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The best TV antenna you can buy: Expert tested

We tested the best antennas that give you a cheap way to watch free TV, including live news, sports, and more.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
ClearStream 2Max | Best TV antenna overall
ClearStream 2Max
Best TV antenna overall
View now View at Amazon
Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna | Best cheap TV antenna
Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna
Best cheap TV antenna
View now View at Best Buy
Channel Master CM5020 | Best outdoor TV antenna
Channel Master CM5020
Best outdoor TV antenna
View now View at Amazon
Mohu Leaf 50 TV Antenna | Best portable TV antenna
Black TV antenna panel with cords
Mohu Leaf 50 TV Antenna
Best portable TV antenna
View now View at Amazon
Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A | Best Indoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A
Best Indoor antenna
View now View at Amazon

Today, most people get their TV from cable, satellite, or streaming. But, as those costs have skyrocketed, many people have returned to antennas and over-the-air (OTA) TV. 

OTA TV offers a wider variety of choices than you might remember if you haven't used a rabbit-ear antenna since switching over to cable or satellite. These days, most of your local TV stations don't offer just one channel, but two or three different "channels." Besides the big over-the-air networks, today, there are numerous smaller networks, such as MeTV, AntennaTV, and Comet, which offer older TV shows; Univision, Estrella TV, and Telemundo for Spanish-language TV; and QVC and other home shopping networks. 

Also: The best TVs of 2024

Most stations broadcast their network programs on HDTV. And, unlike your local cable or satellite company, they don't charge you a thing for the extra "service." 

What's the best TV antenna you can buy right now?

To watch any kind of OTA TV, you probably need an antenna. If you're lucky, you can still get a decent selection of channels with good old rabbit ears. If not, towers and antennae are still available. I grew up installing TV antennas for my dad's television business, and have since gone hands-on with all of the brands on this list to determine the best TV antenna for your needs. My pick for the best TV antenna overall is the ClearStream 2Max, thanks to its flexibility -- you can use it both in your city apartment and on a farm.

That said, there is no "one size fits all" antenna, nor is there one antenna type that's better than any other. It all depends on your location and what signals you can expect to get (below the antenna listed here, I explain how to find that out). Then, look for the antenna that best fits your specific needs. Here are my tested picks for the best TV antenna you can buy right now. (Plus, here's how to watch March Madness games.)

Best TV antennas of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Mounting hardware included
  • Indoor/outdoor antenna
  • Works in many locations
  • No coax cable included
More Details

ClearStream 2Max features: Signal support: VHF/UHF | Coax cable length: N/A | Indoor/outdoor: Both | Reception range: 70 miles 

Over the last few years, I've become very fond of the ClearStream antenna family. The least expensive model with the best reception is this $70 ClearStream 2Max. It's my top pick for best TV antenna overall due to its flexibility: It works just as well out in the woods as it does in a city.

You can install this figure-eight TV antenna either indoors or outdoors. It comes with a stand for indoor use and a 20-inch mast with a clamp for outdoor settings. As a nonamplified unit, you don't need an electrical outlet. Even without amplification, it has about a 60-mile range of reception. In contrast to many other antenna packages, it doesn't include a coaxial cable in its package.

Amazon reviewers note that the ClearStream 2Max is easy to install, features solid picture quality, and is a great value for the price.

Also: The best 50-inch TVs you can buy

Pros & Cons
  • Price
  • Reception
  • Relatively short range
More Details

Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV AntennaSignal support: VHF/UHF | Coax cable length: 10 feet | Indoor/outdoor: Indoor | Reception range: 35 miles 

I found it hard to believe, but for only $20, the Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna actually delivers great reception. It has absolutely no frills. You can't point it, it has no amplifier, and it has no signal meter. It's just a simple 11.75-by-8.25-inch rectangle with an attached 10-foot coaxial cable. That's it. That's all.

But, nevertheless, this simple antenna does an excellent job of picking up TV channels within a range of about 35 miles. You can't beat its combination of price and reception. At the time of this writing, 86% of Best Buy customers who had purchased the Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna and left a review said they would recommend it to a friend. 

Pros & Cons
  • UHF and VHF support
  • 100-mile range
  • Difficult to install
  • Higher price
More Details

Channel Master CM5020 features: Signal support: VHF/UHF | Coax cable length: N/A | Indoor/outdoor: Outdoor | Reception range: 100 miles 

I grew up installing Channel Master antennas. Their best models, such as this $286 Channel Master CM5020, cost a lot, but if you live in the backwoods, this is the antenna you want. 

Also: The best smart TVs

With a range of approximately 100 miles and heavy-duty construction, once installed, you'll use it for decades. That said, it can be troublesome to install. But if you need a heavy-duty antenna with great reception, it's worth the trouble. Amazon reviewers also note the strong performance and sturdiness of the Channel Master, along with the TV picture quality. 

Pros & Cons
  • Price
  • Size
  • Coverage heavily depends on your location
More Details

Mohu Leaf 50 features: Signal support: UHF and Hi-VHF | Coax cable length: 12 foot | Indoor/outdoor: Indoor | Reception range: 60 miles 

Sometimes smaller is better. The recently remodeled Mohu Leaf only costs $60, but it picks up a good number of channels within its 60-mile range. It also comes with a 12-foot detachable cable. 

This is the antenna I recommend if you're living in a single room or small apartment. It's also handy if you want to watch TV on the go in an RV. Amazon reviewers report that they were satisfied with the size, ease of installation, and image quality of the Mohu Leaf antenna, and liked that it had several options for hanging; although customers noted that you have to hang it high for it to work best.

Also: The best QLED TVs you can buy

Pros & Cons
  • Long coax cable
  • 50 mile range
  • Price
More Details

Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A features: Signal support: VHF/UHF | Coax cable length: 6 feet | Indoor/outdoor: Indoor | Reception range: 50 miles 

Another excellent small, flat indoor antenna is the Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A. This $50 antenna is more expensive than most flat antenna models but also gets better reception than most up to its range of about 50 miles. One Reddit user noted that they put the Winegard in their attic and it "has worked great and has an in-line amplifier. Works great with HDHR and Plex." 

As an amplified model, it requires either a USB port or a wall socket for power. It has a 3-foot USB cable and a long 18.5-foot coaxial cable. 

What is the best TV antenna?

The first thing you need to do is to figure out where you're going to place a TV antenna. In cities or suburbs, you'll probably want an indoor model. There, you'll want to place it on a window or an external wall. In the country, or if you're having real trouble pulling in a clear signal, you'll want an outdoor antenna.

Let me also add that the range you'll get varies wildly depending on your location. Take the range numbers as a best guesstimate. I've gotten channels farther away than the declared maximum range, and some channels wouldn't come in even though they should have been well within range. Again, it all depends on where you are and what's blocking -- or not -- the TV signal from your antenna. 

Best TV antennaPriceRangeIndoor/outdoor
ClearStream 2Max$7076 milesIndoor or Outdoor
Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna$2035 milesIndoor
Channel Master CM5020$286100 milesOutdoor
Mohu Leaf 50$6060 milesIndoor
Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500A$5250 milesIndoor

*MSRP at time of writing. Please note that actual price may vary depending on retail as well as available deals and promotions.

Which one is the right TV antenna for you?

Buy this best TV antenna...If you need...
ClearStream 2MaxAn excellent indoor or outdoor antenna that will work in any location.
Best Buy Essentials Thin Indoor HDTV AntennaA cheap, but good indoor antenna.
Channel Master CM5020A great outdoor antenna.
Mohu Leaf 50A budget-friendly antenna that can fit almost anywhere and still deliver a good signal.
Winegard FlatWave Amped FL5500AAn excellent in door antenna.

Factors to consider when choosing a TV antenna

When buying at TV antenna, you should consider the following: 

  • Location: Before you consider purchasing an antenna, you must find out what's available OTA in your neighborhood. The easiest way to start is by going to a site like AntennaWebAntenna Direct, or the FCC's DTV Reception Maps and using their interactive tools to see what OTA channels are available to you. 

  • Range: For this list, I considered TV antennas with decent reception ranges to suit homes in both rural and urban areas.

  • Indoor/outdoor placement: It's all about placement. One spot in your home might not get a signal, while another will get half a dozen channels. Still, for some homes, an indoor model won't cut it. 

  • Set-up and installation: The point of switching from cable or satellite to OTA TV is to save money. So, while in the long run, an antenna will always save you money, I also made sure these antennas are simple to set up so you won't need to pay for a pricey installation.

How did I test these TV antennas?

Fifty years ago, I was standing on a 100-foot tower in the middle of the West Virginia hills, installing a TV antenna. In those days, I was helping with my dad's television business. In WV, with few TV stations and lots of hills and mountains, the only way you got TV was by having someone like my dad and his assistant -- a.k.a. me -- install towers and antennas on top of them.

Even though it's been decades since I worked professionally with TV antennae, I still keep track of the technology, and went hands-on with nearly ever antenna model on this list. When determining the best antenna, I considered several criteria like range, set up and installation, and price, and consulted experts who are still in the business. 

How do I choose the right antenna for my location?

Before shopping for an antenna, you must find out what's available OTA in your neighborhood. The easiest way to start is by going to a site like AntennaWebAntenna Direct, or the FCC's DTV Reception Maps and using their interactive tools to see what OTA channels are available to you. 

These sites can also help you figure out what the best antenna will be for you, depending on your area. If you're lucky, you'll be able to get all your local channels with a small, multidirectional antenna. You can find these at Best Buy or other consumer electronic stores. 

What channels can you get with an antenna?

OTA TV through an antenna offers a variety of channel choices. Most of your local TV stations don't offer a single channel, but two or three different "channels." Besides the big over-the-air networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, today, there are numerous smaller networks, such as MeTVAntennaTV, and Comet, which offer older TV shows; UnivisionEstrella TV, and Telemundo for Spanish-language TV; and QVC and other home shopping networks. 

A new, better OTA technology, NextGen TV, aka ATSC 3.0, is being deployed at this very moment. This will bring you even more channels, and 4K and High dynamic range (HDR) video. To see what NextGen channels may already be available in your neighborhood, check out the NextGen interactive map

Can my homeowner's association or development stop you from installing an outdoor antenna?

No, they can't. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), they can't legally stop you from putting up an antenna. That said, you're better off talking the matter over than taking them to court. 

How much trouble is it to put up an outdoor antenna?

I grew up dragging 75-ohm coax. RG-59 cable up towers. If that's not you, get someone else to install your outdoor antenna. There's an amazing number of ways to hurt yourself clambering about your roof, and you don't want to learn about any of them. Of course, if you have several strong stations in your immediate neighborhood, an indoor antenna is probably all you need.

How can I get better reception on my TV antenna?

If you have an indoor-use antenna, you'll want to place it as close to a window or, failing that, an exterior wall, as possible. If you have an attic, you can also install it there. It's all about reducing the number of obstacles a signal has to pass through before it can be processed by the antenna and sent to your TV. 

If you're using an outdoor antenna, you'll want to place it in a spot where it won't be obstructed by rooflines or dense trees. You can do this by either mounting it on an exterior wall or your roof to make sure it won't be blocked by trees or other homes.

You may also want to consider getting a TV antenna with an amplifier. The good news is that these can boost signal strength to help you pull in marginal stations, The bad news is they also amplify noise. With today's digital signals, that's not as bad a problem as it was when analog ruled the airways, but it can still cause more trouble than it's worth. 

How do I check antenna signal strength?

To properly measure your TV antenna's signal strength, you'll need a special piece of equipment. These connect to your antenna's coax cables and "reads" the signal coming from your antenna and measure how much interference you're dealing with. 

You can buy a simple unit like the King SL1000 SureLock for about $30 if you just want to make sure your antenna is pulling in a decent signal. For more detail, you'll want a gadget such as the Augocom RY S110 for about $110.

If you just want a cheap way to figure out which way you should point your antenna to get the best signal, get a smartphone app such as Digital TV Antennas on Android and TV Antenna Compass USA for iPhones.

How can I get the best signal from my antenna?

Like any wireless network, the more barriers there are between you and the transmitter, the less powerful the signal will be. In the old analog days, that meant your image would get snow on it. With today's digital TV, you'll get a sharp, clear image… that breaks up occasionally if you're too far away or something else gets in the signal's way. That can be more annoying than snow ever was. 

So, what can you do about it? Well, the same thing I did back when I was a kid: Put the antenna outside on a high tower. Or, you can also try to get the antenna away from barriers like other buildings and trees and look into bigger and/or directional antennas.

Do I need more than one antenna?

Nope. A single antenna is all most of you will ever need. Of course, for the smaller indoor antenna models, you can just add them as needed if you don't want to drag cable around the house. But with an outdoor antenna, you can share its signal with a coaxial splitter. That's a simple gadget that you hook up to your antenna's cable and then split, usually from two to eight, other cables that go to your TVs. 

Some of the best splitters are the GE 33526 cable splitter, which can only split the signal between two televisions, the four-way RG6 RG59, and the Neoteck 8-Way Coax Cable Splitter. You can buy the first two for under $10, and the Neoteck for under $20.

If you have over four TVs, you might want to use an amplified cable splitter. My favorite is the $55 Channel Master TV Antenna Distribution Amplifier, TV Antenna Signal Booster

Can I record OTA broadcasts? Are there DVRs for antenna TV?

Sure. There are DVRs for antenna television. My favorites are the AirTV Anywhere line. The AirTV 2, $80, and its big brother AirTV Anywhere. There's also the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Flex 4K, $200.

The AirTV models enable you to combine Sling TV streaming with an OTA antenna. Moreover, with it, you can record broadcasts and stream both Sling TV and local broadcasts over your home network. Indeed, you can watch your local shows even when you're away from home. 

The AirTV2 is a  two-tuner broadcast TV tuner that connects to your home network by Wi-Fi or Ethernet. With an external USB hard drive, which isn't included, you can record and broadcast TV shows using the Sling TV app. The AirTV Anywhere comes with an internal 1TB drive and four tuners. This enables you to record up to four shows at a time.

The HDHomeRun Flex comes with four tuners, two of which are ATSC 3.0 compatible.  To use it as a DVR, you'll need to attach an external USB drive and get a $35-a-year DVR subscription. All this requires a bit of hands-on work to set up properly. On the other hand, once it's done, you can watch your recording on any television, PC, or other device on your home network. 

Are there alternative TV antennas worth considering?

As more people choose to cut the cord with their cable or satellite provider, TV antennas have become much easier to find at more affordable prices. Here's a short list of alternative TV antennas that are great choices:

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