Dear PoPville – HD antennas recommendations?

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

“Dear PoPville,

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to save money by cutting cable. I’m on the 4th floor of an apartment building, and my windows face west, so hoping I can get broadcast HDTV channels (ABC, NBC, local access, etc) with an indoor antenna. I’ve ordered a Mohu Leaf from Amazon, but curious if something else works better in NW DC. While I love my Roku, which gives me access to a la carte Bravo shows and Korean dramas on Hulu+, I really miss being able to watch live sports, and I figure if I can get broadcast TV I’ll get some of that access back. Curious as to what other DC cordcutters are using!”

49 Comment

  • My husband and I cut the cord last February – we started with two Mohu Leaf antennas (2 tvs) one works great the other not so well. We’re on the top floor of a 12 story building in Mt Vernon Triangle and the one that had – what I thought to be best exposure to signal wasn’t getting all the channels.

    So, I decided to buy an “Antennas Direct Micron-R ClearStream Micron Indoor UHF DTV Antenna with Reflector Screen” — works great! Haven’t had issues since I found a spot that gets the best signal. Also gets most of the MHz Network channels that I wasn’t getting on my Mohu.

  • I use the Mohu Leaf, it works fine most of the time (I’m also on 4th floor with a western window exposure).
    However, I think a lot of the transmission signals are to the east. When I walk in front of the Mohu, it messes with the reception.
    Additionally, whenever the Presidential or cabinet-level helicopters are flying nearby, the signal cuts out. I think that the helicopters have signal jamming devices that are scrambling the local radio waves.

  • I just bought this one:
    It actually arrived yesterday, so I haven’t hooked it up yet.

  • I have just an old set of bunny ears, and yet manage to get I think pretty much every local channel.

    • Me, too. I sometimes have to move them to get PBS but otherwise I don’t even think a bout them.
      I have the same issue others have mentioned about helicopters disrupting the signal. I live in a major helicopter zone (flight path of hospitals, RCP park police, Naval Observatory), but it isn’t a big deal.

  • gotryit

    Mohu Leaf for me also. I had to play with location a bit. On a north (brick) wall next to the TV, I only got a few channels, but then got it set up in a south non-brick extension of the house, and reception is great.

  • I have Mohu. I am on the 2nd floor and face west as well. No problems except when the helicopters fly above. No problems when I walk in front of it either.

  • I live near HU and have north facing windows. I just use a pair of rabbit ears – the RCA Basic Indoor Antenna on Amazon. It cost $8, sits behind the TV, and gives me a strong signal for all of the local channels.

    That leaf is much nicer looking than the rabbit ears, though. If I watched more TV I’d have probably gone with something like that. I only hook my antenna up once or twice a year for some major event. The rest of the time it’s disconnected.

  • My bunny ears work just fine. I get HD channels and loads of channels that I didn’t get before the digital transition. I bought a ClearTv antenna at Bed Bath and Beyond for $15.99. It is excellent. I have an antenna on each of my TVs and one on each of my DVRs.

  • I could get almost every broadcast channel with a regular “rabbit ears” antenna… but not WETA, and I’m a WETA addict.
    I was worried I was going to have to get cable, but then discovered that using a powered/amplified antenna (which has rabbit ears, but gets an extra “boost” from being plugged into an A/C outlet) was the difference between getting WETA’s signal and not getting it.
    I now have two powered antennas at home (both in south-facing rooms). Neither was particularly fancy; I think one was a $30-or-less RCA-brand antenna from Best Buy and the other was from Freecycle.
    I was surprised to find that a TV on the north-facing side of my house didn’t need a powered antenna and could receive WETA with a regular antenna.

    • colheights67

      This time last year, WETA came in just fine (using an A/C antenna) but now — now that the new season of Downton Abbey has started — it’s gone. All gone.

      I’m extremely resistant to the idea that we’re supposed to pay for TV.

      • I watch Downton Abbey on their website – new episodes are available the next day, so I watch on Monday evenings. I have a Macbook Air and i use the mirroring feature with my Apple TV to display it on my Television — works great. If you dont have Macbook/AppleTV, you can use Chromecast but i haven’t personally tried it.

      • Colheights67 — Bummer; what bad timing! I too am very resistant to the idea of paying for TV.
        How odd that the A/C antenna worked before and is not working now. Have you tried moving the antenna, or maybe trying a different A/C antenna?
        In the meantime, maybe you can get your “Downton Abbey” fix on the PBS website, as EB suggests.

  • I have an RCA antenna on my roof, but used to have a set off Radio Shack rabbit ears that I have now given to my friend. She lives in Cathedral Heights with a west-ish facing window (2nd floor) and gets four WETA stations, all HD. We both get about 40 channels. Well worth it with one exception. M….f…ing college bowl games were largely only on ESPN. But I had fun watching my Seminoles at Lou’s City Bar.

  • Check out the ones from I have one of the smaller / more discrete ones and it works pretty well.

  • houseintherear

    I have the Mohu leaf too.I recently added a $14 RCN amplifier from Amazon (with its own power plug) and it has cut down on the pixilation/messy reception. I get every channel except for CBS, which sucks for my Monday sitcome viewing! But it’s pretty good overall.

  • I have a basic rabbit-ears antenna that I got at Best Buy– I think it was $10. The sales guy actually discouraged me from getting a more expensive model. My antenna works pretty well, even in my basement apartment! It’s in an east-facing window, and I get ABC, NBC, WETA and, weirdly, a Chinese-language channel. Probably others, too, but those are the only stations I watch. There is sporadic interference, but that’s probably due to living in a basement– if a truck parks outside my building, I lose signal.

  • This website can also help you pick an antenna based on your address & the channels you most want to receive:

    They also show the locations of each station’s transmitter relative to your address, so you can position your antenna correctly for the station you’re trying to receive.

  • Mohu didn’t work well for me in North Bethesda; I’m in a tower facing another tower, for one thing. Passed it along to son who lives in a 5th floor apartment in Foggy Bottom and it works much, much better for him.

  • I have this:$abcat0107004&cp=1&lp=4. I get ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, more PBS stations than I can count, whatever the new CW is, Ion television, 2 or 3 Spanish channels, a Chinese channel, a weather radar station, and some other random channels that play old shows/infomercials/etc. Probably 25+ in all though I maybe watch 5 or 6. Works great for me and I sort of appreciate the bunny ear look as an anachronism to my flat screen TV.

  • I have the leaf too–I used to be on the 2nd floor of an 8 floor building and am now in a rowhouse. Both places, I get about 45 channels, all fairly clear. Still never anything on though, cutting cable didn’t help that problem.

  • Look for an indoor, amplified antenna. I think that’s your best bet.

  • We have a mohu in our basement which faces south. Lots of potential interference with that but it works pretty well. Sometimes it just takes some adjusting. We cut the cord almost three years ago and couldn’t be happier. Enjoy!

  • I’ve had this one ($39.98) for the last six years, and it has worked great:

    Due to station location, I have one channel that flickers out every so often, so keep in mind you might need more than one antenna, if you are finicky, since most are directional.
    Someone else mentioned antenna web, which is a great way to figure out which direction to point your antenna.

  • I’ve had this one ($39.98) for the last six years, and it has worked great:

    Due to station location, I have one channel that flickers out every so often, so keep in mind you might need more than one antenna, if you are finicky, since most are directional.
    Someone else mentioned antenna web, which is a great way to figure out which direction to point your antenna.

    • I clearly can’t read or something. The post says indoor. This is an outdoor antenna. Sorry!

      • PoP tries to find related photos in the PoPville Flickr pool to accompany the threads he posts. So this is basically a file photo (as it were) of an outdoor antenna to accompany a “Dear PoPville” posting about an indoor antenna.

        • Oops, that was supposed to be a reply to Anonymous 4:36.

        • Ahhh, now it all makes sense. Presumably Anonymous 4:36 was replying to his/her own post from 4:35… but since that post had a link in it and hadn’t been approved yet, I thought he/she was referring to the photo.

  • I just bought and set up an Antennas Direct Clearstream MICRON XG (with reflector (used) and amplifier (didn’t used). It was approximately 80 bucks at Best Buy and works great! My condo is on the first floor and the antenna is located about 3 feet away from my window and sits literally behind my tv. I get about 32 channels (according to the TV setup at the beginning) but it’s more like 15. I only set it up to watch football 🙂 So it’s done me well so far.

    • I live in Columbia Heights near Howard and have the antenna near a North facing window. I get just about all the channels emilysquirrely mentioned above…

  • In my experience, location matters far more than the equipment you have. As long as it’s a powered antenna, you’ll do well…if the signal is there. When I was in Columbia Heights, I was able to receive stations as far away as Baltimore. Now that I’m in LeDroit Park, I’m lucky to get ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. I used to get three PBS stations, but now I get zero. The main tower for DC is in Tenleytown – try pointing your antenna in that direction. (Side note: there is now a PBS app for Apple TV only, so if you have that, you don’t even need an antenna.)

  • Hi, I assume you have internet, thus that feed can be plugged in to the TV and you will have the basic TV channels in HD.

  • when Aereo comes to town, this antenna thing could become not très passe.

  • I have an HDMI cable from a laptop to my TV for internet streaming content. I also have a Chromecast for movies from youtube. I used to have Netflix, but cancelled because they don’t update enough, and they have too many B movies. I also use a store-bought HD antenna for local channels, works good for football etc, I’d like to connect my TV line to the house cable line for better signal, but Comcast screwed up the existing wiring in my house (on purpose) during installation and I don’t want to run new cables across my floor from the source. I think if you connect to the line even if cable service is off, local channels still get good antenna signal from the line. I haven’t paid for anything other than cable internet in over 6 years. I barely see TV commercials or Snookie & Jwow and I love it while saving lots of money…

  • I picked up a small antenna from Target for $50 and get a bunch of HD channels. Perfect for just watching sports.

  • My friend gave me some weird square thing he got for like $10 a couple years ago. I live in a basement and it works pretty well. I get all of the network channels and only have pixelation every once in a while – especially if a helicopter fly’s over!

  • Wow, do I feel late to the party. I got the most basic Comcast package I could get that included CSN and HGTV (I’m an addict and there’s not nearly enough of it on Hulu). My package doesn’t have HD. But you’re all telling me that I can get a cheap-o antenna and get my basic channels in HD? I could have watched the nationally televised Caps game in HD last night?
    This never occurred to me.

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