Sunday, December 20, 2015

Which antenna is better?

Real world antenna comparisons

I don't have many choices for my antenna at my residential QTH.  I have an 80m OCF Dipole (aka Windom) hung from the peak of my roof at about 25ft and a ladder line fed 40m Doublet folded around in my attic at about the same height.

Generally I've been using my 80m Windom for most contacts because it is resonant on 7 bands and I don't have to tune it.  I've had a number of on-air ragchews where I switch antennas and ask for signal reports but it is often a hassle and I don't like to interrupt a ragchew to ask for that sort of comparison. 

So how do I know which antenna is better for certain bands and directions?


The Reverse Beacon Network offers an objective and patient antenna tester.  I just recently learned about this resource and it's a fabulous tool.  When my CQ isn't being answered I'll often bring up the RBN and check my signal reports and then switch antennas to see how they compare.

It has been very interesting to learn that the Doublet in the attic often outperforms my Windom usually by 12db and sometimes by as much as 20db especially on the higher bands.  I'm guessing that part of it is the greater efficiency in the ladder line but that doesn't tell the whole story because the Windom offers a low SWR on most bands and shouldn't be eating up much power in the coax through SWR losses.  Antennas are magic.
Two highlighted records show the difference when I switched antennas and moved the transmit frequency slightly to cause a new report to be sent


Ok so here's what I do... The RBN stations will report only when they see a new frequency or it's been 15 minutes since the last report for a given station, so when I switch antennas I will move frequency slightly to trigger the new report.  Now admittedly QSB or other conditions may change between the reports so you'll need to do this a bunch of times over the course of days and compile some records to get a clear idea of how each antenna is performing in certain directions.  This isn't hard science but it's more real-world than a smith chart or the occasional signal report from a station or two.

If you make use of the RBN I encourage you to donate on their site.

That's all for now...

So lower your power and raise your expectations


Richard N4PBQ

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