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NEW TO SATELLITES? Which Antenna???

Clint Bradford
 
Edited

Let’s start with the most popular “ultimate” in portable FM satellite antennas: the Elk Log Periodic Model 2M/440L5 and the Arrow Antenna Model 146/437-10WBP. Either cost approx. US$150.
 
There was plenty of “Elk vs. Arrow” debate on the ‘Net a while back. Most of it pure rubbish - and not written by people who have actually purchased and use both units as they make their uneducated allegations. A couple of the re-occurring “anti-Arrow” themes ...
 
Arrow doesn’t publish gain numbers for their antennas.” This is true. Maybe because people mis-use such numbers. But reliable test data is out there - and thousands of owners will attest that their Arrow Antennas are performing magnificently for what they were designed to do.
 
The Arrow is hard to transport. Well, I used to devote my entire Ford Ranger’s covered pickup bed to my Arrow when I took it places. Rarely has it been disassembled. But to make it absolutely flat, all one needs to do is unscrew the three 2M element pairs, and you have a flat plane of an antenna. 
 
Arrows are all engineered wrong - they cannot possibly work.” A little story for you. While working for HRO-Anaheim a few years ago, I sold an Arrow to a client for working the satellites. I had first-hand experiences with the Arrow, and therefore could wholeheartedly recommend them to others. The gentleman was waiting for me to open up the shop the next morning, with his Arrow in hand. 
 
“I know antenna theory, and this antenna cannot possibly work - it is engineered all wrong - I want a refund!” - he demanded. 
 
Hmmm. Part of me wanted to discover if he assembled it correctly, and whether or not he actually tested it. But the other part of me was thinking, “Well, I can purchase it myself as an open-box item ... ”
 
Which I did. And it is the SAME antenna that I have used the past 12+ years for darned-near EVERY demo and presentation I have given. Oh, I have replaced some of the elements that faded from their original deep purple color. But I didn't need to - just aesthetics.
 
Moral of the story: The Arrow Antenna may not please some engineers. But it sure pleases those who desire to work the FM satellites.
 
The Arrow Antenna is much heavier ... I have brand-new, un-opened Elk and brand-new, un-opened Arrow in my hands. The Elk package weighs 35.6 ounces. The Arrow weight 33.6 ounces. Any “weight difference issue” is, well, NOT an issue.
 
And on and on ... EITHER antenna is a great investment. Most of the anti-Arrow nonsense on the ‘Net remind me of while my wife was proudly carrying her Nikon F in the 1970s (arguably the most significant SLR in 35mm history), others would comment, “Oh, my Pentax / Minolta / Canon is as good as that ... “ --- But you never heard any Nikon owner state any such comparison ... (grin)
 
How do the Elk and Arrow compare? Both work the FM birds very well. Either make working the FM sats feel like “cheating” - the gain is that dramatic over any HT whip improvements you might make.
 
But from someone who has purchased both and has used them both, the Arrow “senses” the initial capturing of a sat’s signal more definitively than the Elk does. (And that is mostly due to the Elk’s design and its wider frequency range.) I mean, in front of darned near every audience, I’ll declare, “There it is!” - when those close to me don’t hear anything of note. But that slight “dip” in the background noise ... you can just hear the beginning of capturing the signal slightly better with the Arrow than with the Elk. This is NOT a scientific conclusion - just my personal observation after working the sats for several years with both antennas, and, again, an inherent phenomenon of the wider-range receive capability of a log periodic. Subtle improvements and changes over the years to the Elk 2M/440L5 have improved 440 receive performance. And again - EITHER is a wise investment for 2M/440 work.
 
But how about spending about $100 LESS than the cost of an Elk or Arrow to get into the world of high gain?
 
Build yourself a tape measure beam (plans on my ANTENNAS page). I built one following those plans to the letter - and have worked the FM sats with it - as well as the ISS! Do they really have any gain? Connected it to my FT-60R, and I heard the San Diego NOAA WX frequency for the first time ever with a handheld radio from my house in Jurupa Valley. These are fun to build ... fun to show to non-ham friends ... and always a conversation-starter!
 
And although it takes more patience and finesse to work with “lesser” antennas, remember this: One of the first 2M reception reports from the 250mW transmitter aboard the then-new ARISSat-1 satellite was from a gentleman using a STOCK DUCK on his Yaesu VX-8 HT! SO ... simple HT antenna improvements (Smiley 270A ... Diamond SHR-320A) are certainly viable options for receiving!

Clint
 

Tim Millard <emailawaynow2@...>
 

Clint,

Perhaps I have missed it but can you comment on the cable you typically use between the radio and your antenna of choice. The picture on your My Gear page seems to shows a good length of cable that is coiled. http://www.work-sat.com/My_Gear.html 

Is it RG58? Or something else? And 3 feet, 6feet or ? Also BNC connectors I assume? Thanks.


73 de Tim 
N6TMT