Radio Prepping: Ham Radio “Super Antenna II”

Ure is a gen-u-ine QRQ Extra Class Ham Radio geek.  QRQ means high speed Morse Code and some of us believe it enables a “direct digital” part of the brain.  Extra Class because there’s no higher certification offered.  And geek?  You don’t need help on that part…

What is a Super-Antenna

A Super-Antenna is something anyone can make and easily deploy, costs less than $200-bucks, and has amazing performance.

Super-Antenna I, which I put up several years back with the help of my buddy “the  Major” was a massively  over-scaled  OCF – off-center-fed – dipole.  One side was 183 feet long, while the other was 746-feet in length.  Huge sucker.

The best signal report I got out of it was a 20-db over S9 reading from Hawaii on the 75-meter phone band several winters ago.

While it worked great, it was something of a PITA to maintain.  For one, it was 40-feet up and not in a tower.  We’d rented a  Genie 36-foot platform height 4-wheel drive monster vehicle to get up into the required 9-trees on the long side of the antenna path.

When the wind came up, 900 lineal feet of tree path breaking off branches transitions from rare to dead certain.

The other problem with the antenna was that during the day and evening hours, it was a dog.  Not much better than a resonant dipole (that is, equal lengths of wire fed either side of a center insulator. Super low take-off angle – useless in the day when vertical take-off angles – work  best on low bands.

Super-Antenna 1 also didn’t play well on High Bands.  On 3.6 MHz it was a monster at night when the F2 was open. Dog during daylight hours – yuck.

Into the engineering books. Daytime, when NVIS *(near-vertical incident skywave) is in play, the goodness is touched by shooting energy up and then allowing what amounts to F2 back-scatter to cover the region of interest.

Feedlines and SWR

To summarize several months of enjoyment:  929 feet of wire up 40-feet will work great only some of the time.  I screwed up by using a single coaxial feedline (LMR-400 and a 5 kW commercial balun).

The feedline length became problematic on some bands.  Sure, you can “flatten” a meter reading, but in reality, there’s only ONE low-loss way to feed a wide-range antenna:  With Open Wire feedline.  (OK, a SmarTuner [-SGC] or AH-4 [- Icom] antenna coupler AT the antenna will work.  But unless you roll with Big Money, they’re maxed about 200-watts, or so. )

Tuners are at the radio, couplers at the antenna if you want to get picky about it.  Remember  Ure  wrote one interation of the SG-230 SmarTuner manual when he was at SGC?

The other Big Problem with Super Antenna 1 was it was mostly broadside on the low bands.

Since my wire runs southwest to northeast, I wasn’t getting into Europe worth a damn. Result?  A second “dream antenna” began to take shape to address these shortcomings.  Just a concept at this point.  Wire is in hand, though.

OM-2’s son – ace of trees – is enroute today.

Broken Beam – Nailing Down the Specs

Meanwhile, something had gone wrong with the Cushcraft AS-4 WB 60-feet up the tower.  The SWR was high and its efficiency has gone to pot.

Maybe it could be chalked up to “rain in a trap” but more likely effects of near or a small side-strike off lightning.

Spec. #1:  Whatever else, Super-Antenna II would HAVE to work great on 20-meters into Europe.

Spec. #2:  I was going with high-end (#14) wire for the antenna and #14 Open Wire (ladder) line from  The Wireman.  Product 554.

WHY?  First, because Deborah ay WireMan is great to work with and their quality has never failed me.  And this is over something like 30-years going back to when Press Jones wrote  The Wireman  book which is still one of the finest references on ham radio and commercial radio wire ever.

But the main thing is, I like nice, strong, easy-to-copy CW (Morse) from far away places.  Beams break because they are complex.  They have mechanical issues, statics issues, they have antenna rotator and control box issues, and they’re a 24-karat bitch to feed with Open Wire because the line needs to be kept away from the tower…

Also takes 2-3 people and power equipment to bring the tower down and put it back  up.

Since I an the owner of two Johnson KW Matchboxes, getting the antenna tuned to ladder line is no sweat.  High impedance feedlines have almost zero loss.  Ladder line is only slightly particular (doesn’t like being near metal, for example) but usually outperforms coax. 94 times out of a hundred.

Spec #3:  I didn’t want anything higher than 60-feet, the present top of the tower. We get enough lightning to scare Wardenclyffe fans.

Ideally, lower.  At 50-feet, I’d effectively have 10-feet of tower-grounded lightning arrestor of sorts above the antenna  if I just unplugged the radio shack via a huge double knife-switch.

Of course, there are dreams about a 43-foot insulated stick up there, fed by a coupler, too.  But, again, why tempt lightning?

88 Feet of Magic

Months rolled by.  Doodles.   Hours of antenna modeling.  Worse time sink than trying to time financial markets.

But in the end, simplicity itself is what turned out to be magic.

Yeah…not even particularly high (42-feet in the middle and 30-feet on each end) but I’ve come to have great faith in antenna modeling software to get me in the ball park.

20 Meter Performance

Want some major “radio geekness?”

There are a couple of ways that antenna manufacturers take products to market and mislead folks along the way.  One is by stating unrealistic antenna expectations.

Easy to do, too.  Because many antenna designers don’t design to the benchmark of the “real world” which is comparing their efforts with  a simple dipole antenna.  Two quarter waves of wire, fed in the middle, in free space.

Instead, they skip mentioning a simple dipole works great and “magic happens” when they are resonant.  (Or when you use ladder line a/k/a open wire feeders.  Yes they are different, but let’s gloss over that part.)

This is why, when doodling antennas, we ALWAYS put in 2.15 db as the reference level.  Because a simple wire dipole will get you that far.  Or, a good quarter wave vertical over a good ground system.

When I tell you an antenna has 4.3 db side lobes that means over a dipole.
Antenna peddlers would advertising the same antenna as having 6.45 db of gain!!!  Well, sort of

Oh, also helps to know that when you  double power of a transmitter, you’re adding 3-db (decibels) and double it twice gives you 6-db or one full S-unit (strength) stronger at the far receiving site.

100 watts with 6 db of antenna gain effectively transmits 100 X 2 X 2 = 400 watts.

It also amplifies the received signal as well.  (Always invest in antennas first, not an amplifier!)

Here’s what SA2 models on 20-meters, elevation view first:

As you can see, this radiates about as well as doubling my power into a dipole and then increasing it half that again.  Not bad for some “dumb wire.”  But, here’s the best part:

It also End-fires the major lobes.  Which means, when you rotate this countes clockwise 45-degrees in your head, it points at most of Europe and Africa from Ure’s place!  Hot diggity dang.  NZ and Chile the other way.

OK…Take-off angle is not as low as ideal (10-20-degrees) but close enough to run with.  It will be a smoker state-side for Morse work.

40 Meter Performance?

Well, about close to perfect for me.  For daytime use, it squirts most of its power more-or-less up for NVIS work, like so:

Remember, the 6.32 db is above the Reference – a 2.15 db gain from the dipole.  So 8.47 db of gain is how a misleading antenna huckster’s ad would “sell” this.

The nice part about this antenna is that in the 3D view, you can see how it also retains some of the broadside characteristics of the Double Extended Zeppelin antenna which was one of the starting points:

That Y axis gain runs to the northwest from Texas. The son (KF7OCD) and “the Major” are up there.

While the smaller end-firing lobes (4.3-db max) will head for Europe.  This will result in good 40-meter coverage into Washington, Japan, and down into the South Pacific. With a reasonable side of Europe.

Overall, its about $1,500 bucks cheaper than updating the rotator, updating the beam, and spending another small fortune of low-loss LMR-400 coax.

Open Wire and Ladder Lines

A lot of my friends from the early 1960’s were “brought up on coax” but the really  great signals always came from just a few classes of ham stations.

  • Waterfront Hams:  If you want a humongous signal, live on a salt water beach and work hams on the far side of the water.    One of my “life changers” was flying a kite-lifted antenna out over the reef back in my ZF2HD days in the Cayman Islands.  OMG.
  • Hams Who Own the Sky:  I know people with 150-foot (and taller) radio towers.  Believe me, you can fart that high up and get 10-over signals out of Europe.  The saying at myt late friend Dale’s place near SeaTac airport (with a 182-foot tower) was “20-meters never closed at Dale’s house.”  (Collins S-Line including a 30-S1 amplifier helped, I suppose.)
  • Hams with Ladder Line or Open Wire Feedlines:  Simple fact is a high impedance feedline doesn’t have nearly as much loss as coaxial cable.  Sure it takes a good antenna tuner to “make the magic” happen.  But, that reminds me of a great story.

Once upon a time there was a transmitter engineer down in San Francisco at (going from memory) KFRC.  Phil L, I think.   He got to looking at the KFRC antenna system one day and (correctly) figured it was a fairly complex network and had to be tuned “just so” to meet the FCC’s directional antenna requirements at night.

High Q networks are sharp and don’t pass signals on one or both sides.

Thing was, the station was losing talk-power (in the form of apparent loudness) because while one sideband of the AM signal (the upper sideband as I recall) was crisp and had good highs, the opposite sideband (the lower sideband) was “cut off” and muddy sounding to him. Result?  Apparent loudness was lower.

The answer?  A broader T-type matching network.  Made all the difference in how great the station sounded on the air at night thereafter.

Yes, Phil L. – but first rate AM radio engineer.  It’s all magic.

Ever since hearing that story, I’ve been afraid of going for very “high Q” (tightly tuned) antenna networks because using wide forms of modulation (AM at night on 3.825, 3.870 (West Coast), 3.880, 3.885 on the 75-meter ham band, for example) enough “little tricks” like this can make all the difference in the world.

Anyway…I’ll let you know when SA2 is up and flying and “how close to the model” it turns out.

We now return control of your weekend to your XYL.

Write when you know what vy 73 means…

de ac7x w/ kg4yhv

19 thoughts on “Radio Prepping: Ham Radio “Super Antenna II””

  1. “A male amateur radio operator can be referred to as an OM “old man”

    Ooooommmmmm! Ooooommmm!

    Says the Himalayan monk.

    ROTFLMFAO! you are killin it dude! Hahahahhaahhahhahahha

    I gotta go catch a virtual meeting, jus flash read ure stuff this mornin lighting quick.

    Brb

  2. George

    Great write up today that takes the mind off of world troubles.

    I wonder what the plot of a disk-cone HF antennas looks like?

    Go here for a look at a 70 foot tall one in Green Valley Arizona south of Tucson.

    https://www.gvarc.us/titan-missile-museum.html

    I have used one of those in an official capacity about 50 years ago!

  3. I’ve always (since 1963) been only able to put up wire antennas, and low-viz ones preferred at that. Mostly due to “XYL-acceptance” issues. I live here, so she’s got to grant at least grudging acceptance.

    I only run 100 watts. I’ve always been told I had a great — “dominating” — signal (80 & 40), and always had only simple wire dipoles. My dipoles have averaged between 30 to 50 feet off the deck, and I always make them as plain old “flat-top” — hung from trees at the ends, with no center support or extra height, and no ferrite-based balun.

    They’ve all been fed with RG-8 of good quality, but not the super-duper pricey stuff. They’ve all been accurately cut and trimmed to the “right” length for my favorite frequency.

    You’re right: at True Natural Resonance, some sort of magik happens…

    I’ve always used 12-guage “copperweld” bare copper – steel core wire. It tarnishes to a flat visual quickly. The bright shine lasts only a few weeks. It’s quite strong. I hold it up with black 3/8 inch nylon double-braid, with a pulley and counterweight at one end to allow for tree-sway in the wind. There is no end insulator — I trust the nylon line to do that job.

    The center connection to the coax is done with a PVC pipe “T” and some end caps and eyebolts. I can provide a photo if you like. It’s easy, strong, waterproof, looks neat, and once painted black can hardly be seen once aloft. I solder a one-megohm resistor across the coax inside the “T” on the theory that it bleeds off static build-up on low-humidity windy days. The coax drops straight away directly to the ground, and dribbles a few feet across the lawn to the well-grounded entry plate at the wall.

    I figure the few feet of over-lawn travel provides the lightning someplace to arc-over and find The Earth, and it also seems to provide some common-mode absorption or blockage for surface RF currents on the braid. I never have trouble with “RF in the shack,” and the little bit of tuner trim I sometimes need for wide excursions from the design center frequency is never quirky or erratic. Lately, I’ve started to “slot” the coax into the lawn an inch or two with a garden edger and my fingers. (Wife once chopped the coax up REAL good with the lawn motor back in the exposed days.)

    They work very well, are well-mannered, are strong as hell, and last a long time.

    Lately, I’ve considered end-fed multibanders such as the myantennas dot com models. I’ll report comparatives in a while. It takes a while to learn if any antenna really works as well as one would hope. Propagation is the wildcard daily variable there.

  4. curiouser and curiouser…. we are all mad here, C.C.

    Speaking of towers, I think King wrote it best, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

    Whoooooaaaaa… om change the next line. I just saw the results of the first one. Hmmmm

    “You see? Size defeats us. For the fish, the lake in which he lives is the universe. What does the fish think when he is jerked up by the mouth through the silver limits of existence and into a new universe where the air drowns him and the light is blue madness? Where huge bipeds with no gills stuff it into a suffocating box abd cover it with wet weeds to die?

    Or one might take the tip of the pencil and magnify it. One reaches the point where a stunning realization strikes home: The pencil tip is not solid; it is composed of atoms which whirl and revolve like a trillion demon planets. What seems solid to us is actually only a loose net held together by gravity. Viewed at their actual size, the distances between these atoms might become league, gulfs, aeons. The atoms themselves are composed of nuclei and revolving protons and electrons. One may step down further to subatomic particles. And then to what? Tachyons? Nothing? Of course not. Everything in the universe denies nothing; to suggest an ending is the one absurdity.” Defendant of King Author, Roland of Gilead. ~the dark tower series.~ hands down my personal favorite fictional books.

    Did you know that each and every day is a color. For example, Friday’s color is blue. We talked bout elepathic bullet point slinging yes-today. One might wanna have a hat for every occasion.

    You are fabulous Geo-ga. Ner a dull movement. Uhem! mo-ment.

    Thank you so much fer two days art cle. Where it like $80,000 watch. Speaking of witch, speck tickles, test tickles and watch all it.

    Dat how we Roll.

    “Go then, there are other worlds than these.” Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger who wields excalibur, the sword from stone that forged into pistols. Ya see my pistols at the start and end of my new handle?
    *grin

    Click 116!

    Infinitely NOW!

    Andy

    • oh yeah, someone yelled at me yesterday bout not aving a mask on in the store. I smiled and said.

      “That mask your wearing with your eyes wide shut, ain’t gonna stop the Corona anymore than your underwear is gonna trap your fart from eveyone.” I dont wear underware on my face.”

      The lady standing next to me at the Circle K, smiles and says, ” I’m not wearing any panties either. ” then took off her mask.

      *shrugs

      catch ya later dude i going fishin lol

      • “That mask your wearing with your eyes wide shut, ain’t gonna stop the Corona anymore than your underwear is gonna trap your fart from eveyone.”

        Oh Andy Andy Andy…..
        In a city as big as san fran or driving in a hot closed environment such as an eighteen wheeler.
        Panty sachets …poop potpourri…is a necessity..

        Or the pill that keeps on giving.. making a hot bowl of Texas beans a pleasant and waited for experience for all of those that your around….
        With poop potpourri in your shorts you could even use them for a mask against any virus..

        https://www.pilulepet.com/en/amp/fart-pill-for-humans/15-pilule-qui-parfume-les-flatulences-3760002661018.html

        I have given these pills away as gifts to the special gasey people in my life..

      • Speaking about the young lady that said..and I’m not wearing any panties..

        Two of my many hats was driving truck and delivering pizzas.. I was amazed at how many female flashes there are.. sitting high in the truck and look down as they pass ..
        And as a pizza delivery there were a few that would answer the door making sure there was a view well worth the trip..
        So I totally can relate to that. when I worked dairy and frozen I always got a charge at the over heated fanning themselves

      • All abou perspective and line of site.

        I didnt write the pensil statement. Steven King did.

        That is from the Dark Tower series, which I have read several times. I have a photographic, paragraphic and pornographic memory. lol. It’s a long series and at some point if you never read it? You are gonna say, Stephen get to the point! Hahaha.

        The totality of the series is I think 19 billion words and 4,900 pages or something like that. Lol.

        But it is a brilliantasterpiece. First place only too the Eragon series and the Hobit and Lord of the rings. All those books?? The author created a whole nother language for its characters. language creation is a level way above just writting a book. Like when Aragon says Brissinger, the word for the essence of fire. The term “Fire” is just a lable and identity for a phenomena. Not the actual phenomena.

        You know in space (a vaccum) fire is a liquid. Not a gas. Lol. How do you make fire a solid??? Hmmm interesting ponder.

        I just quoted one of the Dark tower series books written by Steven King. thems not my words. Thems kings words. Lol.

        A author named King, writing about a King named Arthur
        being defended by a king in court in a story about a gunslinger using pistols forged out of excaliber Hahah.

        Do you get the puns. Guns shot caliber bullets. And X marks the spot??? Lol. Ex caliber?

        Rimshot!

    • IAndY on May 24, 2020 at 09:56 One can look through a telescope or a microscope yet both lead one to infinity. Great to think of the pencil tip as a bundle of moving parts disquised as a solid object. Even the fleas have their fleas…

  5. George, your antenna escapades reminds me of when I was the night time rocker in the mid 70’s at WTMA in Charleston, SC. The station was still Top 40 and loudness on the dial was real important in the waning days of AM radio. And we did it with processing. The X-mitter was adjacent to the control room through a huge window, and I still remember our goofy CE didling with his “black boxes” and getting 125% modulation on positive peaks. We blew all the other AM’s off the dial! The processing was so tight you had to have music under your breaks otherwise the feedback was brutal. The entire operation was right on the edge of a swamp, and at high tide we used to get QSL’s from Great Britain. Those were the days!

  6. What I’m learning is that QRQ is not so much a ‘digital’ part of the brain as it is a new LANGUAGE to learn… so says my ‘Farnsworth method’ instructor of ‘Code Quick’. Learning letter recognition at slow speeds will hamper your recognition as you increase speed… it’s like having to learn the code all over again at a new speed recognition jump. This fellow is a language and speech expert on how the brain works, and finds it is better to learn the letters at high speed… with longer spaces in between…(Farnsworth method) and once you recognize the high-speed sound of a letter reliably you can crowd the letters closer together to achieve overall speed. It takes advantage of how the speech/language areas of the brain work.

  7. HAWAII VIRUS STATS from HDOH:

    Total cases: 643 (0 newly reported)
    Hawai’i County: 81
    Honolulu County: 414
    Kaua’i County: 20
    Maui County: 118†
    Pending: 0
    Residents diagnosed outside of Hawai‘i: 10
    Required Hospitalization: 84‡
    Hawaii deaths: 17
    Released from Isolation: 591§
    Cumulative totals as of 12:00pm, May 24, 2020

    ZERO new cases today.

    Tourists continue to try to circumvent the 14 day arrival quarantine in Hawaii. Police are getting tired of tracking people, and laws have been changed to make the residential HOST (B n’ B, Hotels, private home rentals,etc) responsible for their guest’s compliance with the quarantine and require the reporting of quarantine breakers.

    So when a host noted that their quarantined guests left the premises, they called the police. This couple dropped their luggage and immediately broke quarantine and went out ‘adventuring’, which included posting all their pictures on instagram. This included one of them shooting a feral chicken with a speargun. Police arrested them, with a $4000 bail on the quarantine jumping charge, and an additional charge of animal cruelty for the chicken incident. They are still in jail.

    Welcome to your Hawaiian Vacation…..scofflaw idiots!

    • Did you ever think you could be arrested for just going out? Welcome to the new America. What happened to the liberty and freedom. We all became “scofflaw idiots”.

      My country, ’tis of thee,
      Sweet land of liberty,
      Of thee I sing;
      Land where my fathers died,
      Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
      From ev’ry mountainside
      Let freedom ring!

    • I have been to the used to be beautiful state of Hawaii at least a dozen times in the past and noticed that it was degraded each year by the Dog Damn LIBERALS taking over and imposing their assinine new rules. On my last trip I vowed never to return H0pe you cretins enjoy it.

  8. Sell in May and go away!!!! Ahhhhaaa!!! Buy in May and make truckloads in a depression. Oh hang on all the gurus are inflating. Gees I’m dumb . Here you want. Some gold, stocks, bonds ? I’ll sell yah everything. No shorts for sale though.

  9. Loved this article. And agree completely with the gaming of antenna gains. Dealing with link budgets and sales engineers, I always get the same looks when it comes to equipment performance when and I ask about that elephant in the room. Is that EiRP or ERP referenced to dipole?? LOLz

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