Best TV Antennas Not Made in China

Best TV Antennas Not Made in China

I’m old enough to remember back to 2009 the US government decided to show down analog signal for television and start broadcasting in digital only. Being a tech guy, I was thrilled. No more adjusting the rabbit ear antenna on top of the TV to get rid of static. From now on, all my television watching would be crystal clear digital.

Fast forward 15 years later. I live about 20 miles away from the biggest city in the United States. I have a beautiful 65 inch LG TV (not made in China). But I get two stations. Two. One of them is NBC on channel 4, and the other is Telemundo on channel 47. And I don’t speak Spanish.

In many ways my experiences over the last 15 years mirror a lot of American consumers. For the last 10-15 years I’d routinely scour “deals” sites to look for the cheapest products. Next, I’d look at the brand name like Zenith or RCA. Then I’d look at the Amazon reviews. Finally I’d look at the appearance of the product. Not once did it occur to me to check where it was made.

Cutting to the chase, over the last 15 years I must have bought 8 different antennas, each averaging $25 each. So instead of paying for a high quality, well-engineered antenna that WASN’T made in China that would have lasted me all this time, I ended up spending $200 for a pile of plastic junk that ended up in the trash. (There’s only one I bought that actually worked, which I’ll talk about below).

Sadly, we’ve seen this pattern across multiple industries, and most of the companies that formerly made antennas in the US have since gone out of business or had to take an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach and jump on the China bandwagon.

This is precisely why we as consumers need to step up. If you see something not made in China, grab it now and give those companies a fighting chance, even if it costs a few extra dollars. In the long run, it’ll pay off in many more ways than you know.

 

Best TV Antennas Not Made in China

1. Winegard YA-7000 (Outdoor) and FL-5500 (Indoor)

Amazingly, when I search on Amazon for “antennas made in the usa”, the only results I see are China-made ones, even though there is a brand that hasn’t just been making antennas for 70 years—their founder invented the first antenna capable of receiving more than one channel and through the years they’ve continued to innovate, from the first “Yagi” home television antennas in 1954 to the first UHF antenna in 1955, to the first UHF amplifier in 1963, to the first RV antenna in the 1980s, to innovations with satellite and digital TV receivers into the 21st century.

That company is Winegard. All of their products have always been produced out of their factories in Burlington, Iowa.

If you’re luck enough to have a yard, a roof, or an attic, you definitely will want Winegard’s outdoor HDTV Yagi antenna, the YA-7000, available at Amazon or directly from Winegard. This is the classic antenna that they invented in 1954, and they are still the best for picking up digital signals.

If you’re stuck in an apartment like me, you’ll want to go with their FL-5500 Flatwave Amplified Indoor HDTV antenna, also available at Amazon or directly from the manufacturer. On the surface it looks like the same old “plastic rectangle” that you see from hundreds of China manufacturers. But the technology and engineering is far superior.

As I mentioned above, there was one antenna I bought in the last 15 years that actually worked. It was an older model called the SS-3000. I pulled it out of storage and tried it, and it pulled in 55 channels. When I tried all my other old antennas, none of them could pull in more than 5.

If you’re ready to “cut the cord” with cable TV and haven’t tried out over the air (OTA) TV in a while, you might be pleasantly surprised. The quality of your high definition picture is actually BETTER because cable companies compress their signals to save money in transmission through the cable lines, something that doesn’t happen with OTA. You’ll find there are more channels than you remember, mainly because most stations have multiple digital feeds. And of course, a one-time cost of $60 is a lot better than paying $1000 every year for cable stations, most of which you’ll never watch or which you can get online.

Winegard is a perfect example of an American company that has stood its ground as China and the American brands that have enabled them have flooded the market with cheap garbage.

2. Mohu Leaf 50 Amplified Indoor TV Antenna

Another made in USA brand that should be showing up prominently on Amazon is Mohu’s Leaf 50 Amplified Indoor Antenna. You can also buy this directly from the Manufacturer or on Amazon.

Just as Winegard invented the Yagi outfoor rooftop antenna, Mohu is the company that in 2011 invented the paper-thin antenna for digital signals. In 2020, Mohu was acquired by Antennas Direct to create the largest antenna company in the United States.

One thing that never ceases to gall me is when companies that do NOT make things in China fail to disclose their country of origin. In the case of Mohu, they were made in the USA for years, but recently they’ve started getting cute with their language by saying their products were “engineered in the United States” but not disclosing their country of origin.

I had to scour a bunch of Amazon and Best Buy reviews to confirm that yes, these are made in Taiwan, a likely result of being acquired by Antennas Direct which has made their products out of Taiwan for years.

I wish that marketers would learn that 1) When you say “Designed in the USA” 10 out of 10 consumers interpret that as saying “Made in China”, and 2) American consumers ARE smart enough to know the difference between the PRC and Taiwan. When I see things like that, my only conclusions are that A) they don’t think you’re smart enough to know the difference, or B) they are secretly planning on shifting production to China at one point.

For now, it seems safe to say that they’re made in Taiwan (but until they update their Web site or their Amazon listing to confirm, be sure to contact them to be sure that haven’t changed that).

3. Antennas Direct ClearStream Indoor/Outdoor Antenna

Mohu’s parent company Antennas Direct also seems to be a but weasel-like in not revealing the country of origin on their Web site, but at least on their Amazon listing they clearly state the country of origin as Taiwan.

Antennas Direct was one of the first companies to encourage Americans to cut their cable and satellite TV cords and enjoy free TV, the way it was meant to be. Founded by Richard Schneider in 2000, they’ve gone on to receive multiple patents and rave (real) reviews. They also host some of the best content on the Web (all for free) for locating transmitters of TV stations so you know exactly what kind of antenna to buy and where to point it.

Their ClearStream antennas are evolved from Schneider’s original designs, and can be purchased in 35 mile, 60 mile, and 70 mile ranges.

4. Channel Master CM-1776 Outdoor Antenna

Like Winegard, Channel Master is a company that dates back to the mid 20th century. They started in 1949, two years before I Love Lucy would establish televisions as something every American home wanted to have.

Unlike Winegard (where the CEO is the son of the founder), Channel Master has gone through many owners and much upheaval, including filing for bankruptcy in 2003. In 2012 it was acquired by private investors, and you know what that means. Most of their product line went to be made in China, and I have no doubt that a good deal of intellectual property went with it.

Which is why I was surprised to see on their site a model called the Pro Model that at $149 is pretty reasonably priced and is made in the USA. Appropriately, it has model number CM-1776.

Let’s face it, out of over 20 models that are made in China, it’s just this one that’s made in the USA, so my guess is that this model is made specifically so they can sell to government contracts and other organizations with made in the USA requirements. While I’d more enthusiastically recommend a company like Winegard that makes all of their stuff in the USA, if you do want a Channel Master, definitely choose this model to send them a message that you want more manufacturing to come home to the USA from China.

5. Mobitec Indoor Antenna

Here’s an interesting one I found on eBay. It’s being sold by a seller in Brea, California and it’s made in South Korea. My guess is that an enterprising American found these in Korea (where they appear to be fairly popular) and decided to resell them on eBay and what I assume is their local store.

Okay, this is one of those “are you feelin’ lucky” purchases. I’ll take it on faith that the charts on their eBay listing that claim that it has “2x better reception rate than other companies’ products” is legit, but of course we have no idea what the quality of the products they’re comparing it to are.

That said, the fact that this person bought a load of these and thinks they’re good enough to resell here gives me hope that this is a legit product. If someone wants to buy one and report back to us (or knows how to navigate Google or Naver in Korean to see what Korean reviewers say about it), I’d appreciate it 🙂

6. TVxF Indoor/Outdoor Antenna

I came across this old Reddit thread from four years ago that had lots of nice things to say about a company called TVxf. As you can see from the Amazon product page, the product is patented and made in the USA (in Doral, Florida), but is listed as unavailable. It’s not available on eBay either, and it’s listed as “backordered” on the company’s Web site. I reached out through their contact form but haven’t heard back yet.

So why am I including it here?

There was a time in America when a brilliant immigrant could come over with a great idea for a better mousetrap, build it, and have the world beat a path to his door. From what I can tell, the inventor, Mr. Syed Waqar Ali, came up with a product of incredibly high quality materials and a design based on real science and engineering. The positive reviews of his product on Reddit, Amazon, and his own site are clearly objective, and from the photos on his Web site, he invested a lot of time and effort in manufacturing and packaging, all from Doral, Florida.

As the Redditor said, it’s painfully obvious that his Amazon listing was spammed with negative reviews by trolls, likely paid by China sellers, a common practice I outlined here. That doomed his product on Amazon before it could get any traction.

Sadly, this is the new America. America used to be a place where people invented things and built things. Today, big corporate interest make sure of two things: first, that they will maximize their own profits by manufacturing their junk in China, and second, that they will destroy anyone who gets in the way of their profits by undercutting on price and lying about performance.

I hope that TVxf will start selling these once again—I’ll keep this post up as long as Mr. Ali keeps his site up. If you’re interested, drop a line to Mr. Ali through his Web site and let him know. And if/when he ever starts selling them again, let’s let the world know.

Conclusion

Don’t bother searching Amazon or Google for “antennas not made in China”. They’ll flood you with products made in China, and don’t believe for a second that it’s not intentional. It is. But I hope this article will help you realize that there are almost always alternatives if you look hard enough that can help bring innovation and manufacturing back to the US and to free countries like Taiwan.

Do you know of other TV antennas not made in China? Please share it in the comments!

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