Warning – Ham Radio Geek-Speak Ahead!
For quite a few years I’ve used a Hy-Gain DX-88 antenna when operating on the 80, 40 and 30 meter amateur bands (3.5, 7 and 10.1 MHz). It’s been a very good antenna but suffers from one major problem – it has a very narrow bandwidth, particularly on 80 meters.
If I set it up for 3.55 MHz, the CW (code) portion of the band, then it will not work well at 3.85 MHz in the voice section of the band and vice versa. The adjustments necessary to change the frequency are rather complex and the antenna is over 250 feet from the house. I have to have a very good reason to change things and in bad weather it is not worth the trouble to make adjustments.
A few months ago I started looking around for a replacement antenna that didn’t suffer from these bandwidth limitations. Finally I settled on the SteppIR BigIR vertical. This antenna is unique in that instead of being a fixed length it adjusts its electrical length based on the operating frequency chosen. This means that changing frequencies is as simple as pushing a button. In fact, for many brands of radios the frequency change will automatically track the frequency the radio is tuned to.
Assembly of the antenna is fairly complicated and the installation requires additional cables to control the antenna. In my stetup I have a 2″ diameter , 250′ long polyethylene pipe buried between the antenna site and my ham shack. I (with Jan’s help) had to pull the new cable through this pipe. This posed some difficulty due to tangles, stuck wires and an error in where to route the cable in the maze of other wires for other antennas. Who ever called radio “wireless” has never seen a ham radio installation!
The next step was to take down the old DX-88. This wasn’t too difficult as it only weighs about 18.5 pounds but, as it is 28 feet long, it is a bid awkward to handle. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this operation as there was no one available to take pictures while we worked on it.
With the old antenna down it was time to put the new one up. This had the same problems of awkwardness made a little worse by an extra 5 feet of length. Again, no pictures were taken of the ongoing process for lack of photographer but there are before and after shots. Installing the new antenna went smoothly and it only took a short while to get the guy ropes adjusted and tightened up.
All that is left to do now is to check out all the cabling to be sure all is wired correctly. After that I will start on-the-air checks and see how it works. I’ll make an addition to this post once all that is complete.