The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Dipole Antenna

Most of us are familiar with a basic dipole antenna -- it sits on top of the TV on a black base and has two "rabbit ears" that extend above the television. Dipole antennas pick up radio frequencies that can help improve the reception of your radio or television. Like most technologies, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a dipole antenna.

Old-fashioned television with antenna
Dipole antennas help receive local channels on your television.
credit: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Advantage: Balance

Dipole antennas offer the advantage of receiving balanced signals. The two-pole design enables the device to receive signals from a variety of frequencies. It also helps the device sort out problems caused by conflicting signals without losing reception quality.

Disadvantage: Moving It

If you're using a small, TV-top dipole antenna, you must try multiple combinations of pole placements before finding the best reception position. Both poles typically rotate and extend, making it a hassle to move one and then the other continuously while seeking maximum reception. For outdoor antennas, there's the added hassle of having to climb on the roof or stand in the elements while adjusting your antenna. Some outdoor dipole antennas have forward directors that extend out from the main antenna at an angle, making adjustment that much more complicated.

Advantage: Design Options

In addition to the basic, television-top dipole antenna, many other forms exist. Folded dipole antennas have ends that turn back toward the center to help maximize the signal strength. Other options include the half-wave dipole, the folded dipole and the half-wave folded dipole.

Disadvantage: Size

Although the indoor dipole antennas are usually small, the outdoor versions can be large and difficult to manage. They often require more than one person to install, as the poles might be tall and unwieldy. The size makes these outdoor versions difficult to transport, move and install when necessary.