How do you go about searching for the best outdoor TV antenna for rural areas? Many people buy TV antennas based on endorsements from people who swear by their positive experience with a particular product. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, except for one thing. User experience with the same TV antenna will greatly vary depending on location.
When searching for the perfect antenna, you need to consider three aspects, namely:
1. Your situation – your location, potential signal obstructions, and preferred channels
2. The broadcasting channels – their distance from you and signal strength
3. The TV antenna – its specs and features
All these details need to match so that you can get the most that free TV can offer. We will show you how this works.
|Name||ClearStream 2V||Winegard HD8200U Platinum Series||Xtreme Signal HDB91X||Antennas Direct 8 Element Bowtie DB8e||Channel Master CM-2020|
|Maximum gain, dBi||10.2||13.3||16||17.4||10|
|Beam width, degrees||70||38||60||24.5||30|
|Channels||2 to 69||2 to 69||7 to 69||14 to 69||7 to 69|
|Dimensions, inches||18L x 12.2W x 5D||168L x 110W x 33H||87.5L x 20W x 20.5H||48L x 36W x 6D||7.5L x 5W x 22H|
|Includes||Antenna, 20-inch mount, all-weather U-clamp hardware, and sealing pads (coaxial cable not included)||Antenna (front and rear assembly), boom brace, mast clamp, a corner reflector assembly, cartridge housing, boot||Antenna, built-in transformer, and mounting hardware (mast not included)||Antenna and mounting hardware (mount and coax cables not included)||Antenna and mounting hardware (mast not included)|
|Warranty||Lifetime warranty on parts||Limited 90-day warranty||6-month limited warranty||Lifetime warranty on parts||Not stated|
|Where to buy|
Guide to choosing an outdoor TV antenna for rural areas
The TV Signal Analysis Report
Start with a TV signal analysis report. It will help you assess your situation.
a) Go to www.tvfool.com and enter your address or coordinates. The more specific you are with the address you give, the more precise the result you’ll get.
b) Read the report. It has three parts:
- A table that lists all available local channels and their signal strength
- A radar plot which shows the position of the different channels relative to your address
- A chart showing the signal strength of each channel from VHF through UHF frequency bands
c) Acquaint yourself with the data provided in the report. We know it can be quite overwhelming at first, but we’ll explain it the most straightforward way we can.
- Going from left to right, the first four columns on the list are information about the channels – call sign, broadcast channel numbers (real and virtual), and network affiliation. The channels are ranked from the strongest on top to the weakest at the bottom. Please take notice of the color of each row.
- Green indicates that the signal is strong, and an indoor antenna setup will likely work;
- Yellow means that the signal is good, but you may need an attic installation;
- Pink indicates that the signal is not that good, and you require a rooftop setup;
- Gray means that the signal is very weak, and regular antenna setups are not the best way to access the channels in this zone.
NOTE: If you take a look back on the color-coded rows, you will notice that all the green rows have NM above 35 dB; yellow rows have NM of 15 dB to 35 dB; pink rows have NM of -5 dB to 15 dB; gray rows have NM of less than -5 dB.
- The next three columns contain signal information – predicted noise margin (NM), predicted signal power (Pwr), and path. Note that a good outdoor TV antenna for rural areas must offer significant antenna gain to offset low or negative NM, interferences, noises, and other signal losses.
- Noise margin (NM) – this number gives you an idea of the signal’s tolerance to interference or noise before it starts to degrade. Channels with higher NM will tolerate interferences well and have stronger signals than those with lower NM. For instance, channels with NM of at least 40 dB will have a stronger signal than channels with, say, 20 dB.
- Power (Pwr) – this gives you the signal strength of each channel.
- Path – this describes the route that the signal travels from the transmitter to your location. It can be a direct line-of-sight (LOS) path or deflected paths, such as single-edge diffraction (1EDGE), double-edge diffraction (2EDGE), or tropospheric scatter (Tropo).
- The last three columns provide information about the location of the transmission towers – distance, true azimuth, and magnetic azimuth.
- Distance – this is the distance in miles between your location and the tower of a channel. If you are more than 60 miles to your preferred channel, expect additional signal interferences due to the earth’s curvature.
- True azimuth – expressed in degrees, this is the location of the transmitter measured clockwise from the true north (useful if you’re looking at a map).
- Magnetic azimuth – this is similar to the true azimuth except that its reference is the magnetic north (useful when you’re using a compass).
- The plot (the report with concentric circles) is like an aerial view that shows your address and the direction of the transmitters relative to that address. You’re in the center of the plot—that point where the vertical and horizontal lines cross each other. The bars that you see are the signals, and the numbers represent the channels. Bars that are thick with yellow outline represent VHF channels. The rest are UHF channels.
NOTE: Inspect the position of your preferred channels relative to the center (your address). Are they clustered together or scattered around you? This feature will help you decide which antenna type to get – omnidirectional, multidirectional, or directional—and how to position it.
The chart on the strength spectrum summarizes the listed channels and their strength and groups them according to their frequency band.
NOTE: TV antennas are designed to receive certain frequency bands. Make sure that the specs of the antenna that you choose match the frequencies of your preferred channels and the data from your TV signal report.
Types of TV Antenna
Your best bet will be large outdoor antennas. TV antennas are of three main types—directional, multi-directional, or omnidirectional. However, the best outdoor TV antennas for rural areas are of the directional type. They have greater range and stronger signal reception but narrower beamwidth (angle of reception) than multi-directional or omnidirectional types.
Directional antennas work by focusing on signals from one direction (within its beamwidth) while rejecting other signals, noises, and reflections from other directions. A multi-directional antenna is like a directional antenna except that it has a broader beamwidth, while an omnidirectional antenna receives signals from all directions (360-degree angle).
If your location is 50 miles out (or more), we highly recommend that you get a directional antenna. You may not get all the channels available from all directions, but you will have a greater chance of receiving decent signals from a selected cluster of channels within your antenna’s beamwidth.
Outdoor high gain antenna – designed for distances less than 30 miles; with built-in pre-amps, the max range can extend to 50 miles.
Outdoor very high gain antenna – designed for distances 50 miles or more; its angle of coverage is less than that of the high gain type.
NOTE: Compare TV antennas based on their gain (dBi), range (miles), and beamwidth (degrees).
When choosing TV antennas, consider the frequency bands that they’re designed for and match this with your preferred channels and the channels with strong signals per your TVFool report.
- Very high frequency-low (VHF-Lo) – Channels 2 to 6
- Very high frequency-high (VHF-Hi) – Channels 7 to 13
- Ultra high frequency (UHF) – Channels 14 to 69
NOTE: You will find TV antennas configured as VHF, UHF, VHF-Hi/UHF, or VHF/UHF, so choose accordingly. Often, you will see TV antennas advertised as HDTV antenna—that’s all marketing hype. The truth is that channels broadcast HDTV signals on the same frequencies that all OTA channels use. As such, you don’t need any special HDTV antenna to be able to view HDTV channels.
Top 5 Best Outdoor TV Antenna for Rural Areas
You may previously have had concerns about being able to find the right outdoor TV antenna for you, but you know better now. The process is quite straightforward as long as you know what to look for. We’ve also listed below our top five picks based on customer feedback. The pros and cons sections give some details about how customers say the products really perform. You can check out their specs and see if they’re a match with your preferred channels and the data from your TVFool report.
1. ClearStream 2V Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Mount
- Antenna type: Multi-directional
- Maximum gain, dBi: 10.2
- Beam width, degrees: 70
- Range, miles : 60
- Frequencies: VHF/UHF
- Channels: 2 to 69
- Dimensions, inches: 18L x 12.2W x 5D
- Weight, pounds: 6
- Includes: Antenna, 20-inch mount, all-weather U-clamp hardware, and sealing pads (coaxial cable not included)
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty on parts
ClearStream’s 2V TV antenna works for both urban and rural areas. It is relatively compact, yet powerful at a remarkable range of 60 miles. Its angle of reception is wider than most high-range antennas, making it the first choice if you want to capture several channels that are slightly spread out.
- Wide angle of reception – it may pick up channels even beyond the stated beamwidth of 70 degrees.
- Picks up a substantial number of channels – since it has a dedicated VHF receiver, it naturally pulls signals from VHF channels in addition to the UHF channels.
- Long range – it delivers the advertised 60-mile range. The presence of tall structures and obstructions can adversely affect this range.
- Lean and unobtrusive – unlike large and unsightly long-range antennas, ClearStream 2V is sleek and not at all unsightly.
- Easy to install – it’s not heavy, so mounting is not difficult.
- Reception is comparable to cable, fiber optic, or satellite TV – you will get excellent resolution for channels within range.
- Some parts are made of plastic – the supports and the lattice are metal, but the figure-8 section and the dipole are plastic. They’re sturdy and not at all flimsy, but they may not endure frequent storms and harsh elements.
- There were complaints of pixelated images mostly in UHF channels – this sometimes happens due to bad weather, long cables used, or other interference factors.
- The coaxial jack sockets are not easy to access – this makes securing screws and applying tape difficult.
- May need a pre-amp for some setups – for users in areas with inconsistent service, their reception improved after installing a mast-mounted pre-amp.
- A bit difficult to rotate – it’s tricky to adjust because the pivot hinge is not easy to turn.
2. Winegard HD8200U Platinum Series Long Range Outdoor TV Antenna
- Antenna type: Directional
- Maximum gain, dBi: 13.3
- Beam width, degrees: 38
- Range, miles : 65
- Frequencies: VHF/UHF
- Channels: 2 to 69
- Dimensions, inches: 168L x 110W x 33H
- Weight, pounds: 16
- Includes: Antenna (front and rear assembly), boom brace, mast clamp, a corner reflector assembly, cartridge housing, boot
- Warranty: Limited 90-day warranty
Winegard’s HD8200U is a Yagi-Uda-style antenna—a high-gain, rooftop type of antenna consisting of parallel metal elements. You may not like that it looks so massive, especially on your rooftop, but antennas of this construction are some of the most effective for rural areas. Since they’re unidirectional, they’re more focused on the targeted channel than any other type.
- Works beyond its specified 65-mile range – it can pull channels as far as 90 miles out as long as there are no large, solid obstructions between you and the towers.
- Can get you 50 or more channels – it has no problem pulling all the stations even with its narrow beamwidth. Of course, your location and interferences along the line of sight will matter, but range is not an issue.
- Excellent reception – the overall reception from LOS channels within range is crystal clear and consistent. This antenna even pulls signals from low-power TV stations and provides stable albeit low-strength signal.
- Well-built – the elements are made of aluminum and zinc-plated steel hardware. As a whole, it is sturdily built except for one part (as noted under Cons).
- Installation is simple – even with its size and weight, installing it is straightforward. The two main parts come pre-assembled and only requires unfolding. The instructions are clear and easy to follow.
- May work from your attic – many users set it up in their attic, and it worked just fine for them. Installing it in the attic also protects it from the elements, so you must try this setup before considering the rooftop installation.
- Can be mounted on an existing satellite TV pole – remove the dish and install the antenna onto the pole; you may use the same coaxial cable, but we suggest installing new wires if you encounter problems with signal reception.
- It works even when covered with heavy snow – it pulls the same number of channels, snow or no snow.
- Big and unsightly – it is roughly 14’ x 6’ once assembled—a figure that’s hard to miss on top of your roof. Some communities do not allow external antennas, so that’s also worth considering.
- The cartridge housing is made of light plastic – it looks fragile and may need to be tied or secured to withstand windy weather.
- Missing some bolts and nuts – it’s a minor oversight but annoying all the same especially when you’re putting things together.
- Getting it up the roof can be tricky – one person can do assembly but getting it up the roof requires at least two persons doing it.
- May require a pre-amp – it may not work without a pre-amp if you have a splitter or long cables. Using a pre-amp, though, may affect the reception of your local stations a few miles away.
- Extremely directional – if you’re a few degrees off, you may get zero channels. The secret is to refer to a TV analysis tool and make a precise aim using a proper compass.
3. Xtreme Signal HDB91X Long Range TV Antenna
- Antenna type: Directional
- Maximum gain, dBi: 16
- Beam width, degrees: 60
- Range, miles : 70
- Frequencies: VHF-Hi/UHF
- Channels: 7 to 69
- Dimensions, inches: 87.5L x 20W x 20.5H
- Weight, pounds: 6.44
- Includes: Antenna, built-in transformer, and mounting hardware (mast not included)
- Warranty: 6-month limited warranty
Xtreme Signal’s HDB91X is another Yagi-Uda-style antenna. If you don’t want something as visibly striking as Winegard’s HD8200U, this one is about half in size so it should fit the bill nicely. There’s nothing short of striking about its performance, though, which makes it our #3 best outdoor TV antenna for rural areas.
- Has a great range – the 70-mile range is not an exaggeration. The antenna is known to work beyond that mark.
- Pulls signals even in hilly areas – it delivers excellent picture quality from channels in the direction it’s aimed at notwithstanding hills and foliage.
- Well-made – the antenna is durably constructed and made of sturdy parts.
- Easy to put together – it will not take 15 minutes to assemble. It’s also light, which makes it easy to mount
- Inexpensive – it is unbelievably cheap, especially for its performance and quality.
- It’s bigger than non-Yagi antennas – it’s not as eye-catching as the HD8200U, which is good, but it is still 7 feet long.
- No VHF-Lo – if you’re interested in getting channels 2-6, then this is not for you. Also, you can only get VHF stations nearby.
- You will get a
- limited number of channels – even if the antenna is capable of pulling many channels, the fact that it is directional with a narrow beamwidth limits your choices. Some users found a way around this issue. They installed two antennas facing different directions to increase the number of channels they get.
- Mast bracket is weak, and connection with the mount is not secure – the bracket gives way to strong winds and displaces the aim of the antenna. The connector between the mount and the mast loosens over time and needs constant adjusting.
- Instructions are poor – some portions are missing from the written instructions, so you can’t rely merely on what’s written. The pictures are helpful, though.
4. Antennas Direct 8 Element Bowtie DB8e Indoor/Outdoor TV Antenna
- Antenna type: Multidirectional
- Maximum gain, dBi: 17.4
- Beam width, degrees: 24.5
- Range, miles: 70
- Frequencies: UHF
- Channels: 14 to 69
- Dimensions, inches: 48L x 36W x 6D
- Weight, pounds: 12.13
- Includes: Antenna and mounting hardware (mount and coax cables not included)
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty on parts
Antennas Direct Bowtie 8-element TV antenna, or DB8e, combines the best in directional and multidirectional types. It is designed as a directional TV with an impressive gain of 17.4 at its optimal beamwidth of 24.5 degrees. At the same time, its unique 2-panel construction enables it to pull signals from multiple directions because you can adjust the panels in various angles of reception. In effect, you get a higher beamwidth but lower gain than advertised. This flexibility makes it an ideal outdoor TV antenna for rural areas, where extreme situations tend to be the norm rather than the exception.
- Well-built antenna – heavy-duty parts and solid construction.
- Clear reception – it can get channels 70 miles out without a pre-amp, provided there are no significant obstructions along the line of sight, such as mountains or clusters of tall buildings.
- Adjustable panels – you can increase the beamwidth by adjusting the panels and pointing them to your desired direction. The trade-off for this increase in beamwidth is a reduction in gain.
- Compact size – this is smaller in size and less of an eyesore than Yagi-Uda antennas. There are no lateral elements (such as the parallels of a Yagi-Uda antenna) to bend, too, so fixing bent parts is not an issue.
- Capable of serving four TVs – you can add a coax splitter and pre-amp to connect to four TVs without downgrading the signal.
- Assembly is straightforward – Setting up is quite easy since it comes partly preassembled. The level of difficulty for rooftop installations will vary depending on your roof situation.
- Weak mast – a single windstorm will bend it over, so you’re better off using a 1-1/4-inch pole from the very start.
- UHF only – the DB8e will get you channels 14 to 69 only, if available in your area (refer to the analysis report from TVFool or similar websites).
- Cannot beat Yagi-Uda antennas for extreme range reception – for really long distances to the transmitters, this can’t outperform the critical aiming that true directional types are capable of doing.
- Will not work well indoors in rural areas – while the description says “indoor/outdoor,” an indoor setup will not work for long-range applications.
- Instructions and images are not very clear – the manufacturer needs to improve on the installation instructions. The images can show more details to be truly useful.
5. Channel Master CM-2020 Digital Advantage Outdoor TV Antenna
- Antenna type: directional
- Maximum gain, dBi: 10
- Beam width, degrees: 30
- Range, miles: 100
- Frequencies: VHF-Hi/UHF
- Channels: 7 to 69
- Dimensions, inches: 7.5L x 5W x 22H
- Weight, pounds: 7.75
- Includes: Antenna and mounting hardware (mast not included)
- Warranty: Not stated
Channel Master CM-2020 is one of the few TV antennas that can receive FM signals aside from TV channels in the VHF-Hi and UHF frequency bands. If you’re searching for this particular combination, then CM-2020 might be the perfect TV antenna for you. It has an extreme range of 100 miles, which is one the main reasons to made it onto our list. A hundred miles is no joke. As you would expect for this range, it’s a Yagi-Uda type of antenna. This antenna is about the same size as Xtreme Signal HDB91X, but with half the beamwidth, so it’s more focused.
- Delivers high-quality picture – the reception is unbelievably clearer than with cable or satellite.
- Pulls the signals through thick canopies – this is a powerful antenna. You’ll have no issues getting signals from the channels in the direction where you point the antenna.
- Massive range – 100 miles is an extraordinary range. If you’re that far away from station towers, then you’d need a deep-fringe antenna like the CM-2020.
- Not very large – it’s only half the size of older Yagi models, so it’s easier to mount, turn, and relocate, if necessary.
- Works even without a pre-amp – it is capable of picking strong signals even without a pre-amp.
- It gets weak VHF signals – unlike the strong UHF signals it receives, the signals from VHF channels are rather weak. It’s a good thing that most channels are now broadcasting via UHF.
- Not designed for VHF-Lo channels – it’s not capable of receiving VHF-Lo channels. If you want channels 2-6, then this is not for you.
- Poorly written instructions – the instructions are not easy to understand. The images are not helpful either.
- Small U-clamp – the included clamp is too small for most pipes. You may need to improvise or find a clamp that fits the pipe or mast you’re going to use.
- Narrow beam width – as expected from antennas with extremely long range, CM-2020 has a very narrow beam width.
- Conspicuous – like almost all Yagi-Uda models, it’s not a pretty sight.
OTA channels are out there for the taking—if a TV analysis report finds your location favorable, that is. The report will tell you whether or not signals are available in your location. You will also find out whether or not the available channels include the ones you’re interested in. If not, then even the top outdoor TV antennas will inevitably fall short of your requirements.
Also, remember that there’s a tradeoff to antennas with extremely long range—they necessarily have a narrow angle of reception. It means that as they focus on picking up signals from a single direction, they ignore other signals and pick up fewer channels as a result.
Let’s not forget, too, that outdoor TV antennas will not always be the most beautiful or stylish. In fact, it’s highly likely that it will be oversized and conspicuous. Attic setups sometimes work, but antennas work best if installed on the roof or mounted on poles.
The “five best outdoor TV antennas for rural areas” we’ve listed above are some of the best options around for tapping free OTA TV. As long as you cover the basics—as we have detailed here—you will be able to enjoy the best and most economical way of watching TV!