Antenna advice for Madison, WI


DTVUSA Jr. Member
My TVFool Report: TV Fool

I'm interested in getting the first 6 green stations on the list.

I have two TVs in the house. One is on the main level with a garage between the TV and the main stations (260-270), and one is in the basement but in the corner facing that direction. Upstairs, I get pretty reliable reception with a Mohu Leaf. Downstairs we have a Terk HDTVa and it is spotty at times. I could install an attic or outdoor antenna, but based on what I've read here that's probably overkill for my location. From the rooftop, it would be at least 110 linear feet of coax to get to the basement TV.

Based on this info, what would you recommend? Trying different indoor antennas? Adding an amp somewhere? Going straight to attic or outdoor?
Do not use an amplifier. Your signal levels are predicted to be very strong. A small UHF antenna correctly placed should be all that is needed. Quality of coax connectors and having good continuity on both the center conductor and the shield end to end with no shorts is something I cannot over emphasize. Go attic or outdoors.
Low cost UHF antenna suggestions.
Stellar Labs HDTV 30 Mile Bowtie Television Antenna | 30-2420 (302420) | Stellar Labs
Stellar Labs HDTV 40 Mile Yagi Television Antenna | 30-2410 (302410) | Stellar Labs
If signals are indeed as strong as predicted they should survive 110' of cable with one split.


DTVUSA Jr. Member
Thanks, Steve, for the prompt and helpful response.

I was looking at outdoor antennas, but many of the recommended ones are much pricier than those you suggested: Antennas Direct DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna (Discontinued by Manufacturer): Electronics Winegard HD7694P High Definition VHF/UHF Antenna: Electronics

I'm guessing this is because I just don't need that quality of reception (or VHF). At this point, I think I'll take your suggestion and pick up one of those antennas. Any one you'd recommend over another, or are they all just fine?

Can you please elaborate on your points about:
  • Quality of coax connectors: what do I look for?
  • Having good continuity on both the center conductor and the shield end to end with no shorts: how do I confirm this is the case?
I use an ohmmeter to test coax for continuity and shots. A simple low voltage continuity tester would work. Both the shield (outer conductor) and the center conductor should show continuity end to end. There should be no continuity between the center conductor and the shield. You can not do a basic continuity test with the coax hooked up to anything. Many antennas, and baluns will show a short at DC. If the meter has a continuity test setting that is normally good enough. Here is a short Video on the subject.
I can't help but wonder how many of the problems I read about on this and other forums are caused by poor coax connections, and bad or damaged baluns. I work with a lot of junk box, thrift store, and salvaged parts. When I first encountered the strange behavior of digital TV signals on a bad coax it was a real learning experience. I had just changed antennas, and coax out on the antenna test stand trying something different. When I started checking signals everything look good, but channel 32 was totally missing. I had 28, 30, 35, 40, 44, but 32 was missing. The VHF channels were also there. While signal outages are not unusual in this part of the country I went in and checked the main TV in the house on the antenna system used for daily viewing 32 had a good signal. When I tested the coax a manufactured 25' with molded ends it tested open on the shield end to end.
I personally do not have the correct tools, or experience to do a great job with coax connectors. I have enough knowledge to test my work, or the work of others. A single strand of coax shield braid out of place on the connector can cause a short.
While I've not seen it myself I have read of simple barrel connectors of such low quality that they do not maintain solid contact with the center conductor.
On my last instal of a home brew antenna here at the house I tried to troubleshoot everything as I put it together. As I recall I got tired of testing and put the thing up, and it's worked for two years. I view all antennas as temporary until I can do something better.
The other antennas you have looked at should certainly work. The Winegard has good VHF capability which I did not currently see the need for in your area. Real channel numbers are the ones you need to look at when selecting an antenna.


DTVUSA Jr. Member
Thanks, Steve. I'll make sure to test the gear with my multimeter as I put it together to make sure it's not (just) bad antenna placement. That YouTube video was super helpful.

One last question: do you (or anyone else reading this) have any brands of coax/connectors/splitters you'd recommend or stay away from? I'll be picking up some pretty long lengths of coax and I don't want to spend too much, but I also don't want to create problems for myself because I went too cheap.

Fringe Reception

Super Moderator, Chief Content Editor
Staff member

For my system I bought RCA RG-6 at Lowes. My longest coax run is about 135 feet and I've had no issues with this brand. Be sure to use RTV silicone to waterproof the connector on the antenna's balun.



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Something I'd like to point out regarding VHF: with the FCC planning to repack channels after selling off upper UHF frequencies, there is a chance that some stations will migrate into the VHF-hi range. With this in mind, I am looking at antennas that have VHF-hi capability. It may cost a few dollars extra, but I look at it as cheap insurance against future FCC tomfoolery.


DTVUSA Jr. Member
Hmm, that's good to know about the (possible) future of VHF-hi. Is there any notice or documentation of upcoming changes to stations? I'd be interested in finding out about my area specifically, if it's published.
At this point in time I don't think anyone can predict what is going to happen. What MrPogi stated was certainly a thought that had crossed my mind. There are those that have even predicted that there could be some migration back to low VHF channels.
If you really want to be prepared here is an interesting one that I had until recently overlooked. It can be assembled as a high VHF/UHF antenna, and comes with a low VHF add on kit. RCA ANT3037XR 1080 HDTV Outdoor Antenna with 110-Inch Boom: Electronics
I had overlooked it because I did not realize that it could be assembled without the long low VHF elements.