Post mortem review of a 144MHz combiner / splitter

This article is a post mortem review of a 144MHz splitter combiner that was made using RG6 coax. It is post mortem (ie post death) because the combiner was stored outdoors without checking that the connectors were protected from weather.


The combiner was used successfully for over 10 years on a 144MHz four over four antenna system (above) without any maintenance problems.


Above is a close up of the Tee point of the network. The coax cables are protected by HDPE sleeving to reduce the chance of damage at the hands of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, in the event there was no damage.
Continue reading Post mortem review of a 144MHz combiner / splitter

Transmitter pulse generator for SSB RF PA adjustment

This article describes a pulse generator for adjustment of SSB RF power amplifiers.

The need

Valve RF power amplifiers usually use high voltage power supplies with poor regulation, and typically the voltage may sag by 10% or more on full power CW output, whilst on SSB telephony the voltage may sag a quarter of that.

The effect is that finding PA loading conditions for maximum power output on a key down CW signal optimises the loading for conditions that are significantly different to SSB telephony and not only is the maximum power output likely to be lower for key down CW, but it will be lower when used for SSB telephony than if it were adjusted using a drive that created full output power without sagging the power supply more than speech would.

Additionally, RF PAs intended for the amateur market cannot sustain key down CW for very long before overheating and sustaining damage forcing very short adjustment sessions. Adjustment at continuous maximum power puts great demands on a dummy load if one is being used.

So, to solve these problems, there are three objective:

  • create a drive / load scenario that is similar to SSB telephony conditions;
  • operate at reduced duty cycle to reduce internal heating of valves and power supply;
  • reduce the average dissipation requirements of a dummy load.

Continue reading Transmitter pulse generator for SSB RF PA adjustment

A certain formula for antenna system Q

A correspondent questioned the writings of an online expert who opined whilst discussing loaded monopole antennas:

… there is a formula circulating the Internet which states that antenna Q is equal to 360 times the frequency in MHz, divided by the 2:1 VSWR bandwidth in kHz. One has to assume they mean antenna system Q, but that’s not a given. While this formula might give you a comparison between antenna A and antenna B (all else being equal), the actual Q of the antenna (system or otherwise) requires a textbook-full of formulas, and a lot more information than just the 2:1 bandwidth! Fact is, this formula is no more specific than the number of DX contacts a specific antenna garnered.

The formula given is:

Q=360*fc/B(VSWR=2) where fc is the centre frequency.
Continue reading A certain formula for antenna system Q

Tuning combiner lines

A common method of combining two 50Ω antennas to a single 50Ω feed is using a quarter wave transformer using 75Ω line from the common feed point to each antenna.

A recent posting to one of the ham fora raises the posters problems with making this really simple feed system work.

Screenshot - 25_08_16 , 07_25_16

Above is his measured input characteristic with good 50Ω loads on each leg. Reading a hundred posts, it seems that he attributes this to legs of 0.167m length of RG11. The problem is that RG11 as most of us know it has a solid PE dielectric giving it a vf=0.66 and that 0.167m is 63° at 207MHz… so why the response above. Continue reading Tuning combiner lines

Treatment of the -ve DC return path for transceivers in mobile installations

A correspondent wrote with questions on the -ve return connection in a mobile installation of a typical ham transceiver. He was confused by the advice on an online expert who opined…

If instead, you decide to connect the negative lead to the nearest chassis ground point (seat support, trunk brace, etc.), there will be a difference in resistance between any of these points and the battery’s chassis ground. A differential of three to five ohms is not uncommon. Whether this causes a ground loop to occur is moot, the resulting voltage drop under load is not.

A resistance of 3-5Ω from any part of a metal car body to the terminal clamped to the battery -ve terminal is way above anything I have observed, and would seem to be sign of a fault rather than not uncommon. Continue reading Treatment of the -ve DC return path for transceivers in mobile installations

Exploiting your antenna analyser #23

Seeing recent discussion by online experts insisting that power relays are not suitable to RF prompts an interesting and relevant application of a good antenna analyser.

Screenshot - 03_08_16 , 14_12_56

Above is a sweep of an A/B changeover relay intended for HF application at up to 100W and lowish VSWR. The sweep is actually from 1 to 61MHz to be confident that there is not poor behaviour just outside of the HF range that might present on another implementation of the same design. Continue reading Exploiting your antenna analyser #23

End fed half wave – NEC models for 20m


End Fed Half Wave antennas are again very fashionable with hams, accompanied by extraordinary claims and somewhat sparse understanding (the way of modern ham radio).

To add some light I have created a set of NEC 4.2 models of a half wave antenna on 20m to give some insight into the behaviour of a bottom fed vertical half wave over real ground.

This analysis does not consider harmonic operation, antennas are a half wave at 14.2MHz.

Four models are used:

  1. 20mHW-VEP – bottom fed vertical above perfect ground;
  2. 20mHW-VEA – bottom fed vertical above real ground;
  3. 20mHW-VCA – centre fed vertical above real ground (ie ground independent feed);
  4. 20mHW-HCA – centre fed horizontal at 5m height above ground;

NEC 4.2 model description:

  • 14.2MHz;
  • no conductor loss;
  • real ground assumed to have conductivity=0.005S, εr=13, of course results are dependent on these values;
  • conductors are ~10m long, 20mm diameter;
  • bottom fed vertical half wave uses a 10m x 20mm vertical driven ground electrode;
  • centre fed vertical is raised 200mm above ground;
  • feed line and feed line common mode current are excluded;
  • the centre of all antennas is ~5m above ground (real or perfect).


Above are the patterns from the models for discussion. Continue reading End fed half wave – NEC models for 20m

InsertionVSWR of Grebenkemper’s Tandem Match

The findings at InsertionVSWR of Revex W560 on HF and the suggestion that the low frequency problem is characteristic of poorly designed Sontheimer couplers (Sontheimer, C & Frederick 1966).

These couplers were popularised by (Grebenkemper 1987)  in his Tandem Match – An Accurate Directional Wattmeter and have appeared in ARRL handbooks over the decades, and may have inspired the many commercial implementations of the coupler.

Grebenkemper claims his meter is ‘good’ down to 1.8MHz, but does not clearly claim any particular InsertionVSWR. There is limited value in an instrument that can measure down to 1.05 when it causes significantly higher VSWR itself.

Screenshot - 24_07_16 , 15_31_41

Lets drill down on Gebenkember’s article, specifically the coupler design.
Continue reading InsertionVSWR of Grebenkemper’s Tandem Match