Jan 13, 2010

Choosing The Right Antennae for your HAM Rigs

ANTENNAS: Choosing the right antenna is one of the most important parts of good Amateur Radio operation. As with the selection of a radio, it is suggested that a well respected brand of antenna be your choice to get you started. After you learn more about how they perform, under what conditions, and then using your antenna as a baseline, you can then experiment with other antennas. Many Hams say this is one of the most enjoyable parts of Ham Radio.

Good, time proven antenna brands include: (Alphabetical Order) Comet, Cushcraft, Diamond, Hustler, Hygain, Larsen, Maxrad, MFJ, and Workman.

Suggested types of antennas for New Ham would include Verticals,Slim Jim, Yagi Beams, and J-poles.

Vertical Antennas: The typical antenna found on vehicles, in homes on a metal sheet or base verticals mounted outside. These types of antennas have omni-directional coverage, but usually have lesser range than a Yagi Beam.

A SlimJim Antenna

Yagi Beam: A long metal boom with perpendicular tines mounted in descending size along the boom length. This antenna is good for extended range, but has a narrowed area of coverage.
J-pole, and others: A J-pole is a simple antenna that is fun to construct. They can be purchased inexpensively, and be used inside or outside. They can be rigid, flexible or roll-up type. This antenna does not compete with most Vertical or Beam antennas, but cannot be matched for flexibility of use. Most experienced Hams have a J-pole antenna close by for emergency use.
One of the biggest challenges for New Hams is the selection of the proper antenna for the given location of use. Now that we have discussed the basic antennas available, let's list some possible use scenarios:

3 Element Yagi

JPole Antenna

RURAL AREAS WITH MOST OTHER HAMS IN A LARGE CITY MILES AWAY: For the home, the best bet would be a Yagi Beam, mounted on a pole or tower. The antenna is pointed toward the city. Again, the Yagi has limited angle of coverage, but better coverage in one general direction.

APARTMENT IN TOWN WITH ANTENNA RESTRICTIONS: Within the restrictions of your home, mount a vertical antenna as high up as you can. Not all of us are lucky enough to be on the top floor of a 40 story high rise, but good results can get you into the local repeaters and some simplex frequencies. A 5/8ths wave magnetic mount antenna on top of the metal refrigerator works well. If you can't do that, find a place where a mag. mount can sit on a large pizza pan, which acts as a ground plane. If that won't work, try using a J-pole hung up vertically at the top of a wall, hopefully away from metal. Move it around to find the best area for reception. Use caution with power output when close to people. Later on, if you get an outside antenna, you can use an antenna switch and still use the inside antenna during storms.

HOME WITH DEED RESTRICTIONS OR RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS: These are homes that have room, but erecting a pole or a tower outdoors is prohibited. In addition to the inside antenna listed above, think about being Patriotic and erecting a flag pole made of non-metallic PVC. A flag on top and a surprise inside!

HOME WITH NO RESTRICTIONS: Inside, as a backup and storm antenna with a switch, use an antenna listed above. Outside, the choices are open. You can erect a "Push-Up" pole or a tower, and put up a large Vertical, a Yagi Beam and even a rigid J-pole. Talk to an experienced Ham about grounding issues when constructing an outside antenna.

IN YOUR VEHICLE: Let's refine our earlier discussion. A "rubber duck" that comes on an HT does not usually transmit well inside a car. An outside permanent or magnetic mount antenna works well in 1/4th or 5/8th wave. The mobile unit should have the same type antenna also. If you mount a mobile or even use an HT with a small amplifier, it is a good idea to run the cable in an area that is out of the way. Many times, running the coax under edges of carpet or underneath seats is time well spent.

Magnetic base mobile antennas

EXTRA GOOD IDEAS FOR EQUIPMENT: An external speaker of excellent quality is a good investment. An extra power cord for your Mobile used as a Base hooked to a large Deep Cycle battery for backup is a good idea. An SWR/Power meter. An extra battery pack and an Alkaline battery pack for your HT is a needed item. For HTs, a small external plug-in hand microphone is a good buy


  1. Ram Mohan G - VU2GRMFebruary 15, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Compliments to Chennai HAMS. This WEB site is very nice and has up to date information on recent equipment antenas and links to the rest of Indian HAM dom.
    73's good luck
    de VU2GRM