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Author Topic: Newbie needs help selecting an antenna for home base for HF  (Read 5675 times)
KD0RFH
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Posts: 3




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« on: July 29, 2012, 12:54:02 PM »

Recently my wife and I passed our General portion of the exams.  We have been using handheld Yaesu FT-60R until this point.  We are interested in purchasing an Elecraft K3 to talk HF.  We live in the Midwest on top of a tall hill at about 1348' elevation.  We have a Rohn tower with a television antenna on it now.  It is only one ten foot section tall plus a cone top.  We would not want to exceed about $300.00 for the antenna by itself.  We could later add a beam antenna with a rotor for directional talking along with the omni directional antenna.  Please forgive my lack of correct terminology as we are still learning and expect to for the next 30 or so years.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have.
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KE5PPH
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2012, 02:42:11 PM »

Excellent news on the upgrade!
spend some time reading here, all of your options have been discussed.
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13341




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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2012, 02:45:32 PM »

There are two common approaches to your question:  a commercial vertical antenna
of some sort, or a wire antenna.  Or both: depending on the band and what station
you want to work, one or other might be better.

There are a number of commercial options.  Trap verticals such as the 6BTV or 14AVQ
cover several bands with low SWR, and are usually available for less than $200.  They
require a good ground radial system at the base, and can be mounted either on the
ground or on top of the roof (in which case the wire radials can lay on the roof.)  There
are many other types, with varying degrees of complexity.  Many of the ones that
don't require ground radials need to be mounted on a mast.  

It is rather of a caveat emptor market, however, as there are some antennas that
trade off efficiency for SWR bandwidth, and others (such as the "43-foot" ones) that
require a good tuner, preferably at the base of the antenna.


Wire antennas also come in a wide range of options, and they are much more within
the abilities of most hams to build their own.   General categories include dipoles (often
installed with several bands on a common feedpoint, or using traps to allow operation
on multiple bands); Off-Center Fed Dipoles (OCFD, sometimes called "Windom"), which
can cover multiple bands on a single wire, but may require a tuner; and a "doublet",
which is simply a dipole fed with ladder line to a tuner in the shack:  the tuner allows
for reasonably efficient operation of the antenna on multiple bands.

As is the case with vertical antennas, there are many types available, as well as plans
on the internet for building your own.  Some work well, others may not, regardless of
the claims that the designers and vendors may make about them.  And in many
cases they are just feedline and wire, making it easy to build your own at low cost
and experiment.


Some general rules:  antennas will be most efficient when they are at least "full size"
(meaning a half wavelength long for a dipole, or a quarter wave tall for a vertical feed
against ground.)  Read the antenna reviews here on eHam, but take them with a grain
of salt.  A search through the forums may uncover discussions about specific antennas.

Also, no antenna is ever permanent, and you aren't limited to having just one.


My suggestion:  consider a vertical antenna for 40m through 10m (though it might not
cover all those bands) and wire dipoles for 40m and 80m, plus any other bands that
your vertical doesn't cover.  The vertical will probably need a good ground radial system,
though you can make contacts with a poor one (such as a pipe driven into the ground.)
That gives reasonable performance at most distances on the higher bands along with
more local coverage on 40m and 80m where the vertical doesn't work as well.
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KD0RFH
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Posts: 3




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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2012, 07:47:52 PM »

A local Ham came out this afternoon and suggested that I get a HyGain AV-640.  I think I will read up on that and go from there.  Thanks
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K5KNE
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Posts: 65




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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2012, 07:53:08 AM »

When you get your HF rig you may just want to make a simple dipole - say for 40 meters. The main cost will be some coax.  A good tutorial on how to make a dipole is on youtube - just search for dipole antennas and you will find it.

You don't need to spend a lot of money on an antenna until you figure out which bands you really like.

Walter  K5KNE
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WX7G
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Posts: 6136




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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2012, 08:07:47 AM »

A multiband dipole with a manual antenna tuner will get you on all bands 80-10 meters with a good signal. I would look at the MFJ-901B tuner and build something like, or buy, an MFJ-1777 dipole. The dipole is $60 and the tuner is $100.

You will love the K-3. I have one and it is tops. 
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W5DQ
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2012, 10:22:51 AM »

Recently my wife and I passed our General portion of the exams.  We have been using handheld Yaesu FT-60R until this point.  We are interested in purchasing an Elecraft K3 to talk HF.  We live in the Midwest on top of a tall hill at about 1348' elevation.  We have a Rohn tower with a television antenna on it now.  It is only one ten foot section tall plus a cone top.  We would not want to exceed about $300.00 for the antenna by itself.  We could later add a beam antenna with a rotor for directional talking along with the omni directional antenna.  Please forgive my lack of correct terminology as we are still learning and expect to for the next 30 or so years.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions you might have.

Jon,

First congratulations to both of you on passing the General test. Welcome to the HF portion of ham radio.

Based on your information, I am making an assumption that you looking at a fixed budget of around $2500 or less. I sincerely appreciate your situtation and not wanting to sound callous but your request for help is typical of new HF operators who want to get started in HF. While not wrong (there really are no wrong answers in selecting antennas and radios), the approach of buying a relatively expensive radio (K3/100 is $2K minimum) first and then using whats left of your budget to get 'something' up as an antenna is actually reverse of the approach that makes the most sense. While properly designed wire antenna installations can be very effective and vertical antennas have been proven to be real performers providing they too are installed correctly, just throwing up a wire antenna or vertical based on the amount of money 'left over after buying a nice expensive radio' is surely the not the most correct way to do it. You will hear many tell you that the most sound approach to the rig vs antenna vs budget issue, is to define and design a suitable antenna system using the budget first and then if the budget still can manage a nice new expensive radio, go for it. If not, then either some more sheckels are going to need to be obtained or the target radio capabilities need to be re-examined.

I tell you this because after 36 years of personal experience and observing other installations, I can safely say that the wrong approach will not be as fulfilling as the correct one and will lead to frustrations and actually increasing costs by forcing an upgrade sooner than you realize and maybe before your ham budget can support it.  I realize that most everyone in your situation does what seems logical by selecting a radio first because that is the most observable item in the shack that will get the most attention in daily use. However the antenna is the portal to the ether and limiting its abilities to have adequate transmit coverage and/or receive weak signals based on a fixed budet's remnants post fancy radio purchase is not going to provide the maximum capabilities either. For the record, the K3 is an excellent radio from the reports and reviews I have seen. I personally have been considering getting one myself as soon as my ham budget can support it.

I'm not saying that new operators should put up a behemouth antenna system and use a cracker-jack radio. Rather take a sound logical approach and understand what each part of the SYSTEM (yes it is a complete system with each part doing a specific function) does and how limiting a specific area will impact the overall system performance. Where will the expenditure make the most positive affect (i.e. the old adage 'most bang for the buck' definitely applies here)

I wish you luck in setting up an effective HF ham station. It isn't hard to do but it does require some forethought / planning and can be expensive if you let it get out of control Smiley There are lots of good information from many experienced hams on eHAM, QRZ and other sites. I'd suggest you take all advice with a grain of sand (including mine) until you can verify it with additional inputs from alternate sources. In these sort of help requests, advice comes as a flood and many love to 'help' you spend that budget with 'buy this model, avoid that brand' sort of advice. Maybe not all wrong, but it's your budget. Spend it WISELY.

73 and hope to work you and your wife sometime soon,

Gene W5DQ
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Gene W5DQ
Ridgecrest, CA - DM15dp
www.radioroom.org
WB2WIK
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Posts: 20612




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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2012, 12:00:04 PM »

I'd skip the K3 and invest more in antennas, which do most of the work.

K3's a great rig but for a new operator it might actually be a bit intimidating; for one, you do the final assembly of it, yourself.  For another, it's very sophisticated and has a serious learning curve.
It's also pretty expensive, and without serious antennas most operators would find the amazing receiving capabilities it has to be more than they need: What it does best is allow reception of weak signals very close in frequency to very strong signals; without good antennas, there aren't many very strong signals to deal with, so this feature is lost on many newcomers.

If you like "new," I'd go for something that's fun and easy to use, and costs less, and invest more money in antenna systems -- preferably, with some local help from experienced antenna guys who can assist with a first-rate installation.

I've always found I can work more stuff with a 40 year-old $300 rig and a beam on a tower than I can with a $5000 new rig and a vertical or wire.  Never seen an exception to that, yet. Wink

Good luck either way!


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WX7G
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Posts: 6136




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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2012, 04:29:24 PM »

The K3 can be purchased fully assembled. It is no more difficult to use than any other modern menu driven transceiver.

A dipole or a vertical is all one needs to get started. You will work plenty of hams and have fun. High power and a great antenna (beam) are not needed.
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LA9XSA
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Posts: 376




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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2012, 05:42:43 PM »

A K-3 certainly looks easier to use than something like an FT-857 or IC-7000, which are heavily menu driven. The K-3 seems to have most functions right there on the front panel.

The advice to spend just as much money and effort on your antenna system as your transceiver is good advice, over time, but it doesn't all have to go on the same antenna. Perhaps you can get a selection of antennas - some vertical, some horizontal, some directional, some omni-directional, so you can choose the right antenna for the "job".
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KC4MOP
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Posts: 743




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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2012, 04:26:54 AM »

I agree about the K3. Nice easy radio to operate and a real performer, especially for CW. The K3 is somewhat the "high-priced spread" for a beginner transceiver. Excellent choice, don't get me wrong.
Could you think about putting the K3 on the back burner and buying a used HF rig and see how you like the HF bands? The antenna is the most important part of your station, and again, do not compromise here, but don't go out on a limb spending $2000 either.
Your nice TV tower would be great for a tribander Yagi (A3S Cushcraft with 40M option) But that would be later down the road. The tower could be one end of a dipole antenna.

I keep hanging around a dipole cuz it will get you started and the fun begins.
A vertical takes time and some back ground knowledge to properly build it and understand the principle of operation. A lot of work involved for a vertical antenna. As you get your feet wetter, you can utilize your tower as a vertical antenna. How tall is this TV antenna tower, BTW?
When I was first licensed, I bought, and still have my trusty TS 440, Kenwood. I went "ALL THE WAY" with a roof tower, a high dollar rotor, and A3S Yagi., 30 feet above the ground. That worked pretty nice. The verticals I attempted to build were a disaster and living in an urban community with a house spacing of 20 feet causing a lot of RFI problems. You will not have that problem at your QTH (house).
It seems like you and your wife are free as birds to really enjoy Amateur radio.
I'll check back............good luck and welcome to Amateur Radio...to you and the "XYL"

Fred
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W5DQ
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Posts: 1209


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« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2012, 02:27:33 PM »

Your nice TV tower would be great for a tribander Yagi (A3S Cushcraft with 40M option) But that would be later down the road. The tower could be one end of a dipole antenna.


Yes, it will work for a tribander yagi but maybe not an optimal situation with the tower top at 19 foot (10' section and 9' tapered top section - which is what he stated he had) unless, of course, the hill drops off at a significant angle from the base of the tower, then it becomes a much TALLER effective tower.

But as many have said, any antenna is better than NO antenna so use what you got and have fun.

Gene W5DQ

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Gene W5DQ
Ridgecrest, CA - DM15dp
www.radioroom.org
KQ6Q
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Posts: 991




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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2012, 08:01:05 PM »

Quick and simple - you have the tower, use it to hold the center of a multi-band dipole, installed as an inverted vee. run the ends out as far as you can, keeping them as high as you can.. Use a resonant fan dipole, so you can have coax all the way to the shack.
The Alpha-Delta fan dipoles are pricey, but well made. Pick the one that fits the space you have to hang it. the DX-CC or DX-EE would probably give the most utility. You might want to buy or fabricate an arm that will hold the feedpoint of the dipole a foot or two out from the tower, and set up a pulley and halyard arrangement so you can raise and lower the antenna without climbing the tower to do it.
check with your local radio club for an Elmer to coach you and help with the antenna installation.

See you on HF!

Fred, KQ6Q
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N4KC
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« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2012, 05:07:51 PM »

I'll add to the chorus of congratulations on the upgrade.  And as others have noted, this is probably the number one question from most newcomers or upgrading stations: what's the easiest antenna I can put up for HF?

To address that very question, I wrote an article that appeared here on eHam as well as on my web site, titled "My Top 5 Get-on-the-Air-Quick Antennas."  You can see it at http://www.eham.net/articles/21270 or at www.n4kc.com.

Maybe it will help.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO in paperback and e-book)
 
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KJ6ETL
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« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2012, 06:09:23 PM »

If you have the space for 170 ft of wire.

Feed it in the middle with a open feeder (Ladder line / Chicken ladder).
A balanced tuner should within the budget.

73

Rogier

kj6etl

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