September 2014 update: Our contributors Tim and Ann report: "We have an APS-13 antenna that is getting long in the tooth and will have to be replaced in the next year or so. This antenna has served us well and has contributed (greatly) to our enjoyment of listening to multiple FM tuners and listening to good FM stereo broadcasts from (mostly) college radio stations in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Our home is in the northwestern part of North Carolina where the NC/VA/TN state borders kind of intersect. We have never received off-air TV signals because of our location -- we didn't even receive analog TV signals before the switch to digital TV. We are waaay back in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One has to have a good directional deep fringe yagi antenna to pull in the available FM stations.
Since we’re going to have to procure a new, good, directional FM antenna soon, we began conducting research on what will replace our venerable APS-13. And we are depressed because APS is no longer in business making great FM antennas. The sad news is only a handful of American companies still make dedicated FM antennas. The good news (kind of) is there are still some companies across the pond in the United Kingdom that make excellent dedicated directional yagi FM antennas, but they are a bit pricey. [NOTE: Anyone who has hands-on experience with any of these UK-made FM antennas is invited to post any thoughts or impressions in our Yahoo FMTuners group.]
Here are the results of what we have learned so far.
American FM Antenna Companies:
Channel Master TV and FM Antennas: Channel Master’s web page indicates that they currently offer a single FM antenna with a published gain of 5 dB (Model CM-3026 with a current list price of $49.95) and a top-of-the-line TV antenna (Model CM-5020 with a current list price of $159.99) with a published gain of 3.5 dB for VHF L frequencies.
InnoVAntennas FM Antennas (distributed in the US, manufactured in the UK):
Rescue Electronics: 8 Element FM Broadcast Heavy Duty Log-Periodic Antenna
Winegard Antennas: Winegard no longer lists any FM yagi antennas on their website. They only show a single omnidirectional FM antenna with zero gain. They do list some VHF TV antennas that will receive FM, the best of which is the Model HD8200U with a specified gain of 6 dB for Channel 6 (87.75 MHz, just below the FM band).
United Kingdom FM Antenna Companies:
Blake UK: 3, 4, 6 or 8 Element Folded FM Aerial
"The Aerial Shop" - Ron Smith Aerials
Triax FM Antennas
Our contributor Ed K. adds, "Fuba (Germany) used to do first rate FM antennas up until they went bust around 1996. I know that many DXers still use them. The company has been restarted, but is a pale shadow of its former self and out of the FM antenna business."
Our contributor Eli reports on the BIC Beam Box, Model FM10: "I have an FM10 that I just got from Glenn Davis (thanks Glenn!). There is a four-position direction switch on the front, so I assume there are strong nulls at 90 degrees to the selected direction, but I wonder about any backlobes to the chosen direction. My impression (not backed up by any rigorous testing) is that the Beam Box is not completely bipolar (like a dipole) but gives its strongest response in one direction. For those who are curious, there is a tuning knob on the front panel and a 4-gang variable capacitor inside the FM10. This cap needs the grounding contacts deoxidized just like the variable cap inside your analog tuner. I assume that the Wide-Narrow switch on the front panel engages either 2 gangs (for Wide) or all 4 (for Narrow). I didn't actually trace the circuit to determine if this is what the Wide/Narrow switch does - I just made that assumption based on a quick look at the innards. In my playing around, so far, the Narrow position always gives better results. I get a stronger signal using Narrow than using Wide, so any of the differences you would expect from a stronger signal will apply (less noise, etc.). Otherwise, I'm not aware of any sonic differences."
Our contributor John L. adds: "I did a quick, simple directionality test of a BIC Beam Box FM10, a Godar FM1A and a Radio Shack rabbit ears with the ears horizontal. The tuner used is a Denon TU-767 with a 7-segment signal strength indicator. The IF band switch was in the wide position. I connected the antennas to the tuner one by one using the same six foot long coax cable. I oriented each antenna to give the maximum signal strength, which was the same direction for each; rotated it 90 degrees and recorded the signal strength; and rotated it another 90 degrees and recorded the signal strength. The weather was overcast and rainy. The station tuned to is WBGO, 88.3, which broadcasts from Newark, NJ. I was in my fourth-floor Manhattan apartment, which does not have line of sight to Newark and is in a high RF, high multipath environment. The BIC FM10 lit 4 segments max, 3 segments with a lot of background hiss at 90 degrees, and 3 segments with less hiss at 180 degrees. The Godar lit 5 segments max, 4 segments at 90 degrees, and 4 segments at 180 degrees. The Radio Shack rabbit ears lit 6 segments (with the 7th flickering) max, 6 segments at 90 degrees, and 5 segments at 180 degrees.
My reception of WBGO often includes annoying background hiss. The FM10, despite delivering less signal strength, usually reduces background hiss compared to the other antennas. This wasn't the case in this instance as the only hiss noticed was as mentioned for the FM10. The Denon does not have high blend and does not automatically switch to mono at low signal strength. For some stations I get better reception with the FM10 in the wide band position and some are better in the narrow band position. My experience is that indoor antenna reception depends on each particular situation. The only way to determine how an antenna works in your situation is to buy 'em and try 'em."
Here's a follow-up test by John using a fourth antenna: "The additional antenna is a Radio Shack compact indoor, catalog number 15-1843, which is a 5" by 5" by 1/4" plastic-encased square with an integral six-foot coax cable and 75-ohm connector. It is supposed to be directional when upright with the 5" by 5" face vertical and pointed towards the signal source, and omnidirectional when the 5" by 5" face is horizontal. It was tucked away in a drawer and I had forgotten about it. The weather was clear. No matter which position I put the RS compact in, facing the max signal strength direction of the other antennas, rotated 90 degrees from that direction, rotated 180 degrees from that direction or horizontal, it lit 5 segments on the Denon signal strength meter when tuned to WBGO.
"Since the weather had changed, I checked reception with the other antennas. The Godar lit 4 segments (with the 5th segment flickering) max, 4 segments at 90 degrees from max and 4 segments at 180 degrees from max. The Radio Shack rabbit ears lit 7 segments max, 6 segments at 90 degrees and 6 segments at 180 degrees. The BIC FM10 lit 4 segments max, 3 segments at 90 degrees and 3 segments at 180 degrees. At the max position, there was noticable hiss for each antenna except for the FM10 in the wide band position, which had barely audible hiss. In the narrow band position, the FM10 had as much hiss as the the other antennas. Each antenna occupied the same position while being tested and was then removed and replaced with the next."
John compares the FM10 to its lesser sibling, the FM8: "The FM10 has both 300-ohm and 75-ohm outputs and generally goes for about $50 plus shipping on eBay. The FM8 has a 300-ohm output, is otherwise functionally the same as the FM10, and generally sells on eBay for about half of what the FM10 does." Our panelist Eric used an FM8 decades before TIC existed and found it to be somewhat directional; however, it had so much less gain (really, more signal loss) than any generic rabbit ears, it rarely made sense to use the FM8 except for very strong signals with extreme multipath.
And here's Eli again: "I did a little more testing (though not as rigorous as what John described). Using my Yamaha TX-1000, which has an A-B antenna switch, I compared the FM10 to the wire dipole on a wooden "T". The cross-member of the "T" is about 2.5 feet above the level of the FM10, so it has a bit of an advantage. The dipole was connected to the antenna input using a very cheap slip-on 300/75-ohm balun right at the tuner's input. The FM10 was connected using the 75-ohm ouput from the antenna and a 1/2 meter coax cable. So, some differences may be due to non-ideal impedance matching or the difference in height. The TX-1000 has a 24-segment "Signal Quality" meter calibrated from 0-100 (the best tuning meter I've ever encountered).
"The FM10 is somewhat directional. One of the four directional positions is always stronger than the others. When the four-position switch on the FM10 is set to the position giving the strongest signal, the wire dipole consistently reads twice as high as the FM10 on the TX-1000's meter (if the FM10 shows "20", the dipole shows "40"). Although I don't consider the question completely closed, at this point I would say the FM10 is a good choice only for those in high-signal-strength, high-multipath environments. And then, only recommended when rabbit ears can't be used for some reason."
Here are the FM8's specs (thanks John):
The Beam Box FM8 electronically directable FM antenna
Frequency range: 88 MHz to 108 MHz.
Antenna Gain: - 7 dB typ. (narrowband), - 14 dB typ. (broadband).
Directivity: Four selectable electronically oriented "figure-8" patterns.
Receiving Elements: Four 8th-wavelength aluminium elements.
Circuitry: Two orthogonal, capacitively loaded, foreshortened dipoles with tuned connecting circuit.
Broadband mode: directly coupled with antenna arms.
Narrowband mode: decoupled by impedance matching capacitors through 4-
gang variable capacitor.
Controls: Electronic orientation (4-position), bandwith (broad/narrow), tuning (continiously variable, 88 MHz to 108 MHz)
Output impedance: 300-ohm balanced - for 75-ohm operation external balun transformer with coaxial connector and cable required.
Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR): Less than 1.7 to 1 (narrowband)
Bandwith: in Narrow-Bandwith position 3 MHz typ. @ - 3 dB points.
Dimensions: 12-7/8" wide, 14" deep, 3-1/2" high.
Net Weight: 7 lbs (3.2 kg)
Magnum Dynalab ST-2: We don't want to give too much airtime to the overrated ST-2. The manufacturer's dubious claims are available elsewhere online for those who wish to read them. We'll stick with our contributor Dave P's comments: "Count me as being skeptical of the claims. By their own statement, this antenna is a half-wave vertical dipole
(end-fed rather than center-fed). I see no reason to believe that it has any more gain than any other vertical half-wave dipole, or is less susceptible to multipath in general (although it may be less susceptible to multipath reflection from the ground than a horizontal half-wave). It's not going to have the directional gain available in a log-periodic or Yagi. The 54-inch length means it's cut for around 100 MHz, and so would have a poorer match and pattern at the two ends of the FM band... just like any half-wave dipole. That's not to say that end-fed half-wave antennas are bad. They aren't, and they do have some potential advantages over a center-fed version.
"Also, $105 isn't cheap. A 'plumber's delight' copper-pipe J-pole could be made for quite a lot less and be equally rugged, and a twinlead J-pole
could be made for almost nothing. J-poles are also half-wave verticals
and would have the same pattern as the ST-2."
See the AM Tuners page for information on AM antennas.