Which is better, an X-shaped antenna (cat’s whiskers) or a bowtie antenna?

In this panel antenna, the X's should be closer to the towers than the horizontal bars.

You might have noticed the new trend in antennas is a much smaller, squarer shape. This is because most TV broadcasting has moved to UHF and there’s not as much need for the big old-style yagi antennas that were commonplace for over 50 years. That’s a great help to people with limited space like condo dwellers, since smaller antennas fit within the OTARD rules saying that you have the right to put up any antenna smaller than 39″.

However you might also have noticed that some of these antennas have X-shaped fronts (like the one above) and some, like this one,

have a front that looks more like a bow tie, with closed ends. In some cases the bowtie is rounded to look more like a figure 8. Which design is better?

The truth is that there is no difference. Whether it’s the cat-whiskers or bowtie type, both antennas are known as loop dipoles and both have the same ability to pick up signals. The outer edge of the “bowtie” can provide some structural support but generally isn’t necessary for that purpose, and many antennas use an “X” shape instead, choosing to save that little bit of money for a piece of metal that isn’t critical to the design of the antenna.

By the way, that X-shape or bowtie-shape, that’s the actual antenna. The part behind it is called the reflector and it captures signals and sends them to the back of the antenna. This makes the antenna twice as effective, more or less.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.