|Great loop, but shipping makes price too high
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|Update, because I felt my 4 rating was unfair. I would rather give 4.5. |
A generous friend (HL1BX) allowed me to borrow his AlexLoop Walkham for testing. I have been running it for a few weeks, and here are my observations:
Pros: This is an extremely portable, and fast antenna to set up. It is well-made (also see cons), and it can be easily set on a tripod, or held-up by hand, which is something that other portable loops aren't so good at. It works very well on 20m, 17m, and 15m, given loop size. If you are buying a loop for mountain-top work, the AlexLoop Walkham is a great choice, because of it's light-duty construction and easy/quick set-up. Lastly, mag loops, like the AlexLoop, are great for city noise issues. I did notice nearly a 2s-unit drop in city noise. I was able to easily identify sources of noise, and keep the antenna turned from them. It's highly directional, and very sensitive. Remember, you need to turn these loops toward the signal, to experience max results, and it is generally within a tight area of 15 degrees, or so, that you hit the sweet spot. The AlexLoop is easily mounted at a decent height of around 5 feet, and simpler to turn, compared to table top models. It is easier to set up on a tripod than that MFJ loop tuner versions, for example (although the MFJ are almost half the price, and allow you to make your own loop sizes), and that is important, because I have found loops work FAR better at 5 to 6 feet up, compared to a tabletop. If you can get other loops up there, on a stand, then do it. Big difference! For best results, you will be turning the loop around, and tuning it constantly. Fun, as the rise/fall in signal is like turning a huge yagi, and you learn exactly where signals are coming from! Also, stay away from the loop! The MFJ's will handle up to 150w, which is very unhealthy to be close too, and dangerous. At QRP levels, radiation is far less, but you can still be injured badly, if you touch the loop at transmit. High voltage!
Cons: The price. This loop needs a price drop to be able to compete with what's out in the market, now, due to shipping prices (The new, well-built W4OP LNR Precision loop is less expensive, tests as more efficient on 40m, has markingsbto show where best to tune, and is capable of more bands). Second, I mentioned that the build quality is light duty. After using on four outings, over a few weeks, I began to notice that the paint on the plastic tube joints was showing stress fractures. The problem suddenly showed, after I tried to hold it in a horizontal position, by the handle. I happened to post this as a part of a discussion on a loop thread on another board, and the AlexLoop maker was watching. He responded that this is normal, and not to worry. I have concluded that this is not something you will be able to mount horizontally,from one-sided support, as it really seems like it would be too much stress, long-term, given what I saw for stress on the pipes and joints. It really should be supported in the middle, or at both ends, if horizontal. If you're buying this loop for typical portable put up/tear down work, then have no worries about it. I just wanted to mention that stress fractures in the paint will happen, if you hold horizontal, from one end. Lastly, as per performance, I found it was at least 2s down on 40m, and is a pretty big compromise there, but it does work on 40m. I never tried it, but if memory serves, you don't get 10m, and certainly not 80m. The LNR Precision loop would be a better buy, if you primarily work 40m, as its loop element is bigger. You need bigger loops to work the low bands, and shorter for high bands. In-between sizes will work more bands, but there are always compromises somewhere. There are online magnetic loop calculators that give you a rough idea of differences in efficiency, between loop sizes, for different bands.
Overall, this is an impressive product, and hats off to the maker. I would consider this currently the best loop for deep portable work, given its light weight, and easy set-up. I would probably look at the W4OP from LNR Precision, or MFJ936B for home work, or just setting-up in the back yard, rather than the AlexLoop, given price and performance value. Whatever you get, mount it at least 5 feet up off of the ground! There are solid tests showing the LNR Precision bests the AlexLoop (primarily on 40m), if you google. On higher bands, I doubt there is much of any performance difference.
Speaking of performance, I managed a longpath contact to Italy, IK4GRO on 17m, SSB, at 10w with an Elecraft KX2, May 4, 2017, from Seoul, Korea, with this (I am HL1ZIX, while in Korea). That is well over 19,000 miles. I was on top of a 10-story building, and the building was probably working as my ground, too (loops aren't supposed to work so well, up so high, I was told). At that height, I easily worked out to 2,500 miles (into Russia and Oceana) at 5/7 to 5/9, on 15 through 20m, on a day when propagation was not great. Maybe it was because this building put me above all of the other buildings, around.
Lastly, you'll see other low-end loops with a loop that can be broken down into several parts. That is wrong on so many levels. Those loops lose efficiency with every single broken, or soldered connection, and I would hate to take the time to put them together and take them apart. You want a loop that is one solid loop, and not multiple pieces. The AlexLoop is one thick piece of coax, and although there are soldered wires connecting the connectors to the capacitor inside, it is, at least, one solid loop, on the outside.