, VHF and HD signals. They are typically sized from small- to large-range and depending on where you live and how close to broadcast towers you are, there is surely an antenna on the market that will allow you to acquire the most signals available for your area.
Why I Recommend The Channel Master CM-4228HD
I’ve used quite a few antennas over the years and I have to say the Channel Master CM-4228HD Antenna in my opinion is one of the best antenna I’ve used. It combines high quality with affordability and has stood up to some of the harshest winters and not disappointed once. This antenna has a signal range of 60 miles and will pick up available local digital and HD signals broadcast in that range as advertised.
Heck don’t take my word for it it has won Amazon’s Choice Award and has earned itself 4.5 out of 5 stars on user reviews (there’s always one person who likes to complain!) and takes the number 4 spot on my Top Outdoor HDTV Antennas review.
One caveat of this antenna is that it is uni-directional, meaning, you have to be pointing in the direction of the tower, or very close too it. What this also means is it receives greater power in specific directions allowing increased performance and reduced interference from unwanted sources. This is the main advantage directional antennas have over dipole antennas (omni-directional antennas).
Believe me I’ve tried the omni-directional variety because of the convenience of them, you don’t have to motorize them, you don’t have to rotate them, etc. The problem with them is, in my experience at least, they just don’t provide the same level of signal quality and reliability as the uni-directional variety. This is why I needed to install two of them (see I told you I’d explain why there were two in my hardware list!).
I have two of these antennas, mounted on two 10′, inch-and-a-half EMT conduits as you can see in my image below. I don’t want to be bothered with motorizing or having to rotate the antenna because like I said, I needed the antenna’s to be able to stream to multiple TV’s and devices in my house, and we certainly have different tastes when it comes to watching TV!
So what I had to do is find that “sweet spot” in order to provide maximum signal quality for all channels and all devices.
In my area (I’m at the Canada/USA border near Niagara Falls NY) I’m almost smack dab in the middle of Canadian and US towers. See my TV Station Locator for Antenna page and if your area is not listed, and you would like it to be, leave me a comment and I’ll do some digging to get something up there!
Of course depending on your area and proximity to broadcast towers the number of channels and type of channels will vary, however, if you’re in and around my geographic region you should expect to get between 20 and 30 crisp, clean HDTV channels for FREE! It doesn’t matter what offers these big cable companies keep sending me, they’ll never be able to compete with that!
So I have one antenna pointing towards the CN Tower in Toronto and the other antenna pointing towards the Grand Island, Springville, Jamestown area to grab all the possible stations I can.
Why I Recommend SilconDust’s HDHomeRun Network Tuners
Okay, now on to the network tuners and this is where the streaming magic happens. I have to say I’m a huge fan of these devices and this company in general. What the HDHomeRun EXTEND HDTV (2-Tuner) will allow you to do is stream your antenna signals to any device connected to your network…this is awesome right!
The cable companies have just recently started advertising this capability with their systems…I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years!
Each one of this tuners is a “dual tuner”, meaning, each antenna signal you bring in (there is one coax connector on the back) will effectively become two separate antenna signals. Meaning for each tuner box you have you can watch two different channels on two different devices. Example, I’m watching one channel on my tablet and my son is watching another different channel on his tablet.
Like I said each tuner box has one RG6 coax F-type connector and one RJ45 Ethernet connector to go “hard-wired” to your router. These tuners also support wireless to your router, however, when at all possible I always recommend going wired – that said with the advances in wireless technology, namely, Wireless AC, this isn’t as important as it used to be say 10 years ago!
So why do I have two of these devices. Well, you’ve probably already guessed it, I have two antennas and each antenna plugs into one of the boxes. This effectively gives me 4 tuners in total, meaning, 4 devices in my house can be watching 4 completely different channels at the same time. Now mind you, the channels each antenna gets vary slightly because they’re pointing in different directions but this is almost always never an issue.
The other nice thing about HDHomeRun EXTEND HDTV (2-Tuner) is they come complete with their own fully functional and FREE HDHomeRun software downloadable from the Google Play Store. With this software you simply install it on your device and it will automatically find your tuners on your network and you’re watching antenna TV in Full HD…it doesn’t get any easier than this! The other feature of the software is that it will take all you tuner devices and merge them into one complete (multiple channel instances) list and serve them up to your various devices.
NVIDIA Shield TV As A Primary Streaming Device
I’ve tried and tested many Android boxes over the years, and I have to say, hands down, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV beats them all! This device is packed full of features, unlocking so many different ways to consume your entertainment, from YouTube, to Netflix, to Plex, to Kodi, to Sling TV, to you name it there’s likely an app for it, it has become the main hub of our living room entertainment.
This device is an advanced media streamer that lets you enjoy fast, smooth 4K HDR video and through the use of Google Live Channels allows you to bring in your HDHomeRun Extend Network Tuners over wifi and provides full guide and PVR capability absolutely FREE…it’s totally awesome! The interface and navigation menus are stunning and it’s super easy to switch in and out of apps with a couple of button presses.
Check out my setup in the pictures below, it’s small, unobtrusive, and if you are a gamer (or have kids) this is the ultimate box for you. NVidia has their own “Netflix” for games called GEForce Now that is a subscription cloud based service that gives you access to a pretty good selection of online games.
I don’t want to get too far off base here, and get too deep into the other aspects of this box, (perhaps a follow up article on the full suite of capabilities of this machine)…suffice it to say it is the best HD antenna streaming device on the market!
If you plan on purchasing a Shield box, I should let you know that there are two different versions. The first is the standard 16 GB versions I’ve linked to in this article here NVIDIA SHIELD TV Streaming Media Player, the other version is the Pro version NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro Home Media Server which beefs up the hard drive to 500 GB retailing for around $300 bucks, over $100 more than the standard box. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two.
For me, I wasn’t willing to shell out the extra cash for the additional hard drive space, because other than some recorded antenna tv channels, and the apps I run, all my main files (pictures, movies, etc.) are stored on a network attached storage device with TB’s of space that I can stream to it via Plex. Instead I bought a decent 64 GB USB 3.0 for about $20 bucks and popped it in the back of the box to give me the additional storage I needed.
I recommend the SanDisk Ultra 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive if you want to go this route, it’s well priced and has the horsepower you need to seamlessly run all your apps from it.
Like I mentioned, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Streaming Media Player is my go-to android box for my primary TV’s, no question. For my “secondary” TV’s, (a small one in the kitchen and a 32″ outside on my deck for when I’m sitting in the hot tub) I use a less expensive, but adequate streaming box. Again I’ve used several of them and I plan to do a complete article on these different boxes, however, for your “garage TV” I recommend the Xiaomi TV Mi Box .
The reason I like this little box, well number one because it’s little, and two it runs the Android TV interface versus other Open Android type boxes. I should mention though I have not seen an update come through to Android TV version 7, hopefully in the near future, however, they do run the full Android TV OS version 6.
Don’t Skimp Out On Your Router!
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here as I could probably write an entire post on just routers alone, but this isn’t really the focus of this article. This is probably the only device in the list that I would say you could swap out without really impacting what we are trying to do here.
I recently just upgraded my router so I spent quite a bit of time researching what was out there, reading reviews similar to this one I guess, and weighing out the cost-benefit of the different models out there. For me, cost was a definitely a factor, but I certainly wanted to make sure I bought a router that could push some heavy streaming traffic around my house.
So as I listed above, ultimately I went with the NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Router, I found this had all the features and horsepower I needed and I didn’t have to go out and to spend the $400-$500 bucks on one of these monster routers on the market right now.
Well, truth be told, I actually did go out and spend $500 bucks on an ASUS ROG AC5300 WiFi Tri-band Gigabit Wireless Router but to be honest I was less than impressed with its performance for the money I shelled out.
I don’t know, maybe I was expecting too much out of this thing based on the way it looks (I thought with all the antennas I’d be connected to wifi anywhere in the city!) so I pretty quickly boxed it back up and returned it to Amazon for a full refund.
Here’s a picture of my NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band WiFi Router, less than $200 bucks and it hasn’t skipped a beat…very happy as it quietly servers up our data and HD antenna signals all while being hidden away in the entrance closet! Did I mention the wifi coverage is awesome too!
All Antenna Cables (RG6) Are NOT Created Equal
This can’t be understated enough. Getting yourself a roll of high quality RG6 cable with good shielding and low signal loss is paramount, particularly if you have to run the cables a fair distance to your network tuners (or TV’s if you’re not sold on the fact that this is the best HDTV antenna setup you can build right now!).
Signal loss is the nemesis of a high quality repeatable signal to your HDTV antenna system. In general, the longer the cable run between the antenna and the tuner, the greater the signal loss is going to be. Without getting too technical, the best practice is to keep your cable run as short as possible!
I recommend Mediabridge Broadband Coaxial Cable or an equivalent high quality cable.
This brings up another advantage of using HDHomeRun EXTEND HDTV (2-Tuner) that maybe I should have mentioned before. Let’s take a look at where I’ve got these located in my house, that’s right, they are in my upstairs (second floor) bedroom closest, tucked away nicely and I’ve routed the antenna cables through the attic in as straight a line and as short a distance as possible directly into the back of them.
This means I don’t have to run a spider web of RG6 cable all over my house and to all kinds of TV’s. Once I have them connected to these tuner devices, voila, that’s it, I have live HDTV antenna signals everywhere!
This brings up another good point and another good reason to use these network tuners. Splitting the signal, even only twice to 2 output ports delivers a little less than half the signal to each output. Signals at the output ports are reduced by -4 dB, equivalent to adding about 70 feet of cable. The more output ports, the greater the signal loss.
Another important item to mention is when you’re making your cable ends I highly recommend using compression connectors. Don’t cheap out and buy these screw on or push on type connectors. I don’t want to get too technical here again (I’m saying that a lot but there are lots of other sites that do that) as it’s not the focus of this article, but a bad termination can result in signal loss and we want to do as much as we can to minimize this always!
To get you started I did find a decent looking compression crimping tool kit that you can try out, Coaxial Compression Tool Coax Cable Crimper Kit, of course there are many out there, but buy a decent one!
Do You Think This Is The Best HDTV Antenna Setup?
I wrote this article because people were always asking me how to put in the best HDTV antenna setup possible, what they need to buy, or how they should go about installing it, and hopefully by reading this article this has answered some of those questions. I promise you, if you follow my tried and true methods here you will get “full wife and kids approval” and will never look back.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out some of my other articles today:
- Best Android Box for IPTV
- Why You Need a VPN for IPTV
- How To Watch Live Sports Without Cable
- Next Gen TV – The Future Is Now!
- Sling TV vs Fubo TV – Which One Is Better?
- Best Coaxial Cable For HDTV
- What Is IPTV? Everything Cord Cutters Need To Know
- How To Watch IPTV On PC
- FREE TV – The Ultimate Cord Cutters Guide
- Are VPNs Safe? Find Out Here!
- HDHomeRun Premium TV Available Now!
- How To Watch Live TV On Your Computer
- MECOOL KM8 TV Box – Sorry Nvidia Shield TV
- Best Long Range Outdoor HDTV Antenna
- 7 Ways To Boost Your HDTV Antenna Signal!
- What Is The Best TV Antenna Signal Booster
- How To Properly Ground A TV Antenna
- Are 4K OTA Broadcasts Available Right Now?
- The Best HDTV Antenna Setup Right Now!
- The Best External HDTV Network Tuners
- Everything You Need To Know About ATSC 3.0
- Are IPTV Subscriptions Legal?
- How To Get A 4K Signal
- How To Watch TV While Camping
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my Top 10 Antenna Picks for this year and leave me a comment!
The Antenna Guy!