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DXpeditions 101: How Important is My Antenna?

While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

What difference does a good antenna make?

A good antenna is the best accessory you can have for your transceiver. There are many designs you can build or buy that will help focus your signal on the DXpedition and reject signals from other directions. Even simple antennas like dipoles can be quite effective. Make sure your antenna system is in good working order before the DXpedition begins.

Dipoles: Single- and multi-band dipoles are very efficient, inexpensive and radiate well. The key to good performance for DXing is to install them at one-half or more wavelengths above the ground.  At 20 meters, this is about 30 feet. If you have only one support, you can install the dipole as an inverted V, held up at the center or sloping in the direction you want to favor–in this case, toward Bouvet.

Verticals: Ground-mounted vertical antennas are most effective when they have a good set of ground radials about 30 feet long or more, with length not being critical. As few as eight radials on the ground will work, although more is better. If you mount the vertical in the air, the radials should be cut to lengths specified in the owner’s manual. Ground-independent verticals can be mounted at any height– see the manual for your antenna for guidelines.

Beams: Even at modest heights of one-half wavelength, a small beam can dramatically improve your chances of working DX. Small “tribanders” for 20, 15, and 10 meters are light enough to support on a metal mast that can be turned by hand. Rotators controlled from the station can point the beam for you.

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