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Author Topic: Are Antennas really all that?  (Read 6388 times)
AF3Y
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« on: January 04, 2013, 02:36:17 PM »

I hope this post does not irritate anyone, as that is NOT the intent. Since DX (especially ATNOs) is far and few between, and while I only had one band (40m) available for a few days, I started thinking a lot about antennas and/or the lack of.  

I moved here to the Florida QTH in December of 2010, 2 years ago, and have ONLY had a multi-band vertical antenna available to pursue my DXing hobby. I need to say that I DO have an Amp, but dont use it a lot, and with the less than perfect SWRs on the vertical, the most I can get out of the amp is 1 KW.  Beyond 1 KW, it tends to trip and shut down, so I usually use the amp for around 700 or 800 watts when I use it.

Since being here, and using ONLY the vertical, I have worked and confirmed: Antarctica, Guam, Orkney Islands, Sao Tome, Kanton Island, Ogasawara, Svalbaard, Palau, Kaliningrad, Rotuma, Vanuatu, W & E Maylasia, Reunion Island, Marquesas Island, Japan, Uzbekistan, Fiji, Niue, Bhutan, Nepal, Tuvalu, India, Oman, Singapore, Australia, China, Malpelo, Nauru, Pitcairn, Laos, Vietnam, Minami Torishima, Aland Islands Rodriguez Island, S. Shetland Island, New Caledonia, Macquarie Island, Azerbajan, Mongolia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mt. Athos, New Zealand, Yemen, Palestine, Qatar, SMOM Malta, UK Bases on Cyprus, Comoros, Spratly, Mariana Islands, Swains, Conway Reef and Market Reef. I did not note any of the African entities, (except Yemen...) which I can work with no problems, and ditto on the S. American and Carribean entities as well. I think I only missed Bangladesh and perhaps one other (because of my antenna? I dont know Huh) since I have been here in Fla.

This is NOT intended to brag..... Please dont make that conclusion.  I simply wonder how much more I could have done with a ton of aluminum at 100' and a super rx antenna system. Would not have been much, as there were only a couple missed that were QRV. I have either been VERY lucky or perhaps the DX Gods like me.  Granted, I am retired and have a lot of available time to chase DX, but I would bet I dont spend 20% of the time on the radio as most do. I do get down and dirty when there is an ATNO available, but other times, I am sure I dont spend 30 min. or an hour in a week.

SO....... are the big antennas REALLY needed? Could you have done what you did last year, using MY setup? If not, why?

Again, I am not trying to piss anyone off.  I had a small antenna farm at the S.C. QTH, a Force 12 C-3SS up 60' or so, a homebrewed delta loop for 17m and a 6btv vertical for 30, 40 and 80. I worked a LOT of DX there....... BUT, I dont really see a lot of difference down here in Florida, with the lowly S-9 31' wire vertical. And yes, I did have the Amp at the SC QTH as well.

As an afterthought,  I should have added....... I work 99% CW.
Food for thought. Please dont yell at me too loud guys Roll Eyes

73, Gene AF3Y
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 03:32:21 PM by AF3Y » Logged
K3VAT
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2013, 03:03:50 PM »

Gene, You have an impressive resume of DXCC, especially given your individual situation.  Many consider that the station antenna(s) are the most important attribute in working the DX.  They point to the ease of working the exotic no matter what the distance.  Some argue that it is persistence (sticking at it year after year; big sunspots, no sunspots) and many say that it is just a matter of good timing: "the DX was there, I was on vacation and had the time to sit at the radio for multiple hours for multiple days".  It's probably all of these and, of course, varies from individual to individual.  Honor Roll is a marathon and there can be sprained ankles, heat stroke, and exhaustion along the way.  I rejoice in the posting of one recent DX'er "... you got to just hang in there; if the DX comes that's good and if it doesn't just don't get too upset about it; it's all a game anyway ... [paraphrased]".

GL, 73, Rich, K3VAT
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AB4ZT
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2013, 03:10:07 PM »

Hello Gene:

I have lived all my life here on the west coast of Florida, and for most of the years I have been DXing I used wires and a vertical.  About 7 years ago I got an MA5B at 35' (a little better) and then replaced it with a Mosley TA-33 a couple of years ago (BIG difference).  I also have a 6BTV for low bands, and many times on 20 meters and up the signal difference between the two is pretty profound.  That being said, the somewhat better conditions of the past 18 months have helped quite a bit.  Back around 1990 I worked a VU using a piece of magnet wire thrown up in a tree, and worked Peter I with an R7 and 100 watts.  Actually, I was also one of the lucky ones to work 701YGF in 2000 before they got shut down with that same R7.

It might be worth parsing through the list of DX you noted to sort out those QSOs made on the low bands, since the Yagi is only going to be a player on 20 and up.  Maybe you have done that, but my experience has been that the 3-el Yagi has made a significant difference for me on the higher bands.

FWIW

73,

Richard, AB4ZT
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W9KEY
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2013, 03:17:48 PM »

Many consider that the station antenna(s) are the most important attribute in working the DX. 

that has always been the resonant word on the subject i've heard.  however, Gene's experience may underscore the importance of operating skill -- perhaps an under-appreciated essential(?)  If you are not a skilled operator, then a tremendous antenna, an expensive xcvr, and a linear amplifier may be indisposable.   Grin
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AA4PB
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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2013, 03:31:03 PM »

... or have the great antenn plus the operating skills.
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KD8MJR
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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 04:04:23 PM »

I use to think the same way when I had my G5RV.  I had worked over 170 countries using SSB in the first year and thought this Antenna thing is pure hype.  Then I noticed it was getting almost impossible to get past 170.  I had no luck getting China, India, West Malaysia and a lot of other places.  I Finally got myself a 3 Element Steppir with 30/40M and WOW what a difference, in less than a year I was at 250 and now at 278 I find myself stalled out again but that’s simply because the entities are not available.   

I noticed a lot of posts from you Gene where you say you didn’t hear station XYZ or that you you could not bust through the pileup.  Getting a nice Antenna will make a huge difference.

When I switch between my G5RV and my Steppir it's like turning on 20db of attenuation, the signals just disappear under the G5RV.
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AF3Y
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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 04:13:59 PM »


I noticed a lot of posts from you Gene where you say you didn’t hear station XYZ or that you you could not bust through the pileup.  Getting a nice Antenna will make a huge difference.


You are correct, BUT....... eventually, I did hear (and work) them in most cases. I only missed Bangladesh and one other which, for the life of me, I cannot recall.

A big antenna might make it a little easier, and I might work em a little quicker, (after the pile thins.....) but as I said, I see very little difference between the Tri-bander, etc. that I had in S.C.

73, Gene AF3Y
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AF3Y
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2013, 04:21:12 PM »

Wait until you get over 320 entities, and even more so - 325 - 330. Then the antenna makes all of the difference - hi hi. It has driven me quite mad  Grin

I have no doubts that what you say is partially true.  At 311 or 312 confirmed now, I certainly see the ATNOs getting tougher, bigger piles, more QRM, etc. etc.

Still I dont think the antenna will ever make "ALL the difference". It may take a little longer with the vertical. I am sure it will.  But, skill, QRO and yes, a little GOOD TIMING/LUCK + conditions at the time, is going to play a part in the overall effort as well Cool.

73, Gene AF3Y
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N2NL
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2013, 04:46:12 PM »

IMO,

The number one more important thing is operator skill.  A very good operator from a poor station will almost always beat the poor operator from a good station.

Second most important is location.  I lived in Key West on the salt water for 5 years.  I was a big gun with nothing more than verticals.  Florida geographically gets better openings into SW Asia for example, than W1/2/3, because the southern location means a path that largely misses the AU oval.

Third is antennas.  Location is more important, but good antennas can overcome a poor location to some extent.  In Europe, S5's and IK's with tribanders are often louder than OH's with big stacks. 

Forth is power.  Double the power for 3dB.  Double again for one S-unit.  You get more by upgrading from a dipole to a tribander at reasonable height.

My 40m antenna here on Guam is a single 1/4 wave vertical.  I made more than 1800 QSOs on 40 in the 2011 CQWW DX CW contest as a single op, and more than 1600 this year.  That is significantly more 40m QSOs than just about every other station in the top 10 in the world, many with yagis and antennas that otherwise would be considered better.  A simple vertical in the clear with a good ground system can be hard to beat.  Usually your RX is what suffers more than your TX because you can't null noise, such as QRM, like you can with a gain antenna (I have Beverages to compensate for that).

73, Dave
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KH6DC
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« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2013, 04:53:31 PM »

Gene, you're doing great as is.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  I've used verticals all my ham life but just recently got to use for a few months a Traffie Hex Beam up 30 ft and all I could say is wow, why haven't I used some kind of beam and tower before.  I made a bunch of DX contacts in a few weeks that would take me several months to a year.

But in your case, I wouldn't change a thing, maybe put down more ground radials.

73, Delwyn, KH6DC
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73 and Aloha,
de Delwyn, KH6DC
W1VT
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« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2013, 05:01:29 PM »

I'm so impressed with my stealth flagpole experiment that I'm putting up a top loaded vertical  wire for 80M in my backyard, as soon as I get some decent weather.  Been busy designing and building it the past week. We just happen to have a big maple tree in a good spot for running elevated radials. Grin  
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W4RS
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« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2013, 05:09:35 PM »

after having tons of alum in the air for years, i can say that its still time on the river. you listen, listen and listen. wonce in a while you snag a new one. and its probley 75% operator, and 25 % ant.
heck i had my switches in the wrong position one time and worked a 9m on a bird dummy load at 1000 watts. he said i was kinda weak! that was from va.
jim w4rs  du3/w4rs
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AF3Y
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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2013, 05:14:52 PM »

IMO,

  A simple vertical in the clear with a good ground system can be hard to beat.  Usually your RX is what suffers more than your TX because you can't null noise, such as QRM, like you can with a gain antenna (I have Beverages to compensate for that).

73, Dave

Dave, you hit the nail on the head. Noise is tough with my vertical, but as I noted above it DOES work.

73, Gene AF3Y
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W2IRT
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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2013, 06:35:33 PM »

Since being here, and using ONLY the vertical, I have worked and confirmed: Antarctica, Guam, Orkney Islands, Sao Tome, Kanton Island, Ogasawara, Svalbaard, Palau, Kaliningrad, Rotuma, Vanuatu, W & E Maylasia, Reunion Island, Marquesas Island, Japan, Uzbekistan, Fiji, Niue, Bhutan, Nepal, Tuvalu, India, Oman, Singapore, Australia, China, Malpelo, Nauru, Pitcairn, Laos, Vietnam, Minami Torishima, Aland Islands Rodriguez Island, S. Shetland Island, New Caledonia, Macquarie Island, Azerbajan, Mongolia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mt. Athos, New Zealand, Yemen, Palestine, Qatar, SMOM Malta, UK Bases on Cyprus, Comoros, Spratly, Mariana Islands, Swains, Conway Reef and Market Reef.
Some impressive entities there, to be sure. I would say the most significant of these would be Spratly, Singapore, Nepal, Bhutan, Macquarie, JD1/m and SV/A, plus getting through the interminable pileups to 1A whenever they're on. The big DXpeditions that are up for 2 weeks will always be easy towards the end on at least one band or mode, but the shorter ones over tough paths are always the measure of a good station and/or a good operator.

I simply wonder how much more I could have done with a ton of aluminum at 100' and a super rx antenna system. Would not have been much, as there were only a couple missed that were QRV. I have either been VERY lucky or perhaps the DX Gods like me.  Granted, I am retired and have a lot of available time to chase DX, but I would bet I dont spend 20% of the time on the radio as most do. I do get down and dirty when there is an ATNO available, but other times, I am sure I dont spend 30 min. or an hour in a week.

You hit the nail on the head with your time on the radio. Bum-in-chair time is absolutely critical to success as a DXer. What the aluminum in the air will do for you is bring down the frustration and worry that this may be the one you'll never get. When that P5 comes up for 7 days...suddenly it's day 6, propagation is crap and you've only heard a whisper on a couple of occasions...that's the time you'll cuss yourself for not putting something in the air that plays even a little bit better.

If you have lots of time, a modest radio and a little bit of power it's quite possible to work a huge number of entities using just a wire or simple vertical, but sometimes you'll need more. If you miss someone in Nauru or Palau or Brunei it's no big deal cuz another one will show up when propagation's stronger. If you miss Heard Island next year I doubt you (or I) will be around for its next activation. And what if the ship to Heard gets delayed due to bad weather and, instead of 2 weeks, they're only going to be around for 4 days...think your compromise antenna will be able to compete in those pileups?

You can have the best skills in the world, but if you can't hear the DX (or they can't hear you) then you're scuttled. Even if you dial it back a few notches and you're talking about all the semi-rare ones out there, do you enjoy fighting, fighting, fighting for every Q? I can't speak for anybody else but in my case, my C31XR takes a lot of agita out of the equation and keeps my blood pressure relatively low.

The other thing to consider are your goals. If your goal is mixed HR it's quite possible to do it with simple antennas given enough time on the air and a healthy dose of luck. If your goals are DXCC on 9 or 10 bands, 3 modes, getting as close to the DeSoto Cup as possible and a 5B WAZ, then you're going to need more that simple low wires or verticals.
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Night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until I reach Top of the Honor Roll.
W4VKU
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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2013, 07:12:22 PM »

With a yagi, one could work Spratly's Is when they were up and the competition was intense.
Also, the VK9 Christmas Island, atleast one has a chance to hear them with the yagi on 12m, where
the prop was just for a few minutes. Higher the better with more aluminum, ie if one could afford.

Krish
w4vku
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