Boost Your Signal and Your Fun With a Ham Radio VHF Base Antenna

Ham radio is a hobby that many people enjoy, and it can be even more fun when you can make contact over increasingly longer distances. Fitting your base station with a new VHF antenna will significantly increase your output and ability to connect with other enthusiasts.

Is there a quality difference between VHF and combined antennae?

On a typical base station, the stock antennae you receive are sufficient to get both distance and clarity when communicating with other devices. By upgrading your VHF (very high frequency) or UHF (ultra high frequency) antenna, you can dramatically increase both the range and the clarity of the signal. You can avoid buying two separate antennae by picking up a combination unit, but you may lose signal strength, communicative distance, and possibly clarity as well. To maximize use of your ham radio equipment, an upgraded, single-frequency antenna is critical.

What is the difference between VHF and UHF?

Radio frequencies are separated into bands determined by the MHz (megahertz) or cycles per second at which they transmit information, and each band is regulated regarding what can be broadcast and which broadcasts get priority. Most commercial enterprises on the radio are using UHF, or ultra high frequency bands, and will dominate them. UHF bands include frequencies between 450 and 950 MHz, and VHF bands typically range from 49 to 216 MHz. For a hobby enthusiast, a single-frequency radio antenna upgrade will provide the range and strength needed to communicate with people within several miles, tune into broadcasts within the MHz limits of your band, or cast your own creation.

At what distance will my antenna be useful?

Most VHF antenna for ham radios are at least 5 feet tall, and the formula for figuring out maximum effective range is pretty simple: you take the square root of the total vertical height of your base antenna and multiply it by 1.42, and that gives you the distance in miles of effective range. For instance, an antenna that is 8 feet tall will have an effective range of 2.84 miles. Determining what you want to do with your amateur radio hobby, and with whom you wish to communicate, can help inform your decision on how large an antenna and connector cable you need to buy.

Are there specific parameters for installing a base station antenna?

Installing a new base station antenna can be easy, but there are several considerations to keep in mind before finishing installation and using the system. Each antenna may have a slightly different procedure, so refer to owner's instructions. The general guidelines for installation are:

  • Install the antenna at least 3 feet away from the radio. This will keep the transmission from the base unit will from interfering with the radio's reception (causing shrill feedback from the speakers).
  • The antenna should be set up at least 3 feet away from any other metal objects, especially other antennae.
  • Most antennae will be constructed with a DC ground built-in to the mount to protect against lightning strikes and dissipate static, which can muddy up transmissions.
  • Have enough coaxial connector on hand to move the antenna, if the need arises, for optimum quality.