Sunday, September 13, 2009

The much maligned (and commended) 43 foot vertical

Wow, there's a lot of debate on this device. I see competition heating up. Zero-Five, DX Engineering, MFJ.

A 43 foot piece of aluminum tubing. Big deal. Why all the hype and criticism? It's all about perception versus reality, facts versus fiction, knowledge versus hype.

One old timer: The vertical radiates poorly in all directions.
One new ham: I can tune it for 1:1 SWR, so it works great!
Another old timer: You can't get a good signal without a bazillion radials laid down.
Another new ham: I can work everything I hear, so this is a KILLER antenna (5/5 review)

STOP! Let's clear some of this up right now.

Misconception: Low SWR means a good neasure of antenna performance.
Truth: Wrong, Chief. SWR simply indicates the match (or mismatch) between the transmission source and the antenna (with some impact from the feedline, in some instances). Some antennas (ladderline fed doublet for all bands) run at very high SWR. The key factor is the LOSS incurred by the feed line. Some coax is very lossy at high SWR, and some ladder line is very lossless. It all depends.

Misconception: the vertical antenna hears better
Truth: Incorrect, Batman. Answer is that it depends. In general, human-generated noise is vertically polarized, so the vertical antenna will generally be noisier than a dipole in the same situation. But not always.

Misconception: The vertical antenna is better than a dipole.
Truth: I don't think so, Jackson. It depends! Are you trying to work a low angle of DX? What angle is the signal coming from? Is the signal broadside to the dipole? How well-situated is the vertical? The dipole? It's not a simple answer. Verticals have lower angles of radiation in general. But verticals are normally not as efficient as a horizontal resonant dipole. Here's a good theoretical analysis of the 43 foot vertical:

Misconception: My rig tunes the vertical antenna just fine, so it's working.
Truth: NOT SO FAST, Tonto! What is the SWR on your feedline? You could be losing a lot of signal due to the SWR in the coax.

This is the main reason why I went with a remote tuner - I want every bit of RF energy going TO THE ANTENNA and NOT being lost in the coax.

For me, I don't see why anyone would tinker with a 4:1 un-un. But that's just me.

Misconception: If I can hear 'em, I can work 'em.
Truth: No way, Jose. What you cannot hear is what you're missing!

So let's look at this antenna in a different light.

Take a look at my review on the antenna, and keep in mind why I bought the thing:

Now, take a look at my results. Remember I am trying to work new DX with 100 watts (or new DX on a particular band): Look at these callsigns...omnidirectional/all directions.

Some noteworthy results: VQ9LA and A25/DL7DF on 80. ALso my first JA on 80 and my first ZL and VK on 80.

Interesting DX (some of it new): LX1DL, IS0AFM, EA5/UT2XD, YT7WM, TA3D, CE4ETZ, LU5XM, 6W1SJ, E51NOU, NH7O, J28JA, D2NX, ZL1BYZ, 9L1X, FO/DJ7RJ, 9J2BO, VQ9RD, 9H3YL, 4L0A, PY7ZY, A73A, EL2DX, RW0CN, 9K2MU, FW5RE, EL2DX, PS0F, YK1BA, UP7A, 5N0OCH.

Did the vertical outperform the dipole? It appears so. I increased my country count on 80 and 40 (and even on 17 and 15!). But my dipoles are low on 80 and 40 are low, so I expect this to happen (it is why I bought the 43 footer).

Did the vertical outperform my directional hex beam on 20? Not in a million years, EXCEPT for a few times when I could not hear the station off the back of the hex, and the vertical helped out.

Is my antenna efficient? Verticals are inherently LESS efficient than a resonant dipole or direcetional yagi. But so what? I have a good radial field, and I am increasing my country count with 100 watts. Objective achieved.

Do I have a 1:1 SWR antenna? Who cares? I let the remote tuner do the work so I don't lose any significant RF in the feedline

Is it worth the price? For me, yes. The thing is sturdy, stealthy (wrapped in black electrical tape), simple, and easy to put up and take down. Plus I have learned a LOT of information just using the thing and reading about it.

So remember to understand the facts, and use your brain cells to separate hype and fiction from fact and reality. Don't expect what cannot happen, and make sure you have goals that can be met by the antenna(s) you put up.

73 and good DX!


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  2. I appreciate your explanation behind the theory of the 43 foot vertical and the misconceptions thereof. Great write-up.

  3. I fully agree now if you're about a 1/4 to 1/2 wavelength from an ocean it's a different kettle of fish. :-)

    Mike WA2E

  4. Thank you for an excellent write-up on your 43 foot vertical.

    Jakob TF3XON

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. ok tonto what is so special about 43 feet

    73 OM
    de n8zu