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Apartment Dweller - Scanner Antenna Solutions?

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tede911

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Cambridge, MA, USA
#1
Hello all,

I am in the Metro Boston area and am in need of opinions/advice regarding scanner antenna solutions for an apartment dweller.

The Set Up -
I am on the third floor of a 4-story brick and steel apartment building and face east. The "listening post" is in a livingroom that has a 10'x7' sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. The balcony is set-in to the building (that is, there are full height brick walls to either side of the balcony with an aluminum railing running across the balcony's edge).

Needs -
I primarily monitor public safety frequencies in the VHF hi through 800Mhz. Both TRS and Conventional as well as a few APCO25 (with more to come I imagine). Currently, all of my radios (4 in the listening post) are operating off back-of-set antennas (insert snickers here). I am seeking to extend my listening radius as much as possible.

My assessment -
I have two options for locating an antenna:
---My first choice would be out on the balcony. Probably the old antenna-mast-in-a-table-umbrella-stand trick. The dilemna with THAT choice is I just cannot figure a way to get the coax fed into the apartment. As much as the apartment management would not have a problem with my antenna on the balcony, they WOULD have an issue with me drilling through the frame of the door, etc. Sure hope some other folks have a better idea I haven't thought of.
---My second choice would be to mount the antenna in the same fashion but just INSIDE the sliding glass door/window, concealing it behind a lightweight, paper & wood, 3-paneled ornamental room divider I currently have on hand. While there would be no more than a 5-ft. difference in the location of the antennas between the two options, I would imagine there would be a significant degredation of range - both distance and directionally speaking.

Equipment Options -
I'd also appreciate some suggestions regarding the antenna itself. Years ago at another location I had a big honking ChannelMaster scanner antenna that worked great. I need something a bit smaller here. The inside mounting option would sit on a 5-ft. mast and could not hit the 7-ft. ceiling. The "inside option" would also require that the radial elements remain somewhat low profile/short (after all, it is my living space). If it ends up outside, I can go a bit bigger (8-ft. ceiling) and the radials should not be TOO much of an issue (2-3 foot max).

Let me know if anyone needs more info. I can post photos if it would be helpful. I really would appreciate any and all suggestions on the above "problem".

Thanks!

Ted P./Cambridge MA
 
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Location
Oklahoma
#3
Your best option is to get the antenna as high as possible with the least amount of 'obstructions' between it and the signal source. After that, it's a matter of compromise. The 'practical' aspects determine how much 'compromise' there will be.
In your situation, and with the stipulations you put on it, I think I'd give that "flat coax" thingy a try. Or, figure a way to -unobtrusively- make a repairable/hide-able hole in something. (An imagination is a dangerous thing!)
Got some insulation? Got a 'broomstick' you can use as a 'lock'? Keep that sliding glass door open enough to pass a coax cable through without an invitation to come inside or freezing/burning up... Sort of.
- 'Doc
 
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Ontario
#5
was there previously a satellite install there? maybe some rg6 going into the apartment near the sliding door? If so, why not tap into that rg6 and use it with a bnc connector on it for your antenna, or just slide out the old cable and run your own in and silicone around it and leave the satellite line near by......you can also buy an rg6 to bnc adapter that while may reduce the signal a little bit wont matter so much unless transmitting, neither will the resistance difference on rg6....and if its quad shield (most installers use it) even better! cut the outside end and attach to antenna...
 
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San Francisco, Ca.
#6
try appealing to management that if you drill through the frame, you're gonna be drilling in the bottom corner, and when you move, a simple finishing stud will go in the hole. I have two coaxes going through my bedroom window frame and this is what I told them. They were fine with it but then I may just be lucky.
Otherwise LtDoc has the solution but make that seal so tight that spiders don't invade you-which they will at night.

Oh and I suggest a d130j by Diamond-effective antenna but not too huge.
 

Fast1eddie

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Crafton Pennsylvania
#7
All excellent suggestions but this is cheaper, if not free. Get a piece of 2X4 and drill several RG8 size holes through it. If you like, spray paint it-mine is blue. Place the wood vertically between the frame and the sliding glass drawer (If I understand the dynamics corrrectly) and run your cabling to your outside antennas.

Slide the door against the wood to hold it in place and dress the cabling accordingly. You can caulk the free spacing to keep the Boston winter weather out.

I like the Diamond D130 and enjoy excellent reception with it. Would prefer it to have a female N connection instead of the SO 239.

Another effective trick would be to get a nice length of RG 58 and remove 5 feet of the outer jacket without nicking the braid. I may be off on the measurement, but it is close enough for good reception. Once the braid is exposed, gently separate the center from the braid. Make a small loop or better yet, crimp a ring connector to the center lead. Tack the center lead to a non conductive support and repeat with the ground, keeping it vertical. Connect the remaining cable to your radio or multicoupler. This will be somewhat directional so you might have to adjust placement through trial and error. This will cover low band up to mid range uhf, anything else is a bonus. Would even work ok for HF, give it a shot.

Your height is a definite advantage and will more than compensate for lack of outside yagi discone sloper inverted vee 9913 physical space.

Let us know how you do.
 
Joined
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#8
Yeah, those feed through things will work. Sometimes you just need adapters though. Also... There is often a little spot between sliders, down at the bottom between the two doors... Sometimes there's a spot right there where you can push back the brush sealer enough to put about a 1/4" cable through. But other than that... I'd look to get the antenna on the balcony railing, and even sticking out a bit on some kind of stand-off, if you can pull it off. Just make sure it's on there so you don't kill anybody by it falling off. Even just having it there as compared to inside, should be a big difference. And if you're mainly into 800 type stuff, then an antenna for that band will be easy to get for high gain, because you can fit more in a smaller area.
 

tede911

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#9
Thanks for all the suggestions

Hi again folks,

Just wanted the thread to run a for a bit. I appreciate all the input! I really like the idea of the flat coax feed-thru device. I am going to give that a try. Seem to be alot of folks across this forum and others who are recommending the Diamond Discone antennas. So I think ultimately that will be part of this antenna project. So outside, on the balcony, it will be!!! I'll let you all know how I make out once it is in place.
 
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223
Location
York PA
#10
Isn't the Diamond Discone kind of huge? Something like five feet tall and three or four feet in diameter? The OmniX is much more compact for your situation. You will have a lot less hassle if you have to set up the antenna often or if you have to conceal it somehow. It is essentially flat rather than sticking out everywhere like a discone does.
 

tede911

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Cambridge, MA, USA
#11
Antenna in Place

As the OP, I thought I should provide an update. I was finally able to pull together all the pieces-parts to install the antenna out on the balcony and did so as the first rain drops from Irene began to fall.

For an antenna, at the suggestion of a good friend, I went with an NMO Ground Plane kit (thanks AlphaZulu!) to which I mounted an old Antenna Specialist All-Band whip I have had for ages. The lead then runs in through the slider (temporary for now; Have the Comet feed-thru device which I will employ when the weather turns colder). The complete antenna is mounted to a 4+ foot mast that has been mounted to the balcony railing.

It is performing very well. I am hearing many depts I hadn't been able to hear before including some of the regional fire dispatch centers in central/southern NH, Maine State Police on VHF, Southern NH Sheriff's Depts on VHF and VHF P25 traffic from some southern NH PDs. I am very pleased.

It should be noted that I originally intended to employ a Austin Spectra mobile whip on the ground plane base. After running several comparisons using certain frequencies in various bands, it under performed compared to the aforementioned A/S... AND a Maxrad BMAX150/450 whip I had lying around. The Maxrad actually performed VERY well and was a close second to the A/S whip. I figured the A/S whip will at least give me a good shot at some VHF Loband traffic (even though it is used very little in the area now).

So thank you all again for your input and suggestions. Its great to be able to hear things at a bit of a distance again!
 
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