Monthly Archives: June 2016

LNR EF-Quad initial test

Well it’s Father’s Day and dads don’t do flowers but they do like antennas. I gave a big hint to my family that I had enough ties and fishing rods, but that I could really use, one might almost go so far as to characterize it as a need, an LNR EF-Quad. And here it is:

LNR EF-Quad

LNR EF-Quad

Yes, they are a bit expensive when strictly considering the materials but any good products is more than just the sum of its parts. Additionally, the EF-Quad along with the the rest of the LNR family of wire antennas get great reviews on eHam. I’ve watched enough auctions for used LNR antennas on eBay bid up to nearly the same price as new.  It appears that they are desirable and so it was time to jump in.

I attached the end to my Spiderbeam 12m fiberglass pole and stood it up, bungee cording the pole to a picnic table. I deployed it as a sloper so as to allow the tuning stubs to hang freely. There are three tuning stubs on the antenna, one for 10m, the next for 15m, and the last for 20m. The antenna is intended for use on the 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m bands. It is very well made. I can easily see how some choose to deploy these permanently. I can also see how this antenna would work nicely as a stealth antenna. The antenna wire and tuning stubs are made of Poly Stealth 18 and virtually disappear.

LNR EF-Quad: Quietly giving HOA Busy Bodies nightmares

Where’s the antenna?

This thing would be perfect for those living in HOA-restricted areas. Run a stealth operation at night to get the end well up in a tree and run it back to your shack. Done correctly it will likely never been seen by the HOA cranks when they are out measuring the length of your grass. Little will they know that you are tickling the ether in their controlled airspace.

The total length of the antenna is 65 feet. Just for fun, dust off your trigonometry, a²+b²=c²:

a²+b²=c²

a²+b²=c²

So the matchbox ends up 50 feet away from the base:

Another view

Antenna Feedpoint

I didn’t have time to operate with it but simply tested it with my MFJ-259B, As shown it appears to work as specified:

20 meters

20 meters

On the 20m band the SWR ranged from 1.7 at 14.000 to 1.4 at 14.350.

15 meters

15 meters

On the 15m band the SWR ranged from 2.0 at 21.000 to 1.3 at 21.450.

40 meters

40 meters

On the 40m band the SWR ranged from 1.1 at 7.000 to 2.0 at 7.300.

The 10m band needs some tuning as out of the box the SWR ranged from 4.3 at 28.000 to 7 at 29.7. The instructions state to tune the antenna from 40m down. I’ll need to tune the 10m stub another day and 15m could probably use a bit of a tweak as well. For now though 15m, 20m, and 40m are plenty good enough for initial operation which will hopefully be soon.

 

Advertisements

ARRL June VHF Contest

For the first time I had a functioning 6m station for the ARRL VHF contest. I used the Par Electronics Omni in its temporary location and my Kenwood TS-480SAT.

The contest started at 1800 UTC Saturday 11 June. I was a bit late for the start getting my first contact, W9GA in EN53 at 18:55 UTC. This was followed by three more stations in Wisconsin and then the band opened up for me and I could here more stations. For awhile after that I was getting a new station about every five minutes, scanning the SSB portion of the band. All my signal reports were good.

My XYL arrived home from work and wanted to go for dinner at our favorite BBQ place, Altas BBQ. Talk about the horns of a dilemma…XYL and Atlas BBQ…VHF contest…XYL and Atlas BBQ…VHF contest…hmm, what should I do? Actually it wasn’t that hard even though I am enjoying 6 meters. So after an excellent Cuban sandwich (I heard it’s good for propagation) I returned to the contest and had 26 contacts when I pulled the hook at 0259 UTC.

Extents of contacts

Most distant contacts

I had a wee bit of time to grab a few more stations on Sunday morning. In the end I contacted 33 stations including my first DX station, VE1PZ in Nova Scotia. This brings my grid total to 29 and 14 states on 6m. I really like 6m operation. The dynamics of the band are very interesting in a way that is much different from that of the HF bands. I guess that’s why it’s called the magic band. I’ll be watching for more openings and hope for a big opening to Europe.

Alpha Antenna DX Sr

With an increase in portable transceiver capability I’ve had to do some catch-up on antennas. Last camping seasons portable operations were largely sustained through the use of Mike AB9ON‘s BuddiPole. Mike graciously let me borrow it for several months through the summer. Obviously the borrowed antenna model isn’t sustainable, so for this camping season I set about to buy\build some antennas for my portable station.

I wanted one vertical antenna option and one or more wire antenna options. I figured that would cover all of my portable operation needs. One wire antenna is the EARCHI that I recently built. A potential purchase option on the radar is an LNR EF-QUAD. I know their a wee bit much for what they are but the reviews for all their products are excellent and sometimes it’s nice to just get something and go operate. For verticals I looked at the aforementioned BuddiStick,  the SuperAntenna SuperStick, and one of the Alpha Antenna verticals.

Based upon my experience with the BuddiPole it was an option. It’s a very nice antenna that’s part of an entire BuddiStuff ecosystem. It’s like an Amateur Radio LEGO set. Once you’re in you can add parts to the system to cover a wide range of frequency and deployment needs. After a lot more reading on the Buddi products I settled on getting a BuddiStick instead of the BuddiPole. First, it represents a low cost entry into the land of BuddiStuff and second, for my needs it would be more easy to deploy and appeared a bit less fussy about tuning than the BuddiPole. So I watched eBay, eHam, QTH, QRZ for a used BuddiStick. Every time reasonably priced BuddiStuff appeared it was gone in a nanosecond. Other postings contained many more pieces than I needed\wanted which translated into way more than I wanted to spend.

Then one day at a Hamfest I stumbled upon an Alpha Antenna that looked to be new in the bag. I’d done enough research on them to know that they appear to be well made and get good reviews on eHam. It was all there, was in perfect shape, and the price was right so it followed me home. Vertical problem solved.

Alpha Antenna DX Sr

Alpha Antenna DX Sr

It’s the Alpha Antenna DX Sr. After sitting in the basement for awhile I had some time recently to set it up and test it. Initial testing with my MFJ-259B showed good matches across all the bands of operation. Everything was well within the range of the tuner in my TS-480SAT and in many cases it won’t be needed.

Wolf River Coil

According to the Alpha Antenna site, the Alpha DX Sr uses a “customized” Wolf River coil. It appears to be a Silver Bullet 1000. I don’t know what’s been customized on the one with the Alpha. It appears to be substantially the same.

Overall the antenna is very well made. The vertical and radial elements are shock corded aluminum poles much like that used for tents. For 10m, 12m, and 15m you only use two of the four sections for the vertical element so two are folded over on the two rising from the base. The tripod is very nice and the whole thing packs up into a much nicer than average bag.

Alpha DX Sr packed up

The entire package weighs 12 pounds but a fair piece of that is the tripod. You could quite easily shed the tripod, reducing the weight considerably for those trips where weight is an issue. My camping is in a camper so the weight is not an issue and since I live in Wisconsin SOTA activations aren’t likely in my future. This thing will work fine for camping and some NPOTA activations.

Unfortunately I’ve not had enough time to operate with it as of yet. It will have to wait for an upcoming camping trip. The antenna analyzer indicates that there shouldn’t be any surprises and I’m confident that it will perform as expected.

 

Par Omni – Initial test

Yes, it’s time for the latest installment of Tim’s 6m adventure. This one begins where the previous post left-off, the the Par Omni. My nice new OA-50 leaned against a workbench in my shack all week waiting to go outside and play with all the other antennas. Well Friday was the day. I stuck in on the aforementioned mast that I used to test my Par Moxon and bungee corded it to the side door of the garage workshop.

Par Omni @ 20ft

Par Omni @ 20ft

The wire in the picture is not a powerline, it’s one leg of my Cobra UltraLite Junior. It was temporarily deployed late last fall in order to have a backup for the winter in case my main antenna came down which it had the previous year during a very cold period late in January. Typical antenna behavior. They never have problems when it’s sunny and 72.

A quick test with my MFJ-259B showed that the SWR was at 1.1 at 50.125 and thru the SSB portion of the band. Using my TS-480SAT I slowly scanned through the range from 50.125 to 50.200 and didn’t hear anything. I returned to 50.125 and called CQ a few times to no avail. So I flipped back to 20m and worked some DX and NPOTA stations, occasionally checking back to 50.125 and watching DXMaps for signs of band activity.

On one of my checks I heard Ray, K9KHW and responded to his call. Being new to 6m operations I asked Ray about the tools that are typically used to check on 6m activity and he recommended the DXMaps site and also subscribing to the ON4KST chat which I subsequently did. He also recommended checking activity later in the evening. The rest of the afternoon was spent on HF.

About 7:30 PM CDT band activity appeared to be increasing as indicated by  the DXMaps site. Hearing nothing on 50.125 I called CQ with no response so I moved to 50.130 and called CQ and Kevin, W9APE in Sheboygan responded. With only 38 miles between our stations we certainly weren’t pressing the limits of the 6m band but he was very helpful with a few more 6m operation questions that I had. Shortly after breaking with Kevin to tune around a bit a station from Houston, Rick K5GZR called him followed quickly by another station in Houston, Dan N5TM. I could hear the two Houston stations very well so after W9APE completed his contacts with them I gave K5GZR a call and he responded with a good signal report. After a nice conversation with Rick I called for N5TM and he responded as well with a good signal report. Both of these stations had much more substantial antenna systems than my Omni on a pipe and also power but I was able to clearly hear them (no real surprise) and more importantly they were able to clearly hear me. That’s a thousand miles on 6m with an Omni on a pipe at 20 feet and 100 watts. As I think of it I should have tried to reduce power to see how low I could have gone and still maintained contact. After breaking with Rick and Dan I tuned around a bit more and called CQ on occasion with no response. I heard KI4FCQ in Georgia on 50.125 and called for him, while he had my call we were not able to complete the contact. I returned to 50.130 and called CQ again and Matt, W3UUM responded. Matt is located well east of Houston so another 1000 miles on 6m. As a side note you should check the picture of Matt’s antenna farm on his QRZ page. It’s very nice and enough to give the average HOA president a well deserved heart attack. After a nice contact with Matt I called CQ one last time as weather radar indicated that a storm was approaching and would be at my location in less than an hour. Bruce, W9XX responded and after a short contact we both decided to pull the hook in the face of the impending storm as Bruce is located in Sheboygan and the path of the storm was angled such that the leading edge of the storm was closer to him than to me at that point.

All in all a successful day of 6m operations. The Par Omni performed as expected and given that this is the weekend for the ARRL June VHF Contest it will get a bit more workout if the band conditions allow. Plus my XYL thought the Omni looked cool which I’m certain is wife-speak for “Honey, why don’t you get some more antennas.

Conclusion: Par Electronic’s antennas work very well and 6m is a blast!

Update: Here’s an interview with Dale Parfitt of Par Electronics

Update: Here’s a nicely done introduction to 6m operation that’s largely done on air with KF7ETX.

More Par to ya

Briscoe Darling couldn’t have said it better. Based upon my experience with the Par Electronics Stressed Moxon I decided to get more Par…Par Electronics that is. The Moxon was intended for my portable station but I also wanted a fixed 6m antenna. So the obvious solution was to get another antenna! As with the Par Moxon, I’ve wanted one of Par’s Omni’s for quite awhile as well. Since I bought the Moxon used and saved a fair amount of money over the price of a new one I figured that buying a new Omni would save even more, at least that’s what I told my XYL. Besides, it works for her, “Look honey, if I spent over $100 then they gave me an additional X% off so I saved $Y.” You have to spend more to save more, isn’t that how it works?

In any event, I sent Par Electronics an email inquiring about the price and shipping for an OA-50. I received a very prompt reply (I sent my message at 8:51 PM on a Tuesday night and got a reply 22 minutes later) from the owner, Dale Parfitt with all the information I asked for plus more including the fact that they were about 3 days behind on orders and working 80+ hours a week to keep up. I guess that’s a good problem to have if you are a small business. I was in no hurry as long as I had an order in the queue. I figured that I’d see it in a couple of weeks. Based upon the eHam reviews it was definitely going to be worth the wait.

Six days later Brown Santa dropped off a package:

What's in the box?

What’s in the box?

Opening revealed the brand new OA-50:

OA-50

OA-50

A quick inspection showed everything intact even though the box was a bit roughed up. The quality of all the parts is the typical top notch that you’d expect from Par Electronics:

OA-50 parts

OA-50 parts

One odd part was this:

Has Par nailed it?

Has Par nailed it?

Yes, it’s a nail. What’s a nail have to do with a 6m antenna you ask. A quick scan of the instructions revealed that they include it to dimple the radiator tubes onto the tip assembly for fixed operation. Nice touch.

OA-50 assembled

OA-50 assembled

A few minutes later and I have a new OA-50 waiting to be tested. Too bad it’s dark, cold, and raining right now. Dark and cold would be okay, almost normal antenna deployment weather. Rain, not so much.

Now that I have one Omni, wouldn’t two be better? They do make stacking kits. Stay tuned for more!