RG174 for portable HF operation

There are frequent recommendations of RG174 for portable stations (eg SOTA), usually running QRP, principally because it is light and easy to wind up into a small package to fit into a pack. RG174 commonly uses silver coated steel (SCS) centre conductor, sometimes copper clad steel (CCS), sometimes copper.

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Speaker cable as RF transmission line

Speaker cable and similar Figure-8 twin in various sizes is popular as RF transmission line, particularly with QRP operators, especially those operating portable in the field (eg SOTA activators). Indeed, SOTA seems to have triggered a revival in the use of these cables. With the large number of online recommendations, one could be forgiven for thinking that a dipole and feed line formed entirely from #24 speaker wire is the antenna of choice.

With that in mind, this article looks at the performance of Jaycar WB1702 speaker cable, 14×0.14mm conductors (#24) with PVC insulation, cost $0.50/m.

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Measuring matched line loss

Matched Line Loss (MLL) is the loss or attenuation of a transmission line terminated in its actual characteristic impedance, and usually give for some length, eg dB/100′, dB/100m, dB/m.

One method that occurs in ham radio articles is to measure the input resistance of a resonant s/c or o/c stub, and to calculate MLL as 8.686*Rin/Zo/length dB/unitlength. (This is not the only method, or even a good one, but it is commonly used.)

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