The Best TV Antenna

We spoke with electrical engineers and a professor in antenna engineering to find that, simply put, there is no “best” TV antenna. The right antenna for you depends on where you live and what you watch, and you’ll probably have to test multiple antennas to find your perfect fit. We dug into 60,000 user reviews to help give you the best odds of hitting a home run on the first try. To get started, you’ll need to download a personal TV Signal Analysis Report and do a bit of legwork to figure out what channels you want to watch and where they’re broadcast from. To make it easy, we’ve created a five-step guide below.

The 4 Best TV Antennas

The Best
Indoor Antenna (Directional)
1Byone Super Thin HDTV Antenna
1Byone
This antenna's sticker-like design makes it easy to reposition, plus it comes in different ranges.
Pros
Unobtrusive design
Customizable features
Cons
Needs a strong signal
Fewer channels than other antenna types

Why we chose it

Unobtrusive design

The transparent geometric design on the 1Byone Super Thin antenna helps it blend into the background of any living room, whether you situate it on a window or against a wall. It’s light enough that you only need a sticker to hold it up, which allows you to experiment with where in your room receives the best reception.

Customizable features

The 1Byone is available in both a 35- and 50-mile range, so you can pick the right model based on your line of sight to a tower. Of course, things like mountains, trees, and houses can shorten this range significantly (more on that in our guide). To help you navigate trouble spots, the 1Byone also comes with an optional amplifier. If you live in a weak signal area, this amplifier may help clear up any noise that’s affecting your signal quality.

Points to consider

Needs a strong signal

As an indoor TV antenna, you’ll need to be close to a broadcast tower with minimal interference to get good results from the 1Byone. If most of the channels you want to watch are listed with a Noise Margin value less than 35 decibels, you’ll probably want to opt for an outdoor antenna.

Fewer channels than other antenna types

Compared to multi- and omni-directional TV antennas, the 1Byone has a relatively narrow range in which you’ll receive channels (about 50 to 60 degrees). That might be fine for some people — there’s a decent chance that all of the channels you need are right in this range. But if your most desirable channels are coming in from all over the map, a multi-directional antenna will suit you better.

The Best
Indoor Antenna (Multi-Directional)
Mohu Leaf 30 Flat Antenna
Mohu
The Leaf is on the smaller side for antennas, and its reversible black/white design helps it fade into the background of your living room.
Pros
Positive user reviews
Unobtrusive design
Cons
Requires a strong signal
Reception could be weak

Why we chose it

Positive user reviews

It’s clear that this antenna has a great track record: It has over 7,000 user reviews on retailer websites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart, and those reviews are overwhelmingly positive. A full 58 percent are five-star raves, while only 9 percent are one-stars — one of the best ratios of any model we looked at.

Unobtrusive design

The Mohu Leaf 30 has a reversible design — black on one side and white on the other — that makes it easy to hide in your living room. It also adopts the current trend in indoor antennas of a square installation “sticker” (roughly the size of a large mouse pad) with a cable, which lets you experiment with different positions in your quest to find the strongest signal.

Points to consider

Requires a strong signal

As with all indoor antennas, you’ll need to be close to a broadcast tower to get good reception. You can check your home’s signal strength using our guide below. As a rule of thumb, if most of the channels you want show a Noise Margin value less than 35 decibels, you’re better off going with an outdoor antenna.

Reception could be weak

Because TV antennas tend to perform better the more specific their target is, multi-directional models generally have worse signal quality than directional ones. There’s almost always a tradeoff: More channels will come with worse reception, while directional antennas might need adjustment to get the channels you’re after.

The Best
Outdoor Antenna (Directional)
Channel Master Digital Advantage 60
Channel Master
Easy to assemble, with one of the best signal ranges in the business.
Pros
Easy to assemble
60-mile range
Cons
Fewer channels than multi-directional models

Why we chose it

Easy to assemble

The Channel Master can be fully assembled right out of the box in only a few steps. Still, as with all outdoor antennas, you’ll want to grab a friend to test reception before you reach for the drill, since it might take a few adjustments to find the best reception spot on your roof.

60-mile range

At 60 miles, this antenna’s range is just about as big as it gets. If you need anything over 60 miles, our experts recommend going hardcore and looking into building your own personal tower to top with an antenna.

Points to consider

Fewer channels than multi-directional models

While it might provide a stronger signal, the Channel Master Digital Advantage picks up signals in a relatively narrow range (50 to 60 degrees compared to 100 to 200 in a multi-directional antenna). That means you won’t get nearly as many channels as a multi-directional unless you physically reposition the antenna.

The Best
Outdoor Antenna (Multi-Directional)
Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V UHF/VHF HDTV Antenna
Antennas Direct
Rated for indoor/outdoor use, this antenna is easy to hang in your attic or position on your roof.
Pros
Suitable for indoors or outdoors
60-mile range
Cons
Reception could be weak

Why we chose it

Suitable for indoors or outdoors

Unlike the Channel Master, the ClearStream does look like it could be brought indoors without changing the theme of your living room to “UFO Chaser.” So if you want to give an antenna a test run inside before committing to the roof, the ClearStream is a good option. That said, because multi-directional antennas typically receive weaker signals than directional models, you may have better luck installing the ClearStream on your roof if you live in an area that already lacks signal strength.

60-mile range

Like the Channel Master, the ClearStream promises a 60-mile range. That’s essentially as high as you should go; even though some manufacturers advertise ranges up to 100 miles, the experts we spoke with told us you’d need to build a tower on your roof to actually reach those distances.

Points to consider

Reception could be weak

While multi-directional antennas give you more channels than directional models, there’s a decent chance that you'll sacrifice signal strength. As a rule of thumb, the wider the swath of signals your antenna picks up, the worse the performance will be. If all of the channels you want are coming from the same area, you’re better off going with a directional antenna.

Guide to TV Antennas

How to find the right TV antenna for you

Determine your home’s signal strength

Your first step is to locate where broadcast towers are in relation to your home. This will help you identify what kind of reception you can expect to receive and what type of antenna will best suit your needs. While there are several websites which try to help you determine the broadcast towers closest to you, we found TV Fool easiest to use.

Address Entry for TV Antennas

Enter your exact address. If you aren’t sure at what height you plan on hanging your antenna, you can either leave it blank, put “4” for an approximation of an indoor antenna’s height, or estimate the height of your roof.

After entering your exact address, TV Fool gives you a personalized radial graph as well as a chart to help you determine signal strength and location relative to your home:

If it looks intimidating, don’t worry; we’ll guide you through each section, highlighting the parts you’ll need to use to determine your TV antenna type.

Make a list of favorite channels

Depending on your home and the strength and direction of TV signals, you might need to decide which channels are the most important to you. Every channel available in your area will correspond to a callsign, the unique series of letters the FCC uses to identify broadcasters. These vary from region to region, and one network will have different callsigns depending on where it’s broadcasting. Where available, TV Fool has also decoded which network is affiliated with each callsign. If you don’t know the callsigns for your preferred channels and they aren’t listed by network, it’s easy to search either “[Callsign]” or “[Channel Name]” and “[City]” to find your missing stations.

Grid List Cropped for TV Antennas

For San Francisco, KPIX-TV is the local CBS station, and KRON-TV is the (Virtual) Channel 4 local news even though it broadcasts on Real Channel 38.

You’ll want to either print out a copy of your analysis report and mark which channels you want to keep track of or jot down two important pieces of information on your list of favorite channels: Real Channel and NM (dB).

Choose between indoor and outdoor

Outdoor TV antennas will always have better reception than indoor TV antennas, but they can be cumbersome to install. Indoor TV antennas are easy to set up, but they don’t always match the decor of the living room and can only be used in areas with strong TV signals. If you live in an area with strong reception, you get to choose whether to go indoor or outdoor, depending on your installation and aesthetic preferences.

To find out if you live in an area with strong signal reception, take a look at TV Fool’s column labeled “NM (dB)” — this stands for “Noise Margin,” a figure measured in decibels (dB). It reflects the amount of interference each signal will experience as it travels between the broadcast tower and your home. The higher the number, the stronger the signal.

TV Fool Color Code
NM Value (dB)
You'll use an...
Green
NM > 25
Indoor antenna
Yellow
35 > NM > 15
Outdoor antenna
Red
NM < 15
These channels will be difficult to receive even with an outdoor antenna.

Generally speaking, having all of your channels listed in TV Fool’s green zone means that your home has the right conditions to potentially have strong reception, and you can freely choose whether to have an indoor or outdoor antenna. If you have any channels coded yellow, you’ll need to purchase an outdoor antenna or risk not receiving those channels through your TV antenna. Red channels have so weak a signal at your location that they are difficult to pick up — it’s unlikely that any antenna will do the job.

If you've tried a TV antenna without success, you might need to do a few more calculations to determine the true NM value of each channel, taking into account additional sources of interference. We dive into these (and what calculations to take) down below.

Choose directional or multi-directional

If we imagine your home at the center of a circle, with TV signals coming in from all sides, a directional TV antenna will only receive signals coming in from a narrow band about 50 to 60 degrees wide (about 1/6th of the total circle). A multi-directional antenna will pick up signals from a larger swath of the circle, typically a total range of 100 to 200 degrees in opposing arcs (if you aim your antenna north-south, for example, you’d pick up some signals in each direction).

Compass for TV Antennas

Our sample radar plot shows most channels in the southeast and southwest quadrants. But since directional antennas only pick up between 50 and 60 degrees, a directional antenna won’t be able to pick up both channel 29 and channel 36 unless we are willing to rotate the antenna depending on what channel we want to watch.

For this step, you’ll need to locate the Real Channel numbers of your chosen stations on your radial signal map. If your desired channels are all broadcast from same general direction (within 60 degrees), a directional antenna will give you better reception. If you have channels coming in from multiple directions, we recommend starting off with a multi-directional antenna. There are omni-directional antennas (with 360-degree range), but these tend to have poor signal quality.

However, if you’ve tried multi-directional antennas without success, you might need to switch to a directional antenna and either sacrifice some channels or rotate the antenna. Antennas improve in performance the more specific they are, so directional antennas tend to have better signal quality than multi-directional antennas.

Determine which frequencies you need

Most TV networks used to broadcast on Very High Frequencies (VHF), but more and more are making the switch to Ultra High Frequencies (UHF), since UHF signals carry better through obstacles like houses or trees.

The choice between VHF and UHF depends on the frequencies at which your preferred channels are broadcast. Networks with a Real Channel between 2 and 6 are classified as VHF Lo; those with a Real Channel between 7 and 13 are classified as VHF Hi; and those with a Real Channel between 14 and 83 are classified as UHF.

You can also look at TV Fool’s frequency chart to figure out whether networks are broadcasting on VHF or UHF.

Graph for TV Antennas

Frequency Chart: TV Fool sorts the channels by their Real Channel number and also lists them by callsign, so you can see which channels are VHF Lo, VHF Hi, and UHF.

If your preferred channels list contains both VHF (either Lo or Hi) and UHF networks, you have two options. While manufacturers make TV antennas advertised to receive both UHF and VHF signals, these antennas typically only receive one type of signal well. They are worth trying — you might be located in a reception sweet spot — but you might also need to buy two antennas, one for each frequency.

Check the return policy before purchasing

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who finds their antenna on the first try, you’ll want to return the first one, two, or three you buy. Consider spending a few extra dollars to purchase from an authorized retailer with a good return policy, just to cover your bases.

Adjust for common sources of interference

TV Fool gives you the base predicted Noise Margin (NM) value for each station at your location in their TV Signal Analysis Report. That said, there are a lot of factors that affect your reception, and many of them are unavoidable. If you’re struggling to get a certain channel that’s on the edge of your reception capability, here are a few common problems that can decrease your Noise Margin and make it more difficult to receive a signal:

  • Coaxial Cable: The longer the coaxial cable that connects the antenna to your TV, the more signal loss you’ll experience. Channel Master estimates typical loss values between 1.5 dB to 5.6 dB per 100 feet of cable.
  • TV Splitter: If you’re watching channels on multiple TVs, you’ll need a splitter to send the signal to multiple destinations. For each splitter used, estimate a NM loss of about 3.5 dB.
  • Walls: If you’re using an indoor TV antenna, Grounded Reason recommends placing it on or near the exterior wall closest to the tower. Doing so means you’ll only see a NM loss of about 14 dB. If you can’t place your TV antenna on that wall, expect about a 34 dB loss instead, to account for the amount of walls and objects between your antenna and the tower.
  • Other Houses: If there are additional houses blocking your antenna’s “view” of the tower, you’ll need to subtract about 20 dB from your base NM value.
  • Trees: If you have heavy or dense foliage that “casts a shadow” or stands between your antenna and the broadcast tower, subtract 10 dBs from your base NM value.
  • Amplifiers: Active antennas have built-in amplifiers that improve signal quality. You can also buy an amplifier separately. Amplifiers reduce the amount of noise that builds up over the coaxial cable, TV tuner, and any splitters as the signal travels between the antenna and your TV. However, amplifiers also add their own noise, so it’s important to choose an amplifier that introduces less noise than it improves on. If your amplifier doesn’t indicate how much noise it adds, assume between 6 and 10 dB.

TV Antenna FAQs

Do I need a digital converter box with my TV antenna?

If your TV was built prior to 2007, there’s a good chance it won’t be able to receive TV signals on its own, even with the perfect TV antenna — you’ll need to purchase a digital converter box. You can check your TV instruction manual to find out if your TV is digital compatible: It will be described as “DTV,” “ATSC,” “HDTV,” or “Digital Receiver.” If you haven’t kept the manual, you can call the FCC directly to find out at 1-888-CALLFCC.

Can my reception be too strong?

Yes. In order to pick up TV signals, the Noise Margin for any particular signal needs to be between 15 dB and 70 dB. If you live in a strong signal area but your TV only shows a black screen, you might need to make your setup less effective at receiving signals by adding in interference. A few steps you can take to reduce TV signal reception:

  • Make sure you aren’t using an amplified antenna, or any kind of amplifier.
  • If you’re using an outdoor antenna, switch to an indoor one.
  • Use a multi- or omni-directional antenna rather than a directional one.

Have poor reception? Take opposite steps of those detailed above, and you might be able to improve your reception enough to watch your channels clearly.

What's the difference between Real Channels and Virtual Channels?

TV Fool offers two different channel numbers for each callsign: real and virtual. The Real Channel number identifies the actual frequency on which the channel broadcasts, rather than the Virtual Channel it goes by. This allows national networks to be found “on channel four,” even if they aren’t actually broadcast on four. You’ll need the Real Channel later to locate towers on the radar map.

How do you join two antennas?

To join two antennas, you’ll need to purchase an antenna combiner, sometimes called a UVSJ (a UHF VHF Signal Joiner). These allow you to combine an antenna that’s great at receiving UHF with one that’s great at receiving VHF, so you can have clear reception on all channels without any (or at least fewer) drops in coverage.

What are the parts of a TV antenna?

Installation Type: TV antennas can be installed in two ways: indoors or outdoors. Outdoor TV antennas generally look more like technical equipment, while indoor models try to blend into your home’s interior design.
Direction Type: TV antennas are either directional, multi-directional, or omnidirectional. The more directions from which a TV antenna can receive signal, the more channels it is capable of receiving, although these more versatile antennas typically don’t work as well.
Reception Type: TV antennas pick up UHF, VHF, or both types of signals. While VHF used to be the standard, more and more networks are switching to UHF, since it carries better through obstacles like trees and houses. Depending on which channels you want, you might only need a TV antenna that receives one type of signal.
Active or Passive: Active TV antennas come with a built-in amplifier to help reduce interference. However, for people living in an area with great reception, an amplifier can make its signals too strong for a TV to process. Passive antennas are antennas that simply don’t have an amplifier, making them better choices for areas that already receive strong signals.

Other TV Antennas to Consider

Our experts agreed: Most people will not be able to find their perfect antenna on the first try. Our top picks are pulled from the top of our category lists. They were the most popular, most highly rated antennas of their group, which gives them a good chance of working for you. But if the first option doesn’t work, you’ll want to try another one from the same category list to see if it works better.

If live in a strong signal area, most antennas will probably work for you, and you might have the luxury of choosing an antenna simply based on how it looks. The antennas on our full product list vary significantly in appearance, from traditional rabbit ears to thin, adhesive geometric outlines and slim, low-profile boxes. Take a look to see which is the most aesthetically appealing to you.

Each antenna is listed below in its ranked order, starting with the most successful of each category. Antennas toward the bottom of each list still meet our basic requirements; they work for enough people to make our list, even if they aren’t as popular as those higher up. They are all passive antennas – they don’t have a built-in amplifier or an accessory amplifier unless otherwise stated.

Outdoor omni-directional for VHF and UHF

The Best TV Antennas: Summed Up

1Byone Super Thin HDTV Antenna
Mohu Leaf 30 Flat Antenna
Channel Master Digital Advantage 60
Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V UHF/VHF HDTV Antenna
The Best
Indoor Antenna (Directional)
Indoor Antenna (Mutli-Directional)
Outdoor Antenna (Directional)
Outdoor Antenna (Multi-Directional)
Price
$32
$30
$51
$78
Directional or Multi-Directional?
Directional
Multi-Directional
Directional
Multi-Directional
Indoor or Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor
Indoor/Outdoor
Indoor/Outdoor
Range (Miles)
35 or 50
30
60
60
VHF?
UHF