Urban DXing: testing the Bonito Boni whip against a 30 metre longwire & the Wellbrook ALA15030

Hi there, if like me, you live in an urban environment, chances are QRM is having a negative impact on the quality of the signals you’re receiving at home. The presence of electrical noise makes antenna choice very important, particuarly if you’re planning to spend more than a few £££s on something more sophisticated than a length of wire. Recently I was considering the the purchase of a second compact antenna, for use at home in my shack and out and about on DXpeditions. I already had the excellent Wellbrook ALA1530 H field antenna, but at more than £250, it’s very costly and thus it seemed rather extravagent to buy a second one, if I could find something with similar performance for less expense. Space is at a premium at home and of course I take much of my equipment out on DXpeditions, so the Bonito Boni whip active antenna appeared to be an ideal choice. A wideband active antenna (from 20 kHz to 300 MHz) operating from 12 to 15V DC, with a very compact form-factor definitely ticked all the boxes. Furthermore, with reasonable second and third order intercept points of +55 and +32.5 dBm respectively, the Boni whip, on paper at least, looked like a pretty good buy at around £100.

 

Now, clearly, an E field antenna such as the Boni whip is not going to match the SNR provided by the H field Wellbrook ALA1530 in a noisy, urban environment. I have uploaded a few reception videos to my YouTube channel to demonstrate this, making a direct comparison of the two. However, what about the performance of the whip versus a simple longwire in an urban environment? Is there a delta in performance? The value proposition of the whip is primarliy in it’s performance, coupled with portability I suppose, but that must be considered a secondary requirement. The whip might be 10 or 15 times more expensive than a reel of cheap equipment wire, but will the reception justify the cost delta?!

Text links follow directly below, with embedded videos thereafter; you will find 3 reception videos comparing the whip and a 30 metre longwire, on shortwave and one each for LW and MW. At the end of each video there’s a section with the Wellbrook loop, just to calibrate where the longwire and whip are in terms of a much more effective H field antenna. The result? Well, there’s not much to separate the longwire and Boni whip, except on LW, where the whip prevails. A friend told me recently, if reception is rubbish at home under a blanket of QRM, don’t blame the antenna, the noise is the real problem. He was right. So, the next tests are to be undertaken out in the field, where the whip has a real chance to shine. I’m rooting for it because to have an antenna that performs as well as, or close to my loop out in the woods, yet can be packed away into a small case would be brilliant. Thanks for reading/watching/listening.



Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

eBay Find: Sangean ATS-818 shortwave portable

While browsing eBay a few moments ago, I noticed this Sangean ATS-818 which has a BuyItNow price of $30.00 + $15.00 shipping. If this would have been the ATS-803A/DX-440, I would have snatched it up in an instant if only for nostalgic reasons. I know many people that cut their teeth on the ATS-818 or the RadioShack equivalent. The price seems fair, the unit is supposedly functional and the seller has stellar ratings.

If you’ve been looking for an ARTS-818, this might be a good time to pull the trigger.

Click here to view on eBay.

The company and history behind the Boeing 707 HF antenna coupler

(Source: Boeing)

Many thanks to David Giba who shares the following via the Gary J. Cohen’s Shortwave Listeners Global Facebook page:

The Boeing 707 is my favorite commercial jetliner. If one looks at the tail they will see a probe pointing forward off the top of the tail. That is the HF shortwave antenna.

(Source: VIP Club)

It was matched by an antenna tuner/transmatch much like we have in our HF radios. This is the story of the Univac Coupler. Very interesting.

Click here to read on the VIP Club website.

For Sale: HackRF One & PortaPack H1 combo

Spectrum display on the 18 meter band.

It’s time to thin the herd! Over the coming weeks, I’m planning to liquidate some gear here at the SWLing Post HQ.

I’m selling radios and accessories I no longer use or need for comparison reviews. I’ll plan to post these on the SWLing Post before placing them on something like eBay.

Know that funds from your purchase will help SWLing Post running costs and will be used to purchase future review units.

HackRF One and PortPack H1 combo

First up is my HackRF One and Portapack H1 field-portable receiver and spectrum sampling package.

I purchased these new at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention–the HackRF One was purchased at the TAPR booth and the PortaPack H1 at the Sharebrained Technology booth. The Portapack H1 was installed on the HackRF One by its designer Jarod (see below).

While I’m sure a number of readers are familiar with the HackRF One SDR, I doubt many will be familiar with the PortaPack H1, which I found to be one of the more exciting innovations showcased at the 2016 Hamvention.

In essence, the PortaPack H1 is a shield that attaches to the HackRF and adds a touchscreen LCD, navigation controls, headphone jack, real-time clock, micro SD card slot, and custom aluminum case. When you add power via the USB port (or using a USB battery pack) you can utilize many HackRF features without needing a computer or tablet. The PortaPack firmware runs on the fast ARM processors in the HackRF. The only time an external computer is necessary is to reprogram the firmware.

Here’s a short video:

I fell in love with the PortPack H1 and purchased it on the spot at the Hamvention.

Why? Well, among many other things, you can do spectrum recordings natively and save them to a MicroSD card. The PortPack writes the recording as a basic IQ file. I suspect it’ll require a little tinkering to open and playback the file in another SDR application.

Why am I selling?

I had planned to use the PortPack as a means to do field SDR recordings and do a full review. After all, it must be the most compact, all-in-one solution for doing field spectrum recordings.

Tuned to Radio Australia this morning.

Truth is, though, I haven’t had time to tinker with the PortaPack at all as I’ve been so busy with family life, travels and doing other reviews.

Also, I rarely do field spectrum recordings because I’m lucky enough to live at a site that has little to no radio interference. It would be very difficult for me to find an outdoor location and deploy an antenna that would outperform my home setup. I could see myself using the PortPack while doing proper globe-trotting across the planet, but I have no plans to do this in the near future.

To be clear: though the PortPack H1 works as-is, it is developed with the hacker and experimenter in mind. You would need to figure out which app could import the spectrum files and what format to use.

I’d like to sell this to someone who could use it and would enjoy experimenting. (And possibly writing up something for the SWLing Post? (Hint hint!)

I bet I haven’t used the HackRF/PortaPack combo more than one hour on the air. It’s essentially like new and comes with the PortaPack metal case, the original HackRF One box, HackRF One plastic enclosure/case and cord.

Price

Originally, this package cost me over $500.

I’m selling this HackRF One and PortaPack H1 one shipped and fully insured via the USPS (within the US) for $400.

If you’re seriously interested, but live outside the US, please contact me. I would need to determine shipping costs based on the destination. Note that I’m no expert at doing international shipments, though, so can’t comment regarding import duties and customs clearance or tracking.

I would like to receive funds via PayPal or perhaps Google Wallet. I can do USPS money orders, etc. but they will need to clear prior to shipping (this adds a few days to the turn-around time).

I know very little in terms of operating the PortPack H1, so I would encourage you to check out both the HackRF One and Sharebrained Technology websites to learn more prior to purchasing.

Again, your purchase will essentially help me fund the SWLing Post! Contact me if interested–first come, first serve. Thanks!

PantronX Titus II update

Many thanks to Mike at PantronX who has provided the following update on the Titus II portable SDR:

As you can imagine the response to Titus has almost been overwhelming! Pre-orders far exceeded our imagination and excitement from broadcasters has been very loud. DRM and digital broadcasting seems to be reinvigorated with Titus in 2017. I think we really broke the price barrier that most everyone has been dreaming of and provided the flexibility
that has held back the cause.

As posted on http://hfcc.org/delivery/receivers.phtml

‘Update on availability received from PantronX: “We have been overwhelmed with the response to Titus with orders and request – coupled with an early Chinese New Year that the pre-production date has slipped a bit. Please be patient as we work with our suppliers and add more functions.” ‘

We are doing all we can to push – Chinese New Year is a crazy time – the factories are shut down for 3 to 4 weeks and as you can imagine the stress prior to and the performance after.

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks our http://titusradio.com/ website will undergo a much needed update. So much to do – but we are making good headway.

Thank you, Mike! I’ve had a number of readers asking about progress on the Titus II, so I appreciate the update!