Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shortwave Receive Antenna Upgrade

I replaced the shortwave antenna in the yard yesterday.  The new one is an LNR Precision EF-SWL.  Here's a link to the manufacturer's web site, and here's a link to the online manual.  And here's a picture of what it looks like coiled up; I'd show it installed, but it's just a black wire up in the air.
This isn't exactly it, but take out the loading coil do-dad at the bottom and it's close enough for a blog post picture.

The antenna's strung as an inverted L between two trees, ground rod at the matchbox, 50' of 50 ohm coax back to the house, into a Tecsun 660, and usually into the stereo from there.

This replaces a very similar setup I've been using for years, except that the old antenna did not have a matchbox transformer, nor was it grounded out by the feed point.  With the matchbox (i.e., without that horrendous mismatch at the end of the longwire), signals are much stronger and more intelligible.  Using the 660's scan feature with either antenna gave about the same number of hits, but with the EF-SWL about 4x the number of signals are strong and clean enough to use.  So that was worthwhile.  Stations like the Dutch Mighty KBC (60's-70's pop/nostalgia) and Radio Romania International (classical) were perfectly listenable – a first in this household.

I monkeyed around a little with the grounding options, but in the end there were no discernible differences so posts #2 & #3 are tied to a ground rod at the feed point.  Other than some raspy bursts that a noise blanker would take out, the noise level and overall SW reception are nearly on par with my Yaesu 450D ham radio and its 40/80m dipole.  From that I'll conclude that the ground configuration is either right or so close that it doesn't matter.  Of course for a clean signal, the Tecsun piped through a decent stereo sounds much better than the ham rig piped through a voice comms-optimized (i.e., tinny sounding) speaker.

Twenty four hours in, I've gotten a fair sample of how this antenna performs, and I'm keeping it.  Sure, I'd be more of a "real radio guy" if I'd home-brewed the matchbox.  But right now I just can't find the time, the project kept sliding, and hey it got done and things are working, working better than ever.

ps: It's a pretty good performer on FM too.  I'm getting some of the fringe stations out of New Orleans a good bit better, at least well enough to make listening to their music tolerable.  Again, smoothing over that impedance mismatch between the longwire and the feed line fixed the problem.  It is good to hear WWOZ clearly again.

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