Quantifying performance of a simple broadcast receive system on MF

I see online discussions struggling to try to work out if a receiving system is sufficiently good for a certain application.

Let’s work an example using Simsmith to do some of the calculations.


  • 20m ground mounted vertical base fed against a 2.4m driven earth electrode @ 0.5MHz;
  • 10m RG58A/U coax; and
  • Receiver with 500+j0Ω ohms input impedance and Noise Figure 20dB.

An NEC-4.2 model of the antenna gives a feed point impedance of 146-j4714Ω and radiation efficiency of 0.043%, so radiation resistance \(Rr=146 \cdot 0.00043=0.0063\).

Above, the NEC antenna model summary.

Above is a Simsmith model of the system scenario.

R1 and G model the antenna, G uses Rr for Zo, and R1 contains the balance of the feed point impedance.

With the useZo source type, the source would deliver 1W or 0dBW to a conjugate matched load.

The next important figure is the power into the 500Ω load L. it is -58.3dBW. Simsmith has calculated the solution to the antenna loss elements, mismatches and coax loss under standing waves. Effectively, the average gain of the antenna system (everything to the right of L) is -58.3dB. Such an antenna is likely to have a Directivity of around 4dB, in fact the NEC model calculates 4.8dB. So the maximum gain is -58+4.8=-53.2dB.

The burning question is whether it is sufficiently good to hear most signals. Well, a better question is how much does it degrade off-air signal to noise ratio (S/N). All receivers degrade S/N, but how much degradation occurs in this scenario.

We need to think about the ambient noise. Lets use ITU-R P.372 for guidance on the expected median noise in a rural precint.

Above, ambient noise figure @ 0.5MHz is 75.54dB.

Now lets calculate the Signal to Noise Degradation (SND).

At 4.58 dB it is not wonderful, the weakest signals (ie those with low S/N) we be degraded significantly, stronger signals (those with  high S/N) will be degraded by the SAME amount, but for instance reducing S/N from 20 to 15dB is not so significant.

Applying this to your own scenario

The information fed into the calculations included:

  • Rr;
  • feed point impedance;
  • transmission line details;
  • Rx input impedance and NF; and
  • Ambient noise expectation.

To calculate your own scenario, you need to find these quantities with some accuracy.