Cheap and nasty 50Ω SMA terminations

Chinese sellers offer low cost 50Ω SMA terminations mostly without specs, but some sellers specify VSWR<1.2 to 3GHZ.

Above is the internals of one, it is a 51Ω 5% metal film resistor.

They often fail a DC test and tapping them gives erratic resistance readings up to hundreds of ohms, and of course they can be unreliable at RF.

They rely upon the resistor pigtail to make a spring contact with the inside of the barrel, and give that the pigtail is soft copper with little spring the contact is not very reliable. Continue reading Cheap and nasty 50Ω SMA terminations

Exploiting your antenna analyser #28

Resolving the sign of reactance – a method

Many analysers do not measure the sign of reactance, and display the magnitude of reactance, and likewise for magnitude of phase and magnitude of impedance… though they are often incorrectly and misleadingly labelled otherwise.

The article The sign of reactance explains the problem and dismisses common recipes for resolving the sign of reactance as not general and not reliable.

This article gives an example of one method that may be useful for resolving the sign of reactance.

My correspondent has measured VSWR=1.68 and |Z|=66 and needs to know R and X. From those values we can calculate R=60.3 and |X|=26.9.


The method involves adding a short series section of known line, short enough to provide a measurement difference in R, and that R would be different for the case of =ve and -ve X, all of these measured at the same frequency. Continue reading Exploiting your antenna analyser #28

Ground plane ham myth – inclined radials

From time to time one sees ‘traditional wisdom’ that inclining the radials of a VHF ground plane to raise its feed point resistance degrades it performance significantly.

I have constructed NEC-4.2 models of a 52MHz ground plane with four 45° inclined radials at 10m height above ‘average ground’ (0.005,13) on and connected to a conductive support pole which is bonded to ground at the lower end, and one with horizontal radials.

Comparing the patterns at low angles shows there is not much in it, but below 32° elevation which tends to be of greater interest at VHF, the winner is actually the inclined radials though the difference is less than 1 dB. Continue reading Ground plane ham myth – inclined radials

Matching a 5/8λ ground plane

The 5/8λ ground plane is regarded by hams widely as a superb antenna for DX, and since the main reason for modern ham radio is DX, it is an antenna of interest.

The idea behind the 5/8λ ground plane popularity is that claim that it has higher gain at low angles than a simple 1/4λ ground plane.

The 5/8λ ground plane is not resonant, and the feed point impedance is hardly suited to direct coax feed.

The chart above is for a 5/8λ ground plane elevated to 5m height above average ground (0.005,13). The feed point impedance in this case at 5/8λ radiator height (14.2MHz) is about 110-j485Ω. Continue reading Matching a 5/8λ ground plane

Common mode impedance of W2DU baluns

Walt Maxwell (W2DU) described a simple common mode choke or 1:1 current balun using ferrite sleeves slipped over a coaxial cable.

Fig 1:

Maxwell gives the choking impedance of two of his recommended chokes in Fig 21-3 from (Maxwell 2001). He does not give any detail of how he arrived at the curves, and in correspondence declined to give any detail.

This article focusses on a linear design for HF using 50 x FB-73-2401 (2673002402) ferrite sleeves.

The question that arises is how do you measure the impedance of a component that is 250+mm between terminals. Continue reading Common mode impedance of W2DU baluns

STL propaganda indeed: QW vertical – dipole – STL model pattern comparison

STL propaganda indeed: dipole – STL pattern comparison compared the patterns of a Inverted V dipole and STL, both configurations typical of SOTA deployments.

Seeing some pretty wild extrapolations to a vertical quarter wave with elevated radials, again typical of SOTA deployment, this article presents a comparison of all three using NEC-4.2 models.

See STL propaganda indeed and STL propaganda indeed: dipole – STL pattern comparison for details of the models for the STL and dipole.

The QW vertical is modelled using 2mm dia copper wire for vertical and radials, the radials are elevated 0.5m over ‘average ground’ (0.005,13).

Bear in mind that these are models that are based on some assumptions like ground parameters for example, and results may be different for other scenarios. Likewise, the results at 20m cannot simply be extrapolated to other bands, and practical modes of propagation utilised vary from band to band.

Key differences


Polarisation is a significant difference. Vertical ground waves are attenuated more slowly than horizontal waves, though ground wave propagation is not so commonly exploited on 20m due to its very short range. Because vertical ground waves are attenuated more slowly, a vertical polarised receiving antenna is likely to capture more ‘local’ noise that a horizontal one, but in SOTA context, local noise is not such an issue on mountain tops.

The QW vertical is vertical polarisation.

The STL is vertical polarisation.

The Inverted V dipole is horizontally polarised broadside to the dipole, and tends to vertical polarisation off the ends.

Radiation pattern

Radiation pattern is a 3 dimensional characteristic, often selectively plotted in two dimensions in the most favorable plane… which is fair enough but the reader needs to keep in mind the bigger three dimensional characteristic as it applies to their own application.

The radiation patterns of the antennas are quite different, the vertical is omnidirectional in azimuth whereas the others are not. So, it is challenging to produce a single general figure of merit comparing all antennas.

Above is a comparison of gain in the plane of maximum gain of the STL and dipole.  Continue reading STL propaganda indeed: QW vertical – dipole – STL model pattern comparison

A check load for antenna analysers with UHF series socket

Hams embrace the UHF series connectors like no one else, including for its use on test equipment where its performance is lacking.

This is the likely reason why it is so hard to find low VSWR 50Ω terminations with UHF series plug. It is rare to find something with VSWR quoted in specifications, and nigh on impossible to find one at a reasonably low price.

On the other hand, SMA terminations start at about $2 each (posted), and it is not too hard to find ones specified with VSWR<1.2 to several GHz.

Above is a low cost, low quality solution. It is a SMA termination selected from a bunch using a high accuracy DMM (selected, R is 49.86Ω) and a SMA(F)-UHF(M) adapter, total cost $7 (posted) (but you might be advised to buy 5 loads to select the best one). Despite the specification, they are probably only good to 100MHz, and can be unreliable. Continue reading A check load for antenna analysers with UHF series socket