As we mentioned a couple months back, Antennas Direct is now in Canada in a big way. Best Buy now stocks their high quality HDTV Antennas in store and online. This means most Canadians who may have been thinking about trying out an antenna, but didn't like the idea of ordering online, can now walk into a big box store and get one of the finest out there. Great news all around.
Antennas Direct sent us a couple different models to try out. Our location - about an hour outside of Toronto - meant that we focused on one: The ClearStream 4, for our review. The ClearStream 2 would be a good contender if we lived in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) or the "suburbs". If you don't live in Southwestern Ontario, substitute any large urban centre in your area for the GTA and you get the picture (TV pun!).
Now on to the ClearStream 4:
Firstly, this model only costs $40 more than the ClearStream 2, so if you are in doubt at all about your TVFool Channel Map - err on the side of greater reception and get the ClearStream 4.
As always, when we're talking OTA (Over-the-Air) Reception, the upfront antenna cost is the only cost; so the price points on all Antennas Direct models pay themselves off in under 4 months of typical cable or satellite bills.
|Close-up of J-Mount bracket attachment - very substantial, heavy duty stuff.|
Out of the box, the ClearStream 4 features the great build quality that I've come to expect from all Antennas Direct products. They don't offer their lifetime warranty lightly. When assembling the ClearStream models, I tried to come up with a comparable product to benchmark what the "feel" of the assembly was like. While the overall time/ skills/tools are simpler; it did feel like I was putting a bike or a BBQ together. These antennas are consistently well made, heavy duty pieces of engineering. I was done with the ClearStream 4's assembly in under 20 minutes, but it felt like I was building something solid and substantial that was going to be mounted outside and last for years to come. If you have concerns about Canadian winters and an outdoor antenna - these are the models for you.
Another bonus for Frugal DIY-ers; included in the box is a mounting mast and everything you need to hang your new antenna on the side of your house or the roof (including asphalt seals for roof mounting). If you price out these pieces separately, you'll find they add up, so having them included right out of the box is a bonus.
|Instruction sheet showing roof/wall mount directions. I had to get a shot of the Antennas Direct instruction sheet - they remind me of a pretty infographic.|
Testing and Performance:
I've been wrestling with weather issues (as have many Canadians) for this long, drawn out spring, and was only able to test reception in a second storey room. I found that the ClearStream 4 grabbed all the local stations I was expecting, along with stations in Hamilton (50kms away) and Toronto (approaching 90km, as the crow flies). In total 8-10 channels- some duplication due to local channel repeaters. This was the pure signal without any amplifier boosting, by the way.
|Close-up of reflector attachment - grooves in the assembly make alignment fool-proof.|
There was some moving and re-aiming, as all three signal sources are in different directions. However, I was quite impressed that a dude (me) holding an antenna (kinda still, but waving around a bit) in a second floor room (not near a window or anything "clear"), was able to get signals coming from nearly 100kms away. Due to the somewhat variable nature of HDTV signals, I compared this to my amplified signal from my DB8e and found that it was not a great reception day anyways and several of my "usual" stations were not coming in all that well either.
|Photo of the box (hence the retro-Instagrammy look) - lots of mounting options for homeowners.|
- A solid product with everything you need (other than the TV itself and a cable to connect it) out of the box,
- Performance that exceeded the quoted range
- A price point that is higher than most cheapo antenna solutions, but more than worth it when you see the build quality and reception.
All in all, a great option for those interested in cutting the cord (or whatever the satellite equivalent is.. ditching the dish?) this summer. And like I said, available at Best Buy - so locally you can drive up and get one, or have it delivered to your door with free shipping.
If you've been considering it, this is the best time of year for Canadians to give Over-The-Air, antenna TV a try. As a friend who is considering it said - "I can't believe how clear that picture looks. And it's free?". Yes. Yes, it is.
Antennas Direct provided us with this product to review. All opinions are our own.
OTA Antenna reception is influence by many factors, so my results may not be your results. If you are interested in my TV Fool results for comparison, they can be found at the bottom of this post.
Are you Cutting the Cord or Ditching the Dish this summer?