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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

Four HDTV antennas we recommend.

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.

Screenshot from TinySA spectrum analyzer

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

The 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.

Amplifier on the ClearStream Flex antenna.

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

RCA ANT3ME1 antenna.

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.

The amplifier on the ANT3ME1 antenna.

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 antenna.

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.

Winegard Android application.

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

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.

The competition

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

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.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-indoor-hdtv-antenna/
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CLEARSTREAM MAX-V: SPECS

Range: 60 Miles
Channels Received: 51
Amplified: No
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: N/A
Size: 17.25 x 27.5 x 3.5 inches

The ClearStream MAX-V isn't just another pretty antenna face. In fact, it isn't pretty at all. But if you want to improve over-the-air TV reception with one of the best TV antennas we've reviewed, it's a very attractive option, indeed.

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. It doesn't use an amplifier but it still did very well in our tests. For example, it pulled in 15 more channels than we saw in our Mohu Arc Pro Indoor HDTV Antenna review, a similarly priced amplified model. And while it didn't do as well in testing as some outdoor models, like Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna, the ClearStream MAX-V is roughly half the price of such antennas.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Design

Shaped like a large figure 8 with a horizontal antenna bar, the ClearStream MAX-V may not suit the decor of many living rooms. It can't be concealed like a flat indoor-only antenna or tucked behind a bookcase. The MAX-V could be hidden behind a table-top situated TV, but to get the best reception it's better to attach it to a wall (with the supplied mounting plate) near the exterior of your home, which many may regard as akin to sticking a giant black insect on the wall. 

Alternatively, the MAX-V can be placed outdoors on a pole or on the roof or side of your house for a clearer reception path. Manufacturer Antennas Direct also recommends placing the antenna in an attic for better reception while still keeping the MAX-V out of sight.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Setup

Out of the box, the ClearStream MAX-V includes a cross bar component, which screws together and then snaps easily into place, as well as a bracket for pole mounting and a wall plate should you install it inside or on an exterior wall. Antennas Direct doesn't include the necessary coaxial cabling to connect the antenna to your TV's tuner, however. A 20-foot cable costs between $10 and $20. And if you want to stand it upright inside, the company offers a curved base stand for $5.99.

Before deciding on an indoor or outdoor installation, we recommend checking on what's available over the air in your neighborhood. Sites such as Antennaweb.org can show you a list of channels and a map with the location of local broadcast towers based on your zip code. It may be, for example, that there's enough nearby stations to allow you to forego the hassle of placing the antenna outside.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Performance

From our standard New York City test location, the ClearStream MAX-V located 60 channels in an initial series of scans. In testing the reception of each station we found the antenna revealed some impressive skills, such as pulling in the elusive CBS affiliate in 1080i, which is now a challenge to tune in since the FCC moved stations around. The antenna also captured other local affiliates that some indoor flat antennas, such as the $90 Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro and popular models like the $30 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna, missed.

However, the ClearStream MAX-V's reception wasn't perfect, and we found that 9 of the stations listed were not watchable due to picture and sound dropouts. That still left an impressive 51 free over-the-air stations to enjoy, putting the MAX-V among the better TV antennas we've tested. Indeed, what was missing from the initial scan included the local PBS affiliates and the local Fox outlet, which was too distorted to watch. Unfortunately, the latter meant we couldn't watch an old episode of the Mod Squad. Also missing in action were some retro stations in the upper midrange of the dial. Those included the likes of MeTV with some pixellated Gilligan's Island episodes.

Not only did it do better than many of the aforementioned models, the Max-V also bested the comparably priced $80 Mohu Arc Pro, which captured 34 stations in our tests, and even Antenna Direct's own more expensive $100 ClearStream 2Max antenna, which pulled in 44 stations.

The ClearChannel MAX-V didn't capture as many stations as, for example, the $100 Winegard Elite 7550 (73 stations) or the $150 Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna (68 stations) but it is much less expensive. And it did much better than some comparably priced models, such as the $80 Mohu Arc Pro Indoor HDTV Antenna that only pulled in 34 stations in our testing.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Verdict

While its aesthetics may leave something to be desired, there's no doubt that the ClearStream MAX-V is a very capable TV antenna. Not only did it do better than many of our favorite indoor antennas, including the Mohu Arc Pro, it also matched some of the best outdoor antennas, like the ClearStream 2MAX HDTV Antenna, though paying for a more expensive model will often get you better performance thanks to amplifiers and better tuning capabilities.  If you're looking to get more over-the-air stations in your area, the ClearStream MAX-V is a solid choice. Just don't forget to get the necessary cabling when you order it.

John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.
Sours: https://www.tomsguide.com/reviews/clearstream-max-v-hdtv-antenna

Antennas Direct Clearstream 4 Max review: A good multi-directional antenna for your attic or roof

The Antennas Direct Clearstream 4 Max is one of the larger attic/outdoor mount antennas we tested. With its unique double figure-eight design, the antenna will do best in areas of strong to medium signal strength.

The Clearstream 4 Max is designed to be multi-directional, receiving signals from multiple directions at more or less a similar strength. We found that to be the case. This can be an advantage if you have several local TV transmitters in different directions, but can be a hassle if you live in fringe reception areas where distant signals might be competing on the same channel.

Unlike some competing antennas, the Clearstream 4 Max doesn’t come with a built-in signal amplifier. If you live in an area with medium-strength signals, this might be something to consider adding if the results are less than you expected.

20181031 123051Martyn Williams/IDG

Performance

TechHive tests antennas by performing a number of scans to see how many channels are received. Over the course of the scans a pattern emerges and we get to see how well an antenna pulls in the various strong and weak channels on air in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas.

The Clearstream 4 Max pulled in nine broadcast channels for a total of 36 digital TV stations. There were no stations with a broken signal: It either received at a strong enough level for uninterrupted viewing or it didn’t see the signal at all.

Reception was good on both UHF an VHF-High bands, which covers the vast majority of broadcast TV in the U.S. The two main figure-eight elements are for UHF reception; a simple dipole (the long tube at the rear) is for VHF-High reception.

20181031 123131Martyn Williams/IDG

Parts and installation

Antennas Direct supplies a curved mounting pipe called a J-pole with a bracket to attach to an attic beam, the side of your house, or a flat or pitched roof. Also included are sealing pads, which must be used if you’re screwing the antenna into your roof. The pads will help form a seal and stop rain seeping into your roof through the screw holes.

The antenna comes in several large pieces and construction is relatively simple. It only takes about five minutes to have all the pieces together and ready for installation.

Like other antennas in its class, it doesn’t come with coaxial cable. You will have to determine the appropriate length and purchase your coax cable at a local electronics store or online. Wingnuts are included for easy installation.

20181031 123236Martyn Williams/IDG

Conclusion

Mentioned in this article

The Clearstream 4 Max is a solid, well-built antenna for areas with strong to medium strength TV reception. The antenna is sensitive and did well in our tests performing just a little below the Winegard Elite 7550, our favorite antenna of this type.

If you’re confident you’re close to a transmitter and enjoy strong to very strong signals, save a bit of money and go for the Clearstream 2 Max.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

  • Antennas Direct Clearstream 4 Max

    The Clearstream 4 Max is an excellent choice for areas with strong to medium strength signals and with multiple TV transmitters in different locations. It's well made, easy to assemble and supplied with all the required mounting hardware.

    Pros

    • Good reception of strong to medium level signals on UHF and VHF-High
    • Multidirectional reception for areas with transmitters in different locations
    • Sturdy mount with mounting hardware for attic or outdoor installation

    Cons

    • No built-in amplifier so you might need one for weaker channels

Martyn Williams produces technology news and product reviews in text and video for PC World, Macworld, and TechHive from his home outside Washington D.C..

Sours: https://www.techhive.com/article/3318116/antennas-direct-clearstream-4-max-antenna-review.html

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ClearStream 4MAX™ TV Antenna mounted on roof of home
 

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