Low Profile, High Performing Amateur Radio Antennas!
Even up close, my 5 band, nested loop array is barely visible to the eye, but it is well heard on the bands!
Whether working a contest, chasing DX or enjoying a general rag chew or net, when it comes to making lots of good contacts, the single most important factor determining your fun and success is the performance of your antenna. If you have the interest, space and resources to put up a beam antenna on a rotor at a reasonable height, you should! Precisely controlling the directivity of your signal at the push of a button will be a great enhancement for your station!
That said, beams aren't everyone's best choice. A beam / rotor / tower combination isn't cheap. Depending on where you live, neighborhood permission might be tough to obtain and radiating all your signal in only one direction can be a disadvantage for nets or running a frequency. In addition, many of us enjoy the challenge, reward and satisfaction of using alternative, home brew antenna designs that can get us through the pile ups and keep our QSO rates high during contests!
The good news is that beams are just one of many good performing, HF sky wave solutions! There are some very good, low profile, neighborhood friendly antenna designs that work really well! A beam might bust through the pile ups most often, but there are some stealthy, low profile designs that will hold their own in the pile ups too!
Amateur radio is great fun when your station works well enough to make a good amount of contacts, but you'll likely lose interest pretty quickly if your antenna is little more than a glorified dummy load, eating most of the signal or radiating most of it uselessly into the ground or outer space. Choosing the right antenna for your station that works well will add tremendous enjoyment to your hobby. Whether your goal is to work as many different countries as you can, contesting or general rag chew, a good performing antenna makes all the difference!
In the fall of 2014, my friend Dave, N3HCN came up and operated with me for both CQ WW SSB and Sweepstakes CW. We set a goal before CQ WW of working 100 unique DXCC entities by the end of the contest. After just 14 operating hours, at 100 watts output, we had more than 500 contacts in the log and 100 unique entities! During Sweepstakes CW, we worked every section but NT with 446 Qs and two weeks later earned a Clean Sweep during Sweepstakes SSB.
So, in the space of about 9 days, we worked all states (in fact every section but one) and DXCC running only 100 watts, dipole inverted Vs, 6/10 of a wavelength above ground, wire loop antennas and this method of aiming our signal! Our average QSO rate was over 30 Qs per hour for both contests, we wound up winning the Atlantic Division and placing 8th overall in the Multi Op, Low Power Category for Sweepstakes CW!
Please don't read this as a boastful post. Folks with beams and more power likely do much better. I'm sharing this to quantify just how much fun you can have with 100 watts and properly erected, low profile wire antennas.
N3HCN and I actually wound up winning the Atlantic Division in the 2014 November Sweepstakes Multi Op CW Low Power category!
The goal of this antenna section is to provide antenna alternatives to conventional, manufactured beams that perform well, are easy to build, inexpensive, low profile and in some cases stealthy enough that your neighbors or community association won't even notice. For inclusion, antennas here must be able to consistently meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Easily maintain a minimum QSO rate of 30 QSOs or more per hour on SSB at 100 watts during active contests.
- Perform at least as well as a dipole at optimum height above ground. (Don't underestimate a dipole's performance at the proper height. At 6/10 of a wavelength above ground they have over 8 dBi of gain!)
- Be able to break through well more than half of pile ups at 100 watts before feeling compelled to bang your head against a wall! (This one is an important, but subjective measure.)
- Contacted at least 100 unique DXCC countries at 100 watts.
Here is a six minute video that details the antennas that netted us DXCC and WAS in 9 days with 100 watts!
Please click on the links above and explore the antenna options that will work best for your location!
I'm by no means an antenna guru, but I have a couple designs to share that I am using here, and I am really hoping that other antenna enthusiasts will chime in with their suggestions too! If you have an antenna design that works well and is easy enough to build that a newly licensed Technician or General class operator would have no trouble assembling, please send it along and I will add it to the page! Brainstorming new, good performing, stealthy designs is really encouraged too!
Please e-mail your antenna designs to this address:
Two important safety tips and a disclaimer: First, contact with overhead power lines can kill you! Always be mindful of the location of your power lines, your ladders, handling antennas, other metallic objects, etc. Second, you should always evaluate the placement of your antennas and address any RF exposure risks as detailed here. Any actions that you take based upon the information presented here shall be solely at your own risk. Neither N3FJP Software, our employees or any of our contributors shall be held liable for any actions taken based upon the information presented on this website.
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