Antenna in a bathtub

Way back in 2012, when Solid Signal launched its first branded antennas, I went to some serious lengths to show that a flat antenna could perform well. Of course back then flat antennas were more of a novelty than they are today, so it took a little convincing. I took our HD-Blade antenna and subjected it to all sorts of tortures. First, I painted it. I poked holes in it. There was even a case where I put it under a cat.

And… take a look…

I put it in a bathtub full of water. Now, I’m not an idiot, I didn’t put the amplified one in there, that would literally be suicide. OK maybe that’s being a bit dramatic. I mean, the amplifier only draws five volts, that probably wouldn’t shock me into oblivion. But, I decided not to take the chance. In truth,  I felt pretty confident that a non-amplified antenna wouldn’t kill me as long as I was fairly careful. As you can see, since I’m here writing this article nine years later, I was right.

All data is good data right?

If you’re curious, the HD-Blade actually performed pretty poorly, which probably had more to do with the cast-iron tub than the water the antenna was submerged in. I could have done some more instrumented testing to prove that theory but it didn’t seem like a really important part of the process. Since I still have that antenna, I’ll probably give it another try at some point.

The other thing I inadvertently tested on that day was the water resistance of that antenna. It continued to perform well for years after that test, so it’s fair to say that it didn’t have any problems being submerged. There’s no IP rating on these sorts of things, and they’re not really intended for outdoor use. But obviously a little water didn’t hurt it this one time.

Little antennas tend to work surprisingly well, until they don’t

If you’ve waded into the world of antennas (pun intended, given the bathtub stuff) you might have started with a small antenna like this one. Even though they really are intended for urban dwellers, they do tend to work surprisingly well especially for UHF channels. The technology is simple. The antenna elements are the same size as the ones in much larger antennas. They don’t need to be any larger. What a smaller antenna is missing is the reflectors and directors that focus the signal on those antenna elements. Reflectors and directors can bring ten times the signal to the elements, and that’s what makes those bigger antennas work better.

But as I said, it’s surprising how well the little antennas work just by themselves. As long as you’re correctly aiming them and as long as there’s nothing in the way of the signal, they’ll do pretty well for a few dozen miles from the towers. The frustration comes when it’s rainy or windy. Anytime there’s not a perfect viewing condition, those little antennas are going to let you down. And that’s why people upgrade to larger ones. And of course hopefully they shop for them at Solid Signal.

By the way, HD-Blade antennas are still available at Solid Signal as well.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.