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Reviews Categories | Antennas: HF: Yagi, Quad, Rotary dipole, LPDA | SteppIR Dream Beam 18-E Help


Reviews Summary for SteppIR Dream Beam 18-E
SteppIR Dream Beam 18-E Reviews: 11 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $3,000
Description: 3 elements 10-30 meters, 2 elements 40 meters
Product is in production.
More info: http://www.steppir.com/files/DB18%20FACT%20Sheet.pdf
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WX2CX Rating: 5/5 Jan 14, 2017 12:46 Send this review to a friend
Great antenna!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Had several SteppIr but this one is just fantastic.
The 2 elements on 40m and 3 on 30m make a huge difference! Always got quick answers from them when called or e-mailed. Ordered and received within a week.
 
W6RS Rating: 5/5 Aug 17, 2013 20:16 Send this review to a friend
A Truly Fine Antenna  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
After having a two element Steppir at my California QTH and getting amazing results I decided that after I retired I would go one magnitude greater. Moving forward to the new retirement QTH North of Seattle and getting settled in it was time to get serious about a tower and antenna. In June of 2013 I put up a DB-18E on a 80 foot tower. The results have been, to say the least, spectacular. In the first 20 days I worked 102 different DXCC entities. I am consistently receiving reports from DX ops asking about my station after telling me I'm the loudest West coast station on the band. Many of the previous reviews have dealt with antenna assembly etc. The only thing I could add is to take your time, be as accurate as possible and triple check all wiring and connections. I would not hesitate to to recommend this antenna to anyone wanting continuous coverage between 6 and 40 meters.
 
K9EL Rating: 5/5 Dec 9, 2012 13:55 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Antenna  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
If you are considering buying a DB18E, but have been hesitant due to the cost, rumors about performance, difficult manuals, etc., I suggest you re-consider. The DB18E manual has been completely re-done very professionally and is now accurate. I was not missing a single piece of hardware. Assembly takes a long time and lots of care and the antenna is not cheap. But the performance is truly amazing. The DB18E replaced 4 separate HF antennas. I now have a cleaner, simpler installation with top performance on all bands. You will not regret owning this antenna.
 
K9IR Rating: 5/5 Jul 31, 2012 20:05 Send this review to a friend
Truly a dream beam  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
While the assembly process can be maddeningly frustrating, the agony is well worth the result--this antenna gets out and has options to increase the fun. I had been searching for several years for a better "compromise" HF yagi to replace my C4-XSL, given limits with my tower capacity and lot size. This antenna enabled me to move from 2 to 3 elements on 20 through 10M, go from a vertical to 3 el on 30M, maintain my 2 elements on 40M and lose only 1 element on 6M, while consolidating to a single feed line. Sweet! I find even with my modest (55') tower not fully cranked up, I can work most stations barefoot--that's performance.

The fun increases when you start to play with the 180 and bidirectional capabilities--talk about limiting rotor wear/tear. You also can modify the default lengths of all the elements for each band to adapt to location quirks--or just mess around. Don't like the results? Set it all back to the defaults.

Here's a list of assembly hints primarily applicable for my vintage DB18E, as SteppIR almost constantly evolves its product line-up with ongoing improvements:

1. Join the reflector! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SteppIR/
2. Start assembly in a space large enough to accommodate the boom and elements. That will save time having to move the assembly later to such a location.
3. Orient the antenna assembly consistent with the way you will hoist the antenna to the tower. This will save having to rotate the rather large assembly as part of the final installation.
4. Have a hammer handy to coax reluctant bolts during boom assembly.
5. Assembly will go more quickly if you have someone to help you align the EHUs on the boom (both the right location on the boom, and level with reference to the mast plate and each other). While one person can "do it all," it will take more time.
6. The Connector Box and boom truss hardware can't live together as described. Reorient the Connector Box 90 degrees on its mounting plate, which will require drilling new holes in the plate. Use washers as standoffs to mount the box from the top two bolts for the boom truss mast; the washers will allow the bottom of the box to clear the bottom boom mast bolts.
7. Take the 6 conductor cable for the two outer EHUs and connect each end to the EHUs. Run the cable to the connector box to verify length needed from each EHU before cutting, as the overall piece of cable SteppIR provides for these EHUs has little to no excess length if you make a mistake.
8. Mark in some fashion the side of the sweeps with the weep holes. I just took the SteppIR warning label to orient the weep holes facing down and reoriented it to indicate the side of the sweep where the weep holes were located.
9. Assemble the sweeps and the fiberglass rods specifically for each half element; don't just assemble all 6 without first thinking about where each one will go. This approach will ensure the weep holes, hose clamps and fiberglass insert rods all are in the right place for each element section.
10. Check to see which element truss assembly you received. If you have the new plastic connectors that attach to the fiberglass poles, you can use the current directions. If not, then you will want to omit in the 2 connector between the poles and the sweeps for each half element the 6th screw in the middle hole closest to the fiberglass spreader. In that hole you will insert the eye-bolts from your truss kit. The instructions for this truss assembly aren't posted on the SteppIR website but are available throught the reflector Files section.
11. If a fiberglass element won't insert smoothly into the EHU, it is OK to sand the element butt end for a better fit.
12. Unless your assembly area is dead level, it will help to have someone help with the element truss assembly to ensure each element half is elevated appropriately relative to its counterpart and all other elements.
13. Use a different type of knot than the half hitches SteppIR indicates to secure the element truss ropes. A friend who "knows knots" used some type of marine knot that was much more secure.
14. Give yourself time to assemble this beast--it involves fiberglass, glues, tapes, aluminum, heat shrink and assorted hardware. Steady consistent progress will get you the right results.
15. Be prepared to read and read and re-read the directions as needed, and perhaps consult a few versions of the manual, to ensure you understand the next assembly step.
16. However, don't be paralyzed--and don't worry whether you immediately understand why a step is the way it is. As long as you are following it properly, all will be revealed unto you in due time as you progress through assembly.

SteppIR support is tremendous. I received timely clarifications and help during assembly.

While only up a short time, I love this antenna. As with any multi-band yagi, it does represent a compromise, but it's by far the best one yet I have found for the bands covered.
 
NA9Q Rating: 5/5 Apr 14, 2012 14:35 Send this review to a friend
Expensive but great performer  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I agonized a long time before finally taking a deep breath and signing the DB18E order form at Dayton 2011. I spent a lot of time in their booth and the crew there was able to set my mind at ease over the several concerns I had about such a complex antenna. It finally arrived in mid-August and it took me about 24 hours spread over about 2 weeks to assemble the unit working very carefully and alone. Here are some observations and suggestions from my experience putting the DB18E together.

1. As soon as you receive your shipment, take a detailed inventory. Nothing is worse than getting into the assembly process and finding something is shorted. I had several small items missing but also 4 of the 12 fiberglass poles were missing! SteppIR was quick to ship the missing items. They do provide everything you need except the tools.

2. SteppIR provides good quality electrical tape to secure the cables to the boom. However, I didn't like not having something with a greater life expectancy in a place where I cannot easily replace it. So before applying the tape I used stainless a steel cable clamp at each place where taping is required. Menards has these SS locking tywraps and although about a dollar each in small quanities, they gave me a much better feeling about the control and coax cables remaining clamped to the boom over a long period in the weather. Once the SS tywrap was in place then I applied the black electrical tape over them.

3. One single length of control cable is supplied to connect to the director and reflector motors. There is very little extra in that length. Layout the contol cable going to the director and reflector motor housings on the boom before cutting it. There is little extra supplied and if you just estimate where to cut it you might end up with one piece that is too short.

4. BEFORE you put anything together, read the assembly manual front to back thoroughly as well as the options instructions and the addendum manual. All have relavence to the DB-18E assembly process. I had many questions and found several errors in the instructions. A phone call always got me the help I needed, but don't proceed in an assembly step if you are not sure how something is to be done.

5. Don't try to use a hair dryer to shrink the tubing on the poles. You won't get the adhesive warm enough to seal. It takes a good high temp heat gun.

6. Take your time in every step and don't forget to use the anti-seize on every SS screw and bolt. The first time I missed using it, sure enouge the nut seized on the bolt and I had to carefully hacksaw it off.

7. Purchase the junction box option! It is expensive but it makes the final wiring steps so much easier. And if a wiring error is found, so much easier to correct. I would also expect future on-tower maintenance will be easier as well although I have not had to experience this need.

8. Make sure to perform all the electrical checks and tests prior to installation. Check everything twice and then check it again. It is much easier to make corrections on the ground.

9. Don't try to get by with a Ham-M or Ham-III style rotor with this antenna. It won't handle this beam in the winds. You need a TailTwister or heavier unit. Some even claim the TailTwister is too light duty but so far mine is holding up to the stress and torque. Time will tell.

10. This is a well built, heavy duty antenna. All harware and mechanical parts except one are stainless or aluminum. And that one part is galvanized. It is heavy at 110 lbs but will stay together in the air for years. No rusting bolts or hose clamps to melt away in a few years.

This beam replaced my TH3MK3 which I have been using for the last 35 years. I can only say what an antenna! Why did I wait so long? 30 meters and 40 meters are lots more fun, in fact a blast, when you have a little gain and good directivity. One of my first QSO's on 40 with it was with JT5DX using just 100W on SSB. 17 meters has become a favorite band with this antenna. Anything I can hear I can work, usually with just 100W. With the SteppIR controller connected to the logging computer and the TS940S, it follows frequency and band changes smoothly and quickly. It really makes operating a pleasure. And since the VSWR is always low, never a need to retune anything.

Yes, it is expensive but I believe worth every cent I spent. Longevity is the unknown at this time. Only time will tell.

Mike NA9Q
 
ZS1DDK Rating: 5/5 Apr 8, 2011 03:15 Send this review to a friend
SteppIRIFFIC  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
My "from David, to David," has arrived in South Africa!
I am singularly and collectively completely impressed !!!!
This antenna is superbly and logically packaged. Every part bears witness to the highest quality whether machined,moulded,cast,cut,coated -detailed workmanship offering a rugged product!!!!
The instructions are comprehensive and logically offered, making construction an absolute pleasure. Special care must be excersized when wiring the drives and switching relays.

Tower time:
Undertake the prescribed electronic checks.
Trust me on this one!

Now the DB 18 gets mounted and she is off to her permanent elevation at 12m above terrafirma.
An awfully splendid site! (Youtube, search ZS1DDK)

Power-up. The programming that went into the contoller is detailed in every way; absolutely no parameter was missed. Every dimension can be altered, electrical properties can be manipulated................

The performance is superb offering excellent gain and front to back ratio !

This, in my humble opinion, must be the most outstanding antenna ever offered for a more limited size lot, for access to anything from 40m's up.

Anything better must still be invented !
 
KX7P Rating: 5/5 Aug 17, 2010 15:57 Send this review to a friend
OUTSTANDING ANTENNA  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This antenna has worked flawless for me. No problems at all. SWR is low across all bands. With 2 elements on 40 meters I'm able to break pileups with 100 watts. In fact, with this antenna I have not needed my amplifier.

The antenna is expensive, but I believe it is worth every penny. I encourage anyone who desires a quality 6 meter through 40 meter beam to look into all this beam has to offer. It does what is advertised....and more. Tim KX7P
 
W9LP Rating: 5/5 Aug 15, 2010 13:07 Send this review to a friend
Unique Design Doesn't Disappoint!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The DB-18/E is a complex antenna with lots of parts. Fortunately, the documentation is top-notch and the assembly procedure is very logical. My essential recommendations are:

1) Inventory the parts against the comprehensive parts list SteppIR provides as soon as you receive your antenna; confirms you got everything and helps to become familiar with the antenna before you begin assembly.

2) Read the instructions carefully AND FOLLOW THEM. Take your time and do the job right. I assembled the antenna myself without difficulty over a period of about 20 hours.

3) Double check all connections, including the connectors on the RF jumper cables supplied with the antenna.

4) Purchase the "Connector Box" option for this antenna; it makes the wiring job so much easier.

With only one hot-dip galvinized exception, the hardware is all aluminum or stainless steel; obviously intended for years of service. The antenna includes all materials needed for assembly including tape, anti-oxidizer for electrical connections and anti-seize paste. The only problem I encountered with the antenna as-supplied was related to the coaxial jumper cables; the crimp-on RF connectors were not tight enough. It was easy to rectify this problem while the antenna was still on the ground, but would have been a pain if they had failed after the antenna was up. The folks at SteppIR were very good, said they'd look into it right away. Meanwhile, best to double-check these cables and ensure the connectors are tight and strong. If in doubt, re-do them.

I purchased the optional Element and Boom Truss kits; Chicago gets its share of high winds and ice buildup. These kits are well thought-out, not clunky add-ons. They're probably not needed given the antenna's fiberglass radome construction but they keep the elements and boom from drooping.

Correct wiring of the control cable is very important, particularly if you do your own connectors as I did. Before you connect to the SDA-100 and apply power, I highly recommend you do a continuity check to ensure none of the wires are shorted. As I discovered, a short across the wrong wires will damage driver chips in the controller. (SteppIR was exceptionally responsive, shipping replacements to me by overnight courier, but it was a completely avoidable problem on my part.) All ground tests went as expected once I corrected my wiring mistakes and replaced the driver chips.

VSWR readings at the ground level are not helpful and not really needed for an antenna that can be tuned in the air. But once installed, I found the factory defaults in the SDA-100 to be dead-on; no adjustment needed for less than 1.3:1 anywhere I go. Slightly different story when I flipped to 180 degrees on the controller, VSWR is considerably higher on the same frequency. I'm sure there is a simple fix for this but I rarely use this capability and so have not yet looked into it.

On-air performance has been impressive, particularly on 30 and 40M compared to my traditional ground-mounted vertical... no surprise here. In general, 20 thru 10M front-to-back is about equivalent and side-rejection is considerably better than what I've experienced with other multi-band trapped yagi's. As an example, a 59+20 signal on 17M drops to S5 at 90/270 degrees and increases slightly to S7 at 180 degrees. AutoTracking is very easy to set up with the appropriate cables (available from SteppIR) and works perfectly with my K3; I touch the SDA-100 only when I need to retract elements and power-down during a thunderstorm.

The DB-18E is not an inexpensive antenna but it is very price-competitive with commercially available alternatives that offer similar band coverage. It's still early days in my journey with this antenna but, so far, I couldn't be happier. If you're looking for a new 40 thru 10/6M beam, you ought to give this antenna serious consideration. If you need something with a modest footprint (<22' Turning Radius), this is the one!
 
N6EE Rating: 5/5 Mar 31, 2010 15:05 Send this review to a friend
An excellent multiband yagi  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I replaced my Cushcraft A3 triband yagi a few weeks ago with a SteppIR DB18E. The A3 was up for twenty years and served me well, but I really wanted an antenna which also covered 40M and the WARC bands. My existing US Tower TX455 crankup wouldn't safely support several separate antennas on a tall mast (IMHO), and my small subdivision lot restricted me to less than 25 ft. turning radius.

When FluidMotion (SteppIR) introduced the DB18/DB18E series I knew I had to have one. It's pretty pricey, but otherwise satisfies my need.
After two weeks of on-the-air testing I am quite pleased with both SWR and performance on all bands (haven't tried six meters yet).

Construction took a couple of days working solo (it would go MUCH faster with an assistant). I had quite a bit of help installing the DB18E on the tower, but it could probably be done with just two experienced fellows. I am fortunate to be able crank my tower down and work from my roof. This allowed hoisting the boom sans elements, then installing the elements one at a time while standing on the roof.

I have chronicled the construction, installation, and evaluation process in a six part series of high definition videos on YouTube. Just type "SteppIR DB18E" in the YouTube.com search box.

I have also done a more extensive on-the-air testing and recording of front to rear and front to side measurements and will be putting those on my website in the near future. My observations show similar ratios to the published specs but are based on fairly small sample sizes and subject to QSB discrepancies.

In summary, the DB18E has these advantages:
1. One antenna covers all bands (40M-6M) with decent gain
2. Low SWR over the entire band - every band
3. Short boom length (19') and turning radius (21.6')
4. Capable of 3 KW continuous

But has these disadvantages:
1. Expensive
2. Electromechical complexity means high liklihood of maintenance issues
3. Weight (>100 lbs) and wind load (12.1 sqft) requires at least a moderately hefty rotator.

The manual is excellent and the parts arrive packaged in separate kit bags which makes assembly fairly straightforward. I found the entire staff at SteppIR to be very courteous and helpful.

Bottom line: for me the SteppIR DB18E is a great solution.
 
KC0ZRX Rating: 5/5 Feb 17, 2010 07:57 Send this review to a friend
Great antenna  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have had the DB-18E up about two months and am seeing a big improvement in my signals over my previous conventional Yagi antennas. The addition of two elements of gain and directivity on the 40 meter band is an added plus. I also had great service from SteppIR to resolve a problem with one of the EHU motors that occurred shortly after the installation. After running some tests suggested by SteppIR that confirmed the source of problem, they shipped me a new EHU very quickly.
 
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