Why all the fuss about Antennas
WHY ALL THE FUSS ABOUT ANTENNAS
Definition: An antenna is a piece of metal, a conductor of electricity, to which you connect the radio.
It radiates your signal and receives the signals you want to hear.
Definition: An antenna system consists of the antenna, the feed-line, and any matching unit.
Most antennas are made of copper or aluminum, while most mobile antennas are made of stainless steel.
A feed-line consists of two conductors that carry the signal to and from the radio and to and from the
antenna. A matching unit can be an antenna tuner, a series matching section, or one of several different
kinds of matching circuits at the feed-point.
Does the type of antenna make much difference? Here is an example: Once in 1959 two of us were involved in testing two antennas on 15 meters.
The late R. Lynn Kalmbach, W4IW, using one antenna received a 30-dB better signal report on his antenna from a station in England than we did on our
antenna. (Decibel or dB will be explained later). Thirty dB means his signal appeared that he was running 1000 times more transmitter power than we were.
At that time, we didnt live that far apart so we couldnt blame it on propagation.
We both were running about equal power. Both antennas were at 50 feet.
The comparison proved that a good antenna could make a difference.
Lynn used a home-built G4 ZU mini-beam; we were using a 15-meter 2-element Mosely Mini-Beam, which had short loaded elements. Evidently, it had a lot of loss.
Another example: Today we hear people breaking in to our ragchews with signals almost level with thenoise.
Why is that? The reason is they are using the wrong antennas.
Their signals are twenty to thirty decibels below everyone elses.
They are making contacts, but just barely.
The first question our group asks, “What kind of antenna are you using?” Experienced amateurs know the antenna can make all the difference.
The guy with the poor signal sometimes will blame his bad signal report on band conditions or his lack of a linear amplifier.
He is just sticking his head in the sand.
What we are trying to prove is next to your radio, the most important part of your station is the antenna.
Many years ago, an old-timer said, “For every pound you spend on a radio, you should spend two pounds
on your antenna.” That is also true today.
You can do more to improve your signal strength with antennas than you can ever do by increasing your power.
Having the ability to make contacts on a particular antenna doesnt mean it works well! Any antenna will make contacts, but your signals will be
stronger on some antennas than on others.
In addition, some antennas hear better than others.