As I have become more interested in Contesting, I have met some top contest operators in my Local Contest Club, and have been looking for some antenna improvements for my modest Station at KG3V in White Stone, VA.
My current antennas include an 80m half-wave dipole on all Bands (with an external Tuner), and a ZS6BKW on 80m, 40m, 20m, and 10m. I also have a trapped vertical for 10m – 40m attached to a pier on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay with just a few radials. This is pretty basic stuff, with lots of room for improvement.
In antenna discussions and through a couple trips the World-class contest Station at NR4M, which we call the Goat Farm, I was hearing about Receive-only Antennas. That is nothing I had ever tried, but it sounded interesting. If these guys are using them, my bet was that they were a useful addition to my station if I hoped to extend my reach around the Globe in Contests (or in day-to-day operating).
One Receive-only Antenna that has been very popular is the Beverage Antenna. I have heard the name, but never really investigated these antennas. Since I have a couple hundred feet of property line, it seemed like a good thing to try. So I ordered a few hundred feet of RG-6 coax for a feedline, and the basic Beverage antenna system components from DX Engineering. I already had spools with at least 500 feet of # 14 AWG single-conductor. house wire for the antenna element.
There are many great articles and book chapters devoted to these types of antennas, so I will not attempt to rehash the basic beverage concept. I will just say that all you need is a few hundred feet of wire at about 7-10 feet above ground (and now there are even models that you can lay on the ground – called Beverage-on-ground or BOG). This sounded like the kind of antenna installation I couldn’t resist – no climbing or treetops to deal with. It sounded so easy that if it worked at all, I was getting something for almost nothing.
I got some electric fence insulators and attached them to a line of trees along my property line at about the 7-foot level. I put a ground rod at each end, and mounted the DX Engineering components – a single small box at one end and a resistor at the other end. Then I ran the feedline to the shack. I oriented the antenna so it would favor Europe, and hopefully even further to the East from my QTH.
Both of my primary radios have built-in provisions for using a separate Receive-antenna, and you will find this on many other modern HF Transceivers. If yours does not have this, you can buy or build a relay system for the purpose. The setup was very easy. My Beverage is somewhere around 240 feet long. That is rather short, but I was expecting it to be usable on some of the lower HF Bands. I think it is really too short to be any help on 106m, border line on 80m, but offers Beverage-like characteristics on 40m and maybe on 20m.
What I found was that the antenna was a big help late at night on 80m, and at other times on 40m as well. It definitely favored Europe, and helped knock down some of the W5 superstations by several S-units. It also had a much lower noise level than my wires hanging in the trees.
The one issue with a Beverage is that it is not a Gain antenna. It is very lossy, so all signals are down significantly from a dipole. This can be remedied by adding some amplification, as long as you do not add so much that you raise the noise floor too much. I just used the built-in preamps on my Receivers and had pretty good results. I only had a few hours to work this Contest, but I will try to get some more meaningful measurements soon, and will post them.