Looking for good, inexpensive antenna options

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KI5IRE

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I am currently searching for a good antenna that would best fit my needs and as inexpensive antenna that does what I need it to do.

I am not sure if I'll need a Yagi or Discone, but I live in an area that is a bit lower ground and pick up my closest cities pretty well but I am looking to expand my receiving range out farther. If I am right, since I am trying to expand my range out to areas in multiple directions, I'd need a discone, correct?

Depending on what I might need, does anyone know of some good inexpensive options? Either an indoor or a rooftop antenna.


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ChrisABQ

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It all depends on what frequencies you're targeting. In my situation, I live in a city and have one handheld that concentrates on digital. I also have a BCT15X that I use because everything outside the city is analog VHF. I recently changed from a discone to a home made vertically polarized 1/2 wave dipole because of the VHF that I target. It's all about what you want to listen to, there's tons of options out there.
 

KI5IRE

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It all depends on what frequencies you're targeting. In my situation, I live in a city and have one handheld that concentrates on digital. I also have a BCT15X that I use because everything outside the city is analog VHF. I recently changed from a discone to a home made vertically polarized 1/2 wave dipole because of the VHF that I target. It's all about what you want to listen to, there's tons of options out there.


Oops, forgot to mention, I am scanning mostly P25 and DMR frequencies. If the antenna helps like I hope it will, I'll be able to pick up an EDACS system for public safety at an airport close by.


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mmckenna

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I am currently searching for a good antenna that would best fit my needs and as inexpensive antenna that does what I need it to do.

I am not sure if I'll need a Yagi or Discone, but I live in an area that is a bit lower ground and pick up my closest cities pretty well but I am looking to expand my receiving range out farther. If I am right, since I am trying to expand my range out to areas in multiple directions, I'd need a discone, correct?

Depending on what I might need, does anyone know of some good inexpensive options? Either an indoor or a rooftop antenna.
A Yagi antenna is going to be directional. They are primarily designed to work well in one direction. That "direction" can be a pretty wide beam width if you go with a lower gain antenna, or quite narrow with a higher gain antenna. They are still limited to maybe a few tens of degrees at most.

If everything you want to listen to is in one direction AND on one band, then a Yagi might be a good choice. There are some Yagi antennas designed for amateur radio use that have elements for 2 meter VHF as well as 70 centimeter UHF.

If you want to listen to traffic from more than one direction or across a number of bands, then a omni-directional antenna will probably be a better choice.

If an omnidirectional antenna is what you are looking for, then you need to decide what frequencies you want to listen to. If it's one or two bands, then a simple vertical designed for those bands will work best. If your answer is "everything", then that pretty much leaves you with a discone.

Trouble is, discone antennas are mediocre performers. They exhibit 0dB gain, which means they don't do anything to increase coverage over a simple ground plane antenna on a specific frequency. That's the trade off you get if you want to listen to "everything".

Important part to consider is that the antenna is only part of your system. You need to pay attention to how you mount this antenna. Since you mentioned you were in a lower area, you will need to get the antenna up high. The antenna needs to be able to see (for the most part) what you are trying to listen to. How high that needs to be depends on just how low you are.
Your coaxial cable is very important, too. If you use cheap coax, you'll lose most of your signal in the coaxial cable due to loss.

So, before you go looking for a cheap antenna, make sure you consider the entire system: Coax, support, antenna, plus all the little things, like waterproofing your outdoor connections, securing and routing cable, connectors, lightning protection, etc...
 

mmckenna

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Oops, forgot to mention, I am scanning mostly P25 and DMR frequencies. If the antenna helps like I hope it will, I'll be able to pick up an EDACS system for public safety at an airport close by.


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That doesn't tell us anything useful. P25, DMR, EDACS are all modulation/trunking schemes and are not frequency dependent. The antenna doesn't care what it's listening to, be it analog, digital, trunking, conventional, etc.
What matters is the frequency. Without knowing the frequency or frequencies, none of us can really make any useful suggestions.
 

teufler

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A small external tv antenna works pretty good. If you can mount it vertical instead of horizontal, better yet. Yes a beam is directional but anything mounted external will be better than your inside antenna. I have a contact in Ft Smith Ark, that picked up Tulsa and Little Rock, when Little Rock was not encrypted. Better than 100 miles either way, on an old tv antenna. I'm sure a beam made for a scanner would be better yet but you want cheap, its something to look at.
 

KI5IRE

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That doesn't tell us anything useful. P25, DMR, EDACS are all modulation/trunking schemes and are not frequency dependent. The antenna doesn't care what it's listening to, be it analog, digital, trunking, conventional, etc.

What matters is the frequency. Without knowing the frequency or frequencies, none of us can really make any useful suggestions.


The frequencies range anywhere from around 150.000 MHz to around 860.000 MHz.


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DJ11DLN

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The frequencies range anywhere from around 150.000 MHz to around 860.000 MHz.


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Homebrewed Off-Center Fed Dipole - The RadioReference Wiki
I have played around with one of these and found it to work well for that range. My problem is that I have high signal strength in the 800 range here and even with the attenuator on it just overloads in that range. Performance on VHF/UHF is pretty spectacular, but as always, YMMV. But it's cheap enough to build and play with...especially the wire version.
 

KI5IRE

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Homebrewed Off-Center Fed Dipole - The RadioReference Wiki
I have played around with one of these and found it to work well for that range. My problem is that I have high signal strength in the 800 range here and even with the attenuator on it just overloads in that range. Performance on VHF/UHF is pretty spectacular, but as always, YMMV. But it's cheap enough to build and play with...especially the wire version.


My grandmother who is ham cert said to do a J-pole. Are those any good for scanning?


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mmckenna

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My grandmother who is ham cert said to do a J-pole. Are those any good for scanning?


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Not really. They are a no gain single band antenna. They will work, but they work best on one band. Any other band will be a compromise and any performance will be coincidental.

If you have a J-pole sitting there not doing anything, then by all means hook it up and see if it solves your problem. If you don't have one, don't buy one and expect it to be a good all band scanner antenna, 'cuz it won't.
 

KI5IRE

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Not really. They are a no gain single band antenna. They will work, but they work best on one band. Any other band will be a compromise and any performance will be coincidental.



If you have a J-pole sitting there not doing anything, then by all means hook it up and see if it solves your problem. If you don't have one, don't buy one and expect it to be a good all band scanner antenna, 'cuz it won't.


Went up to Ham Radio Outlet in Plano today, they have a multi-band (like 50-1500 MHz or something like that can't remember exactly) discone for the house for $70 that would work in my attic and another discone for my truck that's $40. Likely going to be picking them up for the 436.

Probably also going to go with a J pole for at home for my Baofeng UV-82WP since I'm about to get my ham license soon.


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mmckenna

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Discone would be a good option for the house.

Not a good option for your truck:
1. they're butt ugly.
2. A lot of wind resistance.

Instead, Larsen NMO-150-450-800. HRO should have them in stock. It'll work much better than the discone mobile.

J-Pole would be a good option for single band, but make sure the one you get is either dual band, or get a dedicated dual band vertical.

I ran a VHF J-Pole for years when I first got my amateur license back in the 80's or 90's. There was a guy who fabricated them in his garage and sold them at swap meets for $25 or so. Good basic antenna.
 
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