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Q. When trying to receive Milwaukee digital TV channels over the air with an antenna, I see a picture which freezes, has little squares in it (pixelated), or is not there at all. At times, I may also see a "Weak Signal" or "No Signal" error message on my screen.
A. Pixelation, or a "No Signal" or "Weak Signal" error message on your screen is a sign of an insufficient antenna. In the old days of analog TV, a poor quality signal from an insufficient antenna translated into a snowy picture, or a picture full of distortions (picture fading, ghosts, etc.). In the digital world, the picture from an insufficient antenna becomes pixelated, freezes, or is just not there at all. There is no such thing as a snowy picture or ghosts with digital. This is simply how digital transmissions work.

Q: Why is it important to use an antenna that has the capability of receiving both VHF and UHF signals?
A: Milwaukee TV stations transmit at VHF frequencies and UHF frequencies. Your antenna must be working properly for both VHF and UHF signals in order to receive all over the air digital TV channels in Milwaukee.

WMVS Channel 10.1, WMVT Channel 36.1 (as of Jan. 8, 2018), and WIWN Channel 68.1 are all transmitted in the VHF band (as are many other digital TV stations across the country).

It is entirely possible to have an antenna which may work with UHF TV signals, but does not work with VHF signals (or vice versa).

If you are not properly receiving channels 10.1, 36.1 (as of Jan. 8, 2018), and 68.1, it is very likely that the antenna you are using is not working with VHF signals.

Q. What is the best type of TV antenna?
A: For proper digital TV reception, a traditional VHF/UHF rooftop antenna (with the typical metal rods sticking out horizontally) is by far the best choice. Attic antennas may work in some situations, but there may be as much as a 2/3 loss of signal by installing the antenna in an attic as opposed to a rooftop or outdoor wall mount installation. Random signal reflections and absorptions may also drastically degrade the performance of an attic antenna.

Outdoor antennas such as the Clearstream 2MAX or antennas made by Digitenna would be suggested. (Digitenna antennas are available from professional antenna installers). These are usually installed on the roof or wall mounted with the antenna mast extending above the roof line.

Tips for TV Antenna Shoppers

The antennas we tested ranged in price from $10 to more than $100—and we found little correlation between price and performance. The antenna that pulled in the most stations for most of our testers cost $35, and several pricier models were in the lower half of our rankings.

We included some amplified TV antennas in our review. These models can boost signal strength to help pull in stations that might otherwise be on the fringe. But our tests showed that amplified antennas weren’t always more effective than nonamplified models—they can also amplify noise and distortion, and overload reception from closer stations.

The number of channels you receive will depend on your location and environment, as well as the placement of the antenna in your home. You may need to try several models before finding the best antenna for your needs. That’s why we strongly recommend purchasing from a retailer with a no-hassle return policy. Also, it’s a good idea to regularly rescan for channels because you might have missed some the last time you scanned. And use our tips on where to place your antenna to get the best reception.

Q. How do I aim an antenna for digital television?
A: Times have changed. The days of just moving an antenna and watching the screen for best picture are gone!

All new flat screen TVs have a built in signal meter which is used for antenna aiming.

The on-screen signal meter is accessed through the menu system of your TV. Tune in the channel you are having problems with, then press the menu button on the TV remote control and follow the instructions in your TV owners manual to use the signal strength meter in your TV. Move the antenna for maximum reading on the signal meter.

Q. Are indoor VHF/UHF antennas really any good?
A: Rabbit ears and other types of indoor antennas which sit on or near the TV are notoriously unreliable. Also, many of the indoor antennas being sold work for UHF signals only and are not capable of receiving VHF signals. Even some indoor antennas which are listed as being capable of VHF reception have such poor performance with VHF signals that they are virtually useless. Amplified antennas may actually make matters worse, as they amplify electrical noise and signal reflections (which cause digital reception problems) just as much as they amplify the desired signal.

If you live in metro Milwaukee area or surrounding suburbs, indoor antennas such as the Mohu Leaf 30 or Digitenna DUV-I would be suggested. Just hang the antenna in a window behind a shade or drape and do a channel scan on your TV (see your TV owners manual for instructions). In order to avoid electrical interference, indoor antennas should be located in a window well away from anything electrical --- including the TV itself! (Also see antenna aiming question above).


How TV Antennas were tested*

Consumer Reports had 10 testers evaluate each of the indoor TV antennas at their homes, which were scattered around the New York tristate area. Most locations were within a 40-mile radius of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, but one was 64 miles away.

Every tester used the antennas on clear days in two spots: on or facing a window, and inside a room near the TV. Signal strength generally is stronger near a window, and that’s the result we used when calculating our rankings. We also tested performance when the antenna was placed near the TV, because people don’t always have an easily accessible window.

The antennas we tested pulled in both VHF (channels 2 to 13) and UHF (14 to 51) signals. In addition, we included some amplified TV antennas in our review. For these models, we turned on the amplifier, and if there were variable settings, we used the maximum setting.

We ranked the antennas based on the number of primary RF (radio frequency) broadcast stations received across our 10 test locations. To earn a mark for reception, a station had to have a stable, viewable TV picture. In our four-year history of testing these antennas, we detected a total of 34 UHF and 11 VHF stations across all our test sites, but each location received just a subset of these stations. (In the most recent test update, our testers collectively received 10 UHF and four VHF TV stations.)

Regardless of which antenna was being used, one of our test locations wasn’t able to pull in any stations, another was able to pull in a maximum of three, and yet another was able to pull in 15 stations.

But that RF channel count understates the amount of content an antenna can give you. The tester who picked up 20 stations was able to tune to 73 subchannels.

“Unlike the old days, when tuning to a station yielded only one channel, many stations now offer multiple subchannels that provide a greater variety of programming,” Ciacci says. Such subchannels often include a mix of vintage TV shows, nature programs, weather, and foreign-language programming.

*Information in this section is directly from the Consumer Reports website.

Consumer Reports Top 3 Picks (2024)

Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A

AMPLIFIED: YES -  Percentage of Stations Received: 80%

VHF 50% | UHF 90%

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The FlatWave FL5500A is among the top antennas in our ratings. Like many newer models, it has a superthin, flat design that lets you mount it on a wall or place it on a window using the included adhesive strips. Like other amplified models, it needs power, but it gives you the flexibility of either using a TV’s USB port or plugging into a wall outlet. This model comes with a 3-foot USB cable, plus a long 18.5-foot coaxial cable. Because it’s hardwired, you may have to coil the cable and hide it behind the TV or in a media console. This antenna has a claimed 50-mile range, according to the manufacturer.

Approximate price: $60
Buy at: Amazon, Home Depot, and

ClearStream Eclipse Amplified 

AMPLIFIED: YES - Percentage of Stations Received: 80%

VHF 50% | UHF 80%

Like many other models, the ClearStream Eclipse has a paper-

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thin design, but it’s unusual in that it’s circular, with a large cutout in the center. It’s probably the least obtrusive of the models we tested, especially for window placement, because the hole allows light to pass through. The antenna comes with a strip of sticky tape that lets you mount it easily to a flat surface such as a wall or window. This model has an inline amplifier, so it requires AC power, and the company claims it can receive signals within a 50-mile radius. The package includes a 15-foot coaxial cable, a 5-foot USB cable, and a USB power adapter. An unamplified version costs $15 less and has a claimed range of 35 miles.

Approximate price: $40
Buy at: Amazon and Antennas Direct

Antop Mini Big Boy AT-406BV

AMPLIFIED: YES - Percentage of Stations Received: 70%

VHF 50% | UHF 80%

This multidirectional antenna from Antop is designed for either

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 indoor or outdoor use. (It comes with metal support brackets for pole mounting.) It has an upright rectangular design, with telescoping VHF rods that come out of either side. This model has an inline amplifier, which has a switch that lets you choose either short- or long-range reception. The antenna has a weather-resistant UV coating, and comes with filters that the manufacturer claims can prevent 4G and LTE cell signals from interfering. It also comes with an AC/DC power adapter and a long 33-foot coaxial cable. Antop claims a reception range of as much as 80 miles when you pair it with the amplifier.

Approximate price: $85 to $119
Buy at: Amazon, AntopUSA, and Walmart

Q: What can I try if my indoor antenna does not work?
A: Random signal reflections and absorptions in a room will greatly degrade indoor TV reception. Electrical interference from fluorescent lighting, LED lighting, and electrical appliances (including the TV itself) will also degrade indoor TV reception. An indoor antenna should be located well away from anything electrical.

The best place for an indoor TV antenna is in an upper floor window facing the TV towers in Estabrook Park on the northeast side of Milwaukee. If the cable included with your antenna is too short to place it in a window, a longer RG-6 antenna cable can be purchased from Menards, Home Depot, etc.

If an indoor antenna will not work at your particular location, you will need use an outdoor antenna. Outdoor antennas such as the Clearstream 2MAX or antennas made by Digitenna are suggested. These antennas would usually be mounted on the roof or on the wall of a house with the antenna mast extending above the roof line. (See best antenna and antenna aiming questions above).

Q: What about professional antenna system installation and repair?
A: If you already have a rooftop antenna and are still having reception problems, please have your antenna system checked by a qualified antenna installation and repair company such as Custom Communications Solutions 920-564-6030 or other experienced antenna professionals.

If you do not have a rooftop antenna system and want reliable reception on all over the air digital TV channels in Milwaukee, consider having a traditional rooftop antenna system professionally installed. It is a one time investment which will last many years. All TVs in the house can be hooked up to one rooftop antenna. Best of all, there is no more fiddling with old style rabbit ears to try to get a stable picture every time you change channels. Additionally, you will be able to receive over the air digital TV channels which are not carried on satellite or cable.