Tag Archives: Loop Antennas

The Airspy Youloop is a freaking brilliant passive loop antenna

Before I start talking Youloop, I have a little confession to make up front:

At the Winter SWL Fest when I gave a presentation about Portable SDR DXing, not only did I give attendees the wrong name of the Airspy Youloop antenna, but I also configured it incorrectly, hence the poor performance via my Miscrosoft Surface Go tablet PC.

I had assumed the the crossover component of the antenna was the transformer component. I realized the mistake I made when I saw some of the first promotional photos of the Youloop antenna a few weeks ago.

The crossover connects both sides of the loop while the tee junction contains the transformer.

Doh! I’m trying to forgive myself for making such an obvious mistake, but in my defence–and in the spirit of full disclosure–my antenna was a very early sample prototype without instructions, diagrams, etc. so I set it up imagining it being similar to the homebrew loop Vlado and I built. (FYI: When I say “Vlado and I built” it, I really mean, “Vlado built it.”) 

So obviously I made a poor assumption.

Once I assembled the antenna correctly? Wow. Just. Wow!

Youloop: The ideal travel antenna for high dynamic range SDRs

The Youloop, Airspy HF+ Discovery, SDRplay RSPdx, and all cables easily fit in my Red Oxx Lil Roy pack.

The Youloop is truly the travel antenna I’ve always wanted for portable SDR DXing. Here’s why:

  • It’s incredibly portable and can be rolled up to fit in a small travel pouch
  • It has all of the low-noise characteristics of other magnetic loop antennas
  • It’s wideband unlike many passive loop designs
  • It requires no variable capacitor or tuner
  • It’s made of quality components
  • It requires no external amplifier nor power source
  • It takes one minute to assemble
  • It’s affordable (~$35 USD shipped)

The only caveat? To take advantage of the Youloop, you must use a high dynamic range receiver.

Airspy HF+ Discovery SDR

I can verify that this antenna works brilliantly with the Airspy HF+ Discovery.

The AirSpy HF+ SDR

It will also pair well with the Airspy HF+  if you shortcut R3 via the R3 modification.

SDRplay RSPdx SDR

I’ve also used it numerous times with the new SDRplay RSPdx while using SDRuno in High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode. With the RSPdx, I can make spectrum recordings of the entire AM broadcast band. Note that HDR mode is only available on the RSPdx at 2 MHz and below, using the SDRuno app.

I have not tested the Youloop with other SDRs yet. I will soon test it with my WinRadio Excalibur.

So how well does the Youloop perform?

Listen for yourself!

I’m doing a little cargiving family members today. Their home is swimming in RFI (radio interference/noise). In the past, I’ve struggled to make good mediumwave recordings at their home–certainly an ideal situation for a mag loop antenna.

This morning, I wanted to record one of my favorite local AM stations (WAIZ at 630 kHz), so I set up the Youloop in the middle of a bedroom, hanging off a large bookshelf set against an interior wall. In other words: not an ideal situation.

When I plugged in the Airspy HF+ Discovery and loaded the Airspy SDR application, I fully expected to see a spectrum display full of broadband noise.

Instead, I saw signals. Lots of signals:

Sure, there’s some noise in there, but it’s low enough I could even do proper mediumwave DXing on most of the band if I wished.

In fact, if you’d like to experience the HF+ Discovery/Youloop pairing in this compromised, less-than-ideal DXing setup, why not tune through one of the spectrum recordings I made?

Click here to download the spectrum file [885.7MB .wav].

The recording was made on March 30, 2020 starting around 10:50 UTC. You’ll need to open this file in AirSpy’s free application SDR# or a third party SDR app that can read AirSpy .wav files.

I can’t wait to try the Youloop in other locations. Since we’re in lock-down due to Covid-19, I won’t be able to try the Youloop in a hotel any time soon. Almost all of my 2020 travel plans have been canceled.

Highly recommend

If you have one of the SDRs mentioned above, go grab a Youloop. At $35 USD, it’s a fantastic deal.

Click here to check out the YouLoop at the RTL-SDR.com store ($34.95 USD shipped).

Click here to check out the YouLoop at Airspy.US ($29.95 + shipping).

Click here to search for AirSpy distributors in your region/country.

If you don’t have a high dynamic range receiver, note that Airspy is exploring the idea of making a pre-amp for the Youloop. If interested, you might drop them a note of encouragement!

Do you have a Youloop? Please share your comments!


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Coastal DXing with the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and a homebrew passive loop antenna

Last week, we packed the car and headed to coast of South Carolina.

The trip was a bit impromptu but through the creative use of hotel points, we scored a two bedroom ocean front unit with a fantastic little balcony.

The vacation gave me an excuse to test the new passive loop antenna my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) helped me build recently.

The loop design came from AirSpy’s engineer and president, Youssef Touil.

This passive mag loop takes advantage of the new AirSpy HF+ Discovery‘s exceptionally high dynamic range. Youssef had reported impressive results, so I had to build one.

Vlado had a length of Wireman Flexi 4XL that was ideal for this project. The only tricky part was penetrating the shielding and dielectric core at the bottom of the loop, then tapping into both sides of the center conductor for the balun connections.  Being Vlado, he used several lengths of heat shrink tubing to make a nice, clean and snag-free design.

The results were truly exceptional. I spent most of my time on mediumwave from the hotel balcony because I was determined to catch a transatlantic signal.

Check out the spectrum display from my Microsoft Surface Go tablet:

Our ocean front hotel was inundated with noise, but I still managed to null out most of it and maximize reception using the passive loop. I simply suspended the loop on the balcony rocking chair–not ideal, but effective and low-profile.

Want to take a test drive?

If you’d like to experience this portable SDR setup, why not tune through one of the spectrum recordings I made?

Click here to download the spectrum file [1.7GB .wav].

The recording was made on November 17, 2019 starting around 01:55 UTC–I chose it at random and have yet to listen to it myself. You’ll need to open this file in AirSpy’s application SDR# or a third party SDR app that can read AirSpy .wav files.

Stay tuned…

I’m writing an in-depth report of the HF+ Discovery, my experiments with this setup and AirSpy’s soon-to-be-released passive loop antenna for the January 2020 issue The Spectrum Monitor magazine. Spoiler alert: I am truly impressed with the wee little AirSpy HF+ Discovery. It’s a powerhouse!


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Marty needs advice as he builds a passive magnetic loop antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marty Kraft, who asked that I share the following question with our community:

I’m still working on a receive-only passive hula loop magnetic antenna for my Tecsun PL-660.

After viewing thousands of YouTube videos (LOL), I built the PVC-pipe structure [you can see in the photo below].

But I need some tech help to finish…

The antenna is 90 inches tall; large loop diameter is 40 inches; and small loop diameter is 17 inches. The wiring is 14 gauge braided.

I plan to put the antenna outside on the porch. Then I’ll run coax from the small loop to the receiver inside and use a 365 pF air variable capacitor to tune the large loop.

My first question is, what’s the best coax to use for the 10-ft run from the small loop to the radio inside? Second, will that 365 pF cap tune the entire 3-30 MHz range?

It’s hot here in Louisiana, so I’d really like to tune the capacitor from inside my apartment, also using coax to connect the cap to the large loop. Will that work? Or does the cap have to connect directly to the large loop?

Any other tips or suggestions? Thanks for the help!

Post Readers: If you have any helpful advice for Marty, please comment!

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Ron is impressed with the PK Loop Mini (A-LOOP-MTAM)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who shares the following review of the PK Loop Mini (A-LOOP-MTAM):

Standard PK Loose-Coupled Loops (the “A” series) are 14 inches in diameter…they are
for use with a receiver having a built-in ferrite bar antenna.

Don’t think they’re not capable of serious DX…a few years ago a friend in Texas
snagged and recorded France Inter (162 kHz) on a 14 inch standard PK LW
loop using a Sony 7600GR.

But this is about the PK Mini 10 inch loop for Medium Wave (there are none for
other ranges).

The build quality is superb as with all PK loops. The band has two ranges: 525 to
710 and 710 to about 1720 kHz. Paul Karlstrand uses a unique design consisting
of flat computer cable and a custom made circuit board to connect the turns
end-to-end.

The low end simply switches in a fixed capacitor across the variable to lower the
frequency.

The Mini has 25% less sensitivity than the standard 14 inch loop according to the website.
Currently it can be had for $66 USD delivered to your door from Melbourne…this one
was ordered on a Monday and showed up a week later,which is outstanding considering
it had to clear customs in NYC.

Performance is virtually identical with the Tecsun or Terk loops, which are 9 inch loops.
So why buy a PK?

You get what you pay for, or not…the PK is fairly robust compared to the Tecsun or Terk.
It’s made to last and it’s a PK Loop.

Here are some links for comparison purposes:

If you wish to enhance your loop try co-coupling it to your receiver with a Q-Stick :

http://dxtools.com/QStick.htm

Thank you, Ron, for sharing your experience with the PK Loop Mini. It certainly sounds like an excellent option for travelers and, like you, I agree that the construction quality is superb!

Click here to check out the PK Loop website.

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Can someone ID this Singer Eaton magnetic loop antenna found on eBay?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares a link to this 31″ Singer Eaton loop antenna found on eBay.

The seller knows nothing about this antenna, but did provide some detailed photos of the connector and product information sticker:

This loop obviously came from US government inventory based on the sticker. It looks to be quite robust and sports one of the balanced antenna connectors found on rigs like the Hammarlund SP-600. I’m guessing this loop might be fixed-frequency as I see no tuning section with a variable capacitor.

Can any SWLing Post readers shed a little light on this loop?  Have you ever used one? Please comment! 

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Using amplified loop antennas with portable radios?

SWLing Post contributor, Klaus Boecker, sports a homebrew magnetic loop antenna on his balcony in Germany.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marty, who writes:

I have a question about loop antennas; specifically which type is “better,” passive magnetic loops or active electric loops?

I know, “It depends.”–?

I live in a ground-floor apartment, with a small porch, lots of RFI and restrictions against visible antennas. Also there are no trees within 75 ft of my porch, which faces on a parking lot. My radio is a Tecsun PL-660, which works okay inside with my 10-ft bare wire antenna hidden on the porch.

With a loop antenna, I’d like to mount the antenna on the porch at night and have a remote tuner/control inside because it’s very hot n humid here in Louisiana even after dark.

No doubt there are a number of magnetic loop antennas that could serve you well in your situation, Marty.

To answer your first question, though, you should search for a wideband amplified loop antenna since you’re only concerned with receiving.

Passive loops are great antennas on the shortwave bands–and easy to build–but they best serve ham radio operators who wish to transmit. Passive loops typically have a very narrow bandwidth that requires the operator to constantly tune the antenna when they tune the radio a few kHz. Most amplified wideband loops need no separate tuning mechanism.

Last year, I posted an article about choosing the right loop antenna for situations like yours where one has limited installation options.

Click here to read : Shortwave antenna options for apartments, flats and condos

Portables and amplified loops?

I do hesitate to encourage you to invest in an amplified loop antenna when your only receiver is a Tecsun PL-660. Some portables don’t handle amplified antennas well–they can easily overload and I imagine you can even damage the front end of the receiver.

I’m well aware, however, that there are a number of readers here who do couple their portable radio to an amplified loop. I have connected a number of portables to large wire antennas and found they could easily handle the extra gain, so I imagine an amplified loop would perform as well; the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Tecsun S-8800, and Sangean ATS-909X come to mind.

But the PL-660 is a hot little receiver even with the built-in telescopic antenna–I’m not sure if amplification would help or hinder.

Please share your experience

This is where I hope the amazing SWLing Post community can pitch in and help us out here!

Does anyone here regularly connect their PL-660 to an amplified loop antenna? If so, what model of antenna are you using? Are there other portables out there that you regularly connect to amplified loops? Please share your notes, thoughts and experience in the comments section.

Thank you in advance!


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Video Demonstration of Gary DeBock’s 3″ Baby FSL Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares a video of his latest Ferrite Sleeve Loop (FSL) antenna: the 3″ Baby FSL.

Gary Notes:

The new design 3 Inch (76mm) Baby FSL antenna is the smallest, most compact and lightweight of the “airport friendly” FSL’s developed here recently, but it provides a very potent inductive coupling boost for weak AM-DX signals.

This demonstration video shows its huge boost to a weak daytime DX signal from 1070-CFAX (10 kW in Victoria, BC, Canada) here in Puyallup, WA, USA:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Most impressive, Gary! You’re right: that design is compact enough that it should even fit the bill for my one-bag travel philosophy. I think I might have to build one of these!

Check out more of Gary’s adventures in Ultralight DXing, by browsing our archive.

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