The March issue of QST is all about antennas. It is their annual issue that deals with all kinds of new and old antennas. And it is appropriate that it be so. As spring comes on the natural thought of most hams is, "What am I going to do about my antennas?" That is because hams are ALWAYS thinking about some new antenna that will help them break the pileups and snag that new entity.
Sometimes I think that the ARRL the clubs, even the old-timers, all make the truth about antennas too hard for newcomers to our hobby. If you read the ads, and you didn't know better, you'd think that it is necessary for you to pay hundreds of dollars for that "special" antenna that is going to work all bands. And that is simply a lie. Of course, there is "mystery" about antennas for newbies, and if they seek advice from the wrong person they are going to be out a lot of money for nothing. It is, of course, to the antenna sales companies advantage to maintain this mystery. And they tend to continue a lot of myths about antennas. You'll read about that great antenna that "increases you signal by (fill in the number) db gain!" That's just a bunch of technical BS.
Well, let me put your mind at ease, newcomer. Antennas are not that complicated. I'm sure that you've invested lots of money in a fancy new radio so what do you put with it for maximum signal output and maximum fun? There are two simple ways t to do this. You can hang multiple half-wave dipoles from a center insulator and feed it with 52 ohm coax The band you are working on will ignore all those other dipoles and work fine. You don't have to worry about switches or anything else. Just operate. You can find the required length of those half-wave dipoles for each of our bands on the ARRL site, or from any ARRL handbook or from the Internet.
There's a method I used for many years which worked fine back in the day and still will. If you bought an "Antenna Tuner" (actually a coupler, it doesn't tune your antenna, it just matches your feed line to the 52 ohm input of your radio) then there is a simple way to work 80 thru 10 meters. You can erect a "Zepp" antenna. The name is a holdover, believe it or not, from the days of Zeppelin air ships hanging wire antennas out of their windows. A Zepp can be any length as long as it is longer than a half-wave on the lowest band you intend to work. For 80-10 a piece of wire longer than 120 feet will work just fine. And you don't even have to be exact on the length. It can be 132, 143, 156 - it can be any random length - all that is important is that the lengths on either side of a center insulator are the SAME length. To either side of that center insulator attach one side of some 450 ohm window line. Run that to the balun output of your antenna tuner and then use the thing on all bands, using the tuner to reduce the SWR to something less that a 2/1 ratio. (The loop skywire in the "projects" on this site is a terrific antenna if you have the room for it.)
Both of the antennas I've described are simply pieces of #14 or #12 stranded copper wire which is cheap and they will work as well, or better than that G5 thing, or that trap thing, or some other expensive contraption that the vendors want you to buy. Do they have the same gain? If you put them high enough, they will. The gain figures the manufactures give are based on a dipole hanging in free space so they are phony compared to the normal ham installation.
Most hams just throw the ends of the wires over the lowest and most convenient limbs of nearby trees. The BEST thing you can do to improve an antenna's gain and directivity is to get it up high. You should strive to get it at least to 50 feet above ground and even higher if possible.
There is an old saying among hams that is as true today as it ever was. "The best antenna is is the one that has the most wire as high as possible." So if you are new to ham radio, don't be confused by all the ads and all the "experts" who are quite willing to help you out by continuing the myths of antennas. If you get nothing else from this page, remember this: An antenna is just a piece of wire fed with another piece of wire. Any embellishment is a waste of time and money.;
Thank you for dropping by. . Send comments HERE. 73 and until next week, Straight Ahead ->