My regular readers know that I’m a big fan of OTA television — it’s free! There are a plethora of digital television channels available to watch over-the-air, both here in Chicagoland and all over the country. Every TV in our home is connected to our rooftop antenna (including the TV in the bathroom!) because there’s no better price for watching television than… zero dollars.
Last week, I shared a review of Antennas Direct’s ClearStream FLEX indoor HDTV antenna. Our daughter moved into a new apartment, and after installing this antenna on the wall, she’s enjoying 75 free television channels in the city.
With the recent news about DirectTV and AT&T dropping CBS and NBC from their subscription-tv channel lineups, I’ve heard from readers who are considering installing television antennas to enjoy these channels again over-the-air. Specifically, several wrote this week asking which outdoor antenna they should buy.
In last week’s review of the ClearStream FLEX indoor antenna, I noted that it did not perform nearly as well as our roof-mounted antenna. Our old, element-style TV antenna has been a workhorse for us, both at this house and at our previous home. It’s more than 25 years old, and despite more than a few broken elements, it still brings in a good signal.
Three years ago, I reviewed one of Antennas Direct’s premium outdoor-mount HDTV antennas — the Antennas Direct ClearStream 4V — and compared it to my element antenna. I felt this was a great antenna that had a lot of potential, but it just didn’t pull in the same number of channels as our old element antenna. I’m always honest in my reviews, and I knew the antenna was capable of bringing in digital channels clearly in the right conditions. Our daughter took this antenna to college, mounted it outdoors, and was able to pull in channels more than 150 miles away – incredible!
However, we have an enormous tree in our front yard, right in the path of the antenna, and I suspected that the tree was contributing to the ClearStream 4V’s less than optimal performance. Here’s a photo taken in 2016 of the tree cover in front of our antenna:
Knowing we live more than an hour west of the city, having something that’s built to receive channels over a long distance is a must. If at all possible, mounting your television antenna outdoors, and as high as possible, will help your reception immensely.
With renewed reader interest in OTA television, I felt it was time for a re-review of this ClearStream 4V. It is designed to receive channels from over 70 miles away.
Last year, we had the enormous tree in our yard pruned. The tree-trimmers cut away many of the branches on the side of the tree that were directly in the path of the antenna. Since my last test of this antenna, our next door neighbors also took a mature tree down that bordered our yards. I hoped that these factors would help the antenna’s performance.
Our element antenna has also suffered even more damage over the past few years — branches from the offending tree had broken off and landed in the antenna, bending more of its elements (another reason we wanted the remaining branches overhanging our roof trimmed away.) I’m honestly amazed that our old antenna still is doing its thing and performing well, but on some days, we have reception issues with the channel 62 group and the channel 13 and 17 groups out of Rockford.
It was time to get back on the roof and give the ClearStream 4V another go!
Just as when I tested this antenna in 2016, I mounted it on the same mast as our current element antenna, positioned the ClearStream 4V at the same angle as our element antenna, then transferred the coax cable to the new antenna. In 2016, on the day of my test, I was able to receive 61 channels with our old antenna, but only 11 channels with this ClearStream 4V. I was really surprised by this, as I had expected better performance from this antenna. It has hundreds of excellent reviews from other users.
Note that our original antenna is still up at the top of the mast, but it is no longer connected. I mounted the ClearStream 4V to the existing mast, and it is the only antenna connected to the coax that serves the rest of our house.
The ClearStream 4V is much smaller than our original antenna — here’s what it looks like on its own:
For size comparison, the antenna is resting on a deck lounge chair in this photo.
I’m happy to report that now, in 2019, this same ClearStream 4V was able to pull in a whopping 70 channels, both from Chicago, the Chicagoland suburbs, and Rockford!
2-2 Start TV (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
5-1 WMAQ (NBC, Chicago, IL)
5-2 Cozi (Classic television, Chicago, IL )
7-1 WLS (ABC, Chicago, IL)
7-2 Live Well (Lifestyle television, Chicago, IL)
9-1 WGN (CW, Chicago, IL)
9-2 Antenna TV (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
9-3 THIS TV (Retro movies and television, Chicago, IL)
9-4 TBT (Reality television and viral video, Chicago, IL)
11-1 WTTW (PBS, Chicago, IL)
11-2 Prime (PBS, Chicago, IL)
11-3 Create (Cooking, travel, home improvement, Chicago, IL)
11-4 PBS Kids (Children’s programming, Chicago, IL)
13-1 WREX (NBC, Rockford, IL)
13-2 Stateline CW (CW, Rockford, IL)
13-3 Me TV (Classic television, CW, Rockford, IL)
13-4 Court TV (CW, Rockford, IL)
13-5 Justice Network (True crime television, Rockford, IL)
17-1 WTVO (ABC, Rockford, IL)
17-2 MyNet (Travel, sports, Rockford, IL)
17-3 Laff (Sitcoms, Rockford, IL)
17-4 Grit TV (Classic Westerns and action, Joliet, IL)
20-1 WYCC(PBS, Chicago, IL)
26-1 The U (WCIU, local and classic TV, Chicago, IL)
26-2 UToo (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
26-3 Me TV (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
26-4 Heroes & Icons (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
26-5 Bounce (African-American movies and television, Chicago, IL)
26-6 Decades (Classic television and documentaries, Chicago, IL)
32-1 WFLD (Fox, Chicago, IL)
32-2 Movies! (Movies, Chicago, IL)
32-3 Buzzr (Classic game shows, Chicago, IL)
32-4 Light TV (Family friendly programming, Chicago, IL)
34-1 MCTV< (Religious programming, Chicago, IL)
34-2 Retro TV (Classic television, Chicago, IL)
38-1 Ion (Classic and original television, Chicago, IL)
38-2 Qubo(Children’s television, Chicago, IL)
38-3 Ion Plus (Lifestyle television, Chicago, IL)
38-4 SHOP (Home shopping, Chicago, IL)
38-5 QVC(Home shopping, Chicago, IL)
38-6 HSN (Home shopping Network, Chicago, IL)
39-1 WQRF (Fox, Rockford, IL)
39-2 Bounce (African-American movies and television, Rockford, IL)
39-3 Escape (Crime and mystery television, Rockford, IL)
44-1 WSNS (Telemundo, Chicago, IL)
44-2 TeleXitos (Spanish action and adventure, Chicago, IL)
48-1 WCIU (The U, Chicago, IL)
48-2 UToo(Classic television, Chicago, IL)
48-3 WBBM (CBS, Chicago, IL)
48-4 Decades (Classic television and documentaries, Chicago, IL)
50-1 WPWR (My 50 Chicago, IL)
60-1 WYJS (Univision, Aurora, IL)
60-2 Escape(Crime and mystery television, Aurora, IL)
60-3 Quest (Outdoor and adventure programming, Aurora, IL)
62-1 WYJS(Religious programming, Chicago, IL)
62-2 Prism (Religious programming, Chicago, IL)
62-3 Prism2 (Classic and uplifting television, Chicago, IL)
62-4 Heartland (Country music television, Chicago, IL)
62-5 QVC (Home shopping, Chicago, IL)
62-6 Prism Spanish (Spanish religious programming, Chicago, IL)
62-7 JTV(Jewelry home shopping, Chicago IL)
62-8 Evine Live (Home shopping, Chicago, IL)
62-9 HSN (Home shopping Network (Chicago, IL)
62-10 MCTV (Religious programming, Chicago, IL)
66-1 Univision(WGBO, Spanish television, Joliet, IL)
66-2 Laff (Sitcoms, Joliet, IL)
66-3 Get TV (Classic movies and television, Joliet, IL)
66-4 Justice Network (True crime television, Joliet, IL)
66-5 Grit TV (Classic Westerns and action, Joliet, IL)
Having a clear sightline to the sky in front of the antenna made an enormous difference for this ClearStream 4V antenna. On testing day, with our old element antenna, our channel 62 group was coming in pixellated at times, as were the channels 13, 17 and 39 out of Rockford. Switching to the ClearStream brought all three channels in clearly.
Additionally, I was pleased that our backyard TV was now able to receive more channels than it previously did. Due to the way I had to run the cable, this TV is one of the furthest from the antenna drop. I also had to put a splitter in the line from another room’s TV to run the cable for this one, which also reduces the signal level.
While our backyard TV is certainly not essential, it’s fun! We do use it all the time when we are grilling, eating or hanging out outdoors. We stopped receiving the entire channel 26 group on this backyard set last time that another tree branch fell into our old antenna. With the ClearStream 4V, we now get The U, MeTV and its sister channels in the backyard once again.
We are now using the ClearStream 4V as our primary antenna. Our element antenna remains on the roof, as I do not plan to remove it at this time. (Hey, it’s not bothering anyone up there.)
One additional note: We do have a Pico signal amp mounted in the coax line inside the house immediately below the antenna drop (it’s this model.) A quality signal amp will also boost the signal you’re receiving throughout your entire home and may positively affect the number of channels you receive too.
Final antenna thoughts:
Whenever I’m asked to review a product, I strive to present my experiences accurately.
Television reception can be an uncertain thing. Compare the smaller number of channels I pulled in last week with the Antennas Direct ClearStream FLEX indoor wall-mount antenna versus this roof mount — 21 versus 70 — as well as the number of channels I’m getting now with the ClearStream 4V in the same location three years apart.
If you live outside city limits, and you want the best over-the-air television reception possible, mounting the antenna outside makes an enormous difference.
If you’re looking for a new television antenna, it’s a good idea to buy from at a retailer with a customer-friendly return policy in case the first one you try doesn’t quite perform the way you’d like it to. Amazon offers free shipping and free returns. It’s also worth moving the antenna around multiple times, rescanning between each move, to see if you’re able to pull in even more channels.
I appreciate, once again, an opportunity from Antennas Direct to review this television antenna. The ClearStream 4V retails for around $100 and could provide you with unlimited, free television — always the best price!
More on Antennas Direct:
Antennas Direct has an updated version of the ClearStream 4V called the ClearStream 4Max. It has a similar design, minus the reflector, making it even smaller and easier to assemble and install. It also has a 70+ mile range.
Want to know more?
- In 2016, I reviewed two over-the-air television antennas from Antennas Direct.
- In 2019, my daughter another indoor television antenna from Antennas Direct.