Updated August 22, 2019 by Daniel Goldstein

The 10 Best TV Antennas

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Cutting the cord has never been more popular, thanks in part to the incredible quality of modern over-the-air television broadcasts. After all, why should you pay $100 every month for content that is already being beamed to your home at no charge? Simply pick up one of these antennas, and your digital TV will potentially have access to dozens of channels at high-definition resolutions. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best tv antenna on Amazon.

10. Mohu Curve 50

9. Antop UFO

8. Free Signal Marathon

7. Mohu Leaf 30

6. Antop Paper Thin

5. 1byone Super Thin

4. GE Attic Mount

3. Channel Master CM-4228HD

2. RCA Yagi

1. Antennas Direct ClearStream

Unscrambling The Signal

Also referred to as a television aerial, a television antenna is an antenna specifically designed for the reception of over-the-air broadcast television signals.

It is no secret, cable and satellite television can be expensive. The next time you get your cable or satellite bill, take a look at all those fees, taxes, and channel bundles your company has forced you to maintain. Does that make the dish or cable box a bad thing? Of course not, but you may find that you'd like to keep things simple while maintaining access to the major networks, without having to pay absurd amounts of money to your provider each month. For that reason, why not go back to basics with a television antenna?

Also referred to as a television aerial, a television antenna is an antenna specifically designed for the reception of over-the-air broadcast television signals. These signals are typically transmitted in a frequency range between forty-one and two hundred fifty megahertz in the very high frequency (VHF) band, which is still currently used for digital television. In order for a television antenna to accommodate such a frequency range, it must be equipped with conductor elements of varying lengths. The length of an antenna's conductors corresponds to the wavelengths the antenna is capable of receiving. Conductors are usually half the wavelength of their intended signals.

Television antennas are created for either indoor or outdoor use. Indoor antennas are usually placed in close proximity to your television set, while outdoor antennas are mounted on a mast outside the home on the roof for the best reception. Dipole and loop antennas are the most common types of indoor antennas.

The dipole antenna is immediately recognizable when we talk about rabbit ears, which always seem to need adjusting. The loop antenna is so named due to its construction of looped wire or tubing with its ends connected to a balanced transmission line. The balanced transmission line may sound complicated, but it's simply a specialized cable used for carrying and distributing cable television signals.

With respect to the outdoor television antenna and its placement atop your roof, the higher it can be installed, the better off you'll be if you live in valleys or among other tall structures that may interfere with the integrity of the television signal itself. However, there is still a potential trade-off, given that a high-placed antenna is difficult to reach when it needs servicing. There is also a vulnerability to bad weather conditions.

When analog broadcasting evolved into digital broadcasting, so too did the indoor antenna from its traditional rabbit ear counterparts to a flat, square-shaped, thin antenna. The evolution of this modern television antenna eliminated the need for constant manipulation and adjusting when trying to enjoy programming. Modern indoor antennas now rival the quality of many outdoor and attic antennas.

Finding The Best Reception

Achieving the appropriate balance between directional capabilities and your environment are two important factors to consider when investing in a television antenna. For example, multidirectional television antennas will work well for you if your transmission towers aren't centrally located, if you want to be able to pick up signals from other cities, and if you live in a rural area with a lot of foliage that interferes with your signal quality. When considering such an antenna, one must also be sure to purchase it with sturdy, all-weather mounting hardware.

By contrast, if you live in a city apartment and are relatively close to your transmission towers, then a flat indoor antenna may be all that you need.

By contrast, if you live in a city apartment and are relatively close to your transmission towers, then a flat indoor antenna may be all that you need.

If a high-definition signal is important to you, many antennas allow you to pick up local high-definition signals for a fraction of the cost of maintaining your cable service or satellite dish.

Some indoor antennas are also optimized for supporting surround sound and even feature USB power supplies for maximizing your home's energy efficiency when the television is turned off.

A Brief History Of Television Antennas

The birth of television antennas dates back to the time of German physicist Heinrich Hertz, who was the first to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves by testing James Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetic theory of light. The theory predicts that electromagnetic waves move at the speed of light, and that light itself is also a type of wave. By 1887, Hertz developed an apparatus for generating and detecting radio waves. He also developed his first radio transmitter around that same time by using an induction coil-driven spark gap and a pair of one-meter copper wires to act as a radiator.

Hertz placed capacity spheres at either end of the wires for adjusting resonance.

Hertz placed capacity spheres at either end of the wires for adjusting resonance. He then discovered that when an induction coil applied a high voltage between the two sides, the resulting sparks across the spark gap would generate radio frequency currents in the copper wires. These wires would then release radio waves at very high frequencies similar to those found in modern television transmitters. This transmitter was a precursor to the dipole antenna.

Credited as being the catalyst for one of the biggest television booms in history, the first practical dipole antenna was invented in 1953 by Marvin P. Middlemark. This invention revolutionized the television signal and how it was watched. While the dipole antenna is still in use today, the popularity of high-definition signals has created a niche for high-definition antennas with flat screen televisions that have built-in digital tuners.

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Daniel Goldstein
Last updated on August 22, 2019 by Daniel Goldstein

Daniel is a writer, musician, and frequent traveler with a bachelor’s in creative writing from the State University of New York. In recent years, his writing chops have developed alongside his musical skills, thanks to a rich double life. During the day, he apprenticed with “Rolling Stone” journalist and critic Will Hermes, and when the sun set, he and his NYC-based, four-piece band gigged at high-end venues across the northeastern United States. His affinity for sharing things he's passionate about has culminated in nine years of experience as a music teacher at elementary schools, where he honed his ability to simplify and elucidate concepts to the uninitiated. All considered, he feels most at home writing about instruments, audio electronics and backpacking gear.

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