I’ve had a Clearstream 2V on my roof near Annapolis for a few years as a proof of concept and backup, but just started relying on it after cutting cable TV this month. I’ve settled on a configuration to receive parts of both D.C. and Baltimore markets. It’s an interesting case splitting two major markets including important VHF content, so I thought I’d share.
Here’s the TV Fool link: http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wr...9038adccc76608
The Washington, D.C., market has more stations, but Baltimore is closer and less obstructed. The markets are about 75° apart from my location. Pointing directly at DC wasn’t optimal, probably because of trees across the street. I actually got better reception of the generally good signal from WRC on RF 48 when pointed less directly, but with clearer line of sight. I also couldn’t get the ABC and CBS affiliates on high VHF reliably when optimizing for DC.
Baltimore doesn’t pose much trouble, but WBAL on RF 11 is the most vulnerable when I hedge direction for DC, even though it’s essentially co-located with the better WJZ signal, also high VHF at 13. On a good day I can pull in all the high VHF from both markets from one direction, but something inevitably drops out. UHF is much less sensitive, but exhibits similar traits.
The 2V antenna came with a separate VHF module (with a built-in diplexer) that can point in a different direction than the main UHF apparatus. But I had the module mounted to the reflector, committing it to the same direction as UHF, and the OEM mast wasn’t long enough to mount the VHF separately. Unfortunately the mast is not a standard 3/4" pipe that I could extend with metal electrical conduit or plumbing, and the manufacturer deliberately didn’t have an extender to avoid overloading the mount. I wound up sticking a 1/2" PVC pipe inside the mast, leaving just enough extension to clear the reflector and mount the VHF unit above.
I mapped out the channels and made a priority list, maximizing unique content, minimizing redundancies, and rejecting unwanted broadcasts. This taught me a lot about the virtual and actual channel relationships and network affiliations, many of which are unique to OTA. I decided to make do with the modest rig I had rather than go hog wild combining multiple Yagi UHF/VHF antenna combos just to maximize total reception.
My top priority came down to preserving the high VHF CBS affiliate WJZ in Baltimore and hedging the UHF content between markets as best I could. I could concede WBAL given NBC and MeTV coverage elsewhere, but hedging the VHF toward DC wasn’t worthwhile, because WJLA and WUSA signals are too unreliable, and I can get most of their programming over stronger signals.
Rather than rely solely on an iPhone compass, I used the distance function in Google Maps to triangulate the stations with my house, then calculated a weighted average of the station’s distance apart (roughly 60/40 favoring DC), and plotted that bearing over a nearby landmark using the satellite view to aim the antennas. The calculated bearing also matched a pretty clear line of sight. I pointed the UHF unit there, and the VHF directly toward the two Baltimore stations in that band.
I’m not sure how much the reflector was contributing to the VHF performance, but I suspect the reflector primarily aids the UHF section. I get the signal I need from Baltimore, even with the VHF misaligned with the reflector.
Here are some notes about the reception, including references to my TV’s signal meter on a day I tested, plus a bit more short term viewing observations. I don’t know what the meter measures, but steady readings above 60% stay intact, yet volatile readings become more prone to dropouts when the low end dips below 70%. Readings below 50% are unwatchable.
- DC’s RF 7 WJLA is detectable but unwatchable, RF 9 WUSA doesn’t come in. So much for ABC and CBS in DC.
- WBAL on RF 11 is very good, 84%-92%, but not totally immune to blips of degradation
- WJZ 13 is bang on 100%, as desired
- WWTD on RF 14 comes in poorly, as expected from broadcast data. I’m missing a bit of unique content here, but not wildly desirable. It’s not worth sacrificing reception from Baltimore to improve it to “almost watchable”
- WFDC/WDCW on RF 15 is among the weaker of the strong UHF signals—but steady. Meter stayed 75%-77%. Shows degradation depending on conditions
- WETA on RF 31 has more upside than 15 but also a bit more downside. Reads 73%-85% and degrades/drops at least as often as RF 15
- I don’t get a trace of WRZB on RF 32, unsurprisingly, but I’m not missing anything here. I’ve pulled traces in other configurations
- WHUT on RF 33 is excellent, as suggested by TV Fool, but better than Antennaweb’s “blue” categorization (most are red)
- RF 34 & 36, WPXW/WTTG/WDCA in DC, very good (92%-96%) and excellent (100%), respectively.
- WMAR on RF 38, key ABC affiliate lacking WJLA in DC, comes in very well, 83%-92%
- WNUV and WBFF on RF 40 & 46 are flakier than I’d like given their robust profile on TV Fool, 66%-79% & 63%-92%, respectively. I may fine tune direction back toward them, as some of the DC content I’d degrade is redundant and the less reliable of the two.
- WRC is good at 67%-92% and a high quality station with some unique subchannels.
- WMPT on 42 is a slam dunk, 7 miles away in the direction of the hedged UHF (but not too close)
- I do get WMDE off the back of the VHF unit, in the low VHF on RF 5 at that, and I always stop by the Korean channel it carries. It’s come in better in other configurations. Watchable but low quality, steady at 75%-77%
- I don’t get WQAW RF 20 in the same direction.
- I’ve received WBOC on 21 off the back, but not in this configuration.
I did re-cable the antenna with a single run of new cable rather than the two spare segments I had initially. I also have access to the wiring in a crawl space, so I tidied up a few of those with home runs and proper terminations. From antenna to house entry is roughly 75 feet, with runs to each of three TVs of 50-100 feet. I have a Winegard LNA-200 preamplifier and use a 3.5 dB two-way splitter to serve the longest run (that also has an extra splice) on one port, then the other two shorter runs from the other port via another cascaded two-way splitter. That saves the long run a few dB vs. the 7.5 dB four-way splitter I have on hand. I even shortened the jumper cables between splitters (teach a guy to use a compression tool, and every problem becomes a termination).
Not much else on my agenda, although I’m tempted to extend the mast height a bit. I may try the very small direction bias back toward Baltimore, but it’s pretty well dialed in, and I’m already splitting fair-to-good reception on RF 15 in DC and RF 40 in Baltimore, for instance, and I'd rather not degrade WRC.
Hope you enjoyed reading if you follow the local thread and that this informs a few searches about various aspects of the project.