With the invention and widespread adoption of cable and
satellite TV, it started to look like the days were numbered for TV antennas.
Things looked even worse when TV
stations stopped broadcasting analog signals back in 2009, meaning
you needed a digital receiver and not just a rabbit ears antenna to get free
TV. In short, it looked like we were all doomed for a world of paid TV.
However, as cable TV has gotten out-of-control expensive, consumers have been seeking out alternatives, a process known as cord-cutting.
Of course, one solution is to simply not watch TV at all
but this is not something most people are prepared to do in this day and age.
This is where a digital TV antenna comes into play.
A digital TV antenna will allow you to access all of the
free stations in your area. All you need to do is pay for the device itself.
This allows you to save a fortune on your TV without having to sacrifice
watching your favorite shows or sports teams.
Because of their practicality, there are quite a few
antennas to choose from. But they each offer something different and do
slightly different things, which makes looking through all the different
options and choosing the best one for you a real challenge.
To help you, we’ve put together this list of the nine
best TV antennas. Read up on the features and benefits of each so that you can
get the most from your free TV experience.
Why Buy A
In general, there are two alternatives to paid cable TV
if you don’t want to ditch the habit altogether. One is to switch to all
internet streaming TV services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube
TV, etc. This is a great option if you still don’t mind paying for TV but
instead are looking for a way to only pay for what you want.
However, signing up for all these services can still
cost you a pretty penny, which is still unacceptable for some. This leaves Over
the Air (OTA) TV, which requires an antenna.
When you buy an antenna, all you pay for is the device.
Everything else is free. Some other benefits of buying an antenna include:
up to 50 channels of TV for free. There are far more channels being
broadcast for free today than there were in the past, which means you don’t
need to sacrifice entertainment to save money.
high-definition signals. Many if not all stations now broadcast in
high-definition for no extra charge. With cable, service providers compress the
signal to be able to send so many, which means lower quality. As a result, if
you want high definition, you need to pay more. So while you get fewer channels
with an antenna, they will often come in much clearer than with a basic cable
Of course, there are a few disadvantages, one of which
is that you will not be able to record and save programs, and another is that
signal quality will depend on where you live and the weather. But the savings
are incredible, and most find these sacrifices well worth it.
Look for In a TV Antenna
At first glance, it might seem to you that all TV antennas
are the same but this really isn’t the case. Different models do different
things, and which one you buy will depend on your specific needs and
requirements, as well as where you live.
To help guide you in the buying process, we’ve put
together a list of the many different features that one can find in a TV
antenna. This will help you narrow your search and make it easier for you to
figure out which is the best TV antennas for you.
The first thing you will want to consider when buying a TV
antenna is where you want to put it.
Indoor antennas are similar to the old-style rabbit ear
antennas in that they connect directly to your TV and work from inside the
home. However, because the TV signal needs to travel through your home and past
any other obstacles, such as nearby trees or buildings, it can be more
difficult to obtain a clear signal using an indoor antenna. As a result, these
options are best for those who live near the broadcast towers and in homes where
there are few things blocking signal transmission.
On the other side, outdoor antennas are much better at
picking up signals since they can be placed above trees, buildings, and other
obstacles. However, for outdoor antennas to work, they need to be placed on
your house or apartment building, or possibly even in trees, which can be
difficult logistically and can also harm the aesthetic of your home.
In summary, outdoor antennas are best for people who live
far from broadcast stations (highly rural areas) or who live in a densely
populated area that impedes the signal’s ability to travel freely, i.e. cities.
Indoor antennas, on the other hand, are best for those who
live in less densely populated areas but who also have TV stations nearby that
are transmitting signals. Examples of such areas would be larger towns or
suburbs where houses are spread out but where the population is large enough
for it to be worth it for TV stations to broadcast.
There is an in-between, the attic-mounted antenna, which
gives you a bit more range than an indoor antenna without you needing to build
something on the outside of your home. Depending on where you live, this type
of antenna could provide you with exactly what you need.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you want your
antenna to be directional or multi-directional, and again, deciding which one
to choose will depend heavily on where you live.
Directional antennas receive signals when they are pointed
directly at the source of the signal. Because of this, they can pick up signals
from much further away than other antennas, but they will only be able to pick
up a small number of signals. Sometimes, they can only pick up one. As a
result, directional antennas are best for those who live far away from
Multi-directional antennas, as the name suggests, pick up
signals from multiple directions, meaning they can usually receive data from
more channels and stations. However, because they are not focused on one area,
signal strength tends to be weaker. Furthermore, because the antenna is picking
up signals in all directions, it’s more likely to pick up noise and other
extraneous transmissions, which can interfere with your TV watching experience.
This means multi-directional antennas are best for those
living in densely-populated areas where there are multiple strong signals
VHF and UHF
There are two different types of signals TV stations use
to transmit data: Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF).
VHF signals are broadcast on channels 2-13 and UHF is sent
over 14-51. Within VHF, there is low-band (channels 2-6) and high-band
(channels 7-13). However, these channel numbers don’t always match the “virtual
channel number” by which we know many of our favorite stations.
Many of these stations have grabbed a past channel number
and used it as their branding, but they now broadcast over a different “real”
channel. This means 6 ABC in your area might not be broadcast over channel 6
anymore, as this is a VHF channel. Instead, it could be transmitted over
channel 28 (UHF), but we still refer to it as channel 6 because that’s what
we’ve always known it as. Confused yet? It’s normal.
In reality, most stations now broadcast on UHF channels,
which means it’s probably a smart idea to get an antenna that can receive this
type of signals. But to be sure, you should find out the frequency used by the
channels in your area, which you can do by typing in your address on this handy resource provided by TV Fool.
Here’s a sample results page to help you decipher:
As you can see, in some cases, the “real” channel is the
same as the virtual one. For example, WGGB is transmitted over channel 26.
However, WWLP is branded as “Channel 22,” yet its broadcast over channel 11,
meaning it’s a VFH channel.
Once you get your antenna, you probably won’t think much
about this, but it’s an important step in the buying process. As a result, when
deciding which antenna to buy, it would be wise to take a look at the channels
in your area to see if they use VHF or UHF.
These days, UHF is the preferred mode of broadcasting, so
it’s likely most if not all channels will use this type of signal. However,
some channels have switched back over the years to try and save money (although
this has caused them to reach fewer people), and this means you
might need an antenna that can pick up both VHF and UHF signals.
This is often standard, but some antennas no longer pick
up low-band VHF channels, largely because they must be larger to account for
the longer low-band UHF radio waves, which could be a problem depending on the
area in which you live.
Another thing to consider when choosing an antenna is its
range and whether or not it has an amplification mode. For an antenna to pick
up a signal, it must be within its range.
Different antennas offer different ranges, with the general rule being
that more range costs more money.
However, there are limitations to an antenna’s range, the
most significant being the curvature of the earth and the obstacles between
your home and the broadcast station.
To know how much range you need, take a look at how far
away you are from the nearest stations. This should give you an idea as to how
strong of an antenna you need.
TV Fool offers a handy tool that allows you to
see how close you are from where local channels are being broadcast. You type
in your address and it produces a nice graphic such as this one:
Another thing to consider regarding range is whether or
not the antenna has amplification capabilities. This feature works exactly how
it sounds: it amplifies the antenna’s strength to be able to pick up more
signals coming from further away.
At first, it might seem like amplification is a
no-brainer; higher signal strength means more channels, right?
In theory, yes, but when using an amplifier, it’s
important to remember that it amplifies everything, meaning you’re more likely
to get noise and other interference. So, while you might get more channels,
these channels are going to have lower picture quality, which sort of defeats
the purpose of the antenna.
Amplification makes sense if you live just out of range of
a specific station you want. You can amplify the signal when you want to watch
it and then turn this feature off at other times to ensure the best possible
signal when watching TV.
The last thing you should consider when buying an antenna
is its price. One can buy a basic indoor antenna for as little as $20-30, but
the “you get what you pay for” mantra exists in this market as it does in all
A good sweet spot for indoor equipment is about $70-90.
This will give you a device capable of picking up signals from a good distance
and that also provides you with the savings you want by cutting the cord. There
are some cheaper options, which we will discuss below, and you can spend a
fortune if you want. But don’t forget that the point of cutting the cord in the
first place was to save some money.
Best TV antennas for 2019
Clearly, there are many different factors to consider when
buying a TV antenna, and this makes it difficult for us to choose the best
overall option. What’s perfect for one person might be silly for another. As a
result, what we’ve decided to do instead is create a list of the nine best. You
will find both indoor and outdoor options, as well as expensive and budget
Take some time to consider your needs based on the
information above, and then choose the one you think is best. But no matter
what you require, know that the ones on this list have been carefully vetted
and truly represent the best of the best.
1. 1 Byone
This is a great budget option for those living in suburbs
and other less-populated areas where the directional signal will not be
uninterrupted. It’s super easy to set up and takes up little to no room in our
home; you probably won’t even notice it. Here are some more details:
- UHF/VHF/FM capabilities
- 80-mile range with a removable amplifier
- High-quality coaxial cord to ensure the highest possible picture quality
- Approximately $25
2. Mohu Curve 30
For those living in highly-populated areas where there are
many different channels to choose from, the Mohu Curve 30 is going to be a
great choice. It receives data from all different directions, which means you
might need to move it around in the house for the best reception, but once you
find the sweet spot, you’ll be able to surf more channels than with most other
antennas. Plus, it’s sleek, curved design will be a nice addition to any home.
Here are some more details:
- High-band VHF and UHF (channels 7-51)
- 30 Mile Range (amplifier available on the Mohu
Curve 50 model)
For those living in remote areas far from where signals
are transmitted, the Channel Master CM-2020, is going to be a great choice. It
boasts a tremendous range that allows you to pick up channels from up to 100
miles away. It also comes with a whopping 41 elements, which means it picks up
the signal better and delivers a higher picture quality than most other
However, it’s a much larger device than some of the others
on this list, which means installation will be trickier. Plus, as this is a
directional antenna, this is not the best choice for those who are looking to
capture signals coming from more than one direction.
But if all the nearest signals are coming from the same
direction and you need a powerful antenna to receive them, this is probably
going to be a fantastic choice for you.
Here is some additional information about this antenna:
- High-band VHF and UHF (channels 7-51)
- 100-mile range
Basics Ultra Thin
For those looking for a truly “lite” option, this
proprietary Amazon product is a great option because it is effective and
The first thing you will notice about this product is its
paper-thin design. You can stick it to a wall or window and no one will notice.
The next thing you’ll notice is its price. You can get this antenna for just
It’s also reversible black and white so that you can match
it with your home and blend it well. However, its range is limited and it has
no amplification, which means it is a practical option really only for those
who live in densely populated cities where there are many stations to choose
from. Here’s a snapshot of its main features:
- High-band UHF and VHF (channels 7-51)
- 35-mile range
RCA is a well-known brand in the world of electronics, so
it should come as no surprise they make a great TV antenna. It has a more than
acceptable range and is capable of delivering high-quality picture signals to
your TV device. It also has a relatively small and compact design, which means
it stands out considerably less than other outdoor antennas that draw lots of
attention and end up being an eyesore on your home. Furthermore, it comes
partially assembled, making it one of the easier outdoor antennas to install on
your own. Here’s a summary of the most important details:
- VHF and UHF (Channels 2-51)
- 70-mile range
This is a fantastic option for those looking for an
outdoor multi-directional antenna that is powerful. It has a much higher range
than many other multi-directional antennas, and it uses a digital amplifier to
help extend its range while minimizing noise and other interference, which
means more channels and better signal quality.
It’s an ideal choice for those who live far away from
broadcast stations but who also want to be able to receive signals from many
different directions. Here’s a rundown of its main features:
- UHF/VHF (Channels 2-51)
- 70-mile range
For those looking for an antenna that can do it all, the
Antop Flat-Panel Indoor/Outdoor antenna might be the option for you. As the
name suggests, it can be used both indoors and outdoors, which means you can
place it where it’s most likely to get the best reception, maximizing the
number of channels you receive as well as picture quality. To make it even more
versatile and effective, the antenna comes with a 40ft coaxial cable which
means you can place it pretty much anywhere and still connect it to your TV. In
many ways, this is the perfect attic antenna.
The basic specifications of this antenna are:
- Indoor and Outdoor
- High-band VHF and UHF (Channels 7-51)
- 65-80 mile range
Direct Clear Stream 2V
This outdoor antenna is great because it has both a great
range and, as a multi-directional antenna it is also capable of picking up a
large number of channels. Also, it has a rather compact design, meaning it will
be easier to hide from sight than some of the other outdoor antennas on this
list. And this compact design, which is based around the company’s patented
loop, is able to deliver better signals with less interference than the
As such, this is a great antenna for those living in
suburban or rural areas where signals are far away but are coming from multiple
directions. However, since it is a multi-directional antenna, it’s important to
remember that the range will still be less than some similar directional
options. Here is a rundown of the important information:
- VHF and UHF (Channels 2-51)
- 60-mile range
small, sleek, yet powerful antenna, the TERK MTVGLS antenna is great for those
living in densely populated where there are many different signals to pick up
nearby. It’s capable of transmitting high-definition video signals over the air
and can capture signals in all directions, meaning it never needs to be
adjusted to ensure the best possible signal. Plus, the compact design will make
it easy for you to find a place for it in your home that is discreet yet
effective. Here’s a quick summary of the important information about this
- High-band VHF and UHF (Channels 2-51)
- 50-mile range (with amplification)
There is clearly much more to the world of antennas than you probably ever thought. And as cord-cutting becomes more and more popular, we can expect more competition and therefore more options. However, as of right now, in 2019, this is everything you need to know about buying a TV antenna, and these are the best nine on the market. Carefully consider your needs and make a choice based on what’s going to work best for you. Happy cord-cutting!