Here’s an update to my Big Antenna Question from two and a half years ago.
In short: nothing has changed. TLDR people can quit.
- I still use the OB11-3 for 10+15+20, on the tower since Spring 2007, never a problem.
- I still use the Optibeam 40m rotary dipole, on the tower since Spring 2011, never a problem.
- I still am very happy with how these two antennas perform given their dimensions.
- I still use homebrewed temporary wire antennas for WARC (triband inverted V, sloping dipoles, ground planes with elevated radials, delta loop).
However, there are some things that did change. First of all: there is no budget for fancy expensive toys (anymore / for now). Instead I now cook dinners in a contemporary kitchen with slick design and modern appliances. And I take a shower in a luxurious twenty-first century bathroom. And the living room is about to get a giant makeover too. Choices, choices…
The Big Antenna Question is still valid though. I can tell you that not a single day goes by that I don’t look at my tower and ask myself that very same question again: what should I so? One antenna covering everything with gain from 7 MHz to 50 MHz would be so nice to have.
After the initial post of December 2015, I had been soliciting some comments about SteppIR and UltraBeam. It’s pretty clear that people confirm my concerns. A few quotes from what people told or e-mailed me:
About some UltraBeam model:
On 30 and 40m It has not any F/B at all, it’s like a dipole at the moment… [snip]… modify the DR and RF dimensions so I can get some GAIN and F/B, low SWR all bands.
It is strong but very heavy and difficult to put in the tower, quite bad manual to install it.
If I had to do it again I would not get it, just a 3El and a dipole for 30-40m.
One person said:
I know at least fifteen Belgian hams using SteppIR antennas and all of them had a problem, from coiled up and jammed conductive ribbons to electronics failure in the control box.
Another UltraBeam owner was happy with his antenna, although he called it too big and reported a lack of communication from the Italian factory.
I must admit I’m not too keen on doing business with Italian companies simply because I have heard more of these stories, not only for ham radio products. There has been a major change in the UltraBeam camp though. The German WiMo has taken over the brand in December 2017. They offer most of the products and took over the production process which they moved to Germany too. I much rather deal with a German company. It’s within driving distance, I speak some German and I’ve been a long time happy customer for WiMo. So that eliminates the communication and cultural issue.
Another thing that has changed: since two years or so OptiBeam also makes log-periodic yagis. Their model OBLY14-5 could suit my needs if I decided to abandon gain on 40+30m. And it has no 6m either. OTOH there is no real advantage over the OB11-5 then. Except that I think it has less visual impact. But then again not enough difference to matter.
The other OptiBeam antennas that have 5 or 6 band coverage are either too big and heavy or only have two elements per band which would be a step back. And that is out of the question.
So today I still am where I got stuck three years ago. I still have a strong desire for one antenna that covers 40+30+20+17+15+12+10+6 with proper gain. But I still prefer a (modest sized) static aluminum antenna over a dynamic plastic one with tons of moving parts. And these two criteria can’t be reconciled.
Since everything is performing great and my wire antennas work for the occasional WARC QSO (mostly 30m for now), I won’t be making any change soon. That OB11-3 is really a great antenna for being such a simple small tribander. I think that’ll be hard to beat.
Maybe upgrading to OB11-5 and 40+30m dipole from OptiBeam would be the best thing to do: cheapest and most foolproof with spare parts available in any serious local hardware store.