Why am I doing this review? I
don't review antennas!
As you may know, a big
percentage of this web site is dedicated to building antennas and not
buying them, but sometimes an antenna comes along that is so unique that
it deserves my attention.....and yours!
The Space Problem and Murphy's Law!
Most of you have heard of "Murphy's Law"...you know...he is around when everything goes wrong that can go wrong.
Many hams just don't have the space to put up standard length HF half wave dipole antennas but would give their left arm to operate on the HF bands without being limited in one way or another due to space. Many hams are so restricted that HF antennas, due to their length on the lower bands, are almost totally out of the question. In lots of situations, even a simple half wave dipole on 40 meters just will not fit.....Murphy's law.
Yours truly is limited by the lack of natural supports for any kind of antenna due to being on a lot with absolutely no trees! So if an antenna that I have needs support, then I have to either build it or buy it. Mother Nature has not helped me in any way and the XYL hates guy wires and junk metal poles all over the place.
Hams like myself are limited by too many trees, not enough trees, antennas requiring various supports, property lines, overhead power lines, home owners association rules, layout problems with small city lots and on and on. If a ham can be restricted or limited with the antenna system layout for his HF antenna, then Murphy's Law will kick in and see that he will remain restricted in some way. I am certain Murphy has many twins and one of them has probably visited you at one time or another in your search for an HF antenna that will fit your space.
Can you imagine needing about 65 feet horizontal distance to put up a 40 meter horizontal wire dipole or inverted V and all the space you have is just enough BUT.....the neighbor's fence and that power line is in the way. Murphy just kicked you! So you look around and find another possible location....nope....the top of the house will be too close and there is no way to get around that tree! Murphy.....again! Climb the only available 50 foot tree....what...no safety harness......slingshot practice in the dark.... ....what was that sound.........glass breaking?......Murphy again.....How about that twig of a stick you call a tree......too short....shut up Murphy....what is a ham to do?
I get many
emails from hams in similar situations wanting suggestions for limited or
restricted space antennas for HF operation and in some cases, I have to do
research on the web to come up with a good suggestion for a limited space
antenna that is workable on HF. Of course, much depends on the particular
layout of the QTH.
The TAK-tenna Compact
I may have found one very usable antenna that should work in most locations unless your QTH is located in the dog house.....but you still may have room! Let me explain!
One day while searching the web for unusual antennas, I was introduced to a "new" concept, (to me), an electrical half-wave dipole based on what is called the Petlowany principal of spiraling a 1/4 wave length "pancake" of wire on each end of a greatly reduced boom length yielding an antenna that was very usable as far as size was concerned. What I saw was a 40 meter half wave dipole antenna compressed into such a small size that I thought it should work poorly or not at all.
Being the "I want to know" for the sake of knowing person that I am, I had to find out for myself whether this was a bunch of static or not.
I set out to experiment with it at 2 meters using this principle and it proved to me that it worked and worked well! This was truly a remarkable principle and I had proved to myself that it worked in such a tiny package!
Using the very poorly built wire antenna with junk box engineering and "make do with what you have" ingenuity using this Petlowany principal, gave me an antenna that hit repeaters 60 miles away from inside a single story house over flat terrain! At 2 meters it was made from a broken yard stick as the boom, and a couple of pieces of cardboard, tape and some wire. It was straight out of hillbilly junk yard junction....but......this contraption actually worked! I was hitting 2 meter repeaters 60 miles away over flat terrain.......from inside the house!
Enter the TAK-tenna Company
TAK-tenna company, using principles based on ideas by Petlowany
and many others all the way back to the beginning of radio,
using some major modifications, lots of engineering, mechanical and
technical improvements, has developed a line of patent pending greatly reduced
size HF antennas that may put regular length dipoles in their place where
they belong....in non-restricted layouts!
The TAK-tenna line of antennas are extremely reduced space
antennas both horizontally and vertically yet
remain electrical half wave dipoles. My idea for this review was
to see if they worked as well as I had hoped they would, given the
fact that thousands of hams are very limited with room for HF antennas and
are constantly looking for better ways to get out a better or any signal
on the HF bands while having limited or no space for dipoles. And all for
the price of taking the family out to a good
I happen to enjoy helping other hams with their antenna limitations and questions and if I don't know the answer, I will do my best to find it for you as many of you have found by the emails you have sent me. If my review of this antenna turns out negative...then my advise for what it is worth would be..... don't buy it....but if it turns out positive in my opinion, then it would be well worth your consideration for a limited space hf antenna.
This review for
the TAK-tenna may help you decide to try it....or not. It makes no
difference to me but I do know that this "type" of antenna......WORKS and
the principles behind it are sound and repeatable.....but a paper clip
will radiate rf too....to some extent!
Background of the TAK-tenna company
The TAK-tenna antenna design is the brain child of Stephen Tetorka, WA2TAK, U.S.A.
name, TAK-tenna, LLC, was derived from part of his call
The TAK-tenna Antenna:
This information below with the yellow background was taken directly from their web site and slightly edited for space on this page. None of the content from their web page has been re-worded. All of the pictures of the TAK-tenna below were taken during the tuning and operating phase of this review.
The 40 meter model can be used on 40, 30, 20, 15, and 10 meters with a tuner.
Quoted from Steve Tetorka, WA2TAK - TAK-tenna-
"If we have made a small contribution, it is because we stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us"......"spiral antennas goes back to early 1900's...the 'spider' which generally sat on top of the wood cabinet of those TRF AM broadcast radios......"
The model we evaluate is the 40 meter model due to the fact that it can be fed with either 50 ohm coax, for single band operation or you can use it with twinlead or coax and a tuner for the additional bands of 30, 20, 15, and 10 meters for a total of 5 HF bands. It comes in kit form as do the other models and at the present time, according to TAK-tenna, is the most popular because of this feature.
Other models are in the research stage.
My evaluation for this review will be based on a scale of 5 for each criteria with 5 being a perfect score for each criteria and I have attempted to choose the most important criteria that most hams will be looking for and also added a couple of my own so this review scoring system may not be what you were expecting and is the result of my opinion and my opinion only.
Now that you have been introduced to the TAK-tenna,
let's get on with the review!
40 Meter Tak-tenna reviewed 11 feet off the ground!
(There will be a total of 20 review criteria listed below for a maximum possible point score of 100. You will see my comments after the score for each of the criteria and note that this review in no way is to be considered a computer model simulation or results from an antenna test range....this review is just my observations, and end user thoughts and comments from a regular ham like yourself.)
I have attempted to do this review with the ham in mind that has limited space for HF antennas!
1. The most important criteria of my review will be the on the air performance!
(5) If I could give it a 10, I would!
I can confirm that I had so much fun with this antenna on the air that I almost forgot about doing this review! It is a remarkable antenna for it's size! Nearly all of the contacts I made were 5 9 reports during less than favorable band conditions using an old Yaesu FT 107, 100 watts, SSB on 40, 20, and 17 meters...Yes 17 meters too! Cuba was loud and clear giving me a 59 report....and the TAK-tenna was only 11 feet off the ground during all of the on the air testing. I can not stress enough the fun I had reviewing this antenna on the air!
And as an added note, no one on the other side of any conversation over the air knew what antenna I was running. I only said that I was using a 40 meter dipole up 11 feet and the QTH was Texas, near Dallas.
2. Clear and easy to understand instructions? (4.5)
I followed the instructions exactly as written in the manual in the order that they were written and did not jump around between steps.
The instruction manual contains good quality pictures and drawings that are very helpful but some of you less experienced builders may like to see a drawing of the completed antenna with part descripions, and their locations with reference numbers....especially concerning the way the support tubes attach to the boom with nylon ties as noted below. Even one drawing or picture of the support tube/boom junction point would have been helpful to some builders.
Most of the instructions were very clear indeed, however when attaching the supports to the boom, I did notice that there were holes drilled in the center of each support arm when I took them out of the box. There was no mention of why they were there in the instructions. With a bit of further investigation and logic, I determined that they are there so you can use them to feed the nylon ties into the holes and around the boom so the support arms can be securely attached to the boom. The support arms are not bolted to the boom but using the nylon ties in the proper manner makes for a very sturdy setup!
One other very minor thing, (to me), was the fact that you are instructed to cut a 26 inch length of wire from the supplied length in the kit to use as a connecting wire from one side of the feed connection to one of the spirals, with no mention about the left over wire or where it goes. Very shortly, using simple logic, there is only one option. It has to go to the other spiral. This could be slightly confusing to a non-experienced antenna builder. I pretended I was that person!
Other than this, instructions were excellent!
3. Ease of assembly, any missing parts, assembly time required? (4.5)
This score should probably be a 5 but due to the fact that it took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes from unpacking to final completion during the assembly portion, I decided that the "about 45 minutes" statement on their web site should be lengthened a bit.
UPDATE: The Tak-tenna website now states "Easy assembly - less than 90 minutes" rather than the original "45 minutes" back in May, 2007.
I realize that this may be a bit picky but this is the way I see it. Guess this is a play on words on my part and it would all depend on many variables with individual builders. I in no way mean this to be understood as false advertising!
I did take my time to "get it right" the first time.
I also must admit that the very novel method of attaching each spiral to the support tubing using notches and nylon ties on the tubing is an excellent idea. I am commiting that one to memory for future home brew projects! If I had included just this one simple idea as another review criteria, it would have gotten a 10! Great idea Steve!
4. Any special tools or test equipment required for assembly or tuning?(5)
By following the instructions which were well written, all you really need is just a standard HF swr meter and an hf radio capable of 40 meter operation, a tuner if multiband operation is desired, 50 ohm coax or twinlead, measuring tape, screw driver, soldering GUN, solder, wire cutters and a tool to tighten the mast clamp to the mast or your own preferences for tools. The average ham should already have these.
5. Can the TAK-tenna be put on the air with acceptable performance using a tuner without tuning the antenna for lowest swr during the "tuning" portion of the instructions by just following the instructions like some other commercial antennas on the market? (5)
You can almost call this antenna PLUG AND PLAY!
Winding the spiral coils onto the supports could be a bit tricky for some builders, but the instructions are VERY clear on the procedure. Just take your time. I found this very easy. Simple tips are given in the instruction manual for winding and as I mentioned above, the novel idea of the notches in the support arms for the spirals make winding a simple process.
By using the "starting tap points" suggested in the instruction manual, the swr was about 2 to 1 using an MFJ 259B antenna analyzer on the 40 meter band down near the lower portion of the band. This swr should pose no problem for a tuner using the initial starting tap points.
Please not though that due to your individual construction practices, the initial swr reading may different for you.
6. Any special or unreasonable restrictions on location, mounting or height above ground? (5) SEE UPDATE AS OF 11-30-08 BELOW!
I installed it for the original review at 11 feet from the ground exactly at the boom and it tuned as expected using the instructions. Why did I use 11 feet? This is the length of an old CB vertical section I had laying out in my "junk pile" as my XYL calls it, of aluminum tubing. As you builders out there know, we call it "gold".
I have not attempted to operate it lower than the 11 feet in the original testing in May, 2007. There are reports that it "works" below this limit and I have confirmed them in the update below!
UPDATE (11-30-08) I have confirmed that...the TAK-tenna has been operated as low as 2 feet above ground - on a camera triopod - in vertical propagation orientation...and as low as 5 feet above ground in horiztonal propagation orientation so this would certainly add to it's versatility!
7. How does it perform at extremely reduced heights? (5)
I have not personally tried the Tak-tenna at other than 11 feet but according to the many other reports I have read, it performs well down to 2 feet above ground in the vertical orientation.
I have not used it at any height below the 11 feet height above ground in the testing. Others have reported good results down to 2 feet as in #6 above.
So to be fair with this review, I gave it a 5.
8. Does it require more than one person to assemble and mount? (5)
Unless you are severely disabled, you should not have any problem with any part of the assembly or mounting. This antenna is so light, 5lbs, that it is indeed very easy to assemble and get in the air by one person!
9. Was it easy to tune for lowest SWR? (4.5)
I don't know of many, if any, commercial or homebrew antennas that are perfect when it comes to tuning. There is NO cutting or trimming of this antenna required or suggested to get a good low swr. I was able to get it down to about 1.5 to 1 swr by some expected trial and error by following the instructions using the alligator clips supplied for initial tuning of the tap points on each spiral. Don't get discouraged, it is very tunable for low swr on 40 meters! Do not expect low swr on any other band other than the resonant band of 40 meters.
Remember, this is an electrical half wave antenna. I did note that the swr was usable on 15 meters as would be expected unless you are a perfectionist. As the manual states, there may be rf on the shield so follow the instructions and suggestions supplied in the manual and don't let this fact worry you....the antenna will perform!
10. Was the SWR low over a good usable range as determined by the MFJ259B as a test meter? (4.5)
YES! I suspected at the beginning of the review that after final tuning during the initial setup that the TAK-tenna may be very narrow banded on some bands. However, when using a tuner, and 50 ohm coax feed, at 11 feet off the ground, I found that the usable range on most bands was very adequate without having to retouch the tuner adjustments. 10 meters was a bit tricky with an MFJ 901B tuner, but with some very fine tuning of the controls, it fell right into 1 to 1 swr at 28.400mhz!
And for you "Techies" out there, the MFJ 259B showed me a match efficiency of 99% at 7.1668mhz with an swr of 1:1 and at 21.590mhz, 98% with a 1.2 to 1 swr at the shack end of the coax if you put much faith in the very popular MFJ antenna analyzer.
11. Mechanical stability and material quality? (5)
The TAK-tenna company uses high quality materials throughout. I did not find any problem with the construction quality of anything supplied with it.
(The alligator clips supplied for tuning only could be a bit larger for bigger fingers!)
There is extra spiral wire included and plenty of black uv type nylon ties. Don't worry if you make a mistake during construction and wonder if you have enough wire and ties to complete the job....you will! You might even have enough of the spiral wire for a 2 meter ground plane or vertical dipole! I saved mine for a later date!
12. How the TAK-tenna compares on the air to an 80 meter homebrew multiband center fed doublet dipole fed with TV twinlead using a tuner up about 30 feet set up in a North to South configuration? (5)
I could not give this test comparison a fair un-scientific test due to band conditions except on receive, and could not get a steady signal with any antenna I had for a good comparison but one thing I quickly noticed during switching between TAK-tenna and the other dipole I had was the fact that I HEARD no noticeable difference on any band. I found this remarkable compared with about 123 feet of wire up about 30 feet! The on the air tests in #1 above proved to me how well this antenna works for it's size.
13. How does it compare to a ground mounted multiband commercial Hustler 4BTV vertical with no radials and fed with RG58 coax? (5)
Again, I HEARD no noticeable difference except that foreign broadcast did seem to be just a bit "louder" on the 4BTV and the S meter confirmed less than 1 S unit difference if you can put much faith in S meters. I am sure that this could be due to the angle of radiation of the vertical being lower than the TAK-tenna, but in any case, 21 feet of commercial antenna compared to 30 inches.....you be the judge!
I am even considering using the 4BTV Hustler vertical as an expensive 21 foot mast for mounting the TAK-tenna on top of it in the future!......But then there is Murphy's law and the XYL stepping in....I may have to use some guy ropes! The XYL hates guy ropes and wires! Go away Murphy!
14. If used with a rotor, can it help to "null" out stations in undesired locations? (5)
This was a test of the TAK-tenna I conjured up using the characteristics of a "rotatable dipole" compared to the TAK-tenna and is not, in my opinion, a fair test due to the fact that TAK-tenna makes no references to the fact that it can "null" out stations off the side.
The TAK-tenna web site states "10 to 14 dB signal increase in transmit with 90 degree rotation". This tells me that if the TAK-tenna is rotated toward a station under controlled conditions, ( a good steady signal), and an S meter reading is taken, then if the TAK-tenna is rotated 90 degrees, the signal should drop about 10 to 14 dB.
I am putting words into this that TAK-tenna does not state. They make no statements to the effect that this antenna is directional, but in my opinion, if it acts like a dipole that ordinarily has worst performance off the ends, then this, in my opinion, is what we are seeing here.
If you look at the design of the TAK-tenna from an angle of 90 degrees to the boom, you see only a very tiny amount of wire "exposed" in the direction of a station 90 degrees off the side vs "looking" at that same station "head on". The TAK-tenna is not a Yagi, and in no way does the company refer to it as such, so don't expect that sort of performance from it!
This is a very, very compact electrical half wave length dipole antenna,
no more, no less!
15. Cost versus time saved dealing with MURPHY'S LAW? (5)
If you could build this antenna from "scratch" as a complete home brew project, then I believe Murphy's Law would win! I honestly do not think you would save ANY time nor could you save ANY money by attempting any other method other than ordering one of these antennas from the TAK-tenna company. Just cutting the notches alone for the spiral wire would take a long time plus all the drilling of the other holes required for the boom and spiral supports. For the price of this antenna at the time of this review, how could you loose and still get out a good signal on HF with your limited space?
16. Is the TAK-tenna advertising on their web page misleading in any way in my opinion? (5)
I could not find one statement on their site that could be considered in my opinion as misleading in any way.
They do not represent this antenna to be a "miracle" antenna in any form. They do not represent the TAK-tenna as bending the laws of Physics or changing them in any way.
It is designed mainly to be used in limited space situations for hams who are restricted to little or no HF operation due to lack of adequate antenna space among it's many credits.
17. Was it shipped in an adequate container to prevent shipping damage? (5)
YES! The antenna was extremely well packaged in a sturdy container and survived the rigors of going through the many hands of Federal Express!
18. If I decide to take it down and use it at another location like camping or field day, will I have problems with the disassembly and reassembly?(4)
This may not be a fair test but I threw it in anyway!
This model for this review, the 40 meter version, is only about 30 inches by 30 inches assembled and extremely light in weight. In my way of thinking, it could be taken off the mast and just put it in the back seat of most cars. The spiral wires are very stiff but could of course be bent somewhat out of shape with ruff handling.
One recommendation I might have would be that if you foresee moving it many times to different locations like camping or field days, would be to simply modify the boom on each side by cutting in the center of each side and adding a coupler of some sort using short bolts thru the boom while keeping the same boom length of 30 inches. Then it should be just a simple matter of taking the antenna apart leaving two "pancake spirals" and the mast portion of the boom left to lay flat. Use your imagination.
TAK-tenna makes no references to this one way or the other.
19. If for some reason the antenna breaks at some future time, can I easily repair it myself without having to re-order high priced parts for it?(5)
I am going to really stick my neck out here for the TAK-tenna company to chop off and say yes. I did not design the antenna but from outward appearances, there is nothing in it that you could not replace using materials from Home Depot, Lowes, the hardware store, etc to get it back into operation. Hopefully there are no reasons why you could not do this. In my opinion, when antenna companies use special materials, components, parts and pieces for their product with the express purpose of making their products non-repairable except when using only their inflated high priced replacement parts...then they are only in business for one thing...and it is not you and
I realize also that with many commercial antennas, there are many machined parts that require special equipment to make....most hams don't have a production line setup.
I see nothing in the TAK-tenna that would require more than everyday hand tools to get it back on the air.
I do not get the impression about the TAK-tenna company concerning the importance of money over the end user. I believe they are in business for the ham radio operator and not against him. This antenna could easily sell for $100.00 or more and they should sell like hot cakes at that price but as of this writing, the TAK-tenna is no where near that price!
Sure, they should make a mint with the TAK-tenna.....I wish them all the best!
The most fragile part of the TAK-tenna is the spiral wire used on each end. It should not break under normal uses so I really should not call it fragile. This is proprietary #14 gauge copper plated alloy wire and I assume it is made specifically for this antenna. I am sure that if you feel better about replacing anything on the antenna, the company will be happy to help.
20. How did it perform as a multibander? (5)
This TAK-tenna antenna really shines as a multibander! You will forget how small it is while operating!
I can confirm that this antenna should perform well for you on it's advertised bands with a tuner and I found that 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters "tuned" just fine for me giving a bonus of 7 HF bands in such a small space! Your tuner may be different than mine so you may not get this performance...experiment!
I used a very basic MFJ 901B tuner during this review and if it will "tune" this antenna with no problems, then your tuner should too.
Like I said at the start of this review, I was having so much fun with this antenna that I almost forgot this was a review!
I made several contacts on 40, 20, and 17 meters using 100 watts ssb or less with no report less than an S9 or a 59 report under terrible band conditions, summer static and at various times of the day. A Cuban station reported 59 copy on 17 meters. 15, and 10 meters were "dead" during the initial on the air testing. I did not do on the air testing on 30 meters but receive was fine. I see no reason why 30, 15 and 10 meters should not do well with average band conditions and due to the fact that I wanted to get this review out to you as soon as possible is the reason I have not tried it on those bands.
Technician class hams should have a ball when 10 meters starts booming and this antenna should get them on the lower CW bands now!
This antenna has so many possibilities in my opinion when you are limited for HF antenna space. Although the instruction manual plainly states that this antenna is not recommended for use inside....I know the experimenting nature of most hams will win over them and lots of hams will try it in their attics, garage, balcony, etc.
The thing that really impressed me about the TAK-tenna is the fact that during all of the fun I had with it on the air, I seemed to forget it was a "tiny" 40 meter antenna not longer than 30 inches! Maybe my review sounds like I am biased......I am!
The TAK-tenna has proven itself to me and I believe you will be biased also when it gets you on HF when before, you could not!
I did not "review" the antenna for the statements concerning,
"Rotable Portable Stealth Perfect Backup Antenna"
on their web site because these facts are so obvious due to the shear size...or maybe I should say lack of size for the antenna.
This antenna would make a perfect antenna for field day, QRP, camping, backup for your wire antennas and Yagi's, when Mother nature or Murphy's law steps in. I am sure you can think of other ways to use it.
Backpacking adventures may be difficult but if you can divise a way to take it completly apart and then re-assemble it out in the field, then I don't see anything stopping you from having a great deal of fun on HF...out in the woods or on top of that mountain!......go for it! QRP anyone?
(Out of a possible 100)
Bottom line and some thoughts.......
Would I buy it if I had limited space for an HF antenna?
YES, and without any hesitation!
(with some final comments added)
That sounds too good to be true, but that's my opinion!
No, it is not a full physical length 40 meter dipole, or Yagi up 100 feet in the air!
But I can state that it certainly will get YOU on HF when you could not before!
Steve has designed this antenna using the knowledge of an engineer and with
the hands on experience of a seasoned ham radio operator while keeping you, the end user, in mind!
For those of you who are looking for a way to get on HF and are very limited to space with regular length dipoles or with a limited budget, then how can you go wrong by buying and using this antenna?
FOR IT'S SIZE, THIS IS ONE REMARKABLE ANTENNA!
I repeat...one remarkable antenna!
It is an electrical half wave length dipole, not some shortened version of a mobile whip or vertical, and in my honest opinion, why would you want to put up a commercial built vertical with all those radials for at least 2 to three times the price or more and find that it will not work much or any better than the TAK-tenna? Maybe you will get another 1/2 S unit better signal on a vertical....SO WHAT? You can't hear that small of a change! Do you listen to your S meter or the sound coming out of the speaker!
I don't think you will easily beat the on the air performance in such a small space!
I don't think you can beat the quality for the price!
I don't think you can beat the price compared with the performance!
So what is left? Murphy's Law.......he is still figuring out how to interfere with your fun on HF if you use the TAK-tenna...he has a very big, difficult job to do....
maybe he should bring in one of his twins to help him out!"
Was that a recommendation?.YES!....
and I don't recommend antennas!
and remember....I don't review antennas!
73 Don Butler, N4UJW Hamuniverse.com
I may even try it with QRP!.....
Shut up Murphy, go bother someone with a regular size dipole!
Where do I get it?
The TAK-Tenna 80 is now available for 75/80 meters!
Update! See Actual Customer reviews on eham.net
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