A magazine devoted to free and cheap TV

My Personal TV Antenna Setup

By Brian
Published 10/01/2017
 | Updated 04/17/2021

I wanted to share with you the details of my personal living room antenna setup. Over the years, I've tried many different indoor antennas, amplifiers, splitters, and configurations to squeeze out as many free TV channels as possible. I've finally gotten it to where I'm picking up all of the broadcast stations that are available in my area.

Oddly enough, in spite of all of the gadgets I've tried, my optimal antenna setup turned out to be very simple! There was no magic except for lots of experimentation with antenna location.

Where I Live

Just to give you some background, I live in Santa Monica, California, about 27 miles away from the TV transmitters on Mt. Wilson. Even though the Station Finder reports many green (strong) stations, my signals are not that strong inside my condo because the windows face the wrong direction.

Los Angeles Stations
My location in Santa Monica relative to TV towers on Mt. Wilson

My TV

I have only one TV in my condo. It's a ten-year old 46" Sony LCD with built-in digital tuner in my living room. Nothing unusual here.

My Antenna

I regularly recommend two indoor flat antennas: the Mohu Leaf and the Cable Cutter Metro by HD Frequency. These antennas have performed the best in my testing.

Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Metro
Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Metro

Over the years, I've switched back and forth between these antennas but in this setup, I'm using the Cable Cutter Metro because it fits cosmetically where I have it now (you'll see this later).

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

For many people who want an indoor TV antenna though, I still recommend the Mohu Leaf (with a separately-purchased RG6 coax cable) because it's cheaper with about the same performance, and it's less noticeable on a white wall.

My Antenna Location

Over the course of many months, I experimented to find the best location for my indoor antenna - one that would get me the most channels.

My TV signals come from the East, but unfortunately my windows face North. Furthermore, my windows (actually sliding patio doors) are recessed from the side of the building, so signals from the East are blocked. Even though I have lots of strong "green" channels on the Station Finder, my indoor reception is not that great.

I experimented with positions all around my TV and window but never could get solid reception for all of the stations in my area at the same time. In one position, PBS and the upper channels would be good, but the lower ones would be flaky. In another position, the lower channels would be good, but the upper ones would be bad. If you've done your own antenna experiments, you know what I'm talking about.

I was getting desperate, even considering an outdoor antenna, when I tried something crazy: putting the antenna on the inside of my front door. This gave a tremendous improvement in reception! So, that's where I have it now.

I chose the Cable Cutter Metro (formerly called the "Aerowave") over the Leaf in this case because it's almost invisible on my door and just by dumb luck fits almost perfectly in one of the recesses of my door:

Cable Cutter Aerowave antenna
You can hardly see the Cable Cutter Metro (Aerowave) antenna on my door

My front door is further out than my windows, so it has less obscured line of site to the transmitters. Plus, it's solid wood with no metal, unlike my double-paned windows with screen.

The lesson from this is to go ahead and try whacky locations for your antenna like laying it flat on the floor or putting it on a door. Windows usually work well, but not always.

My Cables

Doing antenna experiments requires a cable long enough to put your antenna in a wide variety of locations in your room. Often the cable that comes with the antenna is of poor quality, or it's not long enough, or both (which is the case with the Mohu Leaf).

I have a variety of lengths of RG6 coax cable which I use to experiment with. If you have a Mohu Leaf, I definitely recommend buying a selection of RG6 cables in different lengths.

Because I do lots of antenna experiments, I ended up using two RG6 cables spliced together, allowing me to insert amplifiers, splitters, etc. in the signal path. Doing this sacrifices a little bit of signal quality, so you shouldn't do this. Just use one RG6 cable long enough to reach the ideal location, but not too much longer than required.

My Second Antenna

I have a second antenna (a Mohu Leaf) in the skylight of my condo attached to a Tablo for recording. This is the highest point in my condo and has good reception. If you have a skylight, definitely try putting your antenna in it!

Mohu Leaf antenna in skylight

Using the Tablo means that I don't have to run the antenna cable all the way to my TV. It just goes to my Tablo, which connects to my home's Wi-Fi network. I use the Tablo app on my Roku to view live or recorded TV on the Tablo.

In case you're wondering why I use separate antennas for my TV and for my Tablo. Well, the Tablo is great for recording but not so great for channel surfing. It takes a long time to switch between channels using the Tablo. I like the ability to turn my TV on and instantly surf around.

I could have used used my downstairs antenna for both my TV and my Tablo, but I had the extra antenna, and I had this set up for an experiment, so I just left it.  You don't need to use two antennas for a TV and a Tablo.

No Amplifiers

I experimented with various types and brands of TV signal amplifiers. While they gave some improvement on certain channels, the net effect was negative so I ended up not using any!

In my experience, when you have strong TV signals around, amplifiers do NOT improve reception. If all of your channels are weak, they might help. But, don't expect magic "night-and-day" results from using an amplifier, and be prepared to return it if it doesn't work for you.

My Channels

I now watch dozens of free broadcast TV channels. This includes all of the major networks, several PBS channels, and many local stations.

Summary

So, after all of my antenna experimentation, my optimal setup ended up simply being a flat indoor antenna attached directly to my TV! I'm not using a powered antenna, amplifier or splitter. I am using good RG6 coax cable with just enough length to do the job.

Of course, the TV reception in your home will be different and unique. But, I believe that in most cases it's best not to spend a bunch of money on different antennas and amplifiers. Instead, use good quality RG6 cable and experiment with different antenna locations in your home until you get the best reception.

I hope this has helped. What is your antenna setup like? Please share below. I'd love to hear about your favorite antenna or ideal setup! - Brian

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Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
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Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

When you comment, you'll automatically receive replies by email. Your email address will not be displayed.

I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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32 Comments
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disillusionist
disillusionist
2 years ago

I have an old antenna in my attic from before cable was available, maybe 30 years ago. Do you think that antenna could be hooked up and used again? Are the newer antennas using different technology?
I could get good coverage from that vantage point and possibly not have to put in new connecting cables. My zipcode is 75205

Thank you.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  disillusionist

You can absolutely still use that old antenna!! The frequencies are the same. Give it a try!!!

Best,
Brian

disillusionist
disillusionist
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks, I will.

spanet po
spanet po
2 years ago

We have never had cable or internet. We used a outside antenna until all went digital. If we tried an outside antenna again, are there people who can install for us? We live in a bungalow and have no windows facing north where towers are. We used to get cbs, abc and nbc. We also got ion, pbs, get tv. All of a sudden we lost all major local tv stations and only get ion, and pbs. I moved antenna everywhere and still abc, cbs, nbc, get tv etc have never returned. Any suggestions?

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  spanet po

First of all, try re-scanning for channels. They may have simply changed frequencies.

But yes, an outdoor antenna will likely give you more channels. You'll have to check for local installers near you. But before doing that, check the Station Finder to see how many stations you could theoretically get:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Best,
Brian

Jonathan Osborn
Jonathan Osborn
2 years ago

I live in a downstairs apartment in a two story building in Santa Monica. I have no East facing windows. Being a Luddite, I’ve only just purchased a Digital TV. (I’d been relying on Roku since I cut the cable a couple years ago to watch my CRT TVs). I’m debating getting an indoor antenna, but don’t want to waste money if only an outdoor antenna will get adequate reception, and am not up to negotiating with landlord on installing outdoor antenna. Is a Mohu Leaf likely to get any reception in my sort of situation?

Brian
2 years ago

Hi Jonathan,

My windows don't face East either but I am able to get a lot of channels with my first-floor north-facing Leaf or Cable Cutter antennas after a lot of experimentation with antenna position.

Even if you don't have any north or east-facing windows, you should still get a lot of channels with the Leaf. However, you probably won't get all of the major networks. For example, you might not get ABC channel 7 and channel 13, but channel 4, 5 and 9 will be solid with channel 2 flaky. Just a hypothetical example.

The key to getting more channels is to experiment with antenna position in your room. And, get a better RG6 coax cable. More hints here:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/antenna-tips/

If you purchase on Amazon, you can always return your Leaf pretty easily if it doesn't work well for you.

Best,
Brian

Joyful
Joyful
2 years ago

Just got antenna working, receiving all major networks, had to use outside antenna , using clearstream 2 max , only got some channels with antenna inside, thank you for explaining what a small difference can and did make! You mentioned something if I still have internet through same provider might have to do something else ? Is it still possible to hook up outside cable box/internet so i can run to 2nd tv or do i do that inside , or at all ? Joy thank you

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Joyful

Hi Joy,

Congrats on getting the major networks! Great job!!

No need to do anything with your Internet provider, unless you're also getting cable TV from them and want to cancel that part.

Here's how to run multiple TVs off of a single antenna:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/need-separate-antenna-tv/

Not sure if that answers your question. Let me know.

Best,
Brian

vmusa
vmusa
3 years ago

Our new Sony TV is integrated into our external and much better sound system. We have cut the cable cord, and are now ready to add indoor antennae. Would the external sound system remain functional, or would the external antennae push out the sound only from the TV speakers? Thank you.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  vmusa

Hi,

I don't know how your system is hooked up, but I assume you're connecting your antenna to your TV, then taking the audio out from your TV to your external sound system. If that is the case, the sound system should work fine with your antenna setup.

Best,
Brian

dc
dc
3 years ago

I'm in 95136. We are a family of four, all heavy internet and streaming users. I work from home and my three kids stream video quite a lot or play online video games. What I've found when trying to cut my cable is that we ended up going over the 1TB/mo data limit that Comcast has. This is what has prevented me from going 100% without cable. Any suggestions around this? I haven't looked at other internet providers to see if they don't have this limitation because I am still within contract with Comcast. Just wondering if other have run into this situation where you are trying to save on cable and end up going over the data limit which then incurs another charge. In the end with all the subscriptions and charge for going over 1TB, it came out to about the same as having cable.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  dc

Hi Diana,

That is a tough situation. I don't have any magic solutions other than to look for a different provider in your area. Here are some ideas from a different source:
https://www.howtogeek.com/338306/how-to-avoid-going-over-your-home-internets-data-cap/

Best,
Brian

Rita Trammell
Rita Trammell
3 years ago

I live at 23924

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Rita Trammell

Hi Rita,

Unfortunately, the TV signals are pretty weak in your area. You might be able to get PBS and maybe Ion. It's probably not worth getting an indoor TV antenna. Outdoor might work better, but check with your neighbors to see if any of them have an antenna, and how many channels they are getting.

Here are some other options for free or cheap TV:
https://www.disablemycable.com/free-and-cheap-tv-far-from-tv-transmitters/

Best,
Brian

Gary Pearce
3 years ago

These don't always work in the Uk, just depends on the reception or if you have line of site of the main transmitter. But for a Outdoor Tv Aerial try http://adicommunications.co.uk

Jean
Jean
3 years ago

We use antenna tv and have gotten good reception with all the major networks and then we lost our cbs station. We did nothing different it just was lost. The strange thing is it works on our tv upstairs. We’ve tried everything we can think of and still it won’t work.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean

Hi Jean,

Here are some things to try:
https://www.disablemycable.com/antenna-tips/

Best,
Brian

Donna Jean
Donna Jean
3 years ago

Thanks for all the advice! I’ve been studying this for weeks and made the plunge! I have this
combination going on: Roku’s on 4 TVs ($70 x 4) DirectTV Now ($37 mo), 4-tuner Tablo (249) & Antenna Direct 70 mi indoor/outdoor ($149) + Windgear amplifier (50). The Roku’s and DTN are great. But I can only get at most 12 wonky channels and no VHS! Called antenna co and have it pointing in the right location next to window and away from electronics and they say I should be getting many more. They suggested I need to put it outside. :(. Also paying a handyman and $70 into it still not many channels! Decided to get the Mohu Leaf and see what that will do. Sooooo much trial and error. Any suggestions? I’m 30 miles from Greenville SC. Help!

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Donna Jean

Hi Donna,

I had to try a lot of antenna positions before I was able to get all of my channels, even though they were supposedly "strong". Make sure you are using good RG-6 coax cable, long enough to reach potential antenna locations in your room. Don't buy any more antennas. Just keep experimenting with what you have. And, don't be afraid to try unlikely locations such as on the floor, ceiling, etc.

Best,
Brian

Donna Connolly
Donna Connolly
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Since I’m using the Tablo + Moho 60 and no need to have a long cable because I do not have to reach the TV, is the boxed coax cable that Moho sends good enough? Also do I always need to first attach the antenna directly to the TV For a channel search or can I just keep it on the Tablo? So appreciate the feedback.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Donna Connolly

Hi Donna,

The cable that comes with the Mohu Leaf is not great. If you have a better quality cable (labeled RG-6), use that one instead.

You do not need to do a channel search on your TV first unless you want to watch broadcast TV on it and not through the Tablo.

Best,
Brian

Michael Belk
4 years ago

Brian, I am surprised your closet antenna is 27 miles in the LA area. I used to live in Victorville. I hope you get plenty of channels.

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Michael Belk

Thanks Michael! Yes, I get all of the major networks, local channels, PBS, and a few others!

Best,
Brian

WayneT
WayneT
4 years ago

My mohu leaf was working great until last night. The tv has no picture and no sound. I can scan for channels but once finished there is no picture. The channel tells me what station I'm on (kboi, kbtv, ion, etc), but gives me nothing but black screen. I swapped out coax, and rescanned and still nothing...need some suggestions as to what it might be.

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  WayneT

Hi Wayne,

It almost sounds like your TV is broken in some way. Are you able to see the picture when you use a Roku or DVD player with your TV?

Best,
Brian

Wayne
Wayne
4 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Yes dvd picture and sound works great. I connected it to an RCA converter box and it worked but didn't give me near the channels or clarity of signal. It's a mystery for me.

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Wayne

Hmmm, it sounds to me like your TV's built-in tuner is broken.

Brian

Karen Ortiz
Karen Ortiz
4 years ago

Hello! Hoping someone can help. I live on the lower end of a slope and my home is very well insulated. We have the Mohu Leaf 50 as we live approx. 30 miles north of Austin, Texas. We have tried placing it in several areas of our home facing south, but can only get a few channels from another small city to our west. We placed the antenna in the well insulated attic (again multiple places) and may get the desired channels, but they disappear within a few minutes to hours. We are beyond frustrated. Any words of wisdom?

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Karen Ortiz

Hi Karen,

It's tough when you live at the bottom of a slope which is blocking TV signals. The best way to get more channels is probably to get an outdoor rooftop antenna, as high as possible. But, check with your neighbors first to see how many stations they are getting.

Best,
Brian

Karen Luoto
Karen Luoto
4 years ago

Thanks for the pics and explanations. I ended up with a roof antenna because I wanted to use existing coax cable (20+ yrs old) already in the house and run free OTA to 4 rooms. I did add an amplifier to the main living room TV because I split that coax to have OTA channels on my patio with another TV.

Your actual pictures and explanations really help people see how easy it is. And, although, it's true that you need to experiment a bit with location of the antenna, I still get a better reception than satellite and how can you compare a one time fee of $75 (for me with roof antenna for 80 miles and new coax) to the monthly cost of cable....

Thanks for your explanations and, especially, the pics. Job well done...

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Karen Luoto

Hi Karen,

Thank you for sharing, and for the encouragement! Congrats on all of the money you're saving!

Best,
Brian

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