Best Ham Radio Antenna for 2020 and 2021

Ham Radio, also known as Amateur Radio, is a non-commercial radio service that connects millions of radio enthusiasts around the globe. People use Ham Radio for education, fun, and it also serves as a reliable source of communication in times of disaster. The antenna in Ham Radio is used to propagate radio signals from one place to another.

An antenna is the most important aspect of a Ham Radio setup. It is key to good reception and transmission. With many complicated specifications to consider, we have greatly simplified the process of picking the best antenna for your Ham radio setup.

Through our research we found that the Super Antenna MP1DXMAX to be the best Ham Radio Antenna. The Tram 1411 Broad Band Discone/Scanner Base Antenna was the runner-up while the Tram 1185 was the best budget pick. Read on for further details.

Super Antenna MP1DXMAX

At the top of the list, we have the MP1DX MAX model by Super Antenna. This antenna covers HF frequencies from 3.5 MHz to 30 MHz plus the VHF frequencies from 144 to 148 MHz. This model comes with an MP1C antenna that has an adjustable coil for manual tuning at high frequency. Along with the MP1C, the MP1DXMAX has a 2-meter MC2 SuperPlexer band adapter that allows you to perform dual-band operation at High Frequency. The SuperWhip on the top is made up of titanium alloy and is quite durable; it is flexible enough to be rolled up in a circle. This antenna requires manual tuning that is done using the SuperSlider. The tuning process does not require any external power or separate antenna tuner/analyzer.

 Another big plus of the MP1DXMAX is the portability that it offers. This antenna can be packed inside a Super Go Bag that comes along it. The only downside of this antenna is that it is quite tricky to set up for the first time. The pictures on the instruction manual may not match the actual components, so it requires some experience to set it up properly. The build quality of the crank handle is also not good when compared to the other components, and users had complained about it. Other than that, the MP1DXMAX is perfect for vacation, field days, and backyards.

PROSCONS
PortabilityPrice
All HF bands from 80m to 6m and VHFRequires experience to set up for the first time
Compatible with all amateur radio transceiversCrank handle of the tripod is not of good quality

Tram 1411 Broad Band Discone/Scanner Base Antenna

The Tram 1411 antenna is a noteworthy runner up. The Tram 1411 will transmit and receive signals on all three bands HF, VHF & UHF.  This makes it a very versatile antenna for different applications.

The antenna is very price competitive compared to others of its type, which makes it even more impressive. Some users have complained about the fact that the instructions are very limited, the Tram 1411 is fragile and the product sometimes arrives with missing parts. These factors can make it a challenge to set up. However, all-in-all this is a very compelling and cost-effective offering and the performance is reasonable to good.

PROSCONS
Operates on all three bands HF/VHF/UHFNot portable
Relatively inexpensive and thus good value for moneyNo Assembly or tuning instructions
Broadband and not optimized for any one particular band

Tram 1185 Amateur Antenna

If you are limited on budget, then this is probably the best option for you. The Tram 1185 is a dual-band magnet antenna which can transmit signals 144-148 MHz (2-meter VHF) and 430-450 MHz (70cm UHF). This 19-inch antenna comes with a 3-inch magnet, a 12-foot coaxial cable, and a PL-256 connector. The gain of this antenna for VHF is unity, and for UHF, its gain is 2.5 dBd.

The Tram 1185 is very portable, which makes it suitable for condo and apartments where you have restrictions on the roof or open area. It can also be mounted on your car. This antenna only lags in the build quality, as it is not very good and users have reported some parts of the antenna are not tightened well enough.

PROSCONS
PortabilityBuild quality is not very good
Good SWR for UHF and VHF bandsCable length is short
PriceWill not cover HF bands
Performs well even in hilly areas
Stable magnetic base

Notable Mention

Comet Original Vertical HF Antenna

The Comet Original Vertical HF Antenna is a multiband HF antenna that covers 6 m – 80 m or 3.5 MHz to 57 MHz. This antenna is quite easy to install but it requires proper height, proper grounding and proper length of the coax to perform well.

Below an installation height of 15 feet, the Comet loses power to the ground so a good practice is to mount this antenna at a height of least 16 feet. The manufacturer however recommends it’s best to install this antenna at a height of about 35 feet.

For selecting the best length for the coax, you will need an SWR Meter and test the SWR at different length. Go through this process and find the length that works the best for you. For 40/20 M it is recommended to use 60-65 feet coax but it may vary in some cases. As far as the Comet’s radials are concerned, this antenna can work without them. But if you want to improve its efficiency you can add radials to it. It is recommended to add a set of ground radial or four elevated radials to improve the efficiency of this antenna.

PROSCONS
PortabilityBuild quality is not very good
Good SWR for UHF and VHF bandsCable length is short
Price
Performs well even in hilly areas
Stable magnetic base

How we picked the best Ham Radio Antenna

When buying an antenna, you need to take the following things into account

Antenna Gain refers to the intensity of the waves that are transmitted or received by the antenna in a specific direction. It plays a huge role in boosting the efficiency of an antenna. But having a higher gain in your antenna is not always the best option.

If you know the direction from where the desired signals are coming, then having a high gain or directional antenna is a better option. But in case you don’t know the direction from which the signals are coming, an omnidirectional antenna with lower gain is preferred.

Your surrounding area also plays a vital role in determining the type of antenna you need. Suppose you’re in a terrain that is well above the average height of surrounding objects then a high gain antenna works best. But for low spots and valleys, an antenna with a low gain value works best. For most propagation environments, ham radio antennas are omnidirectional and this works best.

Antenna size is also something that you need to consider when buying an antenna. If you’re someone that travels a lot with your ham radio setup, then you would probably need a compact size antenna. Most of the hams prefer portability over anything. But for the base station, an antenna with a bigger size is preferred as it provides much better performance and durability.

Frequency range of an antenna is the range of signals that the antenna can receive or transmit. A larger frequency range means that you will be able to access more bands. So, while choosing an antenna, choose the one with the frequency range that covers most bands. Most of the antennas cover HF and VHF bands, and for the most part, these are sufficient. But there are antennas which cover the UHF band as well. In this article one of the main criteria was reception in HF and VHF band or 80m to 10m.


The future of Ham radio

Ham radio technology is still relevant in today’s world even when people have access to things like the internet and smartphones. There are many reasons for this. The first being the vibrant community that it has around the globe. According to a survey, there are around 3 million Ham Radio operators around the world. Another important thing that kept Ham Radio services alive is the reliability that it offers when compared to the modern form of communication. For example, during 9/11, the cell phone service was overloaded so, Ham radio operators helped the victims contact their families.

Ham Radio operates on allocated frequencies from 135 kHz all the way up to 250 GHz! It allows for radio experimentation in many different frequency bands and it will continue to delight hobbyists, professionals, students and tinkerers for many, many years to come.  

Summary

To sum it up, there is no perfect choice for an antenna because what you need today may not be what you need tomorrow. So you always have to make compromises and choose according to your needs. If the budget is not a problem for you, then we recommend the Super Antenna MP1DX MAX. This antenna provides the best features, portability, and is quite durable. Other very good choices are the Tram 1411 antenna and the Comet Original Vertical HF Antenna.