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Simple Antenna For Better Shortwave Radio Reception

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For those of you who have purchased a portable shortwave radio for either your own interests or for the sake of survival preparedness (gaining information about the disaster, after the disaster), you may be interested in getting the longest range reception as possible. The best way to achieve that is to use an external antenna.

Some portable radios have pretty good built in antennas and ‘front-end’ circuitry that enables good long distance reception (conditions permitting), but adding an external antenna can improve reception dramatically.

Most all portable shortwave radios will have a telescoping antenna as well as one built inside (mainly for AM radio band reception). Some radios (usually the higher priced models) will have an external antenna jack, usually a 3.5mm (1/8″), where you can plug in your own external antenna.

Even simpler, you can simply clip on an external antenna to the telescoping antenna, or wrap bare wire around it.

Although there are varying antenna models, do-it-yourself designs, configurations and formulas to use while calculating exact lengths, etc., when it comes to simply listening to shortwave radio… generally speaking just use a LONG WIRE. It’s simple, and it works quite well!

As some of you know, we have recently moved to another state and we’re currently living in a home rental while on the hunt for our own place that suits our criteria. Once established, I will definitely be building some outdoor antenna configurations (because I enjoy it, and it will help my shortwave radio reception). But in the mean time, while here living in this smallish A-frame, I decided to experiment with a simple long-wire antenna installed inside, up above the rafters. For most homes, you could easily do this in your attic (provided you have a way to get one end of the wire down to wherever you listen to your radio) or use your creativity and string the wire wherever your wife will allow you to – translation… out of sight, out of mind ;)

All I did was string some bare copper wire nearly all the way around the rectangular perimeter of the ceiling trusses. The total length of the wire antenna happens to be 88 feet, and let me tell you that it made a whopping difference – even though the radio that I’ve connected it to is a very good radio to begin with (with very good reception without an external antenna).
Sony ICF-SW7600GR

I used solid copper wire instead of regular old jacketed stranded wire, because I felt that the solid copper would make for a better conductor (thus, better reception). Plus I didn’t have to worry about the need for an outer insulation around the wire to protect from shorting against any metal since it was all up in the rafters. I used a 22 gauge thickness similar to this wire, 22AWG Solid Insulated Magnet Wire, because it did not to be very strong to support itself since I was stretching it along wooden trusses (or in your attic along the floor edges).

On each corner of the perimeter, on the corresponding wooden trusses, I fastened a screw into the wood, which I used to wrap the copper wire around a few times as I strung it around so as to stretch it fairly tight so it looked ‘clean’. In fact, from the floor level you can’t even notice the wire, which is 20 feet up!

Since my radio has an antenna jack, I used a Radio Shack male plug (1/8″) and secured one end of the antenna wire to the center (tip) connection. If connecting this way, be sure to tape or isolate the outer (ring) of the plug’s connection tab so that the wire connecting to the tip does not accidentally touch it and short out the circuit. It’s better to use a male plug with a plastic outer screw-on sleeve instead of the metal kind, so that you don’t short out the copper wire to the sleeve. If you are using insulated jacketed wire rather than solid copper wire, it won’t short out – so there will be no concerns here.

Even easier though, is simply connect one end of the long wire to an alligator clip (solder, or use a clip with a screw to fasten the wire to). Then just clip on to the tip of the radio’s telescoping antenna (without pulling out the antenna all the way).

Anyway, the simple message is that for better shortwave radio reception, get yourself a spool of wire and make yourself a long wire antenna. Makes a big difference…

Incidentally, if you happen to be an InfoWars.com reader, and are interested in listening to Alex Jones during the afternoon on shortwave frequency 12,160 kHz (simulcast on WWCR transmitting from Nashville, TN), the perfect theoretical length of a matching full-wave long wire antenna for that frequency would be 81 feet. Again, the overall length is not critical for general listening… I’m just sayin… ;)

 

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Question:: Does the insulated wire work or does it need to be bare wire? I live in a high humidity / wet area so I’m looking to keep corrosion to a minimum…Thanks

Does a larger (thicker) guage wire like 14 AWG work any better or is the 22 AWG wire optimal?

I happen to have a roll of 14AWG solid copper wire, would that work better, the same, or worse than the 22AWG thickness that you linked to in your article? If worse I will get the 22AWG as the link in the article listeda roll for only about $12 including shipping so that isn’t going to break the bank. Hopefully the 14 AWG I have is better though so I don’t have to spend the money. Thanks for your time!

Thank you for your responses!

If you are unwilling/unable to spend $$$$ on wire, then look for dead appliances with either electric motors or large power transformers as with care and lots of spare time one can salvage more than all the wire you would need for such a project… Failing that, there is much small-gauge wire salvageable from the deflection yokes of CRT’s… and no shortage of dead NTSC TV’s around…

I finally got a shortwave radio but reception isn’t all that great so it is finally time for me to do this (your antenna project above). I went ahead and bought the smaller wire too so as not to waste my 14 AWG wire.

I read somewhere that the wire lengths need to be balanced, that is equal lengths on both sides from where the wire goes up to the rafters forming a T, is that true? I am a bit fuzzy on the whole thing. I got a big roll (a bit over 500 feet of the 22 AWG) and I want to run it through the whole perimiter of the attic 50′ long. Should I go around the lower perimiter in a square or go up to the center rafter and make a T shape with the feed line going down to the radio?

If I do the square shape which will give me 180 linear feet vs only 50 linear feet in the center rafter T configuration what do I do with the end of the wire that isn’t connected to the radio? Do I attach it to the other end to make a complete loop?

Thanks and sorry for all of the questions!

Antenna engineering can be summed up simply. If it is only for receiving, Then anything that works, Works, But for optimum transmitting you can find a whole encyclopedia of information and some of it is needed to get maximum efficiency and sometimes direction ability of an antenna used to transmit on.

Hi,
I Have an antenna mast on each end of my hangar. If I put a cross bar on each one and run the antenna wire (you mentioned 14 awg stranded copper wire) back and forth (the building is only 40 feet long), I can get a total length of about 100feet. Is there a minimun separation distance between the runs of wire(each run being about 40 feet)? Any information will be appreciated.

Best regards,

Jack

One length of 40 would be fine. But if your set on
100′ then probably 6-8″ of separation would be fine.
Another antenna is a sloper. Start with a wire 10 to 20 feet above ground. Then Run it diagonally to your radio. 14 or 16 gauge wire is good because of the strength.
A really good antenna would be a loop running the entire perimeter of your hanger either on the roof or near the ceiling. If your hanger is metal it would definitely have to be outside.
There are very few rules with receiving antennas experimenting is the funnest part. I have a 200 foot loop running the perimeter of my property at 6 feet and it gets fantastic results. It runs along the fence and through bushes and shrubs so the insulated type is best. An inexpensive way is using lamp cord from Home Depot.
Good luck. Let me know how it comes out

I have a 30 ft. long insulated wire going from my TECSUN PL-660 radio attached to my metal roof with gator clips and the reception on SW, day or night, any place in the world is absolutly FANTASTIC and have no problem with the radio. I set the radio on DX and EVERY STATION comes in LOUD and CLEAR. This is the best SW radio I have ever had my set up gives me the BEST performance EVER.

I have a 12’x40’x12′ rectangular patio cover (wood) I ran a 75′ insulated 14 AWG stranded copper wire around the outside perimeter of the cover. The cover is approximately 10′ from bottom to top. I had about 24′ of wire left over so I just ran the extra along the 1×8 about 2″ apart to finish it off.
I have a MFJ 8100K Shortwave radio, and the reception is not that good. I get some Ham at night 2 to 3 stations and some morse code, This is an $80.00 kit that I built so I can’t expect to much more from it I guess. Would adding additional wire help at all, or is this the best this radio is going to do?
Any suggestions would be helpful?!
Thanks,
Rob T.

Rob,
You can have the best radio in the world, but if you don’t have a good antenna, you are SOL. That said, there are lots of antennas out there that will help. Start with going to the ARRL.org website and looking around, lots of helps there. Also google “home brew ham antennas”, some good sites there too. Also google stealth antennas, these tend to be small but effective for places you can’t have big antennas. You have to realize that the ham spectrum is pretty wide, so a one wire antenna may not pick up all those frequencies. Avoid running your antenna around lots of metal. Do you have a tree you can run it out to? Also, the higher the better. If you have a big attic, you could run it around up there too. I think the idea is to space the wire as far apart and as high as possible, at least for the “long wire” antenna you are making. Look on the sites I mentioned, maybe you can build a dipole, or folded dipole antenna, these work well. Don’t get frustrated! Get creative! Building and trying antennas is half the fun of ham radio. I once lived in a canyon on the Rocky Mountain Front Range, man I had poor reception. But I built a G5RV dipole outof wire, shot an arrow over a high tree with a rope tied to it, and hoisted the darn thing up there.Wow! That sure made a difference! Good luck and congratulations on your radio build. 73

Hello,

I have a small portable Tecsun Pl-880, I have an outdoor antenna in 150′ length that is connected to coax and then to a 16 AWG wire so I can slide it inside through the window( the coax is too thick to go through the window) my antenna is 16AWG insulated copper strand (at 20 feet above the ground. my question is how do I ground this connection to get rid of all the extra noise (static) I pick up?

Also, I have an option to make this into a loop which makes it 350′ long would this improve my reception or 150′ is long enough?

Kam,
I am assuming that you are only using the center wire of the coax to connect to the 16 guage wire and radio. You might try coiling a part of the coax line in 4-5 loops ,8″ in diameter, to create a balun. Then, connect the outside braided shielding of the coax to ground. This might help. You might ask this question on some ham radio forums, they are always working on getting rid of “static”, either man made or natural, which they refer to as QRM & QRN. Good luck.