Tag Archives: Mag Loop Antennas

Dan reviews the new Chameleon CHA RXL Pro Wideband Magnetic Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, for the following guest post and review:


Photo by Chameleon

The Chameleon CHA-RXL Pro:  Improved Amp Board Raises the Game

by Dan Robinson

Back in 2021 I reviewed the CHA-RXL loop by Chameleon.  This loop antenna is sold by major retailers such as DX Engineering, Gigaparts and Chameleon itself – the company is a well-known name in antennas and other equipment for the amateur radio world.

I compared the CHA-RXL to Wellbrook 1530 and W6LVP loops feeding into a four-position Delta antenna switcher, and then to a Raven 16 port multicoupler which maintains good steady gain.

My Wellbrook is mounted on a telescopic mast about 15 feet above ground level, with a rotor.  The W6LVP (using LMR400 coax) is tripod-mounted with an overall height from ground of about 12 feet. It has special filters to prevent strong medium wave signals from bleeding into HF.

I have since added a UK-made loop (essentially a copy of a Wellbrook loop but smaller diameter and made of metal) combined with a W6LVP amp.  This W6 amp does not have filtering to block strong mediumwave signals.  In all, I have four loops into my Delta switcher, which feeds about two dozen receivers.

There is by the way quite robust discussion at https://groups.io/g/loopantennas about various loops, including the Chameleon.  And this past July, Steve Ratzlaff posted news about the upgraded loop amp board which will ship with what is now the CHA RXL Pro, saying:

“Chameleon has completely redone their CHA RXL loop amp board from the previous poor-performing loop amp that I tested some time back, and sent me one of the new production boards to test. I’m happy to say it tests very well especially for LF sensitivity, and I can now give it my “seal of approval”.  The new board is a version of the LZ1AQ loop amp.”

Photo by Chameleon

It turns out, according to an email from Don Sherman of Chameleon, that Steve is one of the engineers who helped design the new amp board for the CHA RXL Pro, and on the Loop Antenna group he provides a folder in which he placed previous test results with “new files of the new board (sweep of the new RXL Pro loop amp, and a picture of the new amp PCB).”

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Matt’s 2022 Portable Loop Antenna Shootout

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Matt Blaze, for the following guest post:


Matt’s 2022 Portable Loop Antenna Shootout

by Matt Blaze, WB2SRI

Followers of this blog may be familiar with my “shortwave radio shootouts” that I post from time to time. The idea is to compare how well different radios demodulate the exact same signal. Basically, I take a bunch of radios, hook them up to the same antenna via an RF distribution amplifier, tune the radios to some distant signal, and record the audio output from them simultaneously. Sometimes that kind of comparison can be more revealing of actual real-world performance than lab measurements or technical specifications.

The other day, I decided to do the same thing, but for antennas instead of radios. Essentially, I inverted the setup. Instead of hooking up different radios to the same antenna, I hooked up identical radios to different portable antennas and recorded them demodulating the same signals at the same time.

In this first of perhaps a series of these antenna shootouts, I wanted to compare three portable amplified magnetic loop antennas. When I say “portable” here, I mean broadband antennas that can pack reasonable compactly for travel and that can be set up and broken down easily for use “on location”, say on a picnic table or hotel balcony, or perhaps installed temporarily on a roof, without too much fuss.

The antennas are:

The Wellbrook FLX1530LN with a 1 meter diameter loop of LMR400 coax. This is my “standard” portable antenna (I use a telescoping broom handle for the support; I wrote about it here as the “signal sweeper” last year). Excellent performance, but on the bulky side for travel. Performs well from LW through HF. Not cheap, at about USD 225 including shipping for the amplifier and power injector, but not including the loop, mounting hardware, or feedline.

The Wellbrook FLX1530LN with a 0.5 meter diameter loop of RG142 (a stiff “aircraft grade” version of RG58 that holds it shape well at this size). I used some 1/2 inch PVC pipe as the vertical support. Because of the smaller diameter loop and thinner coax, it packs down to a much smaller and lighter package than the 1 meter LMR400 version.

The K-180WLA, an inexpensive (about USD 60) 0.5 meter loop from China, sold on eBay and Amazon. The loop is steel wire (which can be wound down to a small diameter for transport), and the kit includes everything you need, including a rechargeable power injector. (However, the power injector uses a noisy voltage booster, so I substituted my own bias-T injector for these experiments). Ostensibly covers LW through VHF, but the low end coverage is, shall we say, somewhat aspirational, as you will see.

– I also recorded, for comparison, the built-in ferrite bar (for LW/MW) and whip antenna (for HF) of the receiver.

This is, of course, only a small sampling of portable loop antennas, both commercial and homebrew. But I wanted to start with what I had on hand and with what meets my own needs. (I omitted from consideration loops that require tuning, since I want to be able to install the antenna without needing access to it every time I change frequency).

For each signal captured, I oriented and positioned each antennas to maximize signal quality, taking care to move them away from each other and interfering metal objects. So you’re hearing (approximately) the best each antenna had to offer (on my roof under suboptimal band conditions).

The receivers I used were four Sangean ATS-909×2 portable LW/MW/SW/FM/Air radios. I believe this to be the best currently available (relatively inexpensive) portable shortwave receiver on the market. It has excellent performance (and is admirably resistant to overload and intermod when used with an active antenna). It lacks a sync mode, but that’s rarely implemented well on portable radios anyway. As a practical matter, it has a good line-level output jack, and I already happened to own four of them.

As in my other shootouts, for each signal, there are a total of five recordings: a monoaural recording of the audio from each of the four antennas, plus a narrated stereo recording comparing a reference (the 1M Wellbrook) on the Left channel with each of the other antennas in succession on the Right channel. The stereo recording is intended as a quick overview, but it will only make sense if you listen in stereo, preferably with good headphones. (You can switch the earcups to get a quick comparison as you listen.)

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Giuseppe pairs his Kenwood R-1000 & Indoor Cross Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who writes:

Dear Thomas and all friends,

This is Giuseppe Morlè, IZ0GZW, from Formia, central Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

I went back to listening with my Kenwood R1000 and indoor homemade cross loops …this time a station in Kuwait, 9k2yd Younes on general call.

I used the 2 loops together and in the last part only the one in the East / West direction and I did not notice any changes. Very strong signals and good evening propagation at 18.00 utc today, 04 June 2022.

Note the absence of electrical noise; the S Meter remains at zero in the absence of modulation and signal.

I am always amazed at my indoor cross loops for the reception quality and they have become the main antenna of my Kenwood R1000.

Giuseppe I hope you enjoy the video
Greeting to all of you from central Italy.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Your cross loop antenna is an amazing QRM-fighter! Thank you for sharing this, Giuseppe. Most impressive and so good to see the R-1000 on the air.

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Giuseppe’s Crossed Loop and the “VariabilOne”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who shares the following:

Dear Thomas and all friends of SWLing Post,

I’m Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw from central Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Formia.

A few days ago at a fair for radio amateurs in Latina, I bought an excellent very large variable capacitor–those of ancient military radios–and I found a splendid antique knob with a fantastic gear ratio.

I called this VariabilOne and it consists of two sections of 250pf each. It’s very portable and can be applied to any loop with crocodile clips.

I built another cross loop made up of 2 turns the internal loop, 35 cm. and only one turn for the external loop, 40 cm.

I can tune frequencies from 3.500 to 20.0 MHz. The crossed loop is strongly directive given the two loops that work together being joined on their ends.

I have made some demonstration videos and it is a pleasure for me to share them for our entire community (see below).

Thanks to you and I wish you all the best for you and your family.
Greetings to all.
73. Giuseppe iz0gzw.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Giuseppe, thank you once again for sharing your brilliant homemade antenna projects with us. I absolutely love that monster variable cap and tuning whee! What a thing of beauty–and obviously your loop is very effective.

Thank you as always, Giuseppe!

Readers: click here to check out Giuseppe’s other antenna projects.

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Joshuah says: “The Cross Country Wireless LAA++ amplifier rocks!”

Image Source: Cross Country Wireless

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

Dear Thomas,

I recently dedicated some funding to rebuilding my shortwave listening station.

I had paid attention to new amplifiers  and became aware of some review data by an engineer at SDRPlay comparing amplifier performance that suggests the Cross Country Wireless amplifier, at a cost of only 80 dollars, had become a competitive design offering performance comparable to amplifiers costing 10 times that much.

I was hooked by the specific demonstrations showing that the LAA++ offered IMD characteristics more similar to a Wellbrook, with gain more similar to other high amplification designs. I had to have one.

I set up my station with the following components:

    • A used Icron Ranger 2304 USB over ethernet extender off eBay
    • A used Airspy Discovery off eBay
    • A Cross Country Wireless receiver protector(or similar ferrite + gas discharge diode isolator)
    • A custom ordered LAA++ amplifier from Cross Country Wireless built for 75 ohm with F connectors and a low pass filter at 14MHz
    • A power inserter from an W6LVP that wasn’t cutting the mustard
    • A pair of classic, solid transforming power adapter bricks
    • An unshielded ethernet cable
    • Some Fair-Rite ferrite snap ons with multiple turns

I obtained a weatherproof enclosure and some pex tubing and specialty cable glands and built an antenna housing. Inside the enclosure I mounted the amplifier, adding a large gauge copper wire for the antenna element, and used an affordable tri-shield RG11 with specialty connectors as the feedline for the antenna.

The antenna measures approximately a 2 meter diameter, and is mounted about 5 feet off the ground at the base of the antenna. It is located outside of a remote shed at the edge of my property, and the ethernet (alternatively, wireless repeating parabolic dish with router) mirrors the USB data back to the PC in my basement which serves as the shortwave receiving server host.

I have been overwhelmed both with the amount of new noise and new signal that this antenna picks up.

In shortwave, the other night, I was picking up stations around the world.

Tonight, I was able to very clearly make out CHLO. I am located in EM38, over 700 miles from the transmitter, which only operates at 250 watts during the night time.
I was also able to pick up some international NOAA NAVTEX alerts on 518kHz about a right whale slow zone in the Atlantic off the shore of New Jersey.

I would  highly recommend this antenna amplifier.

Yours sincerely,

Joshuah

Thank you so much, Joshuah, for allowing me to post your note here in the SWLing Post. I’m so glad you found such an affordable way to cobble together an effective antenna system to not only mitigate interference, but also afford you DX-worthy reception. 

I’ve only heard good comments about Cross Country Wireless as well. 

Again, thank you for sharing your impressions and details about your setup!

Click here to check out the Cross Country Wireless amplifier.

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Giuseppe’s portable multi-loop homemade shoe rack antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè, who writes:

Dear Thomas,

I’m Giuseppe Morlè iz0gzw from central Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Formia.

I am sending you this umpteenth project of mine built with poor materials…it is a test bench, loops / capacitors to find the best tuning.

The frame is a shoe rack in beech wood, very light, to take anywhere or to try out at home.
On the frame, there are 4 different loops of different sizes and 3 variable capacitors with different capacities. Only one signal transfer link to the receiver for all loops.

With alligator plugs I can use the different combinations of loop / variable to find the best tune

This test rig can tune the whole HF frequency range and medium wave.

I’ve attached 3 videos where you can see from the beginning to the last test on the balcony of my house.

Videos

Note that the following videos are in Italian, but you can turn on closed captioning and in the settings of the video have it auto-translate into the language of choice:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

All, as always, spending very little and employing used materials!

Thanks to you and a warm greeting to the whole SWLing Post community.

I remain available for any clarification.

Greetings to all and good experimentation!

Thank you for sharing this Giuseppe! I love your ingenuity and spirit of experimentation! What a fun project that obviously yields excellent results!

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Airspy HF+ Discovery & Shortwave Portables: Having Fun with the Airspy YouLoop!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill, who shares the following guest post:


YouLoop Antenna Fun

by Billy Hemphill WD9EQD

Like many listeners, I live in an antenna restricted community.  While I have strung up some hidden outdoor wire antennas, I have found that they didn’t really perform that much better than just using the telescoping antenna with maybe a length of wire attached.  The biggest problem (whether indoor or outdoor antenna) has been the high noise floor.

A few months ago I bought an AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR receiver.  I had already owned a couple of SDRPlay SDR receivers, but the high noise floor limited their performance.  I had read good reviews about the AirSpy, especially its performance on the AM Broadcast band and the lower shortwave bands.

I have about 80 feet of speaker wire strung from the second floor and across the high windows in the living room.  This does perform fairly well, but the high noise floor still exists.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought the YouLoop Magnetic Loop antenna from AirSpy.  I gave it a try and am amazed at the lower noise floor compared to the indoor wire antenna.

Wire Antenna vs. YouLoop–some examples:

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

AirSpy with Wire Antenna

AirSpy with YouLoop

Dramatic reduction in the noise floor.  I’ve done a lot of playing around with it and find that the YouLoop picks up just about the same stations as the indoor wire antenna does.  But with the lower noise level, the YouLoop makes it more enjoyable to listen.  Overall, the YouLoop is now my main antenna.

YouLoop with a Portable Radio

It works so well with the AirSpy, I started wondering if I could use it with a portable radio, like the Tecsun PL-880.  But the AirSpy website has the following note:

Note: It is very likely your third party radio will not be sensitive enough to operate with the YouLoop properly. We have even seen self-documented failed attempts to build pre-amplifiers to compensate for the lack of sensitivity and/or the required dynamic range in third party radios. Use your brain, and eventually an Airspy HF+ Discovery.

Doesn’t sound like it will work with portable radios.  BUT, I’m always one to try anyway.

Tecsun PL-880

Since the YouLoop has a SMA connector, I bought a SMA to 1/8” phone jack cable.  Plugged it into the PL-880 antenna jack and found I had almost a dead radio.  Very few stations heard.  But in playing around, I accidentally touched the phone plug to the telescoping antenna and instantly got strong signals.

I did some very unscientific tests.  I attached the YouLoop through the side antenna jack, did an ATS scan, then did the same with the YouLoop clipped to the telescoping antenna.  Also did a scan with just the telescoping antenna fully extended..  I got some very interesting results.  These were done one after the other, so there can be differences in signal fading, etc.

I have repeated the above test several times at different hours.  While the actual number of ATS stations varied, the ratio between them remained fairly consistent to the above numbers.

From the above, it appears that the telescoping antenna circuit is more sensitive than the 1/8” antenna jack circuit.  Maybe some attenuation is being added to the 1/8” jack since it’s more likely a higher gain antenna would be used there.  Can anyone confirm that the circuit indeed attenuates thru the antenna jack?

The YouLoop seems to be a decent performer when directly clipped to the telescoping antenna.  While not as good as a high gain outdoor antenna would be, it definitely is usable for indoor uses.

I also tested it clipped to the antennas of some other portable receivers. Tecsun S-8800, PL-330, Panasonic RF-2200 and Philco T-9 Trans-World receivers.  All showed an increase over just using the telescoping antenna.

Some interesting notes:

The Tecsun PL-330 saw the same reduction in signal when directly plugged into the antenna jack as opposed to clipping on the telescoping antenna.

The Tecsun S-8800 did not show that much of a drop.  I basically got the same number of stations when clipped to antenna as when I connected to the BNC jack:

In conclusion, I find that I can use the YouLoop with my portable radios to increase the signals on strong stations when used indoors.  And it is quite the performer when used with the AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR receiver.  It easily portable and I find that I move it around the house as I need to.  I just hang it off a window curtain rod.  I may just order a second one so that my family room radio has one permanently attached to it.

Click here to check out the Youloop at Airspy.com.

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