Saturday, June 26, 2010

I added a temporary radial to the six I already had and found the change in signal strength ...

Q This is a follow-up to my question about a homebrew vertical in your column in November 1998 QST. Following your advice, I added a temporary radial to the six I already had and found the change in signal strength was so slight that I didn’t bother to add any more radials. Then, a few months later in another magazine, I saw a column by a writer who bills himself as the “Kaped Krusader.” He labeled your advice as “more antenna hogwash.” Who am I to believe?

A Old Doc saw that column too and wondered aloud: “Where has civil discourse gone?” Doc’s only human, though, and there are times when he is sorely tempted to put on his own cape and reinvent himself as the “Caped Curmudgeon.” But then civility and sensibility returns to Doc’s placid soul and he takes a deep breath and vows to remain positive, practical and helpful.

You wanted to gauge how much effort it would take to improve your vertical antenna system by adding radials. Doc’s previous answer was a thoroughly practical one. Adding one radial would be unlikely to produce much of an improvement. Even the Kaped Krusader seemed to agree with that, although he went on to say that adding a huge number of radials would improve the situation further. After you sort through all the Kaped Krusader’s tables and bombastic verbiage, adding 107 more radials will theoretically improve your signal by about 3 dB, one-half of an S unit.

The Kaped Krusader has stated many times before in print that 2 dB is barely detectable at the other guy’s receiver—and Doc agrees with this. So, you will have to decide for yourself whether an extra 3 dB is worth going through all the work of digging up your lawn to put down more than 100 radials. Yes, you will be beaten out more often in the big DX pileups without that extra 3 dB. But even if your vertical were theoretically 100% perfect, do you have any illusions that you’re going to beat out stations with big Yagis on tall towers?

Doc’s choice? I’d spend the time enjoying myself, making friends and working people on the air—and being civilized about it.

From QST June 1999