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Thread: VHF antenna cost differences

  1. #1

    Default VHF antenna cost differences

    So I'm wondering what performance differences there are between a 60 dollar VHF antenna and a 150 dollar antenna; referring to the 8' fiberglass models. I understand the gain differences but for real world range & use, what do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Sponsor potbuilder's Avatar
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    Just buy a Morad.

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    Member pacific23's Avatar
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    Get a good one but don't get bent over.
    Get at least this>>>> http://www.boemarine.com/digital-8-vhf-antenna-white/

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    Member HuntKodiak's Avatar
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    Antennas are one of those things that you get what you pay for......pretty much. Pacific23 pointed you to a good 8ft Digital antenna, and another alternative is a 4ft Digital, http://www.boemarine.com/digital-4-vhf-antenna-white/. This is the antenna I put on my boat to replace the cheap one that came with the radio. The 4ft gives 4.5db of gain vs the 6db that the 8ft gives, but 4.5 is very good. The reasons I went with a quality 4ft is the shorter length meant I didn't have to lower and raise the antenna constantly to miss wires while driving to and from the launch. Plus, in rougher seas, the 4ft puts less stress on the ratchet mount. An 8ft antenna will bend back and forth more in rough seas, which means you better have a good antenna base and mount to the boat. If those points aren't an issue for you, then the 8ft will perform a bit better than the 4ft in places where you are dealing with weak signals. The 4ft is about $100 at Amazon.

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    Buy the 8ft digital. If you get into trouble you may need it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiderunner View Post
    Buy the 8ft digital. If you get into trouble you may need it.
    That's what I got via Amazon. Vhf is line of sight and my boat doesn't sit all that tall in the water. I was concerned that in bad waves/weather with a 4' antenna I might be transmitting into waves...breaking up or not getting out at all...instead of reaching potential assistance.

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    Member Yukoner's Avatar
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    If you are lookking for a f-glass antenna, I'll be in Ak next weekend picking up a boat with one one it, and you can have it. We don't use radios over here, I just use a sat. phone. You can have the radio too. PM me for details.
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    Member Dan in Alaska's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Jim House View Post
    So I'm wondering what performance differences there are between a 60 dollar VHF antenna and a 150 dollar antenna; referring to the 8' fiberglass models. I understand the gain differences but for real world range & use, what do you guys think?
    Some of the cost differences can be contributed to quality of construction. The base can be made of plastic, chrome plated brass or copper, or stainless steel. The internal construction can be very different, as well, ranging from a simple wire to heavy duty brass & copper elements. You are essentially paying for durability. How often do you want to replace it?

    I had good luck with my previous Shakespeare 8700 antenna from West Marine. It's still on my old 22-ft boat, and still works just fine ten years later. I replaced the old antenna on my current boat with another 8700 antenna this spring. West Marine has their antennas on sale regularly, and I think the sale price on the 8700 was around $120.

    I don't care for Shakespeare's crimp-on plugs, though. I've had much better durability and performance with their solder-on plugs.

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    Member AKBighorn's Avatar
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    As already pointed out, you get what you pay for and VHF is line of sight. With that in mind the single most important factor in having a radio may be simply to save your life. The taller the antenna the more range you will have hence why there are different lenght antenna's. If you can mount it high, say on top of a hardtop or radar arch then you don't necessarily need or want a long antenna. If you have to mount it low due to having a soft top it would be a good idea to get a longer antenna. If it were me I'd spend more on the antenna than the radio.

  10. #10

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    Just installed the arch today, it sits about 21-24" high off the roof of the hardtop Alaskan (Hewes). I imagine the height is not too much an issue and since I need to install the antenna tomorrow or wed, limited to what I can get here at the gear shed in Homer. I was kinda looking forward to the crimp-on connector but maybe I should just go with the soldered one. I have a am/fm radio as well and was going to get a separate 8' antenna for that but I see they make a splitter to use one antenna for both vhf & the am/fm.

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    Member spoiled one's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Jim House View Post
    . I have a am/fm radio as well and was going to get a separate 8' antenna for that but I see they make a splitter to use one antenna for both vhf & the am/fm.
    Check close. I installed the splitter when I owned that boat. It might still be there. It also had a morad antenna. Does it still have that?
    Spending my kids' inheritance with them, one adventure at a time.

  12. #12

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    No Morad, will look for splitter. Think she got a wee bit abused after her first love let her slip away!

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    Member Dan in Alaska's Avatar
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    I've run one boat that had a AM/FM - VHF splitter, and after using it over a couple of seasons, I would never spend the money to put one on my personal boat. For my boat, I bought a cheap $15 car antenna from Schuck's Auto Parts, and it gets decent enough reception for Cook Inlet.....otherwise, the iPod handles the music chores.

    And, yeah, the solder-on plug is a better way to go. I've used a couple of the crimp-on plugs in the past, and I've been disappointed every time. Don't be afraid of the soldering task. A few seconds with a propane torch and a dab of solder is all you need. It's so easy a caveman can do it!

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    I have put on hundred of PL 259 and I know people will disagree with me, if you use a torch to solder a Pl259 you could melt the insulation. The tip is not the problem the ground connection is ware most people have problems. For that reason and not having to deal with a soldering iron I prefer crimp-on.

    If the connector is going to be exposed to the elements I use a product called Coax sealer it's completely seal the connector in rubber keeping out any water. If water get in the connector it can wick along the coax causing problem with the antenna or radio.

    I do not like using a splitter, depending on the design of the Vhf antenna the AM/FM will not work and most importance the splitter will reduce the performance of the VHF radio/ antenna a device that may save someones life.

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    Member HuntKodiak's Avatar
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    A couple of small points of correction. I disagree that height is the main reason to get an 8ft antenna. You will gain a little more distance from the additional height (triangle geometry), but of greater benefit is that an 8ft antenna is more efficient and possesses a higher signal gain for transmitted signals. On the receive side, you have a longer antenna (this is a VHF wavelength thing) to "catch" the incoming signals. That's why I said an 8ft will perform better if you are in situations with weak signals. I agree that lesser skill technicians can damage the insulation in a cable when they solder. Unless you are trained, you may do more damage than good if you solder. I prefer solder because I did it for 25 years in the CG. Crimp connectors can be very good too if you use quality connectors and quality crimp tools. Sealing exposed connectors is very critical, and each connector or splitter causes loss of signal in both directions. Keep those to a minimum or eliminate them if possible except for having one on the radio end.

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    The db gain of an VHF antenna is the same for receiving or transmitting. If there was a difference it would be mention in the specification. In all the antenna books I have read I don't remember seeing a difference.

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    If you take a look at some articles that talk about the effects of antenna gain, they focus on the effects on the transmitted signal. The main reason is the power transmitted by a fixed mounted radio is typically 25 watts so gain can have a significant impact on that amount of power. It's something often referred to as effective radiated power, but it's how the antenna can focus the transmission to make it act like a transmitter with greater power. 3db of gain gives effectively double the power, and 6db of gain gives effectively 4x the effective radiated power because it focuses the transmitted signal instead of blasting some of the signal uselessly up into the sky. The received signal strengths are whimpy in comparison, and the antenna has no influence on the pattern of the received signal like it does on the transmitted signal. That's why people talk about the effects of antenna gain on transmitted signals.

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    You are correct they do talk about what a transmitted signal would look like. I believe the reason they do that is it's easier to explain antenna gain and patterns using power. Could you imagine the confusion if they were using voltage db gain instead of power db gain. Anyway I guest we are going to agree to disagree and try to get back to the op question.

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    That's ok. I don't think we're so much disagreeing. I just see the impact of the antenna gain to have a much more significant impact on the transmit side than the receive side. Gain does help on the rcv, but I've seen the biggest difference made when using a long wire that is cut to length for the wavelength of the received frequency band.

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