I recently took the plunge and cut the cord. At least for now, I'm relying primarily on Netflix and Amazon Video for my TV watching. There's certainly enough content on those sites to fill my evenings, but I miss the one thing I knew I'd miss: football. We're coming to the end of another NFL season as I write, and I must say that, this past fall, my weekends just didn't feel the same without the live broadcasts of FOX, CBS, and NBC football on my TV--even when it's just background noise as I tend to other tasks.
That's where the over-the-air antenna comes into play, to tune in free broadcasts of the major networks (and other local channels) and give you access to live local news and sports. Antenna use is on the rise, thanks to cord-cutters. Parks Research recently reported the percentage of U.S. broadband households that use only antennas to receive TV has steadily increased since 2013 to reach 15 percent.
If you've read any of my previous antenna reviews, you might recall that I live in a somewhat tricky area for pulling in certain over-the-air signals. I live about one hour north of Denver. According to AntennaWeb.org, the closet towers for the major networks are about 33 miles away. My local CW, CBS, FOX, and PBS channels are UHF. The ABC and NBC channels are Hi-V/VHF, and they have proven in the past to be the two most difficult channels to reliably tune and hold. Oftentimes, I must sacrifice one to tune in the other. As an apartment dweller, I prefer to stick with an indoor antenna as opposed to a larger outdoor model.
The subject of today's review is the ClearStream Eclipse amplified indoor TV antenna (model number ECL-A), which is available through AntennasDirect.com for $59.99. (I actually got mine at my local Best Buy, but it cost $20 more.) The Eclipse is a multidirectional antenna (meaning you don't need to aim it toward the towers) for both UHF and VHF channels, and it's designed to receive signals up to 50 miles away. The included in-line amplifier is rated to provide a 20-dB signal boost.
The Eclipse is a discreet little antenna that's shaped like a ring; it has a diameter of about nine inches and weighs just four ounces. One side is white; the other is black. The flexible material is paintable, and it's held in place on the wall using Antenna Direct's Sure Grip strip, a small piece of double-sided adhesive that sticks to both antenna and wall. The package includes a detachable 12-foot coaxial cable with sturdy and pleasantly smooth twist-on connectors at each end. You also get the optional amplifier box with the accompanying three-foot coaxial cable and power adapter.
Installation is quite easy. I actually tested the antenna in two different locations in my town: a house and an apartment. My TVs were an LG 65EF9500 and Samsung UN65HU8550. For my initial test in the house, I chose not to use the amplifier, so all I had to do was attach the coaxial cable to the antenna and LG TV, adhere the Sure Grip strip to the antenna, and stick it on the wall--actually, in my case, I stuck on a nearby window. Then I went into the TV's channel menu and launched the auto-tune function.
My first channel scan pulled in 36 DTV channels--including all six of the majors (CW, CBS, PBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox). I was impressed that the Eclipse managed to pull in all six majors on my first attempt without the amplifier, and signal strength was good on all channels except ABC, which was very choppy. I then added the amplifier unit, which you insert between the 12-foot coaxial cable and the TV, and it requires connection to a power outlet. Adding the amp really didn't make much difference in this location; I tuned in the same major channels, and the reliability of the ABC signal wasn't any better.
Next I tested the Eclipse in the apartment (a first-floor apartment in a three-story building). The first channel scan (sans amplifier) pulled in 30 channels but didn't get CW, CBS, or FOX. When I added the amplifier, the Eclipse again pulled in all the majors. Once the channels were tuned, I did have to experiment to find the best placement for the antenna in the room to keep signal strength high. The 12-foot coaxial cable gave me a good amount of placement flexibility; and, since the cables are completely detachable, you can substitute in much longer cables if needed.
All in all, signal reliability was good but not exceptional. Just like with previous indoor antennas I've auditioned, the Eclipse couldn't deliver a "set it and forget it" experience. The best antenna placement for ABC wasn't generally the best for NBC, and signal reliability for these channels often varied day to day, hour to hour. It's a good thing that the Eclipse is light and portable, so it's easy to move around as needed.
• The ClearStream Eclipse has a small, lightweight form factor with a Sure Grip strip that makes it easy to hang. It's also paintable to match your décor.
• The antenna comes with a detachable 12-foot coaxial cable with easy-to-twist connectors. Since the cable is detachable, you can substitute longer cable.
• The package includes an optional amplifier.
• The ClearStream antenna successfully tuned in all the major broadcast networks, and it provided solid reliability.
• My signal was not as reliable as I'd likely get from a larger outdoor antenna.
• The three-foot coaxial cable that comes with the amplifier does not have the same smooth twist-on connectors as the main coaxial cable.
• The amplifier does not come with a USB power option, as some competing models do.
• It would be nice if Antennas Direct included extra Sure Grip strips. If you have to move antenna around to find the best, most reliable signal (as you will probably have to do), the strip will lose its stickiness, causing the antenna to fall off the wall--although admittedly, the antenna is so light, you can hold it in place with tape or a thumbtack.
Comparison & Competition
Throughout the review, I compared the ClearStream Eclipse with Mohu's original Leaf indoor antenna, which I reviewed back in 2012. The Leaf is also a multidirectional antenna with a lightweight, flexible, paintable design. The non-amplified Leaf consistently pulled in the same number of channels (and sometimes more) than the amplified Eclipse. Both antennas struggled equally with the signal reliability of ABC and NBC. Mohu has since introduced the newer non-amplified Leaf 30, which costs $39.99--while the amplified Leaf 50 is $59.99 and can be powered from the TV's USB port.
The ClearStream Eclipse is a very good indoor TV antenna. Its performance is on par with other indoor antennas I've tested, and I like its small, ring-shaped design the best. You can literally hang it on a thumbtack once the Sure Grip strip loses its adhesion, and the long, detachable cable is very convenient. In my case, the included amplifier did not consistently provide an improvement in either reception or reliability, so I think I'd save some money and try out the non-amplified version of this antenna first. The ECL has a listed range of 35 miles and costs $39.99.
If you live in a really challenging location or want absolute rock-solid reliability where you don't have to adjust the antenna as often, a larger, more expensive indoor/outdoor antenna is probably the better way to go. AntennasDirect.com offers both a transmitter locator and an antenna selector tool to tool help you figure out exactly which model is best for you.
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