Do you really need a gigantic antenna?

This is one huge antenna. Our HD8200XL clocks in at over 11 feet long and is the largest antenna you can buy for consumer use. If you need something like that, you’ll be glad it’s available, but do you really need something like that?

Chances are you don’t.

The largest part of this antenna is designed to pick up Channels 2-6. It’s really not any more powerful in picking up channels 7-35 than most other antennas, and those are the channels you probably watch. In fact, if you don’t even need channels 7-13 you can usually make do with a much smaller antenna. There are very few channels that actually broadcast on channels 2-6 any more… we have the full list here.

The science behind this

I could go into a very deep dive here. But here’s the basic principle: the lower the frequency, the larger the antenna you need. It has to do with the actual wavelength. Antennas ideally should be big enough to capture one entire wave. In the case of TV antennas, we generally settle for capturing half the wave or one-quarter. Otherwise antennas would be even bigger than they already are. They would be heavier, too, and potentially cause damage when they fell. Which, they likely would since most homeowners wouldn’t secure such a large antenna very well.

Why is this so hard?

The trick is that most TV channels aren’t on the frequencies you think… you can check Wikipedia, Antennaweb, or other sites to find out the actual frequency being used. Broadcasters hide their actual frequency assignments because they’re often different from what they were ten years ago before the transition to digital television.

Believe it or not, this was done to help customers, not confuse them. For decades, TV broadcasters identified themselves by their channel number. With digital broadcasting, most of them moved to a different frequency for broadcast. This system, called PSIP, lets them keep their old channel number which is good for business.

It does make it a little harder for antenna enthusiasts to know what they’re looking for. But, once you know, you’ll probably find that you just don’t need an antenna for those low-numbered frequencies.

Your next steps

Once you’re sure you have no need for channels 2-6, a whole universe of possibilities open up to you. If you don’t need channels 7-13, you can even make do with a much smaller antenna. UHF channels (14-51) respond very well to smaller antennas because their actual waves are smaller, and an antenna works best when it’s either the same size or an even fraction of the same size as the wavelength it’s trying to pick up.

In fact, you’ll have so many antenna choices that it’s going to be hard to know what you’ll need. That’s where your friends at Solid Signal come in. Give us a call at 888-233-7563. Try out our free antenna help service. Or, fill out the form below and our staff will get back to you, usually within one business day. Solid Signal has the best selection of TV antennas, and you’ll be glad you shopped with us!

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.