Which Brands Are Considered OK?

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Feb 14, 2008
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#1
Everytime I look on the Antenna Farm, I see the same brands. So which ones are considered legitimate professional quality and are okay to buy? The usual brands are PCTEL, Laird, Larsen, Comet, and Tram. What do the pros use for public safety installs?
 
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#2
PCTEL, Laird, and Larson are common on PS and commercial installs. I have some Tram antennas for ham band stuff and they seem fine to me. I'm not a big fan of Comet, but others are.
 
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#3
Some of the major commercial brands for both base and mobile are Pulse/Larsen, Andrew, Sinclair, Telewave, Laird/ Antenex, Maxrad/PCTEL, Commscope, RFS/ Celwave, Comtelco, Sti-Co, Kathrein, Commander Technologies and a few more. Some have been bought and sold recently and its hard to keep up with who owns who.

In the old days it was Phelps Dodge, Antenna Specialists, DB Products, Larsen and some others and they are sort of still around but under different names.

You should not find any Tram or Comet or Diamond antennas in a professional/commercial installation.
 
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#4
Larsen has been around for a long time and has a proven track record. I've got ~30 year old Larsen antennas I'm still using. I've never had one fail, and I've beat the crap out of a lot of them.
I've talked to their guys at trade shows, knowledgeable and friendly.

At one of the trade shows, Browning/Tram was there. Guy didn't appear to know anything about antennas. Couldn't answer when I asked him for a good reason why I should buy theirs over the other brands.

You can certainly buy whatever you want, but like PRCGuy said, you won't find Tram/Browning on professional installs, just like you won't find real professionals using Baofeng, or any of the other CCR's in mission critical applications.
 
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#5
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#6
While some Comet or similar base antennas may provide good service on your house on a GMRS, it will not survive on a mountain top repeater very long. The term "mission critical" was mentioned and if you're a radio guy responsible for police, fire, EMT, Govt/military "mission critical" communications, you won't be a radio guy very long specifying Comet or Tram antenna.

The commercial brands I listed along with a few others are known for good long service in hostile places and you won't loose your job specifying those brands.

Edit: BTW, I have a commercial version Comet GP-9N 155MHz and 460-470MHz that was up for a couple of years in suburban Los Angeles near the ocean and the bottom tube with mast brackets that screws onto the base of the antenna corroded so bad it will never come apart again. I tried unscrewing it with a pair of giant pipe wrenches and its toast, you can never get to the coax connector without using a hacksaw and destroying the antenna. I've since cut the coax off and its still laying on my roof because its now a bird perch instead of an antenna. So much for the Comet commercial line.....

Right next to where this Comet commercial failed toy antenna was mounted are many other antennas from my list in a previous post like DB Products and Antenna Specialists, some 30+ yrs old and still fully functional.

While they are generally considered a ham antenna manufacturer, they do have a full commercial line as well. I am currently using one of their UHF base antennas on a GMRS repeater with no issues at all.

UHF Antennas | Comet Antenna
 
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#7
While they are generally considered a ham antenna manufacturer, they do have a full commercial line as well.
Yep, just like BaoFeng and the other "commercial" radios.

If it works for you and the price was in your budget, then it's a good deal. They are fine for hobby use.

I've got a Decibel folded dipole being shipped to me right now to replace a Comet commercial antenna that was installed as part of a UHF system I just inherited at work. A bit of a nightmare project, but at least the location is beautiful. It was a bit of a stretch for the customer, but the price will be worth it.
It's not worth risking reputations on cheap product in the commercial/public safety realm. It never pays off.
 
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#8
I didn't see the "mission critical" part. I wouldn't use anything other than Celwave Station Masters when I was in the business. The Comet was put up on my tower for a UHF control station when I bought the house to monitor Boston EMS (work), some 45 miles to my northeast. It did OK, but I eventually replaced it with a 12 element yagi and put the GMRS repeater on it. It's 10 years old and still performing great and all connectors are still easily manipulated with hand tools, I go up every year to make sure everything is tight and if it doesn't tighten, I loosen it to make sure it isn't corroded or frozen.
 
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#9
While some Comet or similar base antennas may provide good service on your house on a GMRS, it will not survive on a mountain top repeater very long. The term "mission critical" was mentioned and if you're a radio guy responsible for police, fire, EMT, Govt/military "mission critical" communications, you won't be a radio guy very long specifying Comet or Tram antenna.

The commercial brands I listed along with a few others are known for good long service in hostile places and you won't loose your job specifying those brands.

Edit: BTW, I have a commercial version Comet GP-9N 155MHz and 460-470MHz that was up for a couple of years in suburban Los Angeles near the ocean and the bottom tube with mast brackets that screws onto the base of the antenna corroded so bad it will never come apart again. I tried unscrewing it with a pair of giant pipe wrenches and its toast, you can never get to the coax connector without using a hacksaw and destroying the antenna. I've since cut the coax off and its still laying on my roof because its now a bird perch instead of an antenna. So much for the Comet commercial line.....

Right next to where this Comet commercial failed toy antenna was mounted are many other antennas from my list in a previous post like DB Products and Antenna Specialists, some 30+ yrs old and still fully functional.
One trick that I learned many moons ago was to use an anti oxidant compound on any threaded joint or bolt that you would need to take apart down the road of time. It works on stainless steel, galvanized hardware, aluminum and what ever you need it on. I have even used it on auto exhaust pipes and muffler joints. All come apart with little to no effort.

Do as you please, but this suggestion will save you hours of frustration and some big expenses down the road. Found it to work great on all the aluminum antenna sections when I put an outdoor antenna up. Even put it on the threads of the hose clamps used on some antennas. I even use just a little on the threads of coax connectors. But don't get too liberal on the coax connectors. A little goes a long way. Make sure it doesn't get on the insulator portion of the coax connector. I use a Q-Tip to apply the Never Seize to the coax connector threads. This way I can control the amount and location where I apply it.

The good stuff is made with fish oil and graphite. If you go to the auto store to buy some, ask for some Never Seize. Ask the person at the counter if you can open the container and put a drop of it on your finger. The reason for this is that there are some cheap knock of products that are not that good. But stir it up a little if it has a brush on applicator. Then put just a small drop amount on your finger. Try to rub it off with another finger. The good stuff should leave a film on both fingers. The crap stuff will go away with the finger you rubbed the first one with. Tell the counter person that that product is junk and not what your looking for.
 
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#10
The best "good stuff" would be made by Jet-Lube and has copper dust mixed with very high temp lubricants. I use Jet-Lube SS-30 where anti seize is recommended for antenna elements, etc. Its working temperature range is -65F to 1,800F and it will be working for the life of the equipment you apply it on.

One trick that I learned many moons ago was to use an anti oxidant compound on any threaded joint or bolt that you would need to take apart down the road of time. It works on stainless steel, galvanized hardware, aluminum and what ever you need it on. I have even used it on auto exhaust pipes and muffler joints. All come apart with little to no effort.

Do as you please, but this suggestion will save you hours of frustration and some big expenses down the road. Found it to work great on all the aluminum antenna sections when I put an outdoor antenna up. Even put it on the threads of the hose clamps used on some antennas. I even use just a little on the threads of coax connectors. But don't get too liberal on the coax connectors. A little goes a long way. Make sure it doesn't get on the insulator portion of the coax connector. I use a Q-Tip to apply the Never Seize to the coax connector threads. This way I can control the amount and location where I apply it.

The good stuff is made with fish oil and graphite. If you go to the auto store to buy some, ask for some Never Seize. Ask the person at the counter if you can open the container and put a drop of it on your finger. The reason for this is that there are some cheap knock of products that are not that good. But stir it up a little if it has a brush on applicator. Then put just a small drop amount on your finger. Try to rub it off with another finger. The good stuff should leave a film on both fingers. The crap stuff will go away with the finger you rubbed the first one with. Tell the counter person that that product is junk and not what your looking for.
 
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#11
Station Master is a great antenna but not for everything, like tall mountain top repeaters. In So Cal we have some fairly high repeater sites and when you visit them after a nasty winter storm you will find all sorts of fiberglass antennas broken off with parts all over the ground including Cellwave Station Masters. If you don't use an insulated stand off bracket on the upper portion of a big Station Master, you will loose it.

I helped replace a USCG Station Master on a high site a few years back that had a stand off bracket but lighting had hit and blown it apart. This was the second time a Station Master had blown up within a couple of years. We replaced it with a Sinclair exposed dipole array and I expect it to live longer than I will.

I didn't see the "mission critical" part. I wouldn't use anything other than Celwave Station Masters when I was in the business. The Comet was put up on my tower for a UHF control station when I bought the house to monitor Boston EMS (work), some 45 miles to my northeast. It did OK, but I eventually replaced it with a 12 element yagi and put the GMRS repeater on it. It's 10 years old and still performing great and all connectors are still easily manipulated with hand tools, I go up every year to make sure everything is tight and if it doesn't tighten, I loosen it to make sure it isn't corroded or frozen.
 
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#12
Station Master is a great antenna but not for everything, like tall mountain top repeaters. In So Cal we have some fairly high repeater sites and when you visit them after a nasty winter storm you will find all sorts of fiberglass antennas broken off with parts all over the ground including Cellwave Station Masters. If you don't use an insulated stand off bracket on the upper portion of a big Station Master, you will loose it.

I helped replace a USCG Station Master on a high site a few years back that had a stand off bracket but lighting had hit and blown it apart. This was the second time a Station Master had blown up within a couple of years. We replaced it with a Sinclair exposed dipole array and I expect it to live longer than I will.
Not many mountains in the Metro Boston area. Antennas that I installed 25-30 years ago on buildings and towers are still up and running. Other than the occasional tropical storm or nor'easter, we're lucky with the challenges to the antennas.
 

AI7PM

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#13
Mobile I prefer PCTEL, Laird, Larsen, and Comtelco.
Fixed station it's hard to beat dipoles. They'll take lightening strikes all day long.
For fixed station ham dual band use you're pretty much stuck with the ham grade stuff.
 
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#14
For VHF base use, the time honored workhorse *used* to be the decibel products db224. About 10 years ago it was sold and then marketed as Andrews which is now Commscope. STEER CLEAR of these antenna. Within 2-4 years the harness begins to fail requiring replacement.

The new cat's meow is the Sinclair version of the 224. That is the antenna to have. I am currently on the hunt for one to help a friend with a project here in South Texas.
 
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#15
I agree the Sinclair exposed dipole is really nice. However, the version used by the USCG has opposing pairs of dipoles at each of the four vertical spots (8 dipoles total) where the DB224 has only one per vertical spot or 4 dipoles total.

For VHF base use, the time honored workhorse *used* to be the decibel products db224. About 10 years ago it was sold and then marketed as Andrews which is now Commscope. STEER CLEAR of these antenna. Within 2-4 years the harness begins to fail requiring replacement.

The new cat's meow is the Sinclair version of the 224. That is the antenna to have. I am currently on the hunt for one to help a friend with a project here in South Texas.
 
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#16
So like a VHF version of a db420? Or a shortened half-length 224 with 2 pairs of long mickey mouse ears?

Also, lets not forget the behemoth db228, all 38 feet of it. 8 vertically spaced folded dipoles--basically two db224s, center fed, 1 inverted.

~S~

I agree the Sinclair exposed dipole is really nice. However, the version used by the USCG has opposing pairs of dipoles at each of the four vertical spots (8 dipoles total) where the DB224 has only one per vertical spot or 4 dipoles total.
 
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#17
Hear is a pic of the actual Sinclair antenna we installed for the USCG. It replaced a PD201 style Station Master that was blown apart by lightning.

I like it better than a DB224 in the mast is larger diameter but very thin, lightweight and more rigid compared to a DB224.

So like a VHF version of a db420? Or a shortened half-length 224 with 2 pairs of long mickey mouse ears?

Also, lets not forget the behemoth db228, all 38 feet of it. 8 vertically spaced folded dipoles--basically two db224s, center fed, 1 inverted.

~S~
 

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#18
Very good information. So, next question for the group. What about NMO mounts for mobile installs. Does the brand matter on those?
 

nd5y

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#19
Very good information. So, next question for the group. What about NMO mounts for mobile installs. Does the brand matter on those?
I wouldn't trust no-name eBay/Amazon or cheap chinese NMO mounts. They might not be waterproof, the insulator material might have questionable dielectric properties and the metal parts might corrode easily.
 
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#20
Very good information. So, next question for the group. What about NMO mounts for mobile installs. Does the brand matter on those?
I agree with ND5Y.
And for the minimal cost savings, why even waste the time? Even for a slight increase in price, I'd prefer the known good brands over risking on the cheap stuff. I know Larsen will work well, they've been reliable for years on my installs. I have no real reason to try anything else. All it takes is for one crappy install and your reputation can be impacted for a long time.

I've given thought to buying some of the Cheap Chinese Antennas and mounts and doing some test with them, but I just don't feel like wasting my own money on it. I've managed to scrounge up a few coils from old Larsen and Antenex antennas. At some point I may slice them open to compare the innards to the Chinese knock-offs.
 
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