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   Home   Help Search  
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Author Topic: New Ham needs help with initial antenna selection  (Read 9517 times)

Posts: 1

« on: November 10, 2013, 02:41:48 PM »

I am a newbie ham with no amateur radio experience. I have almost 40 years of computer, systems integration, network and bio-medical electronics experience.  I understand the technical fundamentals but have no practical experience to know best option to get started.  I am primarily interested in HF Digital comms. I have plenty of room, no neighborhood or county restrictions, no neighbors who live close enough to even see an antenna.  I do not want to just "throw money" at the problem but I am near retirement and want a hobby to actively pursue not struggle with.  I'm looking for a solution that will get me up and running quickly but will be suitable for a couple of years.  Would appreciate some expertise and opinion on this. I've done a lot of reading and research but do not want to "steer" the answers with what I am thinking about.  Thanks in advance,

Posts: 3289

« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2013, 02:46:49 PM »

What HF bands do you want to work?

A basic antenna that will allow operations on all the higher bands is an 80m (halfwave) dipole, fed with ladderline, to a 1:1 balun outside the window/entrance, to a short length of coax, perhaps RG-8x, to a good broad range tuner, to your radio.

If you have a short distance to the antenna you could use all coax for the feed with somewhat higher losses.

Welcome aboard.

p.s.  I strongly encourage you to buy the ARRL Handbook, and ARRL Antenna Book.  They will be references you constantly use.   For information on 160m, 80m and 40m ops and antennas OH4UN's "Low Band DX'ing" (its not just about Dxing) is the most up to date and an easy read.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2013, 02:48:54 PM by KB4QAA » Logged

Posts: 347

« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2013, 02:55:28 PM »

Good Day,
Lots of folks will recommend 80% of your budget towards antennas, I don't know if I'd go that far but a good antenna makes the station. The easiest up antennas would be wire antennas if there are sufficiently tall trees or a tower already available. If limited to ground mounted antennas, a set of vertical antennas from dedicated single band to multi-band antennas are possible; though, you maybe heard farther away than nearby. I have always been partial to wire antennas and favor loops if they can be gotten up in the air. I tend to run a high power antenna tuner even when running QRP as the losses are lower and feed the antenna with window line, aka ladder line. Right now I am running an 80 meter dipole with a vertically mounted loop under it cut for 40 Meters and fed with ladder line. Much depends upon your goals, VHF and up gets expensive in the antenna department. HF is probably the easiest if you have enough tall trees in the right places. HTH

Posts: 619

« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2013, 03:55:53 PM »

Hi and welcome!

The big question is like the other OM said, what bands do you want to work and whats your budget?

Digital is pretty active on all HF bands, so the rub is what bands are you shooting for. A tri-bander beam gets you 10, 15 & 20 meters with nice gain. For 17, 30, 40 and 80 a wire may be better suited. I use a Alpha Delta DCLB+ and a DX-CC multi band dipole for many ops with good results.

Digital takes much less power to make good dx contacts, so its all up to you on how far you go. Don't count out CW or phone as well, al modes are fun!

As always, throw the money at the antenna first, it makes the station!

If theres anything I can do to help, feel free to email me , addy good on QRZ dot com.

73,  DE Dave KD8GEH


Posts: 6760

« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2013, 05:03:47 PM »

NK:  You'll get plenty of different answers to which antenna to aquire or make.  As a retiree, my advice is different.

Considering the possibility that your retirement income will be less than your present take-home pay, I recommend a tower and good beam antenna.  They are expensive and best financed while you're working. 

Even though you indicate you're primarily interested in digital modes of communication, which in fact requires less power and is more efficient, consider the future possibility that you might want to expand your ham radio experiences.

Wire antennas are quite cheap, especially if you make them yourself, and consequently can be acquired any time after you retire without creating a financial hardship.

I prepared for retirement for 15 years, buying all the big-ticket items I thought I needed, which I found was a smart move.  However I did fail to consider some items which have been out of my price range since retiring.  Think and plan. 

Good luck with your retirement.  The pay isn't so good but the fringe benefits are fantastic!!

Al - K8AXW


A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 81

« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2013, 08:38:36 PM »

KV4NK, how large is your property? What is your proximity to major urban areas? A single vertical antenna can cover 80-6m, but doesn't give you any directionality, and is more prone to man-made interference. On the other hand, 40m and 80m beams are pretty darned big and require a heck of a rotator! One option is to combine the two by loading a tower for the low bands.

If you need a radial field, consider space requirements.

Posts: 2409

« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2013, 09:54:43 PM »

An antenna is still the best RF amplifier you can get.
The recommendation of QAA to get the ARRL books is the best you can do. I think your experience in business has demonstrated that a solid knowledge of the background is fundamental. Those books will give you that background.
I would not feel good to recommend a certain antenna.

Posts: 2808

« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2013, 10:42:56 PM »

. . .   I do not want to just "throw money" at the problem but I am near retirement and want a hobby to actively pursue not struggle with.  I'm looking for a solution that will get me up and running quickly but will be suitable for a couple of years. . .


You don't know, yet, what you'll want to do in a few years.  This is a new hobby for you, and the opportunities to "play" are vast.  So there's no real "requirements definition" for your first antenna.  Hence:

. . . I suggest throwing a fan dipole into the trees.

. . . Or put up a vertical, and lay down a ground field.

You can buy nice fan dipoles from Alpha Delta for $100 - $150, I think.  They're easy to build, if you want to -- just wire and insulators.

Then have some fun -- see what you can do, and see who you can work.   From an isolated location, a dipole may give you all the performance you need.  One of the nice things about digital modes on HF is that you can do serious DX with low radiated power.   A 100 watt rig, and a dipole well off the ground, is quite effective on 20m.

If you want more, in time, you'll have some idea what you _do_ want, and how much it will cost.

This _isn't_ a job -- it's a hobby.  You have to let it lead you, sometimes.

.                   Charles 

Posts: 49

« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2013, 06:21:27 AM »

I'm not an expert by any means but have really enjoyed my G5RV dipole.  It's cheap and a good place to start for a new ham.  You will also need an antenna tuner.


Posts: 2100

« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2013, 07:46:28 AM »


 Starting solo in the hobby can be difficult. While eHam forums can be a great resource for questions, answers and advice a more practical method is to go into the FCC data base and find other hams who may be in your local area, if any just introduce yourself (cold calls always accepted between hams) explain your situation and as in my area word spreads fast and you could very easily end up with a loaner rig or rigs with which to get your feet wet along with the previously mentioned simple wire antenna. A local ham club if any may of help but only if the club or it's members will cater to YOUR particular interest in the hobby. By starting slow and inexpensively you will eventually have the experience to purchase the type of rig, antennas and accessories that will best fit your needs and operating style without potential regrets later on. Not sure if you have a rig now.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2013, 07:48:29 AM by W1JKA » Logged

Posts: 2

« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2013, 05:19:12 AM »

As a new guy getting on HF, go with the old faithful, simple, and easy to build yourself dipole.  I guess the configuration you put it up in will change depending upon what kind of coverage area you want.

I use an inverted "V" fan dipole tuned for 160m, 75m, and 40m.  You can see it on my QRZ page, or at  There are many other options, but most depend on what or where you want to communicate.  If you are looking for digi modes, a simple inverted V will most likely work a good part of the world for you without much cost, and very simple to build yourself.

Posts: 1169

« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2013, 01:16:48 PM »

I think this article might be helpful;

Welcome and good luck,

Posts: 165

« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2013, 02:38:12 PM »

Some places, I've done real well with a wire, end fed against 'ground' - usually a water pipe. Other places - interestingly, where the soils has been heavy wet clay - a doublet fed with open wire line has done better.

I would start with something like 80 or 100 feet of wire as high as you can get it, fed against ground - as good a ground as you can easily get. CW or one of the QRP digital modes will probably work best.
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