How to watch KFMB Over-the-Air
Depending on where you live, you may be able to receive our over-the-air broadcast of CBS 8 on 8.1 and The CW San Diego on 8.2. In San Diego County, we get TV signals primarily from three locations:
- Mt. Soledad (VHF stations carrying CBS 8 and ABC)
- Mt. San Miguel (UHF stations carrying PBS, NBC, and independent programming), and
- Mt. San Antonio in Tijuana (UHF stations carrying CW and Spanish-language programming)
This diversity of locations makes TV reception especially challenging. You will need an outdoor antenna capable of receiving VHF signals and usually a second antenna capable of receiving UHF signals from a different direction. Forget about indoor antennas--you will be disappointed. These antennas are cut to receive UHF signals only, and inside of stucco walls typical in San Diego, the metal reinforcement used in your walls will block the signals you want. Nearly every antenna available in big box stores will not work properly to receive all San Diego TV stations. We do not recommend amplified antennas for simple installations.
We recommend hiring a professional antenna installer. Search in Yelp or Google for the term, “San Diego antenna installer.” They will charge a fair fee, but you’ll save money and heartache over the long-term by doing it right the first time.
If you want to do-it-yourself
Are you up for this? You’ll need an extension ladder, proper connector crimp tool, RG6 coax cable, coax “F” connectors, drill, 7/16” wrench, and oodles of patience.
1. Determine whether or not you are capable of receiving our signal. Go to TVFool.com and enter your complete address. You’ll receive a complicated table, listing TV stations you should be able to pick up at your location.
2. If you see KFMB-TV listed in the green or yellow portions of your chart, you’re in luck. If in the red portion, you’re going to have to use a very high gain antenna.
3. Buy a recommended antenna:
- For strong signal locations like University City, Clairemont, Pacific Beach, Linda Vista, University Heights, Hillcrest, and North Park, you can use a single antenna like the Channel Master CM2016 or CM-3000HD, or Winegard FV-30BB.
- For medium signal locations like Mira Mesa, Tierrasanta, San Diego east of I-15, La Mesa, National City, Chula Vista, we recommend using two antennas. Buy a simple UHF antenna like the Channel Master CM4221HD or Stellar Labs 30-2420 and a VHF antenna like the Stellar Labs 30-2475. You’ll also need a special UHF/VHF combiner.
- For long distance locations like all cities in North San Diego County or high locations east of El Cajon, we recommend using either a large all-in-one antenna like the Winegard HD7694P or Xtreme Signal HD8200XL. If you really want to do it right, get separate antennas and combine them. For UHF, the absolute best is the 91XG. For VHF, buy the Stellar Labs 30-2476. You’ll also need a special UHF/VHF combiner.
4. Install your antenna on a mast and attach to your chimney or other support structure. Avoid power lines and follow good safety practices if using a ladder. A chimney strap is a good way to go, provided you follow the installation instructions carefully and don’t overload it.
5. Aim the UHF or combination antenna at a location between Mt. San Miguel and Tijuana so that you can receive signals from both locations. Aim the VHF antenna toward Mt. Soledad (La Jolla).
6. If you have both a VHF antenna and UHF antenna, you’ll need a special UHF/VHF combiner.
Do not use a normal splitter/combiner for this purpose. You will need to attach a short line from your VHF (wider) antenna to the VHF port on the combiner, and a short line from the UHF antenna to the UHF port on the combiner. From the output port on the combiner, you run a line to your TV sets indoors.
Image below: The ultimate antenna combination for San Diego County TV
Questions? Send a message to [email protected]
How to find the best TV antenna for free HD channels
You'll notice that all the channels come from different directions and have different signal strengths (as noted by their colors).
For contrast, here's where I used to live in Los Angeles:
Here, almost all the channels came from one direction, so it'd be best served by a different antenna than the San Diego location. And unfortunately, if you live in a rural area, you may not find that you have any channels available at all.
Pick the right kind of antenna
From the AntennaWeb list, pick the channels that are important to you and note their colors and where they come from.
Armed with that information, you can start searching for antennas. You'll want to consider a few things.
Size and range. Yellow and green channels on that list should work with smaller antennas while red and blue channels may need something bigger and more powerful. You can also note the distance of each channel from your location and compare it to the range offered by the antenna (though the antenna's range is probably lower than the specs state, thanks to buildings and other obstructions -- so always overestimate how much range you'll need).
Indoor vs. outdoor. If you're close to the broadcast towers in your area -- 20 miles or less -- and don't have too many obstructions, you may be able to get by with an indoor antenna that mounts to the wall near your TV. Here are the Wirecutter's picks for the best indoor antennas to get you started.
Directional vs. multi-directional. If you're in a city, you'll probably get more channels with an antenna that can receive signals from multiple directions, known as a multi-directional or omni-directional antenna. However, directional antennas tend to be more powerful and can grab stations from farther away -- as long as all the channels you're interested in come from one direction (which is likely if you're in the suburbs). 1byone makes both directional and multi-directional outdoor antennas that work well in my experience.
Amplified. You can get a signal from your antenna by plugging it directly into your TV, but many antennas also come with amplifiers. Amplifiers plug the antenna into a wall outlet, boosting its signal so they can reach farther. This can be good if you're far away from all of your stations (or if you have to use a coaxial cable longer than 50 feet), but it can also cause problems. The amplified version will usually cost a tad more, but it's worth trying if the non-amplified version isn't getting the stations you want.
Once you find an antenna with the right combination of features, you're ready to try it out.
Exchange it if you don't get the channels you want
The unfortunate reality of TV antennas is that it's difficult to know which models will work for your specific location. Beyond all of the above characteristics, buildings, trees and terrain can make a big difference. The best way to find the right antenna is to test it yourself.
So when you buy an antenna, buy from a store with a good return policy -- preferably one without a hefty restocking fee -- and try it out at home. If you have an indoor antenna, place it as high up as you can, near a window if you can, and on the side of the house facing the most broadcast towers. If you can mount a larger antenna in the attic or on the roof instead of on the living room wall, all the better. It'll take a bit more work, but you're basically guaranteed better reception.
Once you've mounted the antenna, plug it into the coaxial port on your TV, open your TV's menu and find the option to scan for over-the-air channels. Once the process is finished, you can see which channels your antenna was able to find and how good of a signal they have. If you aren't getting as good a signal as you'd hoped, try moving or repositioning the antenna or plugging in an amplifier (if it came with one). If that still doesn't work, you may have to try something bigger or more powerful. After a little trial and error, you should find the perfect antenna and positioning, and you can enjoy your free, over-the-air HD channels.
Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto (Roof antennas/checkout registers)
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We’ve replaced our runner-up, the RCA ANT3ME, with the new model, the ANT3ME1, which clearly outperforms the old model but (at this writing) costs considerably more.
July 22, 2021
As streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ grow in popularity, many people are dumping their expensive cable and satellite TV subscriptions. For those who still want to watch the occasional live event or local programming without adding subscription costs, a great indoor TV antenna such as the Antennas Direct ClearStream Flex is the simplest, most dependable way we’ve found to pull in dozens of TV channels for free.
No matter where (or in what city) we hung it, the Antennas Direct ClearStream Flex always ranked among the best in pulling in the most TV channels. Its flat design makes it easy to hang on a wall, and it’s reversible, with black and white sides (it’s also paintable). The antenna comes with a detachable amplifier that can draw power from your TV’s USB port, as well as a long, detachable cable, which is convenient if you want to replace it with a cable of a different color or length. The only downside is that the ClearStream Flex is a little larger than average for a flat antenna.
The amplifier of the RCA ANT3ME1 has a built-in signal-level meter that provides a near-instantaneous readout of the signal strength. This feature allows you to quickly find the optimum position for the antenna, a process that could take more than an hour if you instead use the TV’s internal channel-scanning process to evaluate different positions. The ANT3ME1 is essentially the same as our previous runner-up, the RCA ANT3ME, but with a slightly wider antenna design that helped it to perform roughly equal to our top pick before we used the meter. When we used the meter to fine-tune the antenna’s positioning, the ANT3ME1 sometimes outperformed our top pick. But the cable is not detachable, and the amplifier requires an AC outlet rather than USB power.
The Winegard Flatwave Amped Pro is truly a “smart” antenna, with a built-in signal meter that you control through a mobile app and a Bluetooth connection. As you move the antenna around a room, every six seconds it gives you an update on the number of channels you can receive. In every location we tried, using the app to position the antenna helped the Flatwave Amped Pro rank either first or second in the number of channels received. The amp is USB-powered, the antenna is reversible with black and white sides, and you get a generous amount of cable. However, the cable isn’t detachable, and the Flatwave Amped Pro is usually about twice the price of typical amplified flat antennas.
The 1byone Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna has been our budget pick in this guide for a few years running. It performs almost as well as our top pick; if you’re within about 15 miles of the broadcast antennas, you might not miss any channels with this one. It has an inline amplifier, includes a fairly generous amount of cable, and is relatively compact. The only downsides are that the cable is not detachable and the antenna is not reversible or paintable, so your only color option is black.
Why you should trust us
I’ve been writing about TVs since I was senior editor of Video magazine in the early 1990s, where I covered the transition to high-definition and digital TV and was one of the first 10 people certified for video calibration by the Imaging Science Foundation. I’ve been an editor or writer for numerous tech-related publications, including Home Theater, Home Entertainment, and Sound & Vision magazines, and for websites such as Wirecutter, Lifewire, Mashable, and SoundStage. I’ve conducted three previous multi-product tests of TV antennas, and I’ve been a cord-cutter since 2000, relying entirely on broadcast TV, DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming for my video entertainment.
The previous version of this guide was written by Wirecutter senior editor Grant Clauser, and some of this material is based on his testing and research, done at his Philadelphia-area home and in New York City. Grant has written about AV electronics for more than two decades. He was an editor at Dealerscope, E-Gear, and Electronic House, as well as a writer for Big Picture Big Sound, Consumer Digest, Sound & Vision, and others. He is ISF-certified and has completed THX Level II home theater design courses.
Who this is for
With so much content available from streaming video services such as Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and others, there’s less need to pay for an expensive cable or satellite TV subscription. But some viewers still want the live-TV experience, be it for sports, news, special events, or local foreign-language broadcasts. For them, a live TV streaming service such as Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV is an option, but that still requires a monthly subscription fee. If most of the live-TV content you want to watch is from local broadcast channels, an inexpensive TV antenna could be the best way to go.
As long as you’re within about 30 miles of the local transmitting towers and aren’t blocked by a mountain range or rows of tall buildings, an antenna will receive free live programs from the major networks, including ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision. Depending on your metropolitan area, an antenna is also a good way to get free non-English-language channels.
For this guide, we focused on indoor TV antennas, which you can place in a window, on a wall, or behind your TV. These models are all easy, practical, and affordable options to install in any house or apartment. Depending on your location, you can probably receive more channels with a rooftop or attic antenna—for example, in my Los Angeles home, my large, rooftop antenna pulls in 144 channels, while the best indoor antennas get a little more than 100. However, many people can’t or don’t want to install a rooftop or attic antenna. Plus, although a good indoor antenna might not receive as many stations, the stations you can’t get are likely to be small independents with fairly weak transmitters.
How we picked
We assembled an extensive list of indoor antennas that had been introduced since our last major update of this guide in 2019, and we also consulted manufacturers to see which new models they thought we should test. Then we focused on antennas that met most of the following criteria:
- Both UHF and VHF: All the antennas on our final list were rated for both UHF (channels 14 and above) and at least high-VHF (channels 7 to 13) reception. For many years, an indoor antenna’s ability to pull in VHF signals was less important because most digital TV channels reside in the UHF range. However, recent broadcast-transmission changes have made VHF reception more important. You can read more about this in UHF vs. VHF.
- Simple to assemble and install: You shouldn’t need tools to put together an indoor antenna.
- Easy to mount and move: You should be able to hang the antenna on a wall without needing tools or causing major damage to your wall, and the antenna should be easy to move for better reception.
- At least a 10-foot cable: Because location is the key to good reception, a 10-foot cable gives you more flexibility. (If you need a longer cable, an extension cable with the necessary coupler is available for about $10.)
- Unobtrusive design: You may need to put your antenna in a visible location for the best reception, so it shouldn’t be ugly. Most indoor antennas today—and most of the ones we looked at—are flat. And flat antennas are easy to hide.
Most indoor antennas now include an amplifier, either as an add-on or permanently built into the antenna’s cable, to help boost signal strength. We didn’t make an amplifier mandatory, but under most conditions we found that the antennas we tested that offered the amp as an option, rather than as a permanent feature, performed better with the amplifier connected than without.
TV antennas often have a range rating, but we ignored that because it’s bogus. Some antennas carry range ratings in the hundreds or thousands of miles, even though the curvature of the Earth limits range in miles to approximately 1.41 times the square root of the broadcast antenna height in feet—for example, about 32 miles for a 500-foot antenna tower on flat ground, assuming a clear line of sight. Range is mostly a matter of the transmitter power and location. As one manufacturer told us, “If you had a strong enough transmitter on the moon, any TV antenna could pick it up.”
Some antennas now carry a “NextGen TV–ready” or “ATSC 3.0–ready” label, but this too is bogus. NextGen TV is a marketing term for ATSC 3.0, a recent expansion of the current ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) broadcast standards that allows transmission of 4K video, Dolby Atmos immersive sound, and high dynamic range (HDR) signals. However, ATSC 3.0 uses the same transmission frequencies as the previous ATSC standard did, so an antenna that works for a certain channel now will work no better or worse if and when that channel upgrades to ATSC 3.0.
TV antennas often include a range rating, but we ignored that because it’s bogus. Range is mostly a matter of the transmitter power and location.
Incidentally, all of these antennas should also work reasonably well for FM radio, which resides in a frequency band just above TV channel 6.
As anyone who has looked for antennas on Amazon knows, there’s a huge number of lesser-known brands. We skipped them for this guide. We had to do that to keep our testing process manageable, but if you have any models you’re particularly curious about, let us know in the comments section below.
UHF vs. VHF
We used to be able to ignore, for the large part, an antenna’s reception of VHF (TV channels 2 through 13, or frequencies 54 to 216 MHz) because, in the switch to digital TV, most stations abandoned VHF and shifted to the UHF range (originally, TV channels 14 to 69, or frequencies 470 to 806 MHz). However, the Federal Communications Commission recently auctioned off the radio frequency spectrum above 600 MHz (formerly TV channels 35 and higher) to wireless broadband services, which forced many TV channels to shift to lower frequencies in the VHF range.
This change, often referred to as the “FCC repack,” required existing antenna users to rescan their channel lineup to find any channels that may have moved. Some people may have been disappointed to discover that their formerly reliable antenna could no longer pull in channels that had moved from UHF to VHF. That’s because the longer wavelengths of the lower frequencies are difficult for small antennas to receive. For our latest round of testing in February 2021, we put more emphasis on an antenna’s performance in both the UHF and VHF ranges.
To find out whether you need to worry about VHF reception, visit the RabbitEars Signal Search Map and enter your zip code to see which stations in your area are broadcasting on which channels. The map also shows where the broadcast antennas are relative to your location.
Note that these changes do not affect the channel number listed in your TV-channel guide. TV stations still use the same “virtual channels” as before, so the channel that has always shown up as channel 5 on your TV will still be listed as channel 5—but it may actually be transmitting on, say, radio-frequency channel 28.
How we tested
TV reception is unpredictable. As one manufacturer explained to us, “The antenna that works great for you might not work for your neighbor because their house is constructed differently or they have to place the antenna differently. Maybe there’s a tree in the way.” So we can’t promise that you’ll get great results with the antennas that worked best for us. But in the hope of finding the antennas that would work most consistently under the greatest variety of conditions, we used them in five different locations for our latest round of testing.
I started with two rooms within my house, on the western end of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, about 30 miles from the TV broadcast towers on Mount Wilson, which are about 4,700 feet higher than my house and visible with binoculars from my rooftop. In an effort to test with a weaker, low-VHF channel, I also used locations in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood and in Arcadia, California (about 10 and 5 miles, respectively, from the Mount Wilson antennas), as well as a motel in Oceanside, California, that put me within 25 or 42 miles of San Diego’s TV transmitters depending on which TV station I was trying to receive.
I used three different TVs for these tests: a 2020 Vizio P659-G1, a 2010 Samsung UNC46C8000, and a 2009 Philips 19PFL3504D/F7. For each round of tests, I did a channel scan with the connected TV to see how many channels I could pick up. (Note that many of these channels use multicast technology, broadcasting several channels in the space of one.) I also used a Channel Master TV signal meter, which let me measure each antenna’s sensitivity to low and high TV-channel frequencies.
For antennas that incorporated a signal-level meter, I first tested them in the same aesthetically convenient positions I used for the other antennas, after which I tried using their signal-level meters to see if that would help me find a better antenna position that would pull in more channels.
As mentioned above, we put more emphasis on VHF reception in our latest round of tests, as the longer wavelengths of those frequencies are difficult for small antennas to receive. For example, optimum reception of the lowest TV-signal frequency, channel 2, demands a 4.25-foot-wide antenna. The lowest active TV channel in Los Angeles is channel 4 (which TVs pick up as virtual channels 22 and 63), so I used the Channel Master signal meter to measure the sensitivity of the antennas to this channel as a way to gauge low-VHF sensitivity.
I finished by using a TinySA radio-frequency spectrum analyzer to look at each antenna’s performance in the frequency ranges from 50 to 300 MHz (VHF) and from 450 to 600 MHz (UHF). This step let me see how strong each antenna’s signals were within different ranges of the broadcast band, as well as how noisy their output was—a potential problem with amplified antennas, especially, because if the antenna picks up lots of noise, the amplifier will just boost the noise, and the TV will have a harder time picking the signal out of the noise. All of our recommendations produce signals that, with a clear transmission in good conditions, are typically 25 to 30 dB (or 300 to 1,000 times) stronger than the noise.
Although the performance of the antennas we tested was sometimes inconsistent and thus difficult to gauge, all of our picks excelled in certain tests and at least placed in the middle of the pack in every other test.
Our pick: Antennas Direct ClearStream Flex
Of all the antennas in our latest round of testing, the Antennas Direct ClearStream Flex was the most consistent performer. It always ranked at or near the top in the number of channels received, and in our technical tests it produced a strong signal with relatively low noise. Part of this performance may be due to the fact that it’s a little larger than average, but it’s still small enough to mount unobtrusively, and it’s reversible, with black and white sides. It comes with a detachable amplifier that’s powered by USB, and it includes a total of 15 feet of cable. Among the antennas we tested, this is one of the few that aren’t hardwired to the cable, so you can use a different cable if you like.
The ClearStream Flex did the best overall in my in-home tests, pulling in the most channels (90 out of 144) in the first room and the fourth-most channels (105) in the second room. In our tests in the Oceanside, California, area, it was one of several models that tied for second best, pulling in 21 channels. Without the amp, the numbers were a little lower: 81 and 87 in my home, and 19 in Oceanside.
Measuring 16 by 11 inches, the ClearStream Flex is a little larger than most of the flat antennas we tested, but it’s still small enough that slipping it behind a TV, a curtain, or a framed picture shouldn’t be hard. It’s reversible, with black and white sides, and paintable—which may help it blend better into your room decor.
A supplied Sure Grip adhesive strip attaches the ClearStream Flex to the wall, and you can reposition the antenna by gently peeling it off the wall and resticking it elsewhere. You can even wipe the strip off with a damp cloth if it gets dirty, thus restoring its stickiness.
The ClearStream Flex’s 12-foot black cable should be long enough for most installations, and the package includes an extra 3-foot cable to connect the amp to the TV. The cable attaches to the antenna with a threaded connector, so you can substitute a longer, shorter, or different-colored cable if you desire. The amplifier is powered by an included USB supply or by your TV’s spare USB jack. The amplifier accompanying the antenna we received was a 3-inch-long rectangle, different from the amp shown on the Amazon page.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The ClearStream Flex is one of the larger flat models we tested. Plus, it doesn’t incorporate a signal-level meter, and Antennas Direct doesn’t offer one as an option.
Runner-up: RCA ANT3ME1
The RCA ANT3ME1 is a slightly reworked version of our previous runner-up, the ANT3ME. The new model retains the signal-level meter that lets you fine-tune the positioning of the antenna for the best reception, and in our tests, a subtle change in the size of the new antenna dramatically improved its performance even before we used the meter. However, the ANT3ME1 still has the downsides we didn’t like in its predecessor: The included, nondetachable cable is a little on the short side, and its amplifier/signal meter draws power from a hardwired AC adapter rather than a USB connection, so it requires an AC outlet. In addition, it currently has limited distribution and represents a big step up in price over the original ANT3ME.
The ANT3ME1’s integrated signal-level meter is what distinguishes it from the zillions of other flat antennas. The meter incorporates five LEDs: two red, one yellow, and two green. As you move the antenna to different places in a room, more LEDs illuminate as the signal strength increases. You could use your TV to do a channel scan in each location, but with many TVs, each scan takes a long time—in the case of my Vizio P659-G1 TV, it took more than 13 minutes per scan, which might mean an hour or two of trial and error versus a minute or two with the ANT3ME1. (Once you’re done, you can turn the meter off.)
In my living room, where TV signals are fairly weak, getting even one extra LED to light up on the meter made a huge difference. When I mounted the ANT3ME1 in the same aesthetically convenient place I used for the other antennas, three LEDs illuminated on the meter and the antenna picked up 51 channels out of 144, 11 more than the older model achieved in the same position a few minutes earlier. Moving the antenna to an adjacent wall caused an extra LED to illuminate and bumped the channel count up to 115, tying the Antennas Direct ClearStream Flex and improving on the 92 channels I got with the previous model. In a different room, the ANT3ME1 pulled in 142 channels versus 130 with the ClearStream Flex and only 73 with the original ANT3ME. However, in that room, no matter where I moved the antenna, I couldn’t get the fifth LED to light, so the signal-level meter was of no help. If you already have a strong TV signal in the room where you’re placing the antenna, the meter likely won’t offer an advantage.
Even without the meter, the ANT3ME1 gave us the best results with low-VHF signals of all the indoor antennas we’ve tested—it produced a signal almost eight times as strong as what we got from the original ANT3ME, and with much lower noise. That means your TV will have an easier time tuning in channels 2 through 6, if those are used in your area. (In this case, we’re talking about the actual radio frequencies; as noted previously, the channel indicated on your TV may not correspond with the actual radio-frequency channel used for transmission.) The ANT3ME1 also outperformed the ClearStream Flex and the Winegard Flatwave Amped Pro in this respect—both of those models had strong low-VHF signals but much more noise than the ANT3ME1.
At 14⅛ by 11⅞ inches, the ANT3ME1 is narrower than the ClearStream Flex but a little more than an inch wider than the original ANT3ME. Like the ClearStream, it’s reversible—black on one side and white on the other. Four adhesive patches are provided for mounting the antenna; they’re easily removable, though the signal-level meter makes it less likely that you’d need to reposition the antenna. The ANT3ME1 also has holes that let you hang it with thumbtacks.
However, as with the original model, this version’s cable is a little short, measuring just 9 feet between the antenna and the amp and 3 feet between the amp and the TV—and it’s not detachable. Unlike with most of the antennas we tested, the ANT3ME1’s amp is hardwired to an AC power adapter, so you need a spare AC socket, and you don’t have the option of powering the amp with a spare USB port on your TV.
Upgrade pick: Winegard Flatwave Amped Pro
The Winegard Flatwave Amped Pro inspires banal analogies—the Ferrari of TV antennas, the RCA ANT3ME1 on steroids—but those who want to dial up their TV reception to the max are likely to love it, even if it is nearly twice the price of our top pick. The Amped Pro’s Bluetooth-connected signal-level meter lets you monitor through a mobile app how many TV channels you can get in any antenna position—it’s like getting the results of a channel scan on your TV in just six seconds rather than several minutes. Although the Amped Pro is a very respectable performer even before you use the app, we found that using the app let us get dramatically better results in problematic locations. The Amped Pro is a standard size for a flat antenna, it’s reversible, and it has 18 total feet of cable when you’re using the detachable amplifier.
Using the meter requires downloading the Winegard Connected app for iOS or Android and pairing your mobile device through Bluetooth. It provides a count of strong, moderate, and weak stations that it updates every six seconds. In my living room, the Flatwave Amped Pro pulled in 57 stations from the aesthetically convenient position where I also tested all the other antennas; using the meter, I quickly found a position where I could get 112 channels (exactly what the app promised). In my other room, where the five-step LED meter of the RCA ANT3ME1 proved to be no help, the detailed data in the Connected app allowed me to go from 82 channels in my original testing position to 110 channels (three more than the app promised). In our Oceanside, California, test spot, the channel count rose from 18 to 21 channels when I optimized the position. So the meter and the app definitely produced an improvement in every situation. Again, I could have accomplished the same thing doing channel scans with the TVs, but that would have taken hours rather than three or four minutes.
The Flatwave Amped Pro measures 13 by 11.75 inches—smaller than the ClearStream Flex but still a little on the large side for a flat antenna—and it’s reversible, with black and white sides. It comes with two small, easily removable adhesive patches for mounting; these worked for us, but you might need more. (Fun-Tak adhesive putty will work in a pinch.)
There’s 15 feet of permanently attached white cable between the antenna and the amp, and another 3.3 feet of cable that connects the amp to the TV. The amp can draw power from the included USB supply or from a spare USB port on your TV.
Budget pick: 1byone Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
The 1byone Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna has been our budget pick for several years, and we’re sticking with it because it remained an outstanding performer for the price in our latest round of tests. Its ability to pull in channels was always respectable, and it performed well in our technical tests. It’s relatively small, and it comes with a generously long (but non-detachable) cable and a convenient mounting system. However, it’s not reversible like our other picks.
On all but one of our tests, the 1byone performed like antennas costing about double its price. During my in-home test, it landed in the middle of the pack in the first room, receiving only 59 out of 144 channels, but in the second room it pulled in a whopping 108 channels, which put it in third place. It was just a bit below average in our Oceanside, California, tests, receiving 19 channels.
The antenna measures 13 by 9 inches, about average for an antenna of this type. However, it’s black on both sides, and it’s not listed as paintable—so if you don’t hide it behind the TV or a picture or something, you’ll end up with a very visible rectangular thing on your wall (unless you have very dark wall paint). Three adhesive patches on its back stick to the wall easily; three extra adhesive patches are included.
With 13 feet of black cable permanently attached to the antenna and another 3 feet attached to the amplifier, you should have plenty of cable even if you decide to stick the antenna onto a window or an adjacent wall. The antenna comes with a USB power supply, or you can use a spare USB connection on your TV if it has one.
What to look forward to
We expect that, just as RCA did when upgrading the ANT3ME to the ANT3ME1, other manufacturers will release new models optimized for post-repack frequencies, and that many manufacturers will release models that are optimized for ATSC 3.0/NextGen TV. We will do our best to keep up with those announcements and test those antennas when they’re available.
We’ve done two rounds of TV antenna testing in different locations, separated by a few years, so we’re presenting our competition list in two groups: The first group features the antennas we tested in the Philadelphia and New York areas in 2018, and the second includes the models we tested in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas in 2021.
2018 testing: Philadelphia and New York
Our previous top pick, the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse, worked very well in our original Philadelphia-area tests, but as we mention below, it required the addition of an amplifier to get good results in Los Angeles, where its performance was sometimes exceptionally good but sometimes below average.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Max is a large, indoor/outdoor antenna that, despite its size, offered no real performance advantage over the small indoor models we tested.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Wireless antenna device works with your Wi-Fi network to distribute antenna signals around a house so all the TVs theoretically get the same optimized reception. It works, but the Wi-Fi connection was glitchy in our tests, and you lose some picture quality when the device converts the TV broadcast signal to a digital format for distribution on the network.
The Channel Master Flatenna ranked among the top performers in places where the TV signals were strong, but in places with a weak signal it tended to pull in fewer channels than our picks.
The Mohu Leaf 30 is the antenna that put flat antennas on the map. It’s still available, and it performs pretty well, but not as well as our picks. Mohu was purchased by Antennas Direct.
RCA’s Slivr uses rigid plastic to house its antenna element, which makes it bulkier and heavier than other flat antennas. It pulled in only half as many channels as the better antennas did.
The Winegard FreeVision is an indoor/outdoor antenna that looks more suited to attic or outdoor placement. It didn’t perform well in Pennsylvania, but it did well in New York, although it was very sensitive to direction.
Grant Clauser constructed his own “Trashtenna” antenna from a square of cardboard covered with aluminum foil and finished with a length of coax cable taped to the foil. It actually did very well in New York, but not so well in Philadelphia.
2021 testing: Los Angeles and San Diego
The 1byone 200NA-0005 is compact and attractive, but its performance was only average.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse is our previous top pick. It worked very well in our 2018 Philadelphia-area tests, as we say above, but in our 2021 round, it required the addition of an amplifier to get good results in Los Angeles, where its performance was sometimes exceptionally good but sometimes below average.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream 1Max is an indoor/outdoor design. Indoors, its performance wasn’t impressive—except in our Oceanside, California, test location, where it weirdly pulled in 37 channels when the best any other antenna could do was 21. We also found the even larger Antennas Direct ClearStream Max-V to be an underperformer in indoor settings.
The GE Enlighten is a great design that sits unobtrusively atop a TV and provides a bias light that illuminates the area around the screen, which can ease eyestrain. Unfortunately, its performance was below average.
The RCA ANT1120E is a flat antenna that doesn’t include an amplifier. It might be a good choice if for some reason you find an amp inconvenient to use, but generally it didn’t perform as well as amplified models in our tests.
We were excited to try the extra-wide RCA ANT2160E, which we thought might outperform smaller flat antennas, but our picks generally surpassed it.
The RCA ANT3ME is our previous runner-up, replaced by the newer ANT3ME1. However, as of July 2021, the ANT3ME1 costs about 60% more. That difference may be reduced as the ANT3ME1 reaches more vendors, but people who live in urban areas with fairly strong signals and still want a signal-level meter for their antenna may wish to save a few bucks and buy the older model.
The RCA ANTD6ME is a notably attractive, fabric-covered antenna with a hard-plastic body and a curved front, plus an internal amplifier and a three-LED signal-level meter. You can hang it on a wall, but it also has legs for mounting on a table. It would be a nice choice if you don’t want to wall-mount your antenna, but in our tests it didn’t perform as well as the ANT3ME.
The UMustHave 4K-RS55 is an affordably priced flat antenna that worked pretty well in our tests, but we got better results from our budget pick.
About your guide
Brent Butterworth is a senior staff writer covering audio and musical instruments at Wirecutter. Since 1989, he has served as an editor or writer on audio-focused websites and magazines such as Home Theater, Sound & Vision, SoundStage, and JazzTimes. He regularly gigs on double bass (and occasionally ukulele) with Los Angeles–area jazz groups.
Are these channels guaranteed to come in with the recommended antenna?
Unfortunately, they are not. While these channels appear to be within range of your home, there are many factors that can lead to poor reception such as terrain, obstacles and home construction materials. Learn more »
Do I need one antenna per TV?
For indoor antennas, you should have one antenna per TV, however sometimes you can split a strong signal effectively between two TVs. Outdoor antennas typically can support anywhere from 1-4 TVs depending on the antenna model and wiring of your home.
Do I need to cancel Cable TV before trying an antenna?
No, and in fact we would suggest against it. Buy an antenna that has a free return policy so that you can return if your home is not receptive to over-the-air signals. Every home is different, so it may take some work to get good signal.
Why all the distinct types of antennas?
The distance between your home and the broadcast channels matter. Living too close and using an amplified antenna can do more harm and create static in your picture. Outdoor antennas are great when you can mount it outside.
Are there any additional fees with OTA TV?
No! This is the best part about free over-the-air TV. Once you buy the antenna, it should last you many years and you will never have another monthly cable tv bill again!
Will indoor antennas work in my basement?
Possibly. The only way to know for sure is to try it. Typically a window gives you the best chance at crystal clear reception, but other setups have been known to work as well.
Tv diego san best antenna
The best TV antennas of 2021: Tested and rated
Getting one of the best TV antennas is your quickest route to hours of entertainment without paying a cent in subscription fees. Over-the-air (OTA) programming brings you news, sports and popular shows for free, and all you need is an HDTV antenna and a TV. Whether you want to cut the cord or just have a backup option when the cable is out, a good antenna is a must-have.
Our TV antenna reviews combine careful testing and hands-on evaluation to find the best TV antennas available, from basic indoor antennas to amplified models and larger outdoor antennas. In every review we examine not only performance, comparing the number of channels pulled in and whether those channels are watchable, but also the equipment that's included with an antenna, and the ease of setup and use. We also offer advice from industry experts on how to get the best reception with whatever TV antenna you have.
What are the best TV antennas?
The best TV antenna overall is the Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro , which combines that basic flat mudflap design with an extra wide profile and a built-in built-in amplifier to boost the number of watchable channels. An integrated signal strength meter even helps you find the spot for best reception.
If you need the best reception, you'll want to upgrade to an outdoor antenna, and our favorite is the Winegard Elite 7550 Outdoor HDTV Antenna. With a 70-mile range, it's perfect for pulling in channels that are harder to get with smaller indoor antennas.
Our budget pick is the Mohu Leaf Metro. With a small size and good reception in a channel-rich environment, it's a great option for city-dwellers. And the low price doesn't hurt, either.
The best TV antennas you can buy today
1. Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro
Best TV antenna overall
Range: 65 Miles
Channels Received: 42
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 16 Feet
Size: 12 x 21.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Solid reception+Simple set up+Detachable cable
Reasons to avoid
-Sizable presence on your wall
For the best overall TV antenna, it's hard to beat the capable Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro. The wide design goes big to pull in more stations. With a bigger and thicker design than most flat antennas, this chunky antenna boasts a built-in amplifier with an integrated signal-strength meter, helping you find the optimal spot for pulling in channels.
And pull in channels it does, leveraging it's wide surface area to nab more than 40 watchable stations, outperforming some of our favorite indoor antennas. The antenna has a unique detachable coax cable and includes a 3-foot USB power cable for powering the amplifier, but it comes rolled up in the box, and does need to spend some time unfurled before it will lay flat. But all of the quirks are worth it for the solid reception it offers, and the Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro is an excellent indoor antenna for suburban areas that may need a boost to get the most channels.
Read our full Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro HDTV Antenna review.
2. Winegard Elite 7550 Outdoor HDTV Antenna
Best outdoor antenna
Range: 70 Miles
Channels Received: 73
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: N/A
Size: 30 x 17.5 x 5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Excellent reception+Excellent interference suppression
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat loose construction-Plastic roof mount
Sometimes an indoor antenna just won't cut it. When you need an outdoor antenna with excellent reception, the Winegard Elite 7550 is the smart option, and the best TV antenna for outdoor installation. It may cost a little more, but the Winegard Elite 7550 pays dividends, delivering a whopping 73 channels in our tests. Whether you're in a crowded city or a rural community, this outdoor HDTV should get the job done, pulling in more channels with better signal than any indoor model can offer.
If you're having difficulty getting local stations you want — or you just want better, more consistent reception — the Winegard Elite 7550's $120 price tag is worth every penny, pulling in dozens of free channels for less than a month's cable subscription.
Read our full Winegard Elite 7550 Outdoor HDTV Antenna review.
3. Mohu Leaf Metro
Best budget TV antenna
Range: 25 Miles
Channels Received: 12
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 10 Feet
Size: 11.5 x 3.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive+Very small+Solid, dependable reception
Reasons to avoid
-Not amplified-Limited range and channel selection
A longtime favorite of ours is the Mohu Leaf Metro, a compact TV antenna that has an unobtrusive flat design that's smaller than most inexpensive antennas, yet pulls in channels with solid, dependable reception. It's not amplified, but with a 25-mile range capable of pulling in dozens of channels in cities and nearby suburbs, it doesn't need to be. The small size and city-friendly reception make it great for urban apartment dwellers, and the Mohu Leaf Metro lives up to its name. If you want the most affordable option for over the air channels, this is it.
The compact antenna has a reversible design, with white on one side and black on the other, so you can flip it to whichever color is less obtrusive, or you can simply paint it to match the wall it's on. It even comes with mounting hardware. It's the best option for most people, since it gives you a dead simple way to pull in plenty of local channels without paying much money.
Read our full Mohu Metro Leaf review.
4. 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna
Range: 50 Miles
Channels Received: 46
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 10 Feet
Size: 13.25 x 9.25 inches
Reasons to buy
+All necessary components included+Moderately priced+Easy setup
Reasons to avoid
For a simple, indoor antenna that offers everything you need to cut the cord, the 1byone Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna offers a 50-mile range and included amplifier, all for a fairly reasonable price. With slick packaging and a basic black design, it's not only an Amazon best-seller, it's also one of the best TV antennas we've reviewed.
Measuring just 13.3 x 9.3 inches, the antenna includes everything you need to connect to the TV, with a 10-foot coaxial cable and included adhesive patches for mounting. The simple design and included amplifier delivered dozens of watchable channels, and can plug into any wall outlet or USB port. There's a good reason the 1byone is a top Amazon seller: It performs well and doesn't cost a lot.
Read our full 1byone Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna review.
5. Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna
Best indoor/outdoor antenna
Range: 85 Miles
Channels Received: 68
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 40 Feet (plus two, 5-foot coaxial cables)
Size: 21.7 x 10.4 x 4.1 inches
Reasons to buy
+Excellent reception+Indoor or outdoor use+Variety of mounting materials included
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than most-Bulky
Made for use inside and out, the Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel offers some of the best performance we've seen, easily topping many of the indoor/outdoor models we've reviewed. And with an adjustable amplifier, included mounting hardware and optional FM connection for radio, it's a versatile best HD antenna option for anyone who's serious about cord cutting.
The Antop AT-800SBS also has a table-top stand for indoor use, but this 85-mile antenna was at its best out in the elements, where it pulled in 68 watchable stations. A 40-foot cable is included for easy installation, and the adjustable amplifier lets you dial in the right amount of power boost to help you grab the stations you want. It's the best indoor/outdoor antenna we've tested, and well worth the premium price.
Read our full Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna review.
6. ClearStream MAX-V HDTV Antenna
Another great indoor/outdoor antenna
Range: 60 Miles
Channels Received: 51
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: N/A
Size: 17.25 x 27.5 x 3.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Good reception+Works indoors or out
Reasons to avoid
-An eyesore in living rooms-Necessary cable not included
While its aesthetics may leave something to be desired, the ClearStream MAX-V is a very capable antenna that delivers more stations than even competing amplified antennas, even models costing much more. If you want to improve over-the-air TV reception, it's one of the best TV antennas we've reviewed.
Rated to capture stations as far away as 60 miles, the ClearStream MAX-V from Antennas Direct will work indoors or out and is competitively priced. Not only did it do better than many of our favorite indoor antennas, it also matched some of the best outdoor antennas, making it a great choice for mounting on a roof, hanging in an attic or just tucking it out of sight – which may be difficult given the bulky figure-8 design.
Read our full ClearStream MAX-V HDTV Antenna review.
7. Antop HD Smart Antenna SBS-301
A double-duty antenna for TV and radio
Range: 70 Miles
Channels Received: 33
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 10 Feet (plus two 5-foot coaxial cables)
Size: 8.9 x 17.6 inches
Reasons to buy
+Amplifier that can be tweaked for specific stations+Built-in FM antenna
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Modest overall performance
With a 17-inch wide side-by-side design, the Antop SBS-301 is essentially twice the size of typical flat indoor-HDTV antennas. But it also does more than most TV antennas, doubling as an FM radio antenna, complete with a second output to connect to your sound system. With a simple two-sided design that's white on one side and black on the other, you should be able to set it up easily without disrupting your home decor much.
The indoor antenna includes a snap-on stand for tabletop, as well as pins and Velcro patches for hanging it on a wall, sticking it behind your TV, or even more permanent mounting with included drywall anchor screws. Antop beefs up the SBS-301 with the Smart Boost adjustable amplifier, which lets you dial in the right power boost to pull in the channels you want to watch – depending upon the amplifier setting, we pulled in between 23 and 33 channels during testing.
Read our full Antop HD Smart Antenna SBS-301 review.
How to choose the best TV antenna for you
If you're shopping for a TV antenna, you're in luck, because there's no better option for getting live TV for the lowest price possible: Free! But before you pick up the first TV antenna you see at the store, you want to make sure that you're getting one that will work for you.
Location and range: If you're in or near a city, there's a good chance you can make do with a small indoor antenna, since you'll have several stations within a 10 or 20 mile radius that can be pulled in without a big aerial or powered amplifier. If you're more than 30 miles from your local broadcast tower, you'll want to step up to an amplified model. Any antenna that's rated for 50 miles or more will either be a large outdoor unit, or come with an amplifier to boost the signal it gets, if not both.
Indoor or outdoor: Whether or not to get an outdoor antenna will largely depend upon the building you're in and the surrounding environment, since obstacles like house walls and even trees can prevent signal from getting through to an indoor antenna. Outdoor antennas are larger, and work better when positioned as high up as you can get it – a rooftop mast being the ideal installation.
Non-amplified or amplified: An amplified antenna uses an additional signal strength booster that can help weak signals come in clearly with a little extra juice. But that also means having another device to plug in, and another power outlet to give up. It also means a slightly higher price.
Non-amplified indoor antennas generally sell for between $20 to $40, but there are plenty of cheap TV antennas that sell for less than $20 that offer acceptable performance. An amplified antenna offers better performance, and will cost between $30 and $100. For the best performance, consider an outdoor antenna, which costs $100 or more.
Our best TV antenna advice
Simply having an antenna won't automatically solve all of your over-the-air TV woes. Better antennas and optional amplifiers will go a long way toward bringing in more channels, but that's only part of the equation.
We recommend researching beforehand to determine what range of antenna you need, and whether you want an indoor model or an antenna made for outdoor installation. The best place to start is AntennaWeb.org, which lets you enter your address or ZIP code and see what stations are broadcasting in your area, as well as how far away the broadcast towers are.
Worried about future proofing for ATSC 3.0 as it rolls out to new cities? The good news is that your existing antenna will work, and may even pull in more channels under the new standard. The bad news is that you'll need to buy a new tuner or an ATSC 3.0-equipped TV, and these are only now coming to market.
And check out our other advice for TV antennas to help you get yourself properly equipped and set up for the best reception:
Using a TV antenna with smart TVs and streaming devices
While streaming services like Netflix and HBO Max may be taking a more prominent place in the living room, there's still room for over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV. Whether you want free access to local news or just want to get more sports without shelling out for another subscription service, an HDTV antenna can still provide plenty of great stuff to watch, and having a smart TV or one of the best streaming devices doesn't prevent using an antenna.
All of the best smart TVs for streaming also have built-in tuners for pulling in broadcast channels, and getting your TV channels programmed is an automatic process, with the TV scanning for stations and putting together a browsable channel guide in just a few minutes.
And several streaming devices are built with OTA content in mind. The Amazon Fire TV Cube, for example, can switch over to your TV's built-in tuner seamlessly, without having to swap TV inputs or juggle extra remote controls. You can even get something like the Amazon Fire TV Recast, a DVR that lets you record OTA content, and enjoy it all using the same Fire TV interface your TV might already be using.
How we test TV antennas
All of the TV antennas we review are tested in the same location in New York City, an apartment that receives dozens of channels from a variety of broadcasters. Each antenna is connected to a Samsung 4K TV, so the TV tuner remains consistent, and each one is placed in the same position to generate comparable results.
With more than 100 over-the-air channels available in Manhattan, it provides an excellent testing location for antenna reception of any range, with more sensitive, long-range antennas pulling in a higher number of channels. It also gives us a chance to determine the quality of that reception, by seeing whether or not those channels are clear and watchable. The best antennas will pull in more channels, with a higher number of watchable results.
Your experience may differ from our test results. Depending upon how many stations broadcast in you area, and unique geographical impediments to over the air signal – such as buildings, trees and mountains – your own channel selection will vary considerably.
And check out some of the best accessories for your TV:
Best TV mounts | Best Bluetooth TV adapters | Best Bluetooth speakers | Best Soundbars | Best cheap HDMI switchers
Here's why the HD Stacker is the best digital HDTV antenna for San Diego.
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But they were harmless and beautiful. And then I dreamed of something that did not fit into my mind. I was scared and ashamed.