With one exception, all of my HF antennas are wire. I’ve thought about getting a vertical for quite some time. My original station when I was first licensed had a homebrew 10m vertical strapped to the chimney of my parent’s house. Not the most effective but it worked with the old Swan 350.
The Hustler x-BTV line has always been interesting. They been around for a very long time and consistently get good reviews. Plus they are relatively inexpensive when compared to their competition. I also like the fact that, setup properly there won’t be any need for an antenna tuner.
While there are a three versions, 4-BTV, 5-BTV, and 6-BTV I chose to get the 4-BTV. Covering 10m, 15m, 20m, and 40m is all that I was interested in as I can solve the 80m problem with wire antennas that I already have deployed and I don’t operate on 30m.
A friend and fellow operator, Josh KD9DZP recently obtained a 4-BTV to test as he sets up his new HF station. I was really impressed with the simplicity and build quality of the antenna. It’s performance was so good with his TS-590S that I quickly decided to move my planned purchase of a 4-BTV from “some time” to the very next day. This was helped by the fact that AES had them marked down from $160 to $140. The order was placed Sunday night and the antenna was dropped off by Brown Santa early Tuesday afternoon.
It was very late Friday afternoon before I had time to start to work on the antenna. I picked up a roll of radials on the way home from work and started to put together a set for a temporary deployment.
Roll of radials
I planned to do a temporary deployment until I had the time to make the permanent install. Some years ago I picked up a very nice temporary folding vertical antenna mount.
Portable folding vertical mount
Portable folding vertical mount
It has bolts for 16 radials. With a 500 foot roll of 14 AWG wire, I made the radials 30 feet long.
Sixteen 30 foot radials
The cat thought I was making sixteen new cat toys for him.
Radial or cat toy?
He just about lost his mind when I started to pull all of the radials out into position.
With the radials prepared it was time to unbox the antenna and start to assembly.
The antenna parts are nicely packed and the build quality is very good.
My wife’s mom had surgery this week and my wife is up at her house taking care of her so I needed to go up there for awhile on Friday evening. By the time that I returned home it was almost sunset. I didn’t want to wait until Saturday morning to finish the antenna as I really wanted to operate into Friday evening. So I hauled out an LED worklight and some bug spray and completed the antenna assembly and deployment. It was completed at 10:30 PM CDT by the clouded light of the moon and the LED worklight.
4-BTV in the moonlight
Following the initial recommended dimensions resulted in an SWR of 1.6 in the center of the phone portions of 20m and 40m. This was plenty good enough for a 10:30 at night. I ran 100 feet of RG-8x to my workshop and attached it to a drop of RG-8 that goes to the shack and connected the 4-BTV to one antenna input of my TS-480SAT and left my Cobra Ultralite Senior on the second antenna input.
First contact was N6JW, John in Riverside, CA with a 57 report! It was 10:45 PM CDT. I could hear him on the Cobra Ultralite but he was weak (44). He was 59 on the 4-BTV! I typically can’t work west on 20m that late into the night. This was quickly followed by contacts with stations in Washington, the Virgin Islands, and more in California. I’ll grant varying band conditions but it appeared that I was off to a great start.
My initial plan for Saturday was to spend the morning doing another NPOTA activation but with a brand new antenna and good results the first night of operation I decided to stay home. So Saturday morning I cleaned up the radial deployment from the prior night and began to operate. I did however decide to have a bit of fun with my wife as she was up at her mom’s. She thought I was going to be gone out on an NPOTA activation so I texted her a picture of the antenna in the middle part of the backyard at home:
She knew that I got the antenna but thought it was out on a portable operation. Little did she know that it was right in the middle of our backyard. (She came home later in the day Saturday and realized the location. It was funny. We quickly agreed on a permanent install location. She’s a keeper.)
Over the course of Saturday I had a few nice QSO’s and picked up a bunch of NPOTA stations. I did a lot of A\B testing from the 4-BTV to the Cobra Ultralite Senior and in most cases the signal was stronger on the vertical by around 2 S units. As I was writing this post I worked K6QCB at Yosemite (NPOTA NP58). This was at 01:39 AM UTC. He was 57 into my station and I received a 56 report in return. I could barely hear him on the Cobra Ultralite Senior. (Granted that he was running a portable station.) I also worked 4V1G while writing this (02:24 UTC). I broke the pile-up on the first call with a 59 report, granting the standard DX reporting standard – everyone’s a 59, and a bunch of other variables, it still feels good to do that with a new antenna even though there may well be a number of factors involved in obtaining the result. What’s most important is that he heard me in a pretty good sized pile-up. He was 57-58 into my station on the 4-BTV and 43-53 on the Cobra Ultralite Senior.
So far I am very very happy with the 4-BTV. In it’s temporary location it seems to be functioning very well. To be fair to my Cobra Ultralite Senior, one end has dropped a bit down in the tree that holds that end so it’s probably at 20 feet instead of 30 feet which in turn causes a bit more sag at the feedpoint in the middle. Another antenna project is to get its anchor points up higher in the trees. My guess is that this will improve it’s performance. In no way am I saying that the 4-BTV is better overall. It was better given today’s conditions and the Cobra’s current deployment. What I am saying is that having antenna options is very nice and I’m glad to have added the 4-BTV to my antenna farm. I can’t wait to get it permanently deployed. I’m going to use the DX Engineering radial plate so that I’ll have 60 radials as more is definitely better in the case of radials for a vertical antenna.