What is 160 meters like?
What is the best antenna to use on
no other amateur band like 160 meters for those that like a challenge
weak signal work on VHF and above). K1ZM explains in his book DXing
on the Edge--The Thrill of 160 Meters:
DXing can seem almost routine on
20 or 15 meters, there's no band like 160 to get your adrenaline
Whether you like
DXing on CW or ragchewing on SSB and AM, 160 meters is
in a class by itself. There's a very good reason why it is still "the
is the Best 160m Antenna ?
In a nutshell:
vertically-polarized antenna for transmitting, using separate antennas
From W8JI on qrz.com:
"It still remains the last band where you cannot buy success with your
plastic charge card."
"The fact is.......
an Inverted L with
20 or more radials at least 50 feet and hopefully 100 feet long will
absolutely smoke any normal height loop antenna or dipole antenna at
nearly any distance on 160 meters. The possible exception is between 20
and 200 miles.
"As a matter of
fact a low full wave loop has no gain, any horizontal
wire has increased earth induced loss as it is made longer when close
"Do not make the
radials shorter just because you have fewer radials.
They really need to be as straight and long as possible, but lengths
over 100 feet don't help much. Even 20-30 radials 60 feet long make a
fairly good ground.
especially successful stations on 160 use a vertically
polarized antenna of some type for transmitting. That's just a fact.
"I have a full
size 160 dipole at 300 feet, and it is never really much
better than a 1/4 wave vertical at any distance in any direction. As a
matter of fact, the dipole is 10-20 dB weaker than the vertical off the
dipole ends. The dipole only beats the vertical broadside to the
dipole, and then only rarely!! And this is with the dipole 300 feet
160 Meter Inverted-L Antenna
I have received a lot
of e-mails asking
details about this antenna, and especially the two-capacitor matching
network at the base of my inverted-L (which was --much to our
surprise-- featured in a ARRL Contest Update newsletter). Here is a
brief description and some pictures, all I have right
Sorry about the mess.
and Elevated Radials
Most of the
radiation from an inverted-L is low-angle and
vertically-polarized. Depending on the length of the horizontal
portion, there is a lesser amount radiated at higher angles. This can
be very useful for closer-in communications, and does not seriously
detract from the overall
performance, even for DX.
I purposely made
this inverted-L longer than 1/4λ on 160. Doing so
significantly raises the low feedpoint impedance that a 1/4λ
inverted-L has (about 17 ohms), and also elevates the point of maximum
current. I played with the length in EZNEC and settled on 155' total
About 55' is
actually vertical. At the bend, the remaining 100'
goes through a pulley and gradually slopes down to the east to the end
insulator (presently ~20' high) and
counterweight through a second pulley, to allow for the trees swaying
wind. The counterweight is a plastic bucket with drain holes containing
enough rocks to tension the antenna to to proper degree.
The two 10' high
radials are 132' long. They are oriented N
and S; they are not perfectly straight, because I used whatever trees
were handy to support them. They are fastened to (but insulated from)
trees by screw-in electric fence insulators. More than two radials
better; but if they are elevated, you do not need near as many as you
would if they were on (or slightly below) the surface
of the earth
The antenna and
radials are connected to the spark gap insulator
I used 16 gauge
THHN insulated stranded copper wire for the antenna and radials, which
eventually stretched when a large animal (horse or deer) got caught up
in the counterweight. I should have used at least 14 AWG.
L-network (Omega match)
is a superior alternative to a tuner that uses a tapped coil. At the
base of our 160m inverted-L, we simply used two air variable capacitors
in a gasketed plastic ammo box (non-military, from our local hardware
it works just great. Tuning is very easy; one
capacitor adjusts the radiation resistance to match the coax impedance,
and the other capacitor adjusts the reactance to zero. The
interaction between them was fairly small, until the L portion got
stretched longer than 155' by animals.
One cap is in
series with the coax center conductor and the inverted-L.
The other is in
parallel between the two 1/4 wave 10'
high elevated radials (and the coax shield) and the point where the
first cap is connected
to the antenna. They don't arc or heat up at 1500 watts, and I'm sure I
could have used caps with a smaller spacing.
I used what I
had available, and I forget where the capacitors are
- Between the 75 ohm coax center cond. and antenna: 350 pF
variable, padded with a 200 pF fixed. *
- Between the antenna and the junction of the radials and coax
shield, 430 pF variable.
* The 200 pF 5 kV doorknob is now disconnected.
essential to isolate the radials from the coax shield and prevent
common-mode current. It also prevents more losses because the coax
feedline is laying almost directly on the ground for a long distance. In other words, it
forces the RF to stay on
the resonant radials and antenna, where it needs to be! Without that
choke at the tuner, the outside of the coax shield would act like a
non-resonant radial laying on the ground,
to the resonant radials.
junction of the elevated radials and coax shield is NOT grounded to the
earth at the antenna.
There's no ground rod except on the bottom electrode of the triple
spark gap. A ground rod for lightning protection should be
somewhere between the choke balun
the shack entrance for the reason stated above.
shown in the photo, there is a triple spark gap (with resistors across
them as a static
drain) across the antenna, radials/coax shield, and the grounded fence
post. It's made
from a 3/4" square piece of Teflon® and #12 copper wire. Notice the
melted ends from an arc, probably caused by a nearby lightning strike.
resistor across the top spark gap has
since been replaced with a 1.5 megohm 2 watt carbon comp resistor. The
bottom spark gap has a 33K 1 watt Ohmite OX
resistor across it, as shown in the
the remote tuner, we use a portable MFJ-259B antenna analyzer (with
long-life lithium batteries installed!) connected with an 8" length of
RG-59/U to the type F coax connector on the tuner housing. Make sure to
your antenna analyzer up off the ground, resting on a dry 2x4 (or other
insulator) while you're adjusting the capacitors, or you'll get
readings! And neither should you hold it in your hands. Just touch the
knobs. Without the
common-mode choke, the 259B's case is "hot" with RF from the analyzer
and so touching it produces incorrect readings.
note about current balance on the
I never measured
the current on them. The current could very well be
different on them. That's a project for another day. I have some info
kindly sent to me by hams on the Topband reflector explaining this and
offering a better way.
A better way
would also include more elevated radials than just two.
typically don't do near as much on-the-air operating here like some
Topbanders do, but we've done enough to know that this antenna works
very well, thank you. We've worked a lot of
remote DX and all 50 states (including HI, AK, and DC)
except two. Much of this was done with just 100 watts on CW, and we've
broken more than one DX pileup at that power level.
Using a linear
amplifier (from 800 to 1500 watts), we've worked a fair number of other
160 stations in North America on phone; both the E and W
coasts, California to Florida to the south, and well into most
provinces of Canada. Never tried to work any DX
We almost never
use this antenna for receiving, unless the station
is fairly close (within a few hundred miles). In almost all cases, we
can hear better on our Beverage antennas with a much-improved
S/N (signal-to-noise) ratio.
160 meter inverted-L in EZNEC shows surprisingly useful patterns and
gain on most HF bands above 160. I have also used
the antenna with an L-network tuner on 75, 40, and 20 meters with
delightful results stateside. The capacitor between the antenna and
radial junction is replaced with a tapped coil.
We use 75 ohm
Commscope F-6 (RG-6) quad-aluminum-shield, flooded. All connectors are
CATV type F snap-and-seal and filled with silicone dielectric grease. (And yes, Virginia,
they DO handle 1500 watts on 160. :-)
- The 1:1
current choke at the tuner is made from 5 or 6 turns of coax through
four stacked 2.4" OD #31 ferrite cores.
- The toroidal cores are 2.4" OD type #31 Fair-Rite ($7 each from Mouser
- Based on an effective K9YC
coax would certainly work; the maximum capacitor values might be a
should put this info on its own page someday. The photos certainly
ought to be on this page, too.
Please let me
know how I can improve this and if you have any questions
that are not already answered above or
in the photos.
The EZNEC plot below (courtesy of
E74AW) shows that you don't need a full-size 1/4 wave vertical to be
Patterns are shown for antennas 12, 16, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 meters
tall. All have 60 radials, 40 meters long.
160 is the only
band I currently operate, using CW around 1825 . It's a great band, and
it's not called the "Gentleman's Band" for nothing. You will find that
a vertical with a good radial system will work well for DXing while
using a separate RX antenna such as a Beverage or a K9AY loop.
vertically polarized antenna with a good ground system will work much
better than any horizontal antenna. An Inverted L is one of the best
ways to make a good transmitting signal, so long as you have a good
For receiving, a
Beverage is simple and easy and
very good. If you do not have the room
for a beverage, then some small loops will help. Look at K9AY and Flag
If you cannot
have much height, a dipole would be as good or better than an extended
zepp or big horizontal loop. Nothing will be as good as an Inverted L
or another good vertical for transmitting."
Unless you want
to work only stations very close to you, use a 1/4 wave vertical, an
inverted L, or a T antenna with about 60 1/4 wave radials. Use a
separate antenna for receiving.
I think if you
talk to the people who operate 160, you'll find out that few (if any)
of them use a low dipole on that band. Most are using verticals or
L antennas. They require a modest radial ground system of about 35
radials 50 feet long. And many use
separate antennas for receiving; those with the room use Beverage
antennas (or phased short verticals), and those with smaller lots use
K9AY loops or similar antennas.
Look at what they use on the AM broadcast band. Without exception, they
all use verticals (with an extensive radial system). No AM radio
station uses dipoles, horizontal loops, etc.
an oversimplification, but unless the folks you want to talk to are
fairly close, you do really need a low angle of radiation on that band.
A dipole is fine on 80 meters on up, but on 160, that's usually not the
Posted by KJ4TIR
Q: I realize
talking on HF depends on a number of factors but in your experience,
how far have you been able to reach someone on 160 meters? If you were
in my posistion, the foothills of South Carolina, how far do you think
I could reach?
I've been on 160
since January 30, and I've worked 28 countries with a wire thrown over
a tree (and two elevated radials). I listen using Beverage rx antennas.
Australia and New Zealand, quite a distance from here. Others have done
far better than me.
The Topband Disease
you about something, though. If you operate 160 meters much, you
may get the Topband Disease. ;-)
Perhaps I should
now explain the symptoms of the disease. They are as follows:
symptoms persist for more than one sunspot cycle (every 11 years), then
you should strongly suspect TopBand disease. More info at
- Desire to
on the radio at sunrise.
- Desire to
on the radio at sunset.
- Desire to
on the radio at all times in between Sunset and Sunrise.
- Desire to
struggle for months to work a single station in a new country. In
extreme cases, this might go on for more than a year. A good example is
Riki, 4X4NJ in Israel who tried for two years to finish off working all
the states in USA.
satisfied with the antenna system and constantly trying new ones.
- Only comes
down to see the family after working a new country (to gloat). During
the rare fantastic opening, will come down after each new country and
hold up fingers indicating how many new countries were worked so far.
water before going to bed with the sole purpose of waking up in the wee
hours of the morning to see if a new country can be found.
getting to work on time during the winter months.
equipment and wire to people in unworked countries, hoping that the end
result will be their QSL card on the wall.
thousand of dollars going to rare countries just so other people can
work it. This is a problem, as they don't get credit for the country
appreciate the 4th or 5th edition of Low
Band DXing by ON4UN, John Devoldere, even
if you're not interested in working DX.
W0BTU Beverage receiving antennas
© 2011-2013 Comtech Research LLC. All
- Last Edited November 28, 2013