If you build it, will they come? Well, when it comes to building an amateur (ham) radio, the antenna system is going to make or break your investment. A poor antenna can render the best transceiver useless, dashing the hopes of connecting with other hams (amateur radio operators) around the world. That’s the whole appeal of hobby—communicating globally using low-tech radio waves— that continues to draw people to ham radio even in the age of high-tech and internet communication. So that’s why selecting the antenna is a critical aspect of building a ham radio.
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But selecting the right antenna is not a one-size-fits-all. The decision is as personal as selecting your own pair of shoes. Antennas vary in shape, size, cost, height, or how they transmit or receive signals—and that’s just a few of the important factors to consider when selecting the best antenna to fit your needs and situation.
But for now, let’s take a look at the best HF vertical antennas, which are popular option among radio operators who lack the physical space to install antennas that require a large geographical area, like long wire antennas or beam antennas.
Here’s a review roundup of some of the best HF vertical antennas on the market:
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B0017J3XMU” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Sg-P2eTfL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”uv5r.net-20″ width=”160″]>> Read reviews on Amazon <<[/easyazon_image]Sure you could make your own vertical antenna for a fraction of the cost of a ready-made one. But with a ready-made antenna, you are paying for the quality of the design. That’s why the Solarcon I-MAX 2000 is the best bang for your buck. This fiberglass antenna is a full 5/8 wave antenna that handles 5,000 watts of power and it is insulated to take up to 14,500 volts.
And for a price of $117, the Solarcon I-MAX 2000 is a great antenna to for beginners who don’t want to break the bank. New ham operators re able to get high frequency bands and learn the ropes of amateur radio without needing to invest in high-cost antenna towers or beams.
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Another reason why the Solarcon I-MAX 2000 is great for beginner hams: it pulls signals from great distances. That’s the appeal of ham radio, right? You want to connect or exchange information with other hams from around the world. This antenna tunes bands in the 10, 11, 12, 15, 17 and 20 meters. Solarcon I-MAX 2000 owners say they have been able to receive clear “59” reports, meaning a readable and strong signal, with other receivers overseas.
In addition, it’s easy to assemble. The 24-foot antenna is separated into three, 8-foot parts. With a pair of pliers or a wrench, it’s possible to assemble it in less than three minutes. Well, it could take longer than three minutes, but still, the antenna is relatively easy to put together as well as install. Here’s another bonus: the Solarcon I-MAX 2000 is known to handle high winds and other outdoor elements, so that’s great for areas with varying weather patterns. Some antenna owners, though, put a UV clear paint to protect the fiberglass from UV deterioration over time.
If you want to stay within the low $100 range budget for vertical antennas, the Hy-Gain AV-18VS is another option. A couple online retailers sell this antenna for around $120; so keep looking around if an e-commerce site is selling it at a higher price.
The Hy-Gain AV-18VS vertical antenna is made of aluminum and handles a maximum power of 1,500 watts. It can tune to bands 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40 and 80 meters, although some antenna owners say it is tricky to tune. It helps that the antenna is lightweight (only 4 pounds); this helps to make the Hy-Gain AV-18VS highly portable. That makes it great for taking the antenna to camping or field day events. But don’t let the lightweight fool you — it is made to withstand winds up to 80 mph.
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As for the antenna’s signal and transmission performance, Hy-Gain Av-18VS HF vertical antenna owners say they have been able to handily connect with overseas contacts running at low wattage. In the end, this antenna offers great value for the money.
Although at a higher price compared to the Solarcon I-MAX 2000 CB, the Hustler 5BTV 5-Band HF vertical antenna is also widely considered as the best bang for the buck. The MSRP price is just under $212, but it’s possible to find it being sold at a lower price on e-commerce websites or other distributors.
Now for the mechanical lowdown: The Hustler 5BTV HF vertical antenna consists of stainless steel hardware with a heavy-duty aluminum tubing. It stands about 25 feet tall and has a power rating of 1,500 watts. This antenna optimally operates in the 10, 15, 20,40, and 80 meter bands and preforms well in areas with limited physical space. So the Hustler 5BTV is ideal for residential areas that are surrounded by fences or trees, or a restricted physical space like a courtyard.
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Since the Hustler 5BTV HF vertical antennas are made of stainless steel, these antennas are expected to last years. So if you expect to keep your antenna for ten years or more, the Hustler 5BTV HF vertical is a great choice. It has an expected lifespan for years and years. The structure is also made to withstand winds up to 50 mph winds; other radio operators have said that the antenna has remained intact even during winds gusting more than 60 mph, hurricanes, snowstorms and other incidents of heavy weather!
The Hustler 5BTV HF may take a bit of time to assemble due to its numerous parts, but it is still easy to put together. So once that it is installed, mounted and tuned, this antenna is a solid performer to receive or transmit signals overseas.
During the Hustler 5BTV HF vertical antenna set-up, remember to ground mount the antenna. Some operators run into problems or do not receive a signal when the set-up instructions are not followed carefully.
If you are looking for a vertical antenna that is lightweight that tunes on several bands, then the Butternut HF6V vertical antenna is a great pick. Standing at 26 inches tall, this antenna covers bands in the 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 80 meters. The antenna is light with a weight of 10 pounds and made to withstand winds of 80 mph. It has an antenna power rating of 2,000 watts.
This antenna has a heftier price tag than the previous antennas reviewed — the Butternet HF6V vertical antenna has a MSRP of $410. Owners of this antenna say this isn’t a plug and play antenna, so it isn’t ideal for a beginner. It is recommended to have an antenna analyzer to ensure that it is tuned properly. However, the Butternet HF6V vertical antenna is known to last decades of ownership thanks to the quality of the materials.
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Even if you buy or receive this antenna second hand or not use the antenna for several years, the Butternet HF6V’s signal or performance does not lose quality. So if you find a used Butternet HF6V, you could be scoring a great deal!
In addition, the Butternet HF6V vertical antennas have a proven track record to withstand inclement weather, including wind gusts of up to 80 mph. However, if you happen to live close to the ocean, the salt air will likely corrode the antenna over time, so it’s a best practice to clean and scrub the antenna on a regular basis.
The Hy-Gain AV-18 antenna boasts of a classic vertical antenna design with improvements. The antenna is priced in the mid $200 range; so if you see a higher price, keep shopping around.
It is made of aluminum construction and an antenna power rating of 1,500 watts. It picks up bands in the 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80 meters. It is quick and easy to assemble and will work when mounted in the ground or elevated, although for the best performance, it is recommended that the Hy-Gain AV-18 vertical antenna is ground-mounted and in an area clear of other structures. If the soil surface has poor conductivity, lay out a ground radial system with the antenna to improve the antenna performance.
Radio operators say the Hy-Gain AV-18AVQII was easy to tune the bands and were able to make contacts in the opposite sides of the U.S. mainland and some contact overseas.
Even in a world that commonly uses texts, Instagram or Facebook to communicate, people are still drawn to connect via the forerunner of wireless technology. For those starting out with using ham radio, vertical antennas are a great option to hit the ground running. Starting off with a simple horizontal antenna lays the groundwork for experience with making contacts and DXing, which means calling distant stations. The knowledge that you gain will make you more prepared to select more elaborate and expensive antennas in the future.