Below you see my opinions about some of the antennas Iíve used in my decades as a dxer. Keep in mind that this is not any scientific study about antenna patterns and their proven differencies. Instead of counting desibels and takeoff angles, I am trying to describe how the antennas Iíve used feel in pile ups.
Well, this kind of anecdotal evidence is usually of no help to someone selecting his or her antennas-to-be, as we people are not objective measurement machines. To get more objectivity into play, it is now a standard practise to simulate antennas using elaborate computer programs. In addition, also a few antenna measurements are available in the internet and as books. Though be warned. When someone claims something based on facts, you should at first assess whether or not the facts that are shown are relevant or if they might be true but irrelevant. Then you should know what are the facts that were not shown to you at all. We tend to praise whatever we like and criticize whatever we dislike, so more often than not we make the facts to fit our views rather than our views to fit the facts.
Having said that, here is a short recollection of the antennas Iíve used and their relative performances in chasing dx. Note, that this is strictly a dx chaserís point of view. A fellow who just wants to talk with some interesting people can do with almost anything that radiates, and a serious contester† needs much more performance than a dxer. Note also that the performance of an antenna system is not based only on the antenna itself but also on itís environment. Much more so than we often think, really.
This was my first antenna. I was living at the first floor of an apartment building so the wire was blocked by the building badly to half of the interesting directions. Letís face it, this antenna was useless for dx. I got some UA9 or something like that, but thatís about it. Besides, grounding was not good enough, so there was TVI even with 15 watts. I had to quickly abandon this one. The only good thing I can say about this antenna is that it existed so I could be on the air.
There was a 10 meters low tree close to my balcony and something higher a bit further away. I hung this antenna between those trees. The center of the antenna was lagging a bit because I did not tighten the ropes too much in order to make sure that the antenna would not come down during the first wind. This antenna was too low and too close to the building. Useless for dx.
Much later when in Helsinki I built a trap dipole myself. It was quite difficult to make it resonant. This may have been due to wrong insulator material. I built a noise bridge and using that I got the antenna on the amateur bands. The antenna was at the roof of a four storey† apartment building. The center of the antenna was about 7 meters of the roof. With 450 watts this antenna was definetely not a dx performer. Good enough for Europe.
When you have one of these you are one of the many dogs in the pile. You wonít stand tall, but with persistense you can get good dx at the last days of well organized peditions. You wonít get through the big pile ups.
I did not see any difference compared to the previously mentioned inverted V.
This is my current antenna for 80. I feed the guy wires of my 24 meters high tower using a phasing box. I hear reasonably ok. When there is a Pasific island on the air, my efforts to get a contact usually fail. This is a bit better than my earlier inverted V, but this is still not an antenna that sets one apart of the masses.
This was at the roof of a four storey apartment building early 1990ís. This GP was not full-size. It was about six meters tall. I had an antenna transmatch unit next to the feed point . Some dx begun to emerge.† Not good, but with 450 watts I managed to get something.
Back to early 1980ís (these notes are not in a perfect time line). I could work some dx, but letís face it, it was not good at all. As an example of the dismal performance:† in a contest when the bands were in a bad shape, I made something like 20 QSOís operating two days in single band 10 meters class when OH2BH with his beams made 300 QSOís in a few hours on 10 when operating all band class.
This antenna was the beginning of my dx career. A full-size dipole works also on third harmonic so in this case it works also on 15. With 600 watts I could once in a while get through on 15 and on 20, not so on 40. My feed lines were not good. In addition they were long, as I lived at the first floor.† I suspect that the losses were in the order of 3 dB or so. If this is the only antenna you can have, then ok. If you put enough time into your dx chase you might after many decades be able to work them all. You just might. Likely not. This is a bad dx antenna.
I replaced the 10 metersí vertical dipole and other dipoles with two homemade three band verticals. I had two equal length coaxial cables down to the first floor where I lived.† There I had a switchbox to make one feedline somewhat longer than the other one, so that there was some phase difference at the antennas. I now know this is not the correct way to feed two verticals. At that time it seemed like a good idea. It did have some gain, as switching between alternatives made signals a bit louder in some switch positions compared to the others. I would guess that the gain may have been in the ballpark of 2 dB or so. When trying to get dx I would say that there was no practical difference to the earlier antenna. Besides, my homemade verticals broke in heavy winds. Not worth the trouble. A complete failure. Yes, I know that this kind of an antenna can be a great performer at a seashore. I was not there, I was inland.
I think it was a HyGain. This was my next high band antenna. When chasing dx there was not any notable difference compared to the previous antenna system. Exept that this one kept on going despite of any wind storms. If you have heard some of the big peditions that have had their verticals very close to the sea, then you know that a high band vertical in a favourable location can be a good antenna. More than 99% of the high band vertical antennas out there are in bad locations and† beause of that they are bad dx antennas.
This was a Butternut HF5B. It was about 5 meters above the roof of a 6 storey apartment building. The location was not good. There were buildings of similar size to all directions. This was the first rotatable beam Iíve ever had. On 20 it did not compete. However, on 15 and 10 it was something that could once in a while break a reasonable pile up. On 12 it was almost the king of the band. This is very likely only because the others had only dipoles and they did not have amplifiers. I had 600 watts. The game today is surely different than it was back then.
This was a Mosley TA-53M. According to measurements I made with OH2BYS itís pattern is similar to a 3 el trap yagi on 10/15/20 and similar to a 2 el trap yagi on 12/17. I had a 7 meters high aluminum tilt-over tower at the top of a 4 storey apartment building. The location was good to south. The building was on top of a southern edge of a smallish hill. There were other buildings of equal height in all directions, so take off angle to Pasific can be called fair at best. Perhaps one could average the surroundings to equal a trap yagi at 15 meters. With 450 watts I could get most of the dx peditions at least on some bands. Especially good were 12 and 17. There I was usually among the ones who get better results than the rest. However, once in a while I could not work dx that the big guns did, no matter what I did. Based on thousands of pileups Iíve won or lost, I conclude that about this type of an antenna is what gets a dxer going.† If you work hard enough and you have some luck, you can get them all with this kind of an antenna. But you surely have to work hard.
Now we are at my current QTH. I have a 24 meter high tower. At first, the new antenna was† a large Fritzel trap beam split into two booms. †I had 3 el on 20 on a 7,5 m boom, 4 el on 10/15 on a† 5 m boom - actually it was the same boom that was used on 20, but the back element was not in use on 10/15 - and 2 el on 12/17/30 on a 3 m boom. Later I had to downgrade the antennas due to mechanical problems. At the moment I have 3 el for 10, 15, and 20, and rotating dipoles for 12, 17, and 30. The first reason for dowgrade was that my rotators broke too often in the winds. The second reason was that when I got 1 kW I learned that Fritzel does not handle 1 kW on the WARC bands. It really breaks. The WARC band traps have flash overs by the sides of the screws that hold the trap wires in place.
My first feeling was that I was really strong. When there was a dx pedition, I could count of getting through, though I would not be the first one. Then I reached the limits. I have a 50 meters high hill to the Pasific, and often I hear nothing when the big guns work the dx. However, I can practically always make it on some band. Besides, I usually make it on the WARC bands despite of having only dipoles there. Thus I would say that the dx capabilities of these antennas can be summarized as being good enough. Except if you want them all on all the bands.
Note that for a few months I had the previously mentioned Mosley at 11 meters fixed to UA9 the same time I had this new antenna system in use at 24-25 meters. I naturally did some A/B comparisons to that particular direction. The higher antenna was always from 5 to 15 dB better than the lower antenna. Usually the higher antenna was more than 10 dB better. I cannot believe that there is any remarkable difference in antenna gains. Practically all of these differencies I noticed must be based on take of angles.
I have remote access to this antenna. When I compare this to my current rotatable dipoles at 25 meters at home I get mixed feelings. Sometimes the difference is barely noticeable. Sometimes I have arm chair copy with the remote 2 el and nothing at all at the local dipole. It cannot possibly be due to better gain. The reason for better performance must be better takeoff angle.
Not much of a performer. I usually could not brake the pileups with this. If I was there first, I did get some dx. If it was one of the last days of a major dx pedition, I did get some dx.
This gave me a completely new layer of dx that I can work compared to the inverted V. This antenna is in fact an extension of the Fritzel 10/15/20 meters trap beam. I am using something like 1300 watts here. I know my Fritzel is not specified for that power. Seems to not blow up, anyway. If it will blow up, I will buy some other brand antennas.
Maukka OH2BYS had a good amount of KLM spare parts, so we built a stack to SimpsiŲ mountain. I think that the higher antenna was at 30 meters and the lower was at 15 meters or so. This was an antenna system that broke whatever pileup I wanted it to break. Then came the winds and the antennas broke. Such a system is surely a good dx performer. If you can keep it up.
This one was at SimpsiŲ mountain and it worked well. If it is a tough one, you may have to call a few hours.
You want the dx, you get it.
When operating a contest I had long lasting pileups of Japanese. I thought that this antenna is the king of the band. I was feeling good. Later I noticed that OH1AA had made 1000 QSOs more than me. They were 400 km more south and they may have had more power, I had 600 watts. I was feeling more realistic.
You want the dx, you get it. In practise this feels similar to a 5 el, except that band noise level is higher. You will have to call more than once, but usually you will get through. These were Force C3 clones, and they also worked quite ok on 12 and 17. The performance of this system should be enough to satisfy most everyone chasing dx.
There was a big dx pedition on Pasific, and there was a huge pile up. When I say huge, I mean huge. 1500 watts out. I find the frequency where someone gets through. One or two calls and it is on the log. Enough said.
The same story than on 20.
I could hear the very same dx on Pasific, it was arm chair copy. A friend has 5 o 5 and hears nothing. I call for two hours. No QSO. South Europeans and Russians have too much propagation advantage. The next day my friend makes it through. I was not on the air. What can you say? Whatever antennas you have, it may not be enough up here in the North.
This one was hung between two 36 m towers at SimpsiŲ mountain. A completely useless antenna. When back home I got almost everything with shunt-fed tower and 1 kW, at SimpsiŲ I got almost nothing with 1 kW and dipole. I am not sure if this was because of SimpsiŲ being 400 north of Espoo or if this was because of the antenna being a dipole.
I have 42 radials in the ground. Itís wet clay here. I get almost everything I hear. My signal is louder than that of the great masses. Sometimes when there is an exceptionally good dx on the air, I still cannot make it through. I cannot compete with the big guns having phased arrays. Inverted L worked the same way than the shunt-fed tower.
Noise is bad in the city where I live, so I cannot hear much there. I have two 5 m receive-only verticals that I can phase with my shunt-fed tower using a MFJ-1026 phasing box. Quite often this 2 el array makes the difference between a QSO and no QSO. Once I tried a temporary 130 m long beverage on ground. It was somewhat better than the 2 el phased array. There is a 3 el vertical array made of guy wires at Urjala. It was clearly better than my 130 m beverage on ground. A major reason is the fact that there is less noise there. This 3 el vertical array seems to be clearly better than what the most people have on topband, but it is far inferior to e.g. 400 m beverages that OH3XR has. When he copies perfectly, I hear nothing. I once had a chance to try OH2BENís receive system that consists of three reversible 180 m beverages in the middle of wilderness, i.e. no noise sources nearby. It was impressive. Switching between the directions was like rotating a 3 el beam.
If a trap vertical or a low-hanging dipole is all you can have, then so be it. However, I strongly suggest getting something better. If you want to work them all then you want a tower that is at least 20 meters tall and you want two elements or more on all the bands you want to operate. If you can have a higher tower and more elements, all the better. If you can afford a 40 meter high tower and 6 over 6 over 6 stacks, go for it. I would if I could. If you want to be serious on 160 and on 80, get beverages or something that gives equal performance. Perhaps an 8-circle, I suppose. If you can choose your location, go to an open field. At least try to avoid being in a valley. Do not believe in anybody claiming that power does not matter. It does. Get a full gallon linear. You wonít regret.