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Top Band Update

For some Hams, the culminative moment of their Amateur Radio experience is gaining topbander status by operating on the oldest band in Amateur Radio—160 meters (1,800 to 2,000 kHz). Nicknamed the “Gentleman’s Band,” airspace on 160 meters is a lot less crowded than the more popular 80 meter or 20 meter bands—and for very good reason. Long-distance contacts on 160 meters require Elmer-level operating skill, engineering know-how, and larger-than-life custom-built antennas.

The antennas require a lot of space—and the most singular issue operators face on 160 meters is not having enough room for the necessary equipment. Full-sized antennas and horizontal dipole antennas can take up an impressive 130 feet fully erect, and half square loops reach nearly 70 feet high. It’s not the type of home update that’s likely to slip by unnoticed by your neighbors, landlord, or fussy HOAs.

For many, it’s a hurdle that can’t be surmounted from the comfort of your shack, but that shouldn’t quell your interest. You can get a first-hand account of what it takes to be a topbander—no skyscraper-sized antenna engineering necessary—at this year’s Top Band Dinner. The event will take place on Friday, May 15, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dayton, Ohio. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The evening will start with a Mutiny on the Bands presentation by keynote speaker and 2019 VP6R Pitcairn Island DXpedition leader Glenn Johnson, W0GJ. Glenn and his team erected DX Engineering’s 160 meter (90 foot) antenna that happily received little vitriol from Pitcairn’s small populace of 50 inhabitants, already accustomed to Ham activity due to the presence of longtime Pitcairn operator, Tom Christian.

Johnson’s presentation will address the hazards faced and equipment used during the successful operation, including what he describes as “the amazing 160 meter custom-made vertical antenna that sang like no other DXpedition 160M antenna in history,” and the falling-derrick masts for the Yagis that were easily assembled and capably withstood the near-hurricane-force winds experienced during the DXpedition.

Get your tickets now and enjoy a night of great food, topbander stories, and discussions with other Hams. Tickets are available online and for direct purchase at this year’s Hamvention®, where you can also pick up tickets to the Contest Dinner and DX Dinner.

Can’t make it to the Top Band Dinner? Join fellow Hams in these upcoming topbander contests instead:

36th KCJ Topband Contest

CQ 160 Meter Contest, SSB

  • 2200Z, February 21 to 2200Z, February 23
  • Amateur Radio operators must contact other Hams in as many U.S. states, Canadian provinces, and other countries as possible using the 160 meter band. Check out the website for full details.

Stew Perry Topband Challenge

  • 1500Z, March 14 to 1500Z, March 15

Created by a small group of topbander contesters, this contest focuses on long-distance communications. Contesters are given one point plus another point for each 500 kilometers of distance. Points are multiplied for lower power categories for both sending and receiving stations. For more detailed information check out the Stew Perry Topband Challenge website.

And visit DX Engineering for antennas and accessories for 160 meter operation and contest needs, including preamps, band pass filters, amplifiers, and a whole lot more from all the top brands.

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