Tag Archives: DXing

Small Unidirectional Loop Antenna (SULA) Part 3: Questions & Answers

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor extraordinaire, 13dka, who brings us Part Two of a three part series about the new SULA homebrew antenna project. This first article describes this affordable antenna and demonstrates its unique reception properties. The second article focuses on construction notes. This third and final article will essentially be a Q&A about the SULA antenna. 

This wideband unidirectional antenna is an outstanding and innovative development for the portable DXer. I love the fact that it came to fruition via a collaboration between Grayhat and 13dka: two amazing gents and radio ambassadors on our SWLing.net discussion board and here on the SWLing Post. So many thanks to both of them!

Please enjoy and share Part 3:


Part 3: SULA Q&A

by 13dka

Q: Where can I ask questions, discuss all aspects of the the SULA or collaborate in its further development?

A: There is a thread dedicated to the SULA in the new SWLing.com message board: https://swling.net/viewtopic.php?t=55

Q: Since the antenna is “lossy”, what’s the point of having a “beam”?

A: The answer is once again “SNR”: First off, remember that the LNA is there to make up for most of the losses. Secondly, this is all about the noise pickup, 20dB less gain/more losses outside the main lobe means also a reduction of atmospheric/cosmic/whatnot QRN and of course everything manmade from all these sides. The wide horizontal lobe is more or less one hemisphere horizontally, but the flat-ish vertical pattern makes that only a slice of it. In other words, there will be less QRN and QRM pickup from the back and the top. The idea is that the SNR will ideally increase more than the preamp’s noise figure will cost and it often sounds like this is what actually happens. Of course it’s also nice that you can turn an unwanted signal down using the more or less pronounced notch in the backside pattern up to 21 MHz – also very helpful for direction finding.

Q: Do I need a rotor?

A: It depends. If you are one of the lucky few still having a low-QRM-environment at home and you want to put it in the backyard, you really may want to be able to turn it remotely. If you’re using it portable you can simply rotate the mast manually. If you have local QRM or can’t mount it very far away from your or other houses, you may want to rotate the back of the antenna towards that source, leave it at that position forever and enjoy what’s coming in on the pretty wide main lobe of the antenna. The horizontal lobe covers more or less half of the horizon, depending on your stations of interest and location you could get away with never turning the antenna at all.

Q: Is it better than the XYZ loop?

A: Hey, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask you! 🙂 Even though the SULA is very similar in appearance and performance to a good SML working in ideal (ground conductivity) conditions, the SULA is a pretty different animal with a different behavior: Regular small loops, besides being bidirectional, can lose quite a bit of their low angle sensitivity over “poor” ground while the SULA is supposed to be retaining its properties better over any type of ground. Also, while many SMLs are tuned for VLF through the lower portion of the shortwave, the SULA complements those with quite uniform (good) properties up to 30 MHz and beyond.

Q: I have an end-fed random wire or dipole strung up from the house to a tree etc. – can the SULA beat that?

A: That’s quite possible. To get low takeoff angles from horizontal wire antennas you need to string them up at least 1/2 wavelength high, that’s 20m/66ft on 40/41m, 10m/33ft on 20m and so on. If you can’t do that, the SULA may be your ticket to listen farther beyond the horizon. Also, wire antennas are often strung up to match space restrictions or avoid QRM vectors and that way you may end up with some directionality in directions you don’t want, or no directionality at all when the wire is too low. Another noteworthy point is the ground: For most horizontal antennas, better ground means a considerable higher takeoff angle so the dipole needs even more height for low angles. The SULA’s takeoff angle benefits a little from the better ground and only gets a little worse over poor ground.

Q: Do I really need an LNA?

A: I hope so? Of course it depends… if you are going to try this antenna in a very noisy environment, the LNA may have little to no benefit. The noise is limiting your “radio horizon” to very loud signals anyway and for those you may not need an LNA, ever. On the other hand, the antenna is very lossy and in a quiet environment where noise is not an issue at all, weak signals may drop below the sensitivity threshold of your receiver without the LNA. The less noise you have, the more you’ll be able to benefit from an LNA. You will also need one when your radio isn’t all that sensitive, similar to the requirements to run a YouLoop. Andrew kept the loop impedance as constant as possible in order to allow any low impedance coax preamp to work behind the Balun. Any LNA with 20dB of gain should do, as per usual, better stuff may bring better results.

Among the sparse offers for decent shortwave LNAs, the NooElec LANA HF seems to be the only decent LNA sold via Amazon. It’s comparatively low-cost and unlike the other offers on Amazon, ready to be powered via Bias-T or even via Micro-USB and therefore happy with 5V. Since I also had the balun from the same company I could simply connect that all with a couple of these cute little SMA plumbing bits and it worked. The downside is its unknown but perceivably low resilience against intermodulation (low 3rd-order intercept point), this is usually not a problem with such a small loop but it can be in the presence of nearby transmitters.

If you do have nearby transmitters and don’t mind sourcing an LNA from Europe, Andrew recently pointed me to preamps from here. They offer a moderately priced preamp with a 2N5109 transistor (based on the W7IUV design) for a high IP3 value and low noise, which is also available in PCB-only and fully assembled versions including a compartment. They also offer Bias-T boxes.

Another alternative would be https://www.sv1afn.com/en/product-category-5/-6.html – the design (using a GALI-84 MMIC) is promising more headroom than the LANA HF (which seems to use the lower voltage GALI-39), but needs 12V power like the W7UV preamp above. This LNA is available in a ready-to-use box as well.

Q: What is special/different about this antenna? There are already very similar designs!

A: It’s supposed to be simpler and more compact/portable, and it seems to deliver more consistent results over the entire coverage range in different usage environments than similar designs. The SULA was designed to be made with things that are particularly easy to obtain, or which were already obtained — many of us SWLs have some of that Nooelec stuff in our drawer anyway, even when (or because) we’re not habitual antenna builders and balun winders. Now making a better balun and buying a better preamp is not hard and could even bring better results but the point is that you don’t have to. In summary, this is not meant to be a miracle antenna, just number of compromises re-arranged to create a particularly uncomplicated, small, unidirectional loop antenna that aims for DX, for apartment dwellers and DX nomads like me.

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Small Unidirectional Loop Antenna (SULA) Part 2: Construction Notes

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor extraordinaire, 13dka, who brings us Part Two of a three part series about the new SULA homebrew antenna project. This first article describes this affordable antenna and demonstrates its unique reception properties. This second article focuses on construction notes. The third and final article will essentially be a Q&A about the SULA antenna. All articles will eventually link to each other once published.

This wideband unidirectional antenna is an outstanding and innovative development for the portable DXer. I love the fact that it came to fruition via a collaboration between Grayhat and 13dka: two amazing gents and radio ambassadors on our SWLing.net discussion board and here on the SWLing Post. So many thanks to both of them!

Please enjoy and share Part 2:


Part 2: SULA Construction notes

by 13dka

The drawing [above] has all you need to know. You basically need to put up a symmetrical wire diamond starting with a balun at the one end and terminating in a resistor at the other end of the horizontal boom, the sides are supposed to be 76cm/29.92″ long so you need to make yourself some…

Support structure:

I used 0.63″/1.6cm square plastic square tubing/cable duct profiles from the home improvement market to make the support structure. You can use anything non-conductive for that of course, broom sticks, lathes… The plastic profiles I used had the advantage of being in the house and easy to work on with a Dremel-style tool and everything can be assembled using the same self-tapping screws without even drilling. The profiles are held together with 2 screws, for transport I unscrew one of them and put that into an extra “parking” screw hole on the side, then I can collapse the cross for easy fit into the trunk, a rucksack etc.

These profiles are available in different diameters that fit into each other like a telescoping whip. This is useful to make the support structure variable for experiments and to control the loop shape and tension on the wire. The booms end up at 1.075m each, the profiles come in 1m length, so that’s 4 short pieces of the smaller size tube to extend the main booms by 37mm on each side

On the resistor end of the loop that smaller tube isn’t mounted in the “boom” tube but to the side of it in order to keep the wire running straight from the balun box on the other side.

Mast/mounting:

You can use anything non-conductive to bring it up to height. On second thought that is indeed bad news if you were planning on putting that up on your metal mast…and we have no data on what happens when you do it anyway. I don’t know if the smallest (4m) telescoping fiberglass poles would suffice for portable operation, but I’m a fan of just using the big lower segments of my 10m “HD” mast for the stiffness they give me (3 segments for the height, the 4th collapsed into in the base segment for easy rotation). Telescoping masts also give you easy control over…

Height:

The published patterns are for 3m/10′ feedpoint height over “average” ground. Increasing height further has no expectable advantage, instead it will deteriorate the favorable directional pattern of the loop. Flying it lower, or even a lot lower in windy weather on the other hand is causing a surprisingly moderate hit on performance.

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Introducing the amazing SULA: An affordable unidirectional DX-grade loop antenna that you can build!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor extraordinaire, 13dka, who brings us a three part series about the new SULA homebrew antenna project. This first article describes this affordable antenna and demonstrates its unique reception properties. The second article will focus on construction notes. The third and final article will essentially be a Q&A about the SULA antenna. All articles will eventually link to each other once published.

This wideband unidirectional antenna is an outstanding and innovative development for the portable DXer. I love the fact that it came to fruition via a collaboration between Grayhat and 13dka: two amazing gents and radio ambassadors on our SWLing.net discussion board and here on the SWLing Post. So many thanks to both of them!

Please enjoy and share SULA Part 1:


Introducing the Small Unidirectional Loop Antenna (SULA) 1-30MHz

A small and simple, unidirectional and DX-capable loop “beam” for SWLs!

by 13dka

In early June, Andrew (grayhat), SWLing Post‘s resident antenna wizard suggested a variation of the “cardioid loop” on the SWLing Post message board: The original “cardioid loop” is a small loop receiving antenna deriving its name from a cardioid shaped (unidirectional) radiation footprint. The design is strikingly simple but it has a few downsides: It relies on a custom preamp, it needs a ground rod to work and it is unidirectional only up to 8 MHz.

Andrew’s version had the components all shuffled around and it did not only lose the ground rod, it also promised a nice cardioid pattern over the entire shortwave, from a small, diamond shaped loop. Wait…what? It can be made using parts available on Amazon and your DIY store:

You need some 3m wire and PVC tubes to create a support structure to hold the wire, a 530 Ohm resistor and a 9:1 balun like the popular “NooElec One Nine”. Since it’s a “lossy” design, adding a generic LNA like the NooElec “LANA HF” would help getting most out of it. When you put that all together you have what sounds like an old shortwave listener’s dream: a small, portable, tangible, and completely practical allband shortwave reception beam antenna with some more convenient properties on top, for example, it is a bit afraid of heights.

That sounded both interesting and plain crazy, but the .nec files Andrew posted were clearly saying that this antenna is a thing now. Unfortunately Andrew suffered a little injury that kept him from making one of those right away, I on the other hand had almost all the needed parts in a drawer so I ended up making a prototype and putting it through some of its paces, with Andrew changing the design and me changing the actual antenna accordingly, then mounting it upside down. Let me show you around:

  •  Small, diamond shaped wire loop (with 76cm/29.92″ sides), needing as little space as most other small loops.
  • Unidirectional with a ~160° wide “beam” and one pronounced minimum with a front/back-ratio of typically 20dB over the entire reception range 1-30MHz.
  • Moderate height requirements: It works best up to 3m/10′ above ground, where it gives you…
  • …a main lobe with a convenient flat takeoff angle for DX
  • Antenna is comparatively insensitive to ground quality/conductivity.
  • Wideband design, works best on shortwave and is pretty good up to 70cm.

A functional small beam antenna for shortwave reception that’s just as small and possibly even more lightweight (prototype:~250g/9oz) than your regular SML, that can be easily made out of easy to obtain parts and easily carried around for mobile/portable DXing and due to its cardioid shaped directional pattern also for direction finding, a “tactical” antenna that’s also doing DX? Unlike conventional, Yagi-Uda or wire beams it can achieve a low takeoff angle at only 3m/10ft height or less, the front/back ratio is typically better than that of a 3-element Yagi, with a particularly useful horizontal pattern shape. That it’s rather indifferent to soil quality could mean that more people get to reproduce the good results and being a real wideband antenna is making the SULA an interesting companion for multiband radios and SDRs. Really? A miracle antenna? Is it that time of year again? If I had a dollar for every….

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International Radio Club’s Reprints collection of 900+ articles

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Nick Hall-Patch, who shares the following announcement:

The International Radio Club’s Reprints collection of 900+ articles about antennas, radio propagation, receivers, accessories, plus items of general interest to MW DXers, continues to grow.   We’ve published an update to the index, at https://www.ircaonline.org/editor_upload/File/reprints/irca-reprint-index.pdf  ,  so that everyone can get access to these latest additions.

We’re also pleased to start offering reprints that did not initially appear in IRCA’s DX Monitor, but are not easily found elsewhere.  For example, we’ve obtained permission from the family of the late prolific author, Dallas Lankford, to organize and republish his out of print articles. 

(if you’ve used the index before, you may need to refresh the browser page to see the latest update, dated December 2021)

Click here to check out the IRCA Index (PDF).

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CBC Yukon features Finnish DXer who logged their station from 7,000 km away

Image Source: CBC/Google Earth

(Source: CBC Yukon)

From Yukon to Finland: CBC’s radio signal heard from afar

Host Elyn Jones heard saying ‘this is Yukon Morning,’ about 7,000 kilometres away

A keen listener has managed to hear CBC Yukon’s radio broadcast from about 7,000 kilometres away.

Jorma Mäntylä lives in Kangasala, Finland.

On Oct.15 he was scanning the airwaves and came across the signal from Dawson City, Yukon, broadcasting CBC’s Yukon Morning show.

The signal lasted about an hour.

“It was clear to hear your Yukon Morning program led by a female journalist and the morning news,” he said.

The host that day was Elyn Jones in Whitehorse.

Upon hearing the signal Mäntylä sent an email with an attached audio clip asking for confirmation.

CBC Yukon wrote him back to confirm what he’d heard. We also scheduled an interview by videoconference to speak about his hobby.

No ordinary radio

Mäntylä doesn’t have an ordinary radio. He’s part of the Suomen Radioamatööriliitto, the Finnish Amateur Radio League.

He started listening to signals in 1967.

He uses custom-built equipment to scan for shortwave and AM radio signals.

Sometimes it takes a while, through the crackle, to determine the language being spoken and from where the signal is broadcasting.

The game is to discover new stations, identify them, and then send an email to confirm the reception.

“I very often listen to foreign radio stations. That has been my hobby for 50 years,” he said. ‘It’s given me interesting moments learning about other cultures and nations,”

Hearing a signal from Yukon is rare. Mäntylä says on Oct. 15 he also heard broadcasts from radio stations in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Click here to continue reading the full article.

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AirSpy SDR#’s New Killer Feature: the Co-Channel Canceller

An example of an AirSpy SDR# software screen.

A version of AirSpy’s popular SDR# software, showing the dark mode interface introduced in 2019. SDR# is always evolving, and the latest new tool is the Co-Channel Canceller.

It’s easy to take for granted the magical math that happens in Software Defined Radio. Occasionally though a breakthrough occurs which really grabs our attention, thanks to the hard work and bright minds of the designers behind the receivers and the software.

On the software side, the first series of “wow” moments happened for me in 2007-2008 when Nico Palermo of Perseus SDR fame expanded the program’s alias-free bandwidth incrementally from a modest (but impressive for the time) 100 kHz all the way up to the current 1600 kHz coverage.

The top-end 1600 kHz bandwidth was a game changer which allowed  medium wave DXers the opportunity to record IQ-WAV files of the entire band for later review, analysis, and DXing. It’s even more impressive considering this expansion was done without any additional hardware or receiver updates.

What did Nico charge Perseus owners for this incredibly useful expansion of spectrum and waterfall bandwidth? Nothing! The program with its much improved features continued freely available to previous and new Perseus SDR owners.


Now in 2020, Youssef Touil, AirSpy’s hardware and software developer, brings  a “killer feature” to his own SDR program named SDR#, for the benefit of medium wave DXers: the Co-Channel Canceller. The cost for this innovative tool? Yep, it’s a free addition to SDR#.

What are the benefits of the Co-Channel Canceller? This question is best answered by listening to three examples published by Youssef on his Twitter feed.

Read the descriptions below and listen to the brief audio files. In each example the Co-Channel Canceller is turned on and off a few times:


For the first example above, I suspect the 594 kHz station is Saudi Arabia’s Radio Riyadh, and the off-channel 596 kHz signal is Al Idaa Al-Watania from Morocco. It’s impressive that the 50 kw 596 station can be uncovered to any degree, as Radio Riyadh is a whopping 2000 kw!

In the AirSpy Groups.io forum, Youssef clearly illustrates the steps needed to initiate the Co-Channel Canceller. I’ve reproduced his screenshots below:

I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities of the Co-Channel Canceller tool, but it holds promise of helping to reveal and identify hopelessly buried co-channel or adjacent channel stations. Not only does it work “live” in real time reception, it functions well with recorded IQ-WAV files too! Checkout the newest version of SDR# and give this new feature a try. I can imagine situations where this tool could be highly useful at times for the shortwave DXer also.

Thanks, Youssef, for this brilliant tool, which you’ve included free with the newest SDR# !

I encourage radio hobbyists to support AirSpy’s efforts to advance the state-of-the-art. The diminutive AirSpy HF+ Discovery receiver is not only a reasonably priced SDR to use with SDR#, it’s a top performer and a recipient of the World Radio TV Handbook’s Best Value SDR award for 2020.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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Gary DeBock experiments with FSL antenna nulling to eliminate a “pest” station

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and Ultralight DX enthusiast, Gary DeBock, for sharing the following guest post:

Nulling a local pest with dual FSL Loops

by Gary DeBock

After many dual FSL antenna experiments I’ve finally determined how to effectively cancel out QRM from a local pest that is off to the side (ideally 90 degrees different, but practical from 50 degrees to 90 degrees different) from a weak DX station, although I’m not quite sure of the theory behind this discovery.

This experiment was an attempt to cancel out QRM from a local pest, 950-KJR in Seattle, WA (35 miles/ 56 km to the north) and chase 950-KKSE in Parker, CO (1005 miles/ 1617 km to the southeast) during the early morning hours. The receiver was a basic (non-SSB) C.Crane Skywave, and two identical 5 inch ferrite rod FSL antennas were used. Please refer to the photo (above) to follow this description.

Step 1) Null out the pest station with the portable radio’s loopstick (away from the FSL antennas). Set the radio down in this nulled position, so that the pest station is as weak as possible, while ensuring that there is space to set up the FSL antennas to the back and side (see photo).

Step 2) Take the “Reception FSL” and use it to peak the pest station’s frequency, setting it up parallel to the portable radio as shown, at the position providing the maximum inductive coupling gain. This will temporarily boost up the pest station, which previously was nulled.

Step 3) Take the “Nulling FSL” and pretune the frequency to that of the pest station. You can do this either by adjusting the variable cap plates to match those of the “Reception FSL,” or by temporarily peaking the pest station’s signal in a position in front of the portable radio. After setting this frequency, set the “Nulling FSL” off to the side of the portable radio as shown, with the spacing identical to the spacing between the radio and the “Reception FSL.”

Step 4) Slowly and carefully tune the “Nulling FSL” until you hear the pest station’s signal take a sharp drop. This setting will be very sharp, but once you find this position you will have nulled out the pest very effectively, and if another station is on the frequency, it may suddenly become dominant, even if it is far away (like 950-KKSE in Denver).

Some MP3’s from this morning’s experiments:

950-KJR in nulled position with the portable only

950-KKSE generally dominant over the local pest KJR when the “Nulling FSL” is peaked


Fascinating, Gary! I don’t understand the dynamics of why this works, but it’s amazing that it does so effectively. I can think of two MW frequencies in particular where I could put a system like this to the test. 

Thank you for sharing!

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