It dawned on me recently, perhaps due to sloppy thinking or unintended distractions, that I never wrote about my modified Loop on Ground (LoG) receive antenna that I use at parks and such. For over a year now, I have been using 3-conductor rotor wire bought cheap at the local hardware store and have wired the conductors in series. Grayhat (Andrew) was the inspiration when he decided to create a folded dipole along the side of his house.
The usual construction of a LoG antenna for shortwave is a single wire of about 60 feet in circumference in order to not go above one wavelength for 20 meter band usage. If you recall, going above one wavelength will start creating weird lobes in the reception pattern. See – Loop-On-Ground Antenna Part 2.
However, I did not like this 19 foot diameter wire on the ground in public parks just waiting to be tripped over. Like, the time when a horse got loose from its owners and almost tripped over my 60 foot wire. I don’t think I would have liked the resulting lawsuit!
So out of fearful necessity I took some leftover RCA 3-conductor rotor wire, about 29 feet of it, and wired a loop with the conductors in series. This gives about 81 feet of total conductive length. But since it is folded onto itself, there is an undetermined loss of resonant length. Callum (M0MCX) of DXCommander fame has experimented and found folded dipoles need three times more length in the folded section to reach resonance, so my loop is probably around 69 feet (electrically). See – Fold the end of a Dipole Back – What’s Happening?.
In the picture below, the black wire with Ring Terminal at the bottom goes all the way around to the other side, soldered to the green wire, which goes around and is soldered to the red wire, which goes around to the Ring Terminal at the top, plus tie-wraps to hold the wires together.
The next picture is how the Wellbrook Medium Aperture preamplifier is connected to the loop with BNC cable that goes to the 12V power injector. I have had this Wellbrook unit for maybe 6+years with no signs of problems. WARNING – do NOT use the Wellbrook preamplifier in the presence of high powered RF energy like your Amateur Radio antenna pumped with 1000 watts from a linear amplifier; the Wellbrook premap might just overload and get damaged! I did use this loop and preamplifier at last year’s 2022 ARRL Field Day and was able to get away with it because we were only using 100 watts per station. Listening to the 9pm 3916-net trivia group was fun but I still needed to keep it away from the transmitting antennas. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Rob, with Frugal Radio, who writes:
On New Year’s Day I decided to spend some time make a Loop on the Ground HF antenna. It had been a project I had wanted to undertake for a while, after seeing the KK5JY web site.
The LoG is supposed to work fairly well in noisy RF environments, and with my house being in suburbia,I thought it would be worth a shot.
I use some old speaker wire, RG6, some connectors I had lying around, and some random items from the back yard (old tyre, flower pot etc). It only took about 30 minutes to build with the stuff I already had lying around. I used a NooElec balun as my transformer.
Despite the snow on the ground, it all worked.
I made a video showing the construction and initial testing which your readers may enjoy.
As you mention, Rob, the LoG has become a very popular antenna for folks living in an urban RFI jungle. Paired with a nice high dynamic range SDR, the results are quite impressive and the noise floor much lower than it would be with a traditional wire antenna or even a sky loop. I am curious how it compares with any other antennas as your home. Thanks for sharing!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Loop on Ground Part 2
My previous Loop on Ground (LoG) experiment was useful which entailed connecting my Wellbrook loop amplifier to a 100 foot loop of speaker wire in the field at my favorite local Forest Preserve. It really brought in stations I had never heard before or strong stations in a more powerful way that made the audio really pleasant to listen to. This report will describe more experiments with smaller wire loops to see what the limitations are. 100 feet of wire is quite a lot of wire to mess around with especially in the cold weather or public places that do not have as much private space.
I don’t understand all the electrical interrelationships but a long posting at RadioReference.com had a great discussion about creating a 160-20 meters LoG receive-only antenna. It is 11 pages long but is worth reading how “nanZor” experimented with various parameters for general use. Kudos to him for documenting the findings as the design changed over time. You can find it here:
nanZor basically boils it down to a few guidelines.
Keep it on the ground. Lifting the wire more than an inch or two decreased the lower angle signal reception greatly.
Calculate the optimal length for one full wavelength of wire at the highest target frequency, say for example, the top of the 20 meter band (14350 kHz). 936/14.350 MHz * 0.9 velocity factor of simple insulated wire = 58.7 feet. You can round up to 60 feet, no big deal since this is broadband. The antenna should have a predictable reception pattern from 1/10th wavelength up to 1 full wavelength. Outside that range, the pattern gets “squirrely”.
Using a 9:1 balun seemed to be a little better than a 4:1 balun at the antenna feedpoint. This gets into things I cannot measure and has to do with rising impedance as a loop gets closer to ground level. I am not sure but I think my Wellbrook amp has a built in 4:1 balun and it seems to work just fine.
Make sure to use an RF Choke at BOTH sides of the feedline coax cable. He was adamant that the loop can get easily unbalanced and allow noise into the antenna and/or feedline and so it must be isolated and the ground allowed to “float” in his words.
Personally, I also wanted to use less wire and happened to have a length of 42 feet of landscape wire which should work well below 5 MHz with the Wellbrook amp engaged. Results were not bad even though on hard frozen ground. Signal levels were down a little compared to the 100 foot of wire. Here are a couple of examples, first one in a fast food parking lot with a grass field next to it and second at the usual Forest Preserve parking lot on a grass field. I made sure that my car blocked the view of the wire so people would not get nervous!
La Voz Missionaria, Brazil:
Voice of Welt from Issoudun France in Kurdish:
These are not necessarily “DX” but definitely good for SWLing. I like the signal strength with the amplifier inline at the antenna feedpoint and I did not have to use an RF Choke at the receiver side as was suggested.
I had a 75 foot long insulated wire and used that at the Forest Preserve parking lot on a couple of different days. Lower frequency signal strength and signal/noise ratio improved a little bit to be noticeable.
Examples below with the 42 foot loop and 9:1 balun/choke, no amplifier:
KSDA, Agat Guam in English
WB8U doing a POTA activation of Leavenworth State Fishing Lake
VOLMET weather, Shannon Ireland
HCJB Quito Ecuador, probably in Quechua
As a side note, there is a posting that mentions low-angle DX is better with regions that have better “ground conductivity”, salt water being the best. I have no way of verifying this. See post# 126 by KK5JY Matt.
So, bottom line is that a Loop on Ground can be useful for pleasant SWLing and portable. Best to use it on grass, not asphalt. The loop amplifier is useful to get signal levels up if you have to use a smaller loop size but the signal/noise ratio will suffer due to its smaller aperture. And, warning, the public will find a way to trip over the wire no matter where you set it up (I may try putting the wire around my car if I can park on a grass surface and/or use the gaudiest, brightest neon green or orange wire I can find – they can’t trip over THAT, can they?).
Thanks, Tom, for sharing your update. Obviously, the LoG is working brilliantly. It’s amazing that you got such clear reception from the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. If you were using a vertical instead, I bet signals would have been buried in the noise.
I can also relate to people tripping over antenna wires. I remember one POTA activation recently (the first activation in this three park run) where I intentionally laid my counterpoise on the ground, off a foot path, in the brush and where I couldn’t imagine anyone ever stepping. Ten minutes into the activation and for no reason, someone walked off the path, into the brush, and it snagged them. Maybe I’m just a Ninja level trapper and never realized it!?
Thanks again for sharing the results of your LoG, Tom. Inspiring!
I also read somewhere that for transmitting, a LOG antenna is useless as it radiates much of the energy right into the ground! But I didn’t care about that. I needed something for receive I can deploy easily without supports and take down just as easily. As you may recall, my home condo is literally saturated with noise and I cannot null it out. So a wire looped on the ground is supposed to work? You bet it does!
Of course, there are some conditions to meet. There has to be enough flat ground away from people or pets (or lawn mowers!) who would get tangled in the wire on the ground. The wire should be as close to the ground as possible (although I had good results laying the wire on top of cut grass). The loop of wire can vary in circumference from about 20 feet to 150 feet (the shorter length will stay in an omnidirectional pattern higher in frequency but lower in signal pickup and vice-versa for the longer length). The wire needs to be insulated. That’s about it!
So, off to the hardware store to buy a cheap spool of 100 foot 18 gauge speaker wire. But, the articles mention using a balun and they all made their own. I did not feel like doing that (I am not that good at making things from scratch) and I did not want to spend money ordering one. More reading somewhere informed me that my existing Wellbrook Medium Aperture loop amplifier has a built-in balun at the antenna side of the device. Hallelujah!
I bundled together the wire, Wellbrook parts and battery supply, small laptop and Airspy HF+ to my favorite Lake Nelson Forest Preserve. The shelter there is little used and is adjacent to the prairie with cut grass. It did take a good 15 minutes to lay out the 100 feet of wire on the ground while trying to keep it as flat as possible. And I did not have enough space for a circle, so I ended up with an oblong shape. The long sides are facing directly north-south, so in theory (I think) this gives me an oblong shaped reception pattern east-west. The photo shows half of the wire laying on the grass.
I ended up with this setup on a picnic table at the rear end of the shelter. The coax wire goes from the Wellbrook amp into its power module, then to a Cross Country Wireless preselector, then to the Apirspy HF+ and laptop.
I was really impressed by the signal strength of the usual suspects like Radio Nacional da Amazonia. I could see that the Wellbrook amp was boosting signals across the board with only a little extra noise.
I use the preselector to try to keep the Airspy radio from overloading, especially mediumwave broadcast signals which can sound like a small amount of extra “hash” type noise in the background. I have since added into the accessory chain an old Kiwa Electronics BCB filter that does a great job of knocking down the frequencies below 2 MHz.
I have also since added a water resistant box to enclose the Wellbrook amp to keep it safe from getting stepped on or too wet.
Also, a couple of weeks later I was able to go to a campgound and try out 60 feet of wire but the result was noisier since I was surrounded by RV vehicles in a crowded campsite. It was not horrible and I was able to listen to some good radio stations but location can matter with any antenna.
I hope you like the recordings below. Because of some serious health issues this summer, these May 31 2020 recordings & report are just being published now (I am recovering slowly but surely!). My small laptop is under-powered, so I was only able to record MP3 files one at a time. It kept me busy as I went from one frequency to the next and kept recording anything I heard. I was able to hear a couple of stations I never heard before and that is a success in my book.
It remains to be seen if this antenna is as good as my 19 foot vertical antenna attached to the top of the car roof, especially low-angle DX signals. Maybe you will have the chance to experiment as well and share your experience, too. Now, will a small loop-on-ground antenna around my car parked late at night at a far corner of the grocery store work OK??? I will have to try it!
Recordings (crank up the volume if it is too weak):
22:00 UTC, Radio Saudi (Arabic) 11915 kHz
22:04 UTC, KDSA Adventist Radio (Indonesian) 11955 kHz
22:14 UTC, KDSA Adventist Radio (English) 12040 kHz
22:20 UTC, Voice of Korea (Japanese) 11865 kHz
22:23 UTC, Yemen Radio (heavily jammed) 11860 kHz
22:35 UTC, Radio Brazil Central (Portuguese) 11815 kHz
22:50 UTC, WWV booming in 10000 kHz
23:11 UTC, UnKnown (might be FEBC) 9795 kHz
23:15 UTC, China Radio Int’l (Spanish teaching Chinese, from Kashi) 9800 kHz
23:17 UTC, China Radio Int’l Business Radio (from Xianyang) 9820 kHz
23:19 UTC, China Radio Int’l (Chinese from Urumqi) 9865 kHz
23:21 UTC, Voice of Korea (Korean) 9875 kHz
23:23 UTC, Maybe Radio Taiwan without jamming from CNR 9900 kHz
23:34 UTC, China Radio Int’l (Chinese from Bamako Mali) 7295 kHz
23:43 UTC, Radio Nacional da Amazonia 6180 kHz (& 11780 kHz around 40 seconds)
23:50 UTC, MAYBE China PBS from Xinjiang in Kazakh (nothing else listed on schedules) 6015 kHz
23:56 UTC, Radio Mali (French announcer humming to music and acting crazy) 5995 kHz
00:30 UTC, XEPPM Radio Educacion (Spanish Mexico City) 6185 kHz
This is brilliant Tom! Thank you for sharing.
Our antenna guru contributor, Grayhat, has been encouraging me (understatement!) to build a Loop-On-Ground antenna but I haven’t done this yet because, at home, our driveway would interfere with its deployment. That and I have no RFI to speak of in my rural/remote home so my skyloop antenna is tough to beat. But having one available for portable use would make a lot of sense. I’m going to put this on my 2021 project list!
Post Readers: Do you use a LoG antenna at home or in the field? Please comment!
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