N6THN’s novel balun

One sees lots of articles and videos on how to make a current balun suited to a low VSWR antenna. This one was recommended in an online discussion on QRZ.com. N6THN might not have invented this balun, but he made a video of it.

In this case, it is described in the referenced video as part of a half wave dipole antenna where you might expect the minimum feed point VSWR to be less than 2.

Apologies for the images, some are taken from the video and they are not good… but bear with me.

The balun as described

Above is the ‘schematic’ of the balun.Note the entire path from rig to dipole.

To the experienced eye, it immediately raises questions.

Above is the implementation.

Cursory analysis suggests this will have very poor Insertion VSWR. When used with a low VSWR(50) load like a half wave dipole, the VSWR looking into the balun will be very poor.

Let’s check it out with the ubiquitous nanoVNA.


Since Insertion VSWR is the initial concern, let’s measure Insertion VSWR from 1 to 51MHz. The original video used a #31 core, I have used a #43 as I have them on hand. Not exactly the same, but the same issue arises either way.

The balun was hooked up with an accurate 50Ω load (two tiny 1% 100Ω SM resistors at the left of the balun), and connected to the nanoVNA with a transformer to allow the balun balanced drive. The nanoVNA with the attached transformer is OSL calibrated at the terminal block on the transformer board, so we can measure the DUT with 50Ω termination.

Above is the test configuration.

Above is a plot of VSWR from 1 to 51MHz. It starts off at VSWR=2.8 @ 1MHz, not good, and increases with increasing frequency to VSWR=500 @ 30MHz. (The marker label is misleading, it is a significant software defect, the values are not s11 as stated on the chart but VSWR.)

Above is the same data presented as a Smith chart. For a low Insertion VSWR balun, we would expect the trace to be entirely very close to the prime centre of the chart. This doesn’t even start off there, and just gets worse with increasing frequency.

Above is a plot of the impedance, R+jX. For a low Insertion VSWR balun, we would expect that R would be very close to 50Ω over the whole range, and X would be very close to 0Ω over the whole range. This plot starts off with R=50Ω, X=55Ω @ 1MHz, and R just increases way off scale.

It is hard to find an adjective to describe how bad the Insertion VSWR is, it is clearly a total failure on that count alone.

Read widely, be critical of what you read on social media. In respect of balun designs, look for relevant measurements, think about them, analyse the offering.