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ClearStream MAX-V HDTV Antenna review

Good reception from an adaptable indoor/outdoor antenna

ClearStream Max-V HDTV Antenna review
(Image: © ClearStream)

Our Verdict

A very capable antenna that delivers more stations than many other antennas, even models costing much more.

For

  • Good reception
  • Works indoors or out

Against

  • An eyesore in living rooms
  • Necessary cable not included
CLEARSTREAM MAX-V: SPECS

Range: 60 Miles
Channels Received: 51
Amplified: No
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: N/A
Size: 17.25 x 27.5 x 3.5 inches

The ClearStream MAX-V isn't just another pretty antenna face. In fact, it isn't pretty at all. But if you want to improve over-the-air TV reception with one of the best TV antennas we've reviewed, it's a very attractive option, indeed.

Rated to capture stations as far away as 60 miles, the ClearStream MAX-V from Antennas Direct will work indoors or out and is competitively priced. It doesn't use an amplifier but it still did very well in our tests. For example, it pulled in 15 more channels than we saw in our Mohu Arc Pro Indoor HDTV Antenna review, a similarly priced amplified model. And while it didn't do as well in testing as some outdoor models, like Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna, the ClearStream MAX-V is roughly half the price of such antennas.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Design

Shaped like a large figure 8 with a horizontal antenna bar, the ClearStream MAX-V may not suit the decor of many living rooms. It can't be concealed like a flat indoor-only antenna or tucked behind a bookcase. The MAX-V could be hidden behind a table-top situated TV, but to get the best reception it's better to attach it to a wall (with the supplied mounting plate) near the exterior of your home, which many may regard as akin to sticking a giant black insect on the wall. 

(Image credit: ClearStream)

Alternatively, the MAX-V can be placed outdoors on a pole or on the roof or side of your house for a clearer reception path. Manufacturer Antennas Direct also recommends placing the antenna in an attic for better reception while still keeping the MAX-V out of sight.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Setup

Out of the box, the ClearStream MAX-V includes a cross bar component, which screws together and then snaps easily into place, as well as a bracket for pole mounting and a wall plate should you install it inside or on an exterior wall. Antennas Direct doesn't include the necessary coaxial cabling to connect the antenna to your TV's tuner, however. A 20-foot cable costs between $10 and $20. And if you want to stand it upright inside, the company offers a curved base stand for $5.99.

(Image credit: ClearStream)

Before deciding on an indoor or outdoor installation, we recommend checking on what's available over the air in your neighborhood. Sites such as Antennaweb.org can show you a list of channels and a map with the location of local broadcast towers based on your zip code. It may be, for example, that there's enough nearby stations to allow you to forego the hassle of placing the antenna outside.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Performance

From our standard New York City test location, the ClearStream MAX-V located 60 channels in an initial series of scans. In testing the reception of each station we found the antenna revealed some impressive skills, such as pulling in the elusive CBS affiliate in 1080i, which is now a challenge to tune in since the FCC moved stations around. The antenna also captured other local affiliates that some indoor flat antennas, such as the $90 Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro and popular models like the $30 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna, missed.

(Image credit: ClearStream)

However, the ClearStream MAX-V's reception wasn't perfect, and we found that 9 of the stations listed were not watchable due to picture and sound dropouts. That still left an impressive 51 free over-the-air stations to enjoy, putting the MAX-V among the better TV antennas we've tested. Indeed, what was missing from the initial scan included the local PBS affiliates and the local Fox outlet, which was too distorted to watch. Unfortunately, the latter meant we couldn't watch an old episode of the Mod Squad. Also missing in action were some retro stations in the upper midrange of the dial. Those included the likes of MeTV with some pixellated Gilligan's Island episodes.

Not only did it do better than many of the aforementioned models, the Max-V also bested the comparably priced $80 Mohu Arc Pro, which captured 34 stations in our tests, and even Antenna Direct's own more expensive $100 ClearStream 2Max antenna, which pulled in 44 stations.

(Image credit: ClearStream)

The ClearChannel MAX-V didn't capture as many stations as, for example, the $100 Winegard Elite 7550 (73 stations) or the $150 Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna (68 stations) but it is much less expensive. And it did much better than some comparably priced models, such as the $80 Mohu Arc Pro Indoor HDTV Antenna that only pulled in 34 stations in our testing.

ClearStream MAX-V review: Verdict

While its aesthetics may leave something to be desired, there's no doubt that the ClearStream MAX-V is a very capable TV antenna. Not only did it do better than many of our favorite indoor antennas, including the Mohu Arc Pro, it also matched some of the best outdoor antennas, like the ClearStream 2MAX HDTV Antenna, though paying for a more expensive model will often get you better performance thanks to amplifiers and better tuning capabilities.  If you're looking to get more over-the-air stations in your area, the ClearStream MAX-V is a solid choice. Just don't forget to get the necessary cabling when you order it.

John R. Quain
John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.