N3RR Beverage Receive Antennas

In the summer of 2000, three of my EWE antenna feedlines became part of the shreaded output of the lawn tractor. I have used EWE antennas since 1994. Their performance was "OK", but they never lived up to my expectations and never allowed me to really run stations on 80 meters in contests.

Obviously, my 80 meter rotatable dipole @ 149 feet was a star performer, but when I called CQ and could not pick out the weak EU stations calling me, I didn't want to be an "Alligator", so I needed to look for alternatives.

In the fall of 2000, I was talking to PVRC president, Brian, N3OC, who mentioned that when he was operating V26B they used short Beverages and they seemed to work "OK". When he said short, he meant on the order of 200 feet or so. Well, I had installed the EWEs because I thought I didn't have the room for Beverages. When Brian mentioned 200 feet, I decided to take another look.

It was already too late for the "two biggies" CQWW CW and SSB, so I wanted to see if I could install something for ARRL DX CW and SSB in 2001.

I looked at the plot plan of my property. As you see, I was able to shoe-horn in some Beverages. Here are the details:

One of the first things I did was read John Devoldare's, ON4UN, book: "ON4UN's Low-Band DXing", published by ARRL, Third Edition, 1999. Chapter 7 is the one to read if you want to know about Beverages. There's lots to learn in John's book, so I will not go into it here. I will give you the details of my installation though.

After thoroughly studing ON4UN's Chapter 7, I determined that I would be able to squeeze-in a 300 foot cone-of-silence (see page 7-9 in John's book) Beverage antenna and keep it in my back and side yards without having to go into the front yard. This was important since I had not yet told the XYL what I was going to do and I didn't want her to worry that there would be antennas in the front yard. So, I asked her to help me build a 300 foot Beverage!!

We had several weeks of nice WX in January, 2001, so, with my XYL's help, one Saturday we constructed a 300 foot Beverage, aimed at Europe (45 degree heading) using commercial bamboo poles and some intermediate trees as supports. It wasn't pretty. The antenna wire varied in height from 6 feet to 10 feet. The last 50 feet of wire at each end I sloped to ground where I installed a 4 foot copper-clad ground rod. The bamboo supports were not as strong as I had estimated and they bowed dramatically once the 300 foot wire was attached, even though I supported the wire every 50 feet or so. I needed to find a better solution for future support masts.

At the feedpoint, I used a K1FZ KB-1 Beverage transformer box. This box has a SO-239 connector at one end and two binding posts at the other end. The "guts" is a 9:1 impedeance-matching transformer, just right for Beverages (and EWEs). I purchased five of the K1FZ boxes in anticipation of installing several Beverages!!

Well!! On-the-air results were fantastic!! On the 75 meter DX frequencies 3793 KHz and 3797 KHz, I was able to hear EU signals like I've never before. On 160 meters, the noise levels were reduced and the S/N levels were increased. IT WORKED and I was very excited!!

I looked at my property plot plot plan and decided to install an East-West pair the next week. ON4UN's book says that these kinds of antennas should be mounted on separate masts, separated horizontally the same distance as they are above the ground. I asked my friend Frank, W3LPL, and he confirmed it. I then walked my property and concluded that I did not have enough room to separate the two Beverages by 10 feet (their proposed vertical height). Doing so would put one of them in the woods. So, I proceeded to design a single-mast, dual Beverage system with the antenna wires separated vertically by 1 foot . Again, I discussed this with W3LPL. He was concerned that there would be cross-talk between the antennas and thereby reduce the front/back (F/B) ratio. He also made a critical suggestion - If I want to implement a 1 foot vertical separation of the antennas, I should use independent ground stakes for each antenna. That meant that I needed to install four ground stakes, two for each Beverage (as normal). Frank suggested separating them by 2 feet on the ground.

I then asked Frank about the support masts he uses. Frank told me he uses an 8 foot iron "T-Post", driven into the ground about 3 feet, topped with a five foot fiberglass T-post. The fiberglass T-post is attached to the iron T-post with a stainless steel hose clamp . The Beverage antenna wire is then tie-wrapped to the fiberglass T-post at the 10 foot mark, or so. I recalled that I was at Frank's house one day last fall when he was installing these T-posts and I saw what he was using. Little did I know then that I would soon need to use this knowledge. So, I went to the Southern States hardware store and bought some supplies. The 8 foot iron T-posts were not available, so I settled for the 7 foot version.

Using ON4UN's book, I determined that the cone-of-silence length I could squeeze-in East-West would be 275 feet. That seemed very short for 160, but that's all I could fit in.

I used the 7 foot T-posts and drove them into the ground two feet. Based on my first installed iron T-post, I estimated that it would support the antenna wires even though it was only two feet into the ground. Certainly, it would work better than my first attempt using bamboo. I installed all five of the iron T-posts (every 50 feet, except the middle two at 40 ft) I then installed the 5 foot fiberglass T-post on top of them and had my five 10 foot supports! Now it was time for the wire.

Again, I turned to Frank, W3LPL, who said he used #12 THHN stranded wire for his Beverages. He also recommended that I "angle" the ground stakes into the ground so that the tip of the ground stake in the ground was about 6 inches closer to the center of the antenna than the end of the ground stake that protrudes out of the ground. That way, the antenna wire may be attached to an insulator and the insulator attached to the ground stake without worrying that the wire will slip off the ground stake. I used the same antenna wire for both sides of the insulator .

The installation of the East Beverage began. I started at one end, attaching the wire/insulator to the ground stake and sloping the wire up to the first post-set which was 50 feet from the ground stake. At the 10 foot mark, I pulled the wire as tight as I could and tie-wrapped what would be the top wire to the fiberglass T-post and continued to the last T-post. Then I pulled the wire as tight as I could and attached the wire/insulator/wire to the ground stake at the other end sloping the wire 50 feeet from the last T-post to ground stake.

I left a pig-tail of the antenna wire at each end and at one end, I installed a 470 Ohm 2 watt resistor between the antenna wire and the ground stake using open screw-on connectors available at electrical supply houses. At the other end, I inserted the K1FZ box between the antenna wire and the ground stake . Then I connected my RG-8X feedline that I bought at the RF Connection .

I repeated the process for the West Beverage, this time mounting the wire at the 9 foot mark, one foot below the East antenna wire. Frank had asked me to report on my F/B test results, and I was, of course, anxious to see myself how well it would work.

What a world of difference that antenna made. After several days on both 80 and 160, listening to EA8, KH6, CT, T32 and others, I was seeing >20 dB F/B even on 160!! I could null-out T32RD using the East Beverage, yet he was armchair copy on the West antenna on 160!! BOY, did that convince me!!

Because the iron/fiberglass T-post design was superior to the bamboo method I had previously used, I decided to install a new NE Beverage using this T-post design that I learned from Frank. But before I just replaced the 300 foot antenna, which worked very well, I thought I'd ask some other low-band users what they use and ask if they thought a 500 foot Beverage would work better than a 300 foot Beverage. I had taken another look at my plot-plan and determined that I just might be able to put up a 500 ft Beverage if my XYL would allow me to use the front yard. More about this later.

I spoke to Jon, AA1K, about the technical details. He told me that 500 ft would definitely be better than 300 ft, even though 500 ft was not a cone-of-silence length. Frank, WB3AVN, said the same thing. I also asked Jon whether it was necessary to slope the last 50 feet ends of Beverages to the ground. ON4UN's book goes into much detail about the need for this. AA1K said that none of his Beverages are sloped due to the population of deer at his QTH. They would run into sloped wires 50 feet long!! Jon also said that he does not notice any F/B or F/S degredation due to not sloping his Beverages.

Well, the population of deer at the N3RR QTH is also large, but I wanted to test sloping/non-sloping Beverages anyway. So, I deceided to slope the E-W Beverage, but not the new 500 foot Beverage.

As I installed the 500 footer, I did decide to slope the feedpoint end from 10 feet to 6 feet over the final 50 feet. From the 6 foot level, I would take a rather sharp angle to the ground stake/feedpoint.

Well, the results are in: All three antennas perform excellently!! The F/B on the 500 foot EU Beverage is >20dB and the loud EU signals are just about as loud as on my 149 ft high rotatable dipole except that the S/N is increased. I do have a 20dB pre-amp in the shack that I can use when necessary. The noise reduction of the Beverages is fantastic, much better than the EWEs I had used. During the 2001 ARRL DX CW contest, I called CQ on 160 for the first time in a contest. I ran 20 EU stations during that 1/2 hour. Conditions were great and my 500 ft Beverage was great as well!!

Likewise, the 275 ft Beverage worked very well, even on 160. While I still have one EWE still in use (South), I will be replacing it with a 200 foot Beverage this Fall. I'll also add a SW wire at 9 feet to the 500 ft Beverage as well.

As far as how well or better the sloping-end 275 foot Beverages performed than the non-sloped (or partially-sloped) 500 foot Beverage - I think that sloping the ends doesn't help much. I notice no degredation in F/B of the 500 foot Beverage when using my South EWE as comparison. But, I may slope the ends of the 500 foot Beverage when I reinstall it this fall, deer and all, just to see if there is any difference.

The big news is that short, 275 foot long Beverages do work and they work better than EWEs. I plan to replace that South EWE with a 200 foot Beverage this fall.

Oh, how did I get to use the front yard for the additional 200 feet? I told the XYL that I would remove the Beverages each spring and re-install them in mid-October to allow us to mow the lawn . That meant the front yard Beverage was "temporary" and it was approved !!! After all, you can see it from the dining room window :-( .

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