Introduction: Keepin' It Simple, the $7 HD Antenna

Picture of Keepin' It Simple, the $7 HD Antenna

There are TONS of options to build your own tuned HD antenna, but if you're looking for a quick and easy[Lazy] way to get setup give this $7 rig a try!

This is a passive antenna and it rely's on a fair signal strength. Before you start make sure you have sufficient coverage in your area using this link (USA Only, else check with your local governing body).

Step 1: Getting the Parts

Picture of Getting the Parts

I picked up all my components listed below at my local Lowes. We essentially need a matching transformer and some wire. Fortunately I found a H-bracket Sign Holder that works perfectly for this purpose.


1xRCA Outdoor Matching Transformer

2x The Hillman Group 17.25-in x 5.625-in Sign

Total Cost: $6.71

Step 2: Setup

Picture of Setup

The setup is fairly simple.

  • Align the H-bracket aside with a gap of about 3 inches.
  • Connect the two terminals of the Matching transformer to the center of the H-bracket as shown the image. I've used binder clips to hold the terminals in place, you may want to consider a more secure connection.
  • Plug in the Coaxial cable from the TV to the transformer.

Thats all! Now tune in.

Step 3: Aha!

Picture of Aha!

I live near the 35 Mile radius from most transmitting towers and my TV managed to tune into 123 Channels (Yes, 123 in SoCal ! ). It took me about 5-10mins to scan through all of them though.

I hope you've had fun checking this out :), and if you do make one shoot me a tweet! @nicolsson


ravenwings (author)2018-01-13

There seems to be a lot of knowledgeable people here. I have a question. I have great picture but no sound, but only on one station, the one that comes in the strongest. Did have sound until last week. Thought it was TV went and bought new TV and another antenna but the same kind. Same thing on both TV's Checked tv with a satellite connection, both of them, works there. Have narrowed the problem down to the antenna.. Could anyone point me the right direction??

valhallasmine (author)2017-12-03

BTW, the link for your signal map changed to:

amclaussen (author)2015-04-17

More than a comment, a question for those knowledgeable about TV signals: Why not use FLAT 300 ohms twisted cable to get less signal attenuation, instead of the only one type (75 ohm coaxial) input Jack in 99.99% of the modern TV sets?

Years ago, I was able to get some very good quality TV antenna cable bought at Radio-Shack (when RS was in much better shape than now!) That cable had the very best characteristics of the other two: the lower signal attenuation of flat 300 Ohm cable with the interference rejection of the coaxial RG-59U cable, and good weathering protection. That cable was constructed by enclosing a paralell 300 Ohm cable inside a braided sleeve and heavy duty cover. Unfortunately, is seems that it is no longer avaliable. Amclaussen.

ScottE4 (author)amclaussen2015-04-18

300 ohm actually loses more signal than 75 0hm just read the name! 300 ohm impedance vs 75 ohm impedance the name says it all. your shielded cable you are referencing was just shielded 300 ohm... but it still had greater attenuation (loss) than 75 ohm...

Tanzer26 (author)ScottE42017-04-05

Your confusing impedance with resistance, I think. 300 ohm twin lead, does indeed have lower loss than RG-59 coax. If you step up to RG-6 coax, then loss is pretty similar. Line loss can be made up for with amplification at course (ie the antenna). Coax has become the wire of choice due to the preponderance of cable.
I started assisting my dad with ota antenna installs, when I was about 10 years old, 2 years of college for electronics technology and returned to continue until my late 20's. We did antennas on towers, on tripod mounts on the roof (my favourite for cost/performance) and in attics (doesn't work well through aluminum siding or metal roofs). We were quite distant from any station, with only a very few to choose from, and our go to, was a 10 element yagi, tuned for the desired channel.

chris.forman.169 (author)2015-04-15

I just made the antenna. Love it! however, I have some stations that come in clear then go to nothing and then it states that there is no signal. I would say that out of about 30 or so stations I get about 20 consistent. I tried it first inside behind my flat screen then I decided to mount it to my old disconnected Dish network Dish they left on my house. Now I get the stations I mentioned above but still have issues with some stations as mentioned. I do not have an amp but would be willing to try it with this if someone could enlighten me on how to hook it up to my antenna I made from this instructable. BTW, It was not stated if the Antenna should lay flat or upright when mounted? Please advise? Thanks for this great Antenna! Chris

tovey (author)chris.forman.1692015-04-17

An amp will not prevent the signal from dropping. The purpose of the amp (to state the obvious) is to amplify the signal. If the signal drops or is interfered with in any way, the amp will not be able to amplify the signal.

That said: You can purchase an antennae amplifier, most likely from your local radio shack or television accessory isle in your local hardware store. If you can't find one in your local brick and mortar store, Google will help you find one.

smaq gaul (author)tovey2015-11-20

An "antenna" amp is a signal amp.

ScottE4 (author)tovey2015-04-18

yes the signal will drop, however the question is how much, The purpose of the amp is to increase the signal above the DROP OUT level (trying not to make comments on Scott Walker's College education here). As with all receivers even digitals need a minimal strength level to work if an amp brings it up enough it will allow it to work. NOW here comes the rest of the story.. the amp's sensitivity and selectivity. That is, its ability to work I the appropriate frequency range and reject interfering signals. In most cases a high end amp isn't needed due to the relative lack of interference that affects digital signals, however in some situations they can be required so I wont come out and discount their use, its just that the majority of the time the extra expense isn't needed.

Chris, I believe it will work best mounted vertically, since that is the way the TV waves travel. See my other note re the app I installed on my cell phone to determine which direction your signal is coming from, then orient your antenna toward that transmitter.

ScottE4 (author)bogie71292015-04-16

Actually Television transmissions are cross polarized. that is they are both horizontal and vertical. What you see at the stations is actually only the towers which the transmission antennas are mounted on. the actual antenna itself from around an electrical 3 meters long on down depending on the frequency. so the physical size of the antenna can be as small as 1.5 meters in physical size depending on configuration, and is quite often an array of these smaller antennas to increase gain. With a small antenna like this, there is no true orientation, rather, you need to see which works best in your given location, as there are multiple considerations that will make it work differently for different places, from metal ore and deposits in the soil to factories and metals structures near you, and even atmospheric conditions such as temperature inversions, air pressure and e humidity and even the time of day, as well as the frequency of the channels you are watching, with VHF being affected more than UHF. If you will note, traditional outdoor TV antennas are Horizontally mounted, This gives the best reception and interference immunity, however small antennas such as set top or "rabbit ears" work best when diagonally oriented, and you have to find which direction the rods need to lean for the best reception, this is due to the fact that they are utilizing the cross polarization of the transmitted signal. As you may have noticed by now, Antenna Design and Theory is a highly specialized field on its own, You can just touch on it with good results, or you can really get into it and accomplish some amazing things.

chris.forman.169 (author)ScottE42015-04-16

Thanks for your answer, I will try vertically as right now it is in the Horizontal position. I will check on the location too. Good Stuff! Also, was anyone able to give me advice on an amplifier that would work with this type of antenna? Where would it hook up at the antenna or television. Thanks?

ScottE4 (author)chris.forman.1692015-04-16

The amp location depends on the type of amplifier you are using, the easiest are "bullet amps" that are inserted between the cable and the matching transformer and then a voltage injector is installed at the TV and plugged into an outlet with a wall wart. Others just hook up at the TV... they just need to be a 75 ohm TV antenna amplifier. you can find the anywhere from a big box hardware store, to Walmart and Radio Shack (before R/S dries up and blows away)

elephantwalker (author)2015-04-14

I am sans cable. Have two $20 or so book style antenas about 7 ft off ground and still have a couple of stations , minneapolis St Paul -close to wi line. I recently put a $10 bow tie in attic as a couple of stations pixilate at times. Have a $15 amp , 10db gain I think on the line. With antenna in attic all tuned stations boom in. Question is, the map shows I should have two marginal stations that if I work at it should also get. this is an old house and have old knob and tube wire in rafters of attic.

Thoughts on just jumping on those wires, 12-14 guage and would say could get 2 runs close to 20+ feet, and then the transformer. It couldn't hurt but it sounds like we have a couple of knowledgeable folks on this thread. Better to have amp close to antenna or the reciever?


smaq gaul (author)elephantwalker2015-11-20

I think you should reuse the old wire you have and make cool fractal (modiefied bow tie) antenna. I did and works great.
I also duobled the the size from these.plans. . Scrol down page.

Don't know for sure but I believe you want the amp as close to the antenna as possible. Keeping the S/N ratio as high as possible going into the amp. Best of luck.

ScottE4 (author)burnerjack012015-04-14

in analog You are correct, however the error correction in digital makes the S/N ratio a non issue

amclaussen (author)ScottE42015-04-17

Basically correct, but up to a point, ScottE4.

In digital, theoretically you would either have an image or not, 0 or 1. BUT... error correction works only to a point, so that as soon as error correction goes above a certain point, it first makes the image fractionated (it appears as big block of scintillating colors, called by many people as "Pixelating", then audio gets intermittent, then, as the digital error is too large, the image goes completely black or cuts. The same thing happens to cable TV, when the available bandwidth is momentarily reduced (to accomodate internet or telephone in the same connection). In cable, the image suffers the most "pixelation" when the scene has violent movements, explosions etc, as the digital compression is way too much and the real, limited available bandwidth is consumed. So, my comment to your comment is that even in digital, S/N ratio still matters, as the transmission is not 100% perfect and error correction and compression artifacts interact and the resulting image quality is deteriorated and or lost. Amclaussen.

ScottE4 (author)amclaussen2015-04-18

no, not up to a point what you are describing are digital remnants, are not the result of error correction, they are the result of two different things, the first you note is the result of signal dropout where there isn't even enough signal for error correction or any other technology to work, Analog technology would have dropped out long before this point was reached with digital. as for your comment on bandwidth, this is also not true, What you are describing is a flaw in in the receiving equipment itself and not the bandwidth. Digital receivers are nothing more than dedicated computers. ad just like a desktop or laptop price is reflected in quality. The speed of the multiple processors inside the TV are what determine if they are going to handle all of the image that is necessary to reproduce the image properly, this has nothing to do with the bandwidth of the transmitted signal, the ability to handle the speed required for proper video reproduction. Its no different than a slow computer failing to handle the requirements of streaming video, however the software for streaming video will just drop out, but a TV manufacturer would be out of business if their firmware just shut down, so they allow video dropout in the form of video remnants (unrefreshed pixels, aka pixilation)

smaq gaul (author)ScottE42015-11-20

OTA digital tv recepion is not "streaming" in the same way steaming internet media

elephantwalker (author)ScottE42015-04-20

Thanks ScottE4. I have a clearer picture now. Both on the Sony ( hope they used high speed processors) and in my head as to what is happening.

Since you seem to know a bit more than I. Would the old knob and tube wire , two of them, work as a better antenna then the $8 folding bow tie looking gizmo that I put in the attic? Should I splurge and put up a $60 or so unit to get a couple more stations out about 50 miles. The signal map shows us in the fringe area but doable. I can get another 8 or so feet higher by going outside to our flat roof , yea or nea. Would a directional spinner help and if so how much.

As an aside when young , 50's -60's my dad loved the tube and all the tubes that went with it. He installed a LARGE antenna in a tall pine tree next to the house(after cutting off the top of course) with a router installed. We lived in NW connecticut and were able to get a couple of NYC stations no problem. We also had our own tube tester and supply of tubes. If something went awry he tested them all. I do miss him as he would be dazzled by the new technology.

Go to and check where your stations are and what direction. If they're in the fringe and multiple directions, a rotator might be best, but you have to rotate it every time you change the channel. If they're in two directions, get two directional antennas and use a splitter in reverse to join them. If they're in opposite directions (150-180 degrees apart or so), a bidirectional antenna like the bow tie with no backscreen would work. If they're in one direction (more or less) a directional antenna like a log periodic is best; but not too high a gain because it is more difficult to aim.

Putting it in the attic makes it last forever. But you give up some elevation and attenuation from rain and roofing. If it doesn't work you'll just have to put it outside.

smaq gaul (author)elephantwalker2015-11-20

Definitly put the amp as close to the antenna as possible.
You are talking about removing (disconecting) the old knob and tube wires before you use them as an antenna,,?right?

jimvandamme (author)2015-04-24

No, you want HIGH signal to noise ratio. It's signal divided by noise. You want low SWR.

Also, I'd point out that many amplifiers (the good ones anyhow) are rated with noise figures. The lower the NF the better. Any attenuation before your amp adds to the noise figure, so a 3 dB cable loss makes a 5 dB NF amp as good as a 8 dB NF amp mounted right on the antenna. I'll spare you the math.

joe.lyddon.7 (author)2015-04-22

I think if you had mounted the antenna elements on a wooden structure so you could orient the antenna vertically and be able to twist it to Fine Tune reception, it would be able to work better for you!

I made my antennas out of Clothes Hanger wire... 4 bow-ties mounted on a 1 x 4 x 36 piece of plywood sticking up in the air. It is very sensitive to direction, rotation as well as tilting... Works good... In Alta Loma, CA (SoCal) I found an RCA UHF Antenna from Amazon did a Much Better job of receiving the signals.

Your antenna is very interesting... but you really only have two elements...

In my bow tie antenna, I have 8 elements!

So, you would have to be pretty CLOSE to get Strong signals.

cantymj (author)2015-04-14

Curious, did you try to scan for channels with just two terminals of the Matching transformer without attaching them to the h-bracket?

ScottE4 (author)cantymj2015-04-18

without the ends of the transformer connected to the bracket, you have a very short dipole antenna (di meaning 2 pole meaning literally poles or parts of the antenna) This is the same type of Antenna we get with Stereo FM Receivers for home Stereo systems. So you can use this info to build your own Higher end Stereo Radio antenna, using two rods, 34 inches each, connected to the transformer (or wire), some how supported, such as inside PVC pipe, and you could even rotate it for best signal. Being Instructibles, someone probably already has done this, if not, feel like a challenge? LOL Not to brag, but for me It wouldn't be hard, and no challenge, and I wouldn't learn a thing. Ive been building dipole antennas for way over 46 years. I'm more than willing to supply info, but you learn more by dong. Ive done did...

ScottE4 (author)ScottE42015-04-18

by the way with the FM stereo dipole. if you make it rotatable you can aim it for best signal, It will be directional perpendicular (at 90 degrees to) the length of the antenna with occasional odd situations where the signal will be strongest off the end due to atmospheric conditions, so you would only have to turn it a hair over a quarter turn, a total of about 95 degrees (90 degrees plus 2.5 degrees past at both ends, more if you wish but just a little is needed for over lap to prevent missing any stations).

ScottE4 (author)cantymj2015-04-18

here is one for you to try, not a joke either, Take a 3 inch piece of wire and insert it in the center of the of the Antenna connector on your Digital TV. You can even use a bread tie, just peel some of the paper or plastic back to make electrical contact with the center of the antenna connector. Then do a scan for stations. Want to learn More? Turn the wire around so the insulated end is in the connector and repeat the scan. You have created a simple Capacitor. A cap, will block DC current but pass AC signals, (with a little loss) and the TV transmission is an RF signal, a specific type of AC signal...

tovey (author)2015-04-17

FYI: There really is no such thing as an HD antennae. The HD designation is just marketing lies to con people into replacing the good antennae they already had with one that is no better.

I have a set of rabbit ears that came from an old CRT Television (60's-70's model with a dial tuner). They pick up the signal better than the $36 HD antennae I purchased from Walmart which turned out to be nothing more than a double sided copper clad board that could be used for making circuits.

The fractal antennae I built, coupled with the rabbit ears works tons better, but I still get signal drops.

ScottE4 (author)tovey2015-04-18

Tovey, I made the same comment and have been telling people this from day one, Just like the myth that you cant use digital in a moving vehicle, another myth that has been disproven time and again. We need to tell everyone this so leas people get taken by crooked marketing practices

byles (author)2015-04-17

Being in the UK where we've had terrestrial digital TV for years, this seems absolutely bizarre to me. Why not just buy a proper wideband aerial for $20?

ScottE4 (author)byles2015-04-18

because Instructables is about learning to do things on your own instead of going and buying them.

DennisF (author)2015-04-14

It's great to see people getting excited about RF. When I was a boy my uncle loaned me his short-wave radio and I was hooked. I spent a lot of time at 2 metre and shorter wavelengths as I didn't have space for long wave antennae and directional is tough at long wavelengths.

ScottE4 (author)DennisF2015-04-14

Ive been "on the air" for well over 45 years, starting as a youngster myself. Cell phones and the internet have killed the interest in RF for many. Its difficult to get them enthused about talking to someone far away when they can do it on a cell phone over the net.
I too Love this instructable, because of the questions it is bringing up, that people like you and I are old hands at. and finally have a chance to spread some knowledge to others, without sitting in a classroom.

spark master (author)ScottE42015-04-15

err yep! Antenna building is what most do now, unless you are a code person, then you may try building a nice qrp transmitter and receiver, or so I am told by guys who like their morse code.

But I must say, Morse Code and CB Radio did more damage, internet and cheap phones are finishing it off. I could easily have passed up to general when I was 18, but I was up to letter M, then realised with a cheap linear and a slight/not so slight mod, I could put my SSB anywhere on 11 meters, (tens meters as well), coupled with "Skip" being a daily occurrence at noon, there was simply no point. (10 meters must have been flaming hot that year, I could an Oregon caller from NYC, he faded after acknowledging my call.

ah the good old days of yesteryear...... when science was new and myth

DennisF (author)spark master2015-04-15

I wasn't interested enough in transmitting to bother with learning Morse. I played with walkie-talkies when I was a kid but got bored quickly. For me receiving was where it was at. Not just receiving and listening but RDF.

spark master (author)DennisF2015-04-15

one could take a piece of political signage or a piece of wooden wall paneling cut out the shape of these wire thingies cover it in aluminum foil and attach the wire. I have seen an antenna for ham bands made by covering a hula hoop with stickie back copper foil and adding appropriate matching gap.

Back in the 70's there was a gent who took a piece of plywood, cut out a weird shaped "Fresnel" lens painted it in aluminum dust paint and made an rf "lens" he put the transistor receiver module behind it. He used it for a satellite antenna. I remember it from either Pop Science or Pop Electronics, (he was either an engineer or a ham or both).

ScottE4 (author)spark master2015-04-16

There were a LOT of oddball antennas that have come and gone over the years. One time I even loaded up a dead hot water heater in the basement just to see how far I could talk on it. At a quarter watt I made a 500 mile contact, but couldn't be heard by anyone locally... The excitement of experimenting is lost on those of today who have instant global communications in their pocket for 40 to 60 bucks a month text talk and data...

bogie7129 (author)2015-04-15

Here is an app I found for my cell phone one can use to locate the HDTV station's tower for off-the-air HDTV reception using a home made antenna such as this:

If you are surrounded by many TV towers, you might want to attach a rotator to your antenna to get the best reception. Many antennas of this ilk can be installed in an attic for ease of operation.

To all you hams out there: Be an Elmer and help others with words of encouragement and guidance, just like someone did for you years ago. De K4RDG

spark master (author)2015-04-15

errrr PAY for the metal supports, pay real money!!!??? Heck my friend politic's are gunna be bleeding them all over the place soon, just wait til AFTER the election.

jimvandamme (author)spark master2015-04-15

The frugal person may be interested in the Co-Tanger Antenna, which is basically two V shapes with the matching transformer feeding the tips of the V's. You can find the raw materials in your closet.

jimvandamme (author)2015-04-15

The FCC antenna chooser doesn't tell you much. Go to and you can put in your exact location, height of antenna, and get a readout of exactly how much signal strength you get from each station, and their direction. There's a too.

I don't have a good place on the web to learn about antenna theory. (I do have a stack of books that I use.) Try your library for the ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook, and if you're lucky, the ARRL Antenna Handbook. You can build a reasonable antenna by trial and error, but there is a real science to it.

dforeback (author)2015-04-15

@stannickel I am going to make the antenna you show in your comment. I live in Dallas, TX, and we have several local over the air stations here, that pretty much all have sideband channels. I will let you know how many of them i get once i get the materials to make the antenna. I think the number of channels available is like 50 or 60...Somewhere in that range.

ScottE4 (author)2015-04-14

want to have some real antenna fun with a digital HD TV? Keep your eyes open for someone disposing of an old LONG roof mount tv antenna, one of those buggers that are about 15 foot or longer, and if it as the rotor with it so much the better, clean up all the metal to metal contacts, possibly replace some of the rivets and set it up for your TV, and see what you can find. some of the small TV stations out there have amazing content

lroberge (author)2015-04-14

Nice job. A couple of questions. What if you increase the wire length and hide the "antenna" in the attic. Would that enhance signal capture?

ScottE4 (author)lroberge2015-04-14

the higher an antenna is mounted the further the radio horizon is (the antenna's ability to "see" the location it is receiving from. However, the longer the feedline, the greater the line loss that is induced, So this is where the use of small amplifiers, traditionally mounted at the antenna, to overcome feedline loss, becomes beneficial. However since Digital TV receivers use error correction, the quality of the received signal isn't as critical as an analog TV so you can get away with the amp at the TV. The expensive antennas the manufacturers are 'Fleecing' the consumers with are literally junk antennas with amps in them, to make them perform like a good antenna would.

ventura38 (author)2015-04-14

would you call this antenna directional or omnidirectional and would an amplifier help weak signal

jsharp2 (author)ventura382015-04-14

Directional antennas have a collection area like a cantenna or a satellite dish. I could see how this one could be similar.

ScottE4 (author)jsharp22015-04-14

actually directional antennas have nothing to do with collection area, they work off wavelength, directivity and reflectivity. The typical traditional tv antenna was just a frequency specific adaptation of a log periodic antenna, or a yagi antenna, rather than taking up massive space here explaining them, you can google both and find excellent explanations on line, Particularly through any Ham Radio specific site

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