N6THN’s novel balun – an explanation

N6THN’s novel balun presented measurement of the Insertion VSWR of the subject balun, this article presents an explanation of why it is so poor.

The balun as described

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


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.)

VSWR @ 10MHz is 96.

You might ask, Why?

You might ask how is this different to the case where the two wires were twisted together and 10 turns wound onto the core. They both seem like coupled inductors… and they are, but there is a significant difference is in the extent of coupling, the extent of flux leakage.

A simple measurement of the input impedance of the balun with a short circuit termination gives us a low frequency inductance of around 8.6µH for 0.6m of two wire transmission line, that is around 14µH/m. That is 25 times the inductance if they were wound as a close spaced pair. The capacitance of the wide space wires is lower than if they were wound as a close spaced pair, so both of these and increases loss drive characteristic impedance Zo up to something of the order of 1400Ω, and velocity factor VF down.

Measurement of the short circuit section shows first resonance (antiresonance actually) at 44MHz which allows calculation of VF as 35%.

The combination of extreme Zo and very low VF causes much greater impedance transformation of a 50Ω load than normally desirable, as can be seen from the VSWR plot above.

Let’s compare that simple model of the balun with a simulation

Above is the measured 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.

Though a very simple model, the series transmission line section of Zo=1400Ω ohms and VF=0.35 captures most of the measured behavior.

A more complete model would indicate higher transmission line loss due to the inclusion of the ferrite based inductance in the transmission line distributed inductance. There is little point in measuring the transmission loss as the balun is impractical due to the extreme Insertion VSWR.


There is a simple explanation for the very poor Insertion VSWR of the N6THN balun, it uses a loaded transmission line section with very high Zo and low VF.

If you want low Insertion VSWR in a Guanella 1:1 balun, ensure that Zo of the transmission line section is close to your load impedance.