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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


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


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.


    • 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


    • 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..


Most of us spend a fair sum on cable TV and half the time we rarely watch all the channels. Others don’t have good reception, whether that’s because they live in remote areas or there is a lot of interference. Choosing the right antenna can save money and improve your TV viewing.

We are going to compare two very similar antennae, the Clearstream 2V vs 2 Max. We will look at a number of their features including appearance, channels and value for money. Once we have looked at all of the features, we will add a side-by-side chart and some pros and cons of each before we decide which is the better antenna.

Clearstream 2V vs Clearstream 2 Max

We will begin with the features that the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max have in common.

Clearstream 2V vs Clearstream 2 Max – Similarities

Signal Range

The Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max have a signal range of over 60 miles. They are able to pick up signals from transmitting towers at more than 60 miles in multiple directions.

Multi-directional Elements.

For better range and reception, the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max have dedicated UHF and VHF multi-directional elements. Specifically, the Clearstream 2V has UHF 10.4 dBi and Hi-VHF 3.1.

Wide Beam Angle

The wide beam angle of the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max helps to pick up even more channels from towers that are widely spread apart. The Clearstream 2 Max has a wide beam angle of 70º but the exact angle of the Clearstream 2V isn’t stated.


The Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max are designed for indoor use and outdoor use. For outdoor use, they are strong enough to withstand high winds. There is a slight difference in that the Clearstream 2V has a unique peel and stick mounting bar and the Clearstream 2 Max is mounted with wall brackets.

Antenna Point App

The Antenna Point App works with the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max. It’s incredibly handy and free. Once you download the app, you can see all of the towers that are transmitting in your area. You can also check the distance between towers, a TV channel list, and the TV coverage zone.

Side by Side Comparison

We can review the features of the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 max in the comparison chart below.

Clearstream 2V

Clearstream 2 Max

ImagesClearstream 2VClearstream 2 Max
Size11.75 x 20.65 x 9.13 inches20 x 27.5 x 2.8 inches
Range60+ miles60+ miles
Multi-directional ElementsUHF 10.4 dBi and Hi-VHF 3.1UHF and VHF
Wide Beam AngleYesYes, 70º
Impedance75 OhmNot stated
InstallationIndoor or outdoor, peel and stickIndoor or outdoor, wall bracket
AmplifierJolt 15dB USB in-line systemNot stated
Antenna Point AppYesYes
Mast20 inches with pivoting baseSold separately
Free ChannelsABC, PBS, Fox, NBC, etc. 4K and 1080p readyYes, 4k ready
What’s Included20-inch mount, all-weather mounting hardware, 12ft detachable coaxial cableWall bracket, all-weather mounting hardware.
WarrantyLimited lifetimeLimited lifetime

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Next, we will move on to the differences between the Clearstream 2V and the Clearstream 2 Max.

Differences Between Clearstream 2V and Clearstream 2 Max


They both have Clearstream signature loop antennae, and they are both black.

Clearstream 2 Max antenna

Clearstream 2V

The measurements are 11.75 x 20.65 x 9.13 inches, and it weighs 5.1 pounds. It has a wire receptor that focuses the antenna power.

Clearstream 2 Max

In total, it is 20 x 27.5 x 2.8 inches. Without the receptor, it weighs less at 3.24 pounds.

The Winner Is- A Tie

Read next – Clearstream 4V vs 4Max: Which Antennas are Better?


The impedance refers to the current and voltage at the input of the antenna.

Clearstream 2V review

Clearstream 2V

The impedance rating is 75 Ohm

Clearstream 2 Max

There is no product information about the impedance.

The Winner Is- The Clearstream 2V

Read next – Clearstream 4V vs Clearstream 2V: Which Antennas are Better?


Again, unfortunately, we are missing some information about this feature.

Clearstream 2 Max comparison

Clearstream 2V

This antenna has a Jolt 15dB USB in-line amplifier system.

Clearstream 2 Max

There is no mention of an amplifier system with this antenna.

The Winner Is- The Clearstream 2V

Free Channels

The free channels will depend on your area and the app will give you a better idea.

Clearstream 2V

You can get ABC, PBS, Fox, NBC as some examples. The antenna is both 4K and 1080 ready.

Clearstream 2 Max

It is 4K ready but there are no examples of the free channels you can get or 1080 ready.

The Winner Is- The Clearstream 2V

What’s Included

What comes with the antenna adds to the value for money.

Clearstream 2V comparison

Clearstream 2V

It comes with a 20-inch mount with a pivoting base, all-weather hardware and a 12ft detachable coaxial cable.

Clearstream 2 Max

Sadly, there is no mount included. It comes with a wall bracket for mounting and all-weather mounting hardware.

The Winner Is- The Clearstream 2V

Value for Money

The two Clearstream antennae are well priced for their quality.

Clearstream 2 Max review

Clearstream 2V

This is a little more expensive, but only around $10-$15 more. It comes with a limited 3-year warranty.

Clearstream 2 Max

While it might be a little cheaper but if you buy the mount separately, it comes to the same price. You also get a 3-year limited warranty.

The Winner Is- A Tie

Read next – Channel Master 3020 vs 5020: Which Antennas is Better?

Pros and Cons

Before our final verdict, we have some pros and cons of the antennae from Clearstream.

Clearstream 2V


  • It better for indoor and outdoor use
  • More pieces but still easy to assemble
  • Good for multiple TVs


  • Depending on your area, you may have to experiment with the direction of the antenna

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Clearstream 2 max


  • A very good antenna for indoor use
  • Good number of free channels and with a clear picture
  • Ease of use makes it worth the money


  • Some of the plastic parts are too weak

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The Final Verdict

Today’s winner is the Clearstream 2V. Not only does it do a slightly better job at picking up TV channels, but the quality of the pictures is also better. We preferred the simple peel and stick mounting system and it makes sense to choose the antenna that has the 20-inch mount so that you can install it higher up and improve the signal even more.

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ClearStream MAX-V AntennaIf you’re in the market for an antenna, here’s a new one you might want to try. Antennas Direct just launched the ClearStream MAX-V UHF/Hi-VHF HDTV indoor/outdoor TV antenna that delivers a range of 60+ miles.

The antenna features an efficient, re-engineered dipole design along with the ClearStream loop element for UHF reception. It comes with detailed instructions as well all-weather mounting hardware for outdoor placement and a steel wall-mount bracket if you’d rather put it indoors. You can buy additional accessories sold separately like a minimalist indoor base stand and coaxial cable.

Indoor ClearStream MAX-V on tv stand

“Our St. Louis-based Connection Crew talks with customers each day, supporting them to achieve the best possible antenna experience with the best possible broadcast television reception,” said Richard Schneider, President and founder of Antennas Direct. “We listened and recognized that many consumers are best served with a streamlined design and a simplified set of standard components. This allows them to customize their antenna experience to meet their needs.”

The ClearStream MAX-V is available as of September 17 2019 at $69.99 on It will be available at retailers nationwide in the coming weeks.

What kind of antenna do you use? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Clear Stream Max-V Inpressive

ClearStream MAX-V UHF/VHF Indoor/Outdoor Antenna, 60+ Mile Range, 4K Ready - C2MVB

ClearStream MAX-V UHF/VHF Indoor/Outdoor Antenna, 60+ Mile Range, 4K Ready - C2MVB

Antennas Direct

200 ratings Write a review

Item #:


Order now and get it around Tuesday, October 26

Note: Electronic products sold in US store operate on (110-120) volts, a step-down power converter is required for the smooth device function. It is mandatory to know the wattage of the device in order to choose the appropriate power converter. Recommended power converters Buy Now.

Product Details

  • UHF and VHF multi-directional antenna has a 60+mile range
  • Indoor, attic, outdoor compatible
  • Minimal assembly required
  • Includes a wall bracket, all-weather adjustable mounting hardware. Mast and coaxial cable sold separately
Product Dimensions27.5 x 2.8 x 20 inches (69.9 x 7.1 x 50.8 cm)
Item Weight3.24 pounds (1.46 kg)
ManufacturerAntennas Direct
Country of OriginTaiwan
Item model numberC2MVB


Engineered to deliver performance and reliability 60+ miles away from the TV towers. This antenna includes a wall bracket for easy setup indoors and in an attic or use the all-weather adjustable mounting hardware for outdoor use. Ideal for suburban and rural areas, the dedicated UHF and VHF multi-directional elements deliver range and reception in less than ideal locations. This antenna has a generous 70-degree beam angle to receive more free TV channels from widely spaced broadcast towers without the need to rotate. Engineered and tested for strength and durability to withstand 70 mph winds and includes a lifetime warranty. If you have multiple TV’s and had satellite or cable service in the past, the coaxial cable needed to send the signal to all your TVs is already installed to start receiving free TV channels using the ClearStream MAX-V antenna. To find the TV towers and channels in your area, download the free Antenna Point app.

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Customer Questions & Answers

  • Question: Can this antenna be mounted on a window with velcro or suction cups?

    Answer: Yes it can. Assembled weight is under 2 pounds. I personally have used a 3M hook and hung it from the top loop.
  • Question: Does this antenna have a booster with it?

    Answer: It does not. The antennae has delivered a crystal clear picture from TV towers about 12 miles away. We have a treed lot and it has no effect on reception.
  • Question: What size/type screws are needed to best mount it on wood as shown?

    Answer: It is designed to secure to any pole up to 2 inches in diameter.
  • Question: Does this antenna need a converter box with it?

    Answer: I don't have a converter box with my antenna and it works good. I think you will need a converter box if you have a very old tv but not sure.
  • Question: Is this the model that has a mount to allow to sit on a table inside?

    Answer: Mount is available direct from the mfr. Another comparable option is the C2-V-CJM. It stands upright on its own.
  • Question: Where can I get the stand that is holding the antenna in the picture of the antenna inside next to the television?

    Answer: I believe it's hanging on a hook in the wall.
  • Question: Does this antenna pick up vhf channels good or only uhf channels?

    Answer: It picks up both frequency bands. ‘How good it picks up the bands’ is completely dependent on the signal strength (e.g how high your antenna is mounted and how far you are from the tower)
  • Question: Can this antenna be used indoor?

    Answer: Yes it can be mounted on a wall, just move the antenna around to find the best reception on your tv.
  • Question: Picture shows 1 screw top center of mounting bracket. how much wind can this antenna withstand with just the one screw? with 3 screws? & what size?

    Answer: It held up to CAT3 winds as designed.
  • Question: Does it come with the clamp to attach to a poll?

    Answer: Yes, they provide a clamp for a pole. It is quite a strong clamp, with a u-bolt and for the back side. (I didn't attach to a pole, and you can have my clamp :) )

Customer Ratings

62 customers ratings

  • 5 Star 66%
  • 4 Star 15%
  • 3 Star 7%
  • 2 Star 4%
  • 1 Star 8%

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Customer Reviews

To•• ••ya

October 10, 2021

Great reception!

Got over 100 channels! I was shocked!

Ir•• ••t

October 9, 2021

Installed in garage and able to get VHF channels. 40 miles radius of the TV tower per fcc website.

Some antennas don’t have good reception of VHF channels , but this one does. FCC shows 40 miles radius of my house from the tv broadcasting station and this antenna works perfect.

Mi•• ••en

October 7, 2021

This is a great outdoor antenna!

We only watch local news in the morning. Any other TV is on ROKU. So I killed our $165 a month cable bill, got internet only for $65 a month, and installed this antenna. Nothing fancy, I just bolted it onto the corner of our house on the eaves. We get all the major network local channels and a few others. Saved me $100 a month!!

G.•• ••

October 7, 2021

Great indoor antenna for my location

I am quite pleased with this antenna. Most of the local TV stations are within 30 mile range. I received over 40 channels through this antenna.

Ha•• ••ee

October 6, 2021

Just doesn't get the basics in Vegas

Easy to install, but my location and placing antenna in attic just doesn't get the picture well on FOX, ABC, or CBS. Too late to return, so I'll probably sell it and try another option.

Qu•• ••ax

October 2, 2021

Works okay inside, probably better outside.

I thought with all the extra antennas you see in this I thought it would pick up better inside my home. It's located in a glass window.

Jo•• ••er

September 27, 2021

Great product!

I was in the market for an over-the-air antenna when Locast had to stop operating. I live in Alexandria, VA, not far from Washington, DC, and I was pleased to find that this antenna could be mounted in my attic without line of sight to anywhere and still receive 50+ channels. All the local stations in the DC area come in clear as a bell. I now have to run cables from the attic to the TVs, but that is a small price to pay.

AC•• ••20

September 26, 2021

Good outdoor antenna

Pull in more stations in a difficult location, we live on a hill and in a valley, with the best indoor antenna, we will get at most 80 stations, this one can do 100. I jury-rigged this antenna to a leftover dish satellite, it looks ugly, but it did the job. I use the leftover cable to my house, it works well. One con point I deducted for overall satisfaction was that the product did not ship with clear instructions, it is hard for me to figure out the different mounting options with the parts provided, luckily, YouTube has many good materials for you to figure it out. Today 9/30/2021 I found the quick guide document that comes with the antenna, it is my fault I did not seriously look for it within the package, the antenna keeps on performing well, I do not need to re-scan the channel with my FireTV recast, works fine. I give back a star.

Da•• ••ne

September 26, 2021


Like most of these products, the coax screw on end makes it near impossible to start the threading process. Lack of access on the tv and difficult to grasp end on the cord combines to make it frustrating. However, after the cursing, swearing and threats of a chopping board and cleaver, once the threads actually grab, you will have a crystal clear picture. Its a fine unit. Do not need to have a power source either. Good unit.

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Stream max clear

  • 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.


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.

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