AM FM TV Reception Guide and Directory

26 May

Best Indoor FM Antenna

There was a thread recently on the Audiokarma.org FM Tuner Message Board (which I love) on indoor FM antennas. Normally I stay out of those discussions but will follow them closely but I decided to wade in this one. The post looked like a nice entry for here:

As no one has mentioned one, Radio Shack sold a pair of FM-only rabbit ears considered the best available indoor antenna by many FM enthusiasts that have been around a while. I bought mine about 15 years ago and it is very good; the best I’ve owned and I’ve tried them all through the years as some years I find myself living where I can’t have an outdoor solution. Radio Shack stopped selling it about 5 or 6 years ago.

For transparency, the antenna I’m about to mention is one that I had manufactured based on the RS rabbit ears. I purposely haven’t jumped into the conversation because I have always gone out of my way to not appear as a shill or spammer for my products but two of the products I sell are the best available or equal to the best available. They are the outdoor dipole I sell and the indoor dipole I sell; they are the best omni-directional solution for FM radio available.

The indoor dipole I sell has the same fine tuning knob the Radio Shack rabbit ears has and both are telescopic. I have done a head-to-head test and FM signals are stronger on the new antenna I sell and I suspect it is because I’m using coax with an F connector rather than the 300 ohm flat with spades that the Radio Shack one has.

One other difference between this new one and the original RS set is that I had these built so that it could be mounted completely vertical with both rods on a vertical plane (straight up and down). This makes a HUGE difference in the locations I tried it in. I set the rods to the 1/4 wave length for the goal station and then adjust the knob to best reception and seriously can pull in stations noticably stronger than with the other highly-regarded set. This turned out to be the best orientation in two locations which surprised me because I have always believed the slight directionality of the rabbit ears at 90 degrees was one of the strong advantages; even in that orientation the new set out-performed the RS rabbit ears.

For additional transparency, let me add that any outdoor antenna will work better than the indoor antenna I have (except maybe those crappy MD and Fanfare end-fed half-waves that are actually marine two-way radio antennas as they are the equivalent of having a wet string for an FM aerial) and in addition any directional antenna, even the smallest, will work better (with a rotor) than any omni-directional antenna.

The rods on the antenna I sell are fairly flimsy and break easily so they need to be handled with care. I always mention this because my other antennas are darn near impossible to break, but this one is easy to break and you don’t want to break it because it really is a fantastic performer.

In addition, with indoor FM antennas, all the rules still apply, height is great, no obstructions is even more important so putting the antenna in front of a window to the side of the house where the FM transmitter is located is best. If you live in a metal trailer you probably aren’t going to get good reception indoors from any antenna as there is no way I’m aware to overcome the laws of physics.

14 Responses to “Best Indoor FM Antenna”

  1. 1
    robert Says:

    how can I order antenna

    Hi,

    Just go to http://www.fmdxantenna.com

    It is available there.

    Regards,
    Lake

  2. 2
    irwin Says:

    Hi Lake-
    I just moved to a rural area and have found your website extremely helpful for solving my newfound reception problem. Regarding indoor antennas, I have received strong recommendations about the Terk AF1 Q and wonder if you know about this and how good it is.

    Thanks,
    Irwin

    Hi Irwin,

    Good question and I’m glad you brought it up.

    The only good Terk antenna is the indoor AM loop they make. They don’t have one good FM antenna in their entire line. The Terk AM loop though is as good a value in an AM antenna as there is available.

    The reason some people mistakenly mis-lead others regarding an antenna is that some setups just need ANY antenna to work better.

    A wet string cut to the correct length would draw raves from some people.

    Another example is that a couple of stereo manufacturers sell a mobile 2way radio antenna that is made for the marine band but they re-brand them and sell them as end-fed dipoles for FM. They are junk on FM; they don’t work BUT if you don’t have an antenna and purchase that one (for $80-100) and put it outside and you are now able to pick up the station you want to pick up then you will shout from the mountain top about how that antenna is the greatest when, again, a wet string outside would have picked up as good or better than those horrible end-fed dipoles.

    One more example is a popular retailer for radio equipment sells a standard wire dipole made from coax and markets it as the best indoor antenna. It may be a BIT better than the wire dipoles that are provided free with stereos, but not much. You will see people rave about them though because they compare them to nothing or to another inferior antenna such as the end-fed dipole.

    Long story-short, don’t buy Terk for FM, save your money and buy something else.

    Regards,
    Lake

  3. 3
    C Albert L Says:

    Hi, there!

    Due to space limitations of a room I will be moving in, I am forced to use a wall-mount FM antenna for my receiver. Towards this end, which one do you think it would be a good choice among all available? I understand that wall-mount units might not be as efficient as traditional ones, but surely some wall-mount antennas are better than others.

    Cheers,

    C Albert L

    Hello, Lake & Dan!

    My case is a bit different because I have no other option than to use a wall-mount antenna as I am moving into a small room. You see, on my front is my equipment up to the ceiling, on my left is my study desk (and door for the bathroom), on my right is my computer (and air conditioner), and on the back is my bed. So, the only real options I have is to place a wall-mount antenna either to the right or to the left (I don’t think it would a good idea to place it on the wall alongside my bed). If height is a key element, I can place it as high as possible. But my original question still stands, which ones do you recommend? One that I have able to find is the Terk passive one:

    http://tinyurl.com/377yle

    I know that Lake does not recommend Terk antennas, but what else is out there?

    Carlos Albert L.

    Hi,

    Good questions about your particular situation! Thanks for the detail of your message as well, that helps.

    Three recommendations:

    1/ Don’t use a Terk.

    2/ First, try a simple FM wire dipole. They are fine in many circumstances and it sounds like a wire dipole will suit your needs just fine and are commonly available in the stereo section of any major retailer. Same rules apply, mount it high and it is slightly directional to the flat side so mount it to the wall that faces the station you want to receive.

    3/ The Indoor dipole in the article above can be mounted to a wall and actually it works the best (I have found) when mounted vertical so it would be to your advantage.

    Read the FM Reception Guide on this site if you haven’t. It has some good stuff that may help as well.

    Have a great weekend!

    Regards,
    Lake

  4. 4
    dan Says:

    i have a vintage marantz receiver located in the basement. there is no option for me to use an outdoor antenna. there is a coax fitting for antenna on the back. currently i can only pull in a few of the stronger stations but on the low end of the meter. would a rabbit ear setup help with signal strength at all in my case?

    Hi Dan,

    The key with FM signal reception is height and that is working against you. The rabbit ears are as good as you can do but you shouldn’t expect much in the basement. Many people mount antennas in their attic or a crawl space with great success as well.

    You might enjoy reading more at the FM Reception Guide:

    http://www.amfmreception.com/fm-radio/fm-reception-guide/

    Regards,
    Lake

  5. 5
    Mark Says:

    Hi Lake. I have owned the Radio Shack unit you refer to for probably 20 years. Many years back, I opened it and removed the 300 ohm connector, mounted a 75 ohm connection in the hole I enlarged to fit it and soldered the internal connection to it. This seems to have worked great, but not being an EE, I wonder if there is still some mismatch between the 75 and 300 ohm inside the unit. I guess what I getting at is, with the changes I have made, would my unit be essentially the same as your revised version? Thanks, Mark

    Hi Mark,

    I believe your solution would work just as well as the revised version and the mismatch would not be an issue in the real world. You would get so little advantage, if any, from a new antenna that I would stay with what you have.

    Regards,
    Lake

  6. 6
    Howard Says:

    Hi.
    I recently moved to a new home that has coax run to each of the rooms using RG-6. I have an attic mounted tv antenna, amplified directional dish-type, currently hooked up. Could I connect your outdoor dipole (attic mounted) to this system with a splitter/combiner? The other option is your indoor rabbit ears, which would be mounted near the receiver one floor down, since I don’t want to run up to the attic to adjust.
    Thanks, Howard

    Hi Howard,

    About the splitter combiner I don’t see why you couldn’t do that but you should try to just split the current signal and run it to your tuner because most TV antennas do a moderately good job at receiving FM because FM radio is located between TV channels 6 and 7.

    The indoor dipole could be mounted one floor down as well but probably would not work as well as an antenna in the attic due to the added height. Height is always an advantage with FM.

    Regards,
    Lake

  7. 7
    Howard Potvin Says:

    I live on a ridge and receive signals from all directions, resulting from crosstalk and interferance.
    Can you recommend a unidirectional, rotatable indoor antenna?
    How about a remote attic mounted antenna?
    Howard

    Hi Howard,

    The indoor dipole I recommend is directional when used as a traditional set of rabbit ears. The next directional antenna would be the Antennacraft FM6 which is the next-smallest commonly available directional antenna for the attic. I really believe the indoor dipole in the article would work with the tuning knob and by getting the elements at a good angle though.

    Regards,
    Lake

  8. 8
    Susan Kenyon Says:

    Hi, My son larry is diabled and loves his radio but last xmas I bought him an terk antenna($25.00) he is not very happy with it. I just looked at some of your products and wanted to know which one would work better. He lives in a group home and has his own small room with 1 window facing the side of the house. Please advise.

    Thanks,
    Susan

    Hi Susan,

    The FM indoor dipole will be the best for Larry. It should be used vertically (one element pointing straight up and one pointing straight down) and in front of the window or higher in the room if possible.
    Please give Larry a hug for me!

    Regards,
    Lake

  9. 9
    Tom Says:

    Hi Lake, I know next to nothing about antennas, mounting antennas, running wires into the attic, etc. I am looking for the easiest way to improve the reception on my parents’ bose radio. They mainly listen to NPR stations located in the lower ranges. I ran the wire antenna that came with the radio up the wall which improved reception a bit, but there is still a lot of static in all but one of the stations we recieve. Plus my mother isn’t thrilled with the look of a wire running up the wall of her living room. Any suggestions? Can I simply attach your antenna to the radio and set it next to the radio for improved reception? Thanks.
    Tom

    Hi Tom,

    I have a TON of suggestions and I have recorded them all on one page on this very Web site. Please check out the FM reception guide and the questions and comments that follow it:

    http://www.amfmreception.com/fm-radio/fm-reception-guide/

    Regards,
    Lake

  10. 10
    Dan Pryor Says:

    I thoroughly agree that the Terk should be avoided. I have found a potato on a wire to be better and cheaper. Wish I had read your blog before I purchased the Terk.

    Hi Dan,

    Plus the potato on a wire tastes far better than the Terk! Thanks for your comments and you are right. I’m not anti-Terk because I often recommend their AM antenna but their FM antennas leave a lot to be desired which is unfortunate because they are so commonly sold.

    Regards,
    Lake

  11. 11
    Larry Lake Says:

    Hello Lake, heres one Lake to another ha ha. I found your web site by accident I was looking to help a man that I just found out is a distant relative of mine on my mothers side. He is about 80 yrs old and used to be in broadcasting. He lives by Lake Whitney, TX and wants to pick up FM 103.3 out of Dallas (he didn’t remember the call letters) He is in a low elevation with trees in way. I told him a tower with a yagi probably would be good. He said he would have to get up maybe 50 – 60 feet to clear the trees. He also may be able to cut down a few trees.

    Man I cant beleive we have the same last name. Have you ever researched genealogy?

    Thanks

    Larry Lake

    Hi Larry,

    My first name is Lake so we probably aren’t quite as closely related as maybe we would be. Haha.

    Check out the FM Reception Guide located elsewhere on the Web site. It will give tons of tips on what you need to do to get the station. I checked out Lake Whitney on the map and then the location of the transmitter which is up between Sherman and Gainesville well north of Dallas. It will be difficult but not impossible to get that station. You are correct in that he will need a yagi pointed at the transmitter location and the yagi needs to be as high as possible. No need to cut down trees as they will not block reception of the station. A suggestion, first get the yagi and have someone go on the roof or up somewhere and point it at the station with a good piece of coax to see if that isn’t enough to get the station; it may be unnecessary to go ridiculously high.

    The station may also be on the Internet, you could hook him up that way! :)

    Larry, read the FM Reception guide linked above, it is loaded with good stuff.

    Please let me know if you have additional questions.

    Regards,
    Lake

  12. 12
    Paul Noe Says:

    Hi Lake,

    A Google search led me to your excellent advice site from which I jumped to and purchased the dipole outdoor antenna you recommended. To back up just a bit, I recently upgraded my AVR to Marantz Sr8002, XM-ready & with HD radio tuner. Wanting to take advantage of every feature of my new equipment
    has become kind of an obsession. I also bought a TERK xm6 outdoor antenna and the required XM dock and cartridge.

    So, I have 2 questions:
    1.) Can I mount the FM dipole and the Terk XM6 on the same mast?
    2.) If so, can I run short pieces of RG6 from each antenna into a splitter and thus provide a single coax lead into the house, from which I would then resplit the signals to their respective inputs?

    Thanks for the help.

    Paul

    Hi Paul,

    1. Yes, without a doubt.

    2. Probably as I know you can combine Dish or DirecTV signals with off-air signals so if there is some sort of signal combiner for that then you could use one of those I feel certain though I haven’t actually done it. Theoretically it is just the same. The one thing to note as that XM (just like Dish and DirecTV) put voltage on their antenna feed for their antennas and you must keep this voltage off your FM tuner or receiver. If I’m not mistaken though the XM (and Sirius) voltage is identical as the Dish/DirecTV so any parts for one are basically interchangeable.

    Regards,
    Lake

  13. 13
    Russ Says:

    Lake is correct about Terk antennas. I have bought 2 Terk antennas over the years and neither one worked very well. And I live near Los Angeles where there a dozens of signals. Terk, like Bose, has a catchy name and their products “look cool”. But looks alone don’t cut it. Some of the simple antennas from Radio Shack work better than Terk.

  14. 14
    Zoran Says:

    Hi George, Lake,
    I have to say: This is the best antenna ever! Sound is so crispy crunch, so crystal clear, amazing! I’m listening only classical station, and is very important not to have any noise from the side.If piano is playing, has to be only piano, nothing else. For Rock station, nobody care about noise! More noise, better!
    Thanks again, I got the best for twenty something bucks!
    Zoran.

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