Best TV Antennas

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
200 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best TV antennas

Cord cutters have begun to rethink the concept of the “antiquated” TV antenna because they have realized that owning a TV antenna is an easy way to access free local TV channels without paying for costly subscriptions and streaming services. With the right antenna situated in or above your home, you may be able to pick up TV signals from live stations in your area such as NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and Fox without having to pay for subscriptions to those channels.

The rabbit ears of yesteryear have been replaced with paper-thin sheets that you simply hang near a window and allow them to work their magic. In step with modern technology, most antennas used today are digital in nature. If you have decided to purchase a TV antenna, the question you may be asking is which one is right for your situation. You can choose from outdoor antennas, indoor HDTV antennas, and amplified HDTV antennas, to name a few.

For quality viewing, you will want an antenna that delivers the best reception possible. For this to occur, a strong signal is necessary, which is why it’s important to understand what to look for when shopping for a TV antenna. We compiled the specs of the best TV antennas so you can easily discover what is available and what to shop for. 

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TV antenna ranges tend to be optimistic. If you’re trying to reach a signal that’s far away, it’s best to purchase an antenna with more range than you think you need.

Key considerations

Understanding over-the-air TV

Over-the-air TV, or OTA, is a capability already built into your TV that can increase the number of channels available to you. To benefit from it, however, you need a TV antenna, which is why we created this guide. Some people prefer to buy the first inexpensive antenna they see on Amazon, set it up, and see what channels automatically become available to them. We recommend taking a more deliberate approach in which you predetermine your preferred channels and invest accordingly in the product that will give you the best experience.

Preferred channels

An important step in your quest for excellent TV channel access and reception is figuring out the number of potential channels available in your area. You can do this by visiting a website like TV Fool and entering your home address. The website will then provide you with information about the available channels in your area and the signal strength of each. Note the channels you are interested in and their distance from your residence; this information will help you when shopping. We also advise consumers to make a note of the channel’s azimuth and its real channel number — a topic we cover in more detail below.

Range

Once you have compiled your list of desired channels, determine how far the furthest channel is from your residence. For better reception, choose an antenna that covers this distance at a minimum. How do you do this? The amount of distance your antenna can cover depends on the type of antenna it is; this information should be provided in the product literature. For example, the literature for an indoor HDTV antenna like the Winegard Flatwave might state that it provides a range of up to 50 miles (especially when stationed near a window). If you want to watch TV from a local station under 50 miles away, therefore, the Winegard Flatwave could be your ideal.

Technology varies from one product to another, but generally speaking, indoor TV antennas boast shorter ranges than outdoor TV antennas. A primary reason for this is the degree of interference created by other electronic devices inside the home.

Indoor vs. outdoor

You might be wondering if you would fare better with an indoor or outdoor antenna. Several significant differences exist between the two.

Indoor antennas

An indoor TV antenna connects to your TV and must be placed in a spot where it can get a clear signal, such as near a window in the living room. These indoor models are compact and easy to install, but because their signal must travel through walls and they are often low to the ground, the signal does not travel usually as far. The best indoor TV antennas usually provide a maximum 50-mile range, which is shorter than what you can get from an outdoor antenna.

Outdoor antennas

Outdoor antennas tend to be more complicated to install, but they are more powerful in terms of long-range reception. In fact, some outdoor antennas approach an impressive 200-mile range. The primary reason for the better performance is that they are usually installed at greater altitudes, and fewer obstructions exist between the antenna and the signals it is trying to reach. Although installation may be more complicated, this technology is an excellent choice if your goal is to access faraway channels.

Channel frequency

Over-the-air channels broadcast via three frequency types. The first type is Very High Frequency-Low (VHF-Low); channels 2 through 6 sit here. The second type is VHF-High;  channels 7 to 13 sit here. The third type is Ultra-High Frequency (UHF); channel numbers 14 to 51 are found here. Importantly, not all TV antennas cover all of these ranges, so you need to figure out which ones you need for the channels you want.

As previously mentioned, it is critical to take note of the real channel number, which may differ from the number of the channel on your TV. This information can be acquired through TV Fool and similar signal analysis websites.

Directional vs. multi-directional

When perusing products, you can choose between a multidirectional antenna (also called an “omnidirectional” antenna) and a directional antenna. The former works equally well in all directions, whereas the latter focuses in a single direction.

If the broadcast towers you aspire to reach are fairly close to you, the type of antenna you choose shouldn't impact the end result too much. However, if you are hoping to reach a faraway tower in order to access those sweet channels, a directional antenna pointed toward the broadcast tower will increase your chance of picking up the signal at long range. Use the azimuth data you collected to determine where the towers are that you’re trying to reach.

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Testing TV antennas
After considering 76 TV antennas we purchased our top pick and tested it in the BestReviews lab to make sure it properly kept a signal.
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Features

Once you have determined the type of TV antenna you need, you can begin to compare models based on their features. Installation ease, cable length, and the aesthetics of the antenna are all worthy considerations.

Installation

The installation process for most digital TV antennas is uncomplicated. The product should come with instructions on how to set it up and test it along with troubleshooting tips you can turn to if you encounter issues. Indoor antennas require the least amount of effort to set up. Outdoor antennas require a little more elbow grease, as you will probably need to climb a ladder and spend some time on the roof. Professional installation is an option if you would prefer not to do that sort of high climbing and maneuvering.

Regardless of the antenna type you choose, make sure that it is securely mounted so that it won’t fall off or move out of position. Some indoor TV antennas employ suction cups so they can be adhered to windows, but these don’t always work well. For the sake of security, you may need to occasionally reposition the antenna or find an additional means of securing it.

Cable length

Most TV antennas include a length of coaxial cable to connect the antenna to the TV. If the included cord is too short, it may not reach your TV. If it is too long, you’ll have extra cording that must somehow be stashed or stored out of the way. This shouldn’t be a serious concern for most users, though. If the coaxial cable included with your purchase doesn’t suit your needs, you could always purchase another one separately.

Design

Design is primarily a concern for indoor antennas positioned in a visible location. Most models today are flat, rectangular devices that resemble a piece of paper and come in your choice of black or white. There are also some larger models that resemble slim, rectangular boxes. Our advice: focus first on finding an antenna that fits your needs. Then, if you are torn between two models, opt for the one that blends in the best with your home décor.

Many people mount their flat antennas vertically, but some have found success with horizontal mounting, such as on a shelf or table.

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Price

Indoor TV antennas range in price from about $25 to $50. The greater the range and the more frequencies it can pick up, the more it will cost. Outdoor TV antennas cost from $40 to $150. Again, you can expect to pay more for an antenna with a longer range and for one that picks up less common frequencies.

All TV antennas do more or less the same thing, so if possible, our advice is to base your decision on the channels you want to receive and the equipment you need to pick up the signal rather than price.

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Expert Tip
When mounting an indoor antenna, location is key. Experiment by mounting the unit in different parts of your living room (or other TV area) to see where you get the best reception.
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Tips

  • If your TV antenna isn’t powerful enough to pick up the signals you want, consider purchasing a range amplifier. Some antennas come with a detachable signal amplifier that can choose to use or not, depending on signal reception.

  • You can install a rotator on your TV antenna if you want to pick up weak signals that are in different directions. It’s also best to install your indoor TV antenna in a window facing the direction of the TV tower you’re trying to connect to.

  • Signal strength and quality affect the number of TV channels you get as well as the strength of your TV reception. If you live in a rural area, installing an outdoor HDTV antenna above your roof is thought to be one of the best routes to good reception.

  • Cord cutters aren’t the only ones who get value from owning a TV antenna. Even if you have a cable subscription, you can often get better reception during live TV events with an antenna. In fact, you can get an enhanced picture with an antenna regardless of what you’re watching.

  • Before buying an HDTV antenna, make sure you have a TV that can receive high-definition signals. Also check that you are using the TV inputs that optimize sound and picture quality. Read our guide on HD TVs to gain more tips and information about this fantastic technology.

  • If you don’t own your residence, check with your landlord before installing an outdoor TV antenna. Most landlords have no qualms with renters installing an antenna on their rented space, but community space (such as the roof of a building) is another story.

A note about static

Much like picture quality, there is no way around the fact that you will encounter static at some point. Plenty of potential causes exist, but the most likely culprit is audio interference. If you seek an antenna that minimizes your chance of sound interference, we recommend looking at products that advertise “low noise” with audio-filtering technology that eliminates things like radio station signals, wireless radios, and cell phone signals, as these are the elements that commonly cause interference.

TV antennas
Skyscrapers, large trees, and other tall objects can also cause interference, making it more difficult to get a strong signal that translates to good reception and great picture quality in your living room. If possible, place your TV antenna in an area that is free of obstructions.

FAQ

Q. What channels will I be able to receive with my TV antenna?

A. This is the golden question, and it all depends on what channels are available in your area and the type of antenna you choose. As previously discussed, you can determine what is available in your area by entering your address into a signal analysis website. You can then use the information provided to determine which TV antenna would be the best purchase.

Q. I have an older TV. Can I still use a new TV antenna?

A. It is possible to use a new TV antenna with an older TV. However, you may need to purchase a converter box in order to make your older TV compatible with a modern TV antenna. The reason for this has to do with digital tuning.

A digital tuner is a built-in TV element that enables a TV to receive digital signals, and since 2009, all over-the-air broadcasts — even free ones — have been digital. Therefore, in order to receive these broadcasts, you must have a TV with a tuner. The good news is, most TVs manufactured within the last decade or so have this technology.

 

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