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

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

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

Extrapolating VSWR of a simple series resonant antenna

An online expert helped recently helped his Small Transmitting Loop (STL) disciples with:

Also remember that the bandwidth given by the calculators is the half power point. That’s equivalent to an SWR of about 4.3 at the ends.

Whats that?

Most STL, and lots of other resonant antenna systems exhibit a classic VSWR curve being that of a approximatly constant resistance in series with an ideal capacitor and inductor.

Clip 222

Above is that classic VSWR curve.  Continue reading Extrapolating VSWR of a simple series resonant antenna

Finding the inductance of the outside of LDF4-50A

There are applications for estimating the inductance of the outside of LDF4-50A at radio frequencies.

For the purpose of calculating the inductance, the geometric mean radius is appropriate. This article offers two methods for estimating the geometric mean diameter (GMD) of the conductor.

Above a section of LDF4-50A.


Above is a magnified view of the profile, it is corrugated copper outer conductor with a shallow but not quite symmetric profile.  Continue reading Finding the inductance of the outside of LDF4-50A

The sign of reactance – SM6WHY’s take

As the popularity of low cost, low end antenna analysers increases, client software appears to enhance the capability of the analyser.

The SARC-100 is one of these low end analysers, it and its many close derivatives are marketed under various model names.

The sign of reactance discusses a major weakness of these and many other low end instruments in that they do not ‘measure’ the sign of reactance, displaying the magnitude of reactance and leaving it to the user to solve the sign problem.

SM6WHY is one of the many who have produced software for the SARC-100 that purports to solve the sign of reactance problem. He gives this graphic on his website to demonstrate the capability of his software used with a SARC-100 (which does not sense the sign of reactance).

Above is part of the graphic he offers. Though the image is poor quality, the VSWR plot appears smooth and quite typical of that which might be obtained by measuring an antenna system near its VSWR minimum.

However the accompanying Smith chart plot which has points plotted with both negative and positive reactance is inconsistent with the VSWR plot and appears flawed.  Continue reading The sign of reactance – SM6WHY’s take

Power in a mismatched transmission line

This is a republication of an article posted on Jun 2012.

This article presents a derivation of the power at a point in a transmission line in terms of ρ (the magnitude of the complex reflection coefficient Γ) and Forward Power and Reflected Power as might be indicated by a Directional Wattmeter. Mismatch Loss is also explained. Continue reading Power in a mismatched transmission line

80m half wave dipole made from 0.91mm steel MIG wire

Hams being innovative come up with a myriad of cheap alternatives for wire for antennas. One of those alternatives is common 0.91mm steel MIG wire.

Steel MIG wire is often coated with copper and is claimed by some online experts to “work real good”, particularly as a stealth antenna.

But is it the makings of a reasonably efficient antenna?

This article applies the model developed at A model of current distribution in copper clad steel conductors at RF to estimate the effective RF resistance of the wire at 3.5MHz.

Copper coated round steel conductor (MIG wire) – 0.91mm single core

In fact copper is an undesirable and restricted contaminant of steel welding wire, high grade MIG wire is not copper coated.

Copper content is held to less than 0.05% in the core, and less than 0.05% in the coating… which on my calcs says the coating of common 0.91mm MIG wire is less than 0.125µm…. basically it is a small diameter wire with low conductivity and high permeability. Continue reading 80m half wave dipole made from 0.91mm steel MIG wire