Antenna FAQ

OH-58A - 1-18th Cav CA ARNG - Serial #70-15496

Q: What makes one antenna better than another?
A: There's two basic things that determine how well an antenna will perform... The amount of elements it has (not including ground plane or duplicate elements), and how closely it's tuned to the frequency you are trying to hear. That's it! It doesn't matter how fancy something looks, or what the claims are. Every time you add an element, you increase gain, and the smaller the amount of bandwidth an antenna try's to cover, the better it will perform. Saying something is "25-1300 full coverage" means nothing when it comes to performance... An antenna designed to cover one portion of a band, will perform better than one trying to cover everything. An antenna that has multiple stacked elements (horizontally or vertically) will perform better than any single element antenna. Any type of ground plane antenna is basically zero gain. Same goes for a discone. A dipole is slightly better, but still the same when compared to each other. Those are all basically single element antennas. If you want more performance, you have to use antennas that have stacked elements, and also focus on the band/frequency you are operating on. Yes, this means the antenna can be fairly big. It also means you may have to use a directional antenna. Typically a directional antenna is the only way you will be able to attempt maximum performance. This is why the traditional TV antenna has always looked the way it has. It is physically impossible for an antenna to perform really well, cover all bands, be 100% omni-directional, AND be small. Unfortunately, nature just doesn't work that way. When looking for a good basic antenna, don't fall for gimmicks... Look for quality. You may think you're saving a lot of money by going with a $19.95 special, but if it falls apart after a year, then it's not such a great deal.

Q: Why do you say the LP is better than a discone?
A: A typical ground plane or discone is basically 0 gain or worse. There's a common misconception that a directional antenna will only receive signals in the direction it is pointed, which is why many people think they need a discone for 'wide-band' omni performance. True, directional antennas *can* be fairly deaf to the sides and back, but they can also be designed not to be. The DPD Productions LP antennas are designed to have fairly good reception to the sides and back. This means you're still getting 360 degree coverage with the LP. Plus, you get the added gain in the direction the antenna is pointed. The common misconception of: "I don't want a directional antenna because I won't be able to hear stuff all around me" is not really true.

Q: Can the outdoor models be used inside?
A: Yes, but they were designed to be used outside. If you're an apartment or condominium dweller, you may want to consider an indoor model. You could possibly mount an outdoor model in the attic though, or on a balcony.

Q: Can the indoor Blade models be used outside?
A: If there's a protected spot outside where it will not come directly in contact with the elements, you could probably leave it there for fairly long periods without any problem. The antenna was designed for indoor use though.

Q: Will I be able to hear stuff other than what the antenna was designed for?
A: Yes... All antennas are capable of hearing bands other than the one they were designed for... That's why advertising an antenna as being 25 to 1300 MHz "full coverage", really isn't any great thing. It's just a matter of *how well* an antenna will receive multiple bands. Contrary to what many manufacturers would have you believe, there is no such thing as an antenna that has a high level of performance along a very wide bandwidth (ie: 25 - 1300 MHz). Every antenna has high points of resonance, and low points of resonance. Typically, the wider an antenna is in bandwidth, the lower the performance will be on any single band. That's why having antennas designed for specific bands is always best. But even using antennas designed for a specific band will typically still allow you to hear other nearby bands. A good thing to do is decide what band you need improved reception on most, and what bands come in fairly well no matter what. If you live in a large city, the 800-900 bands usually come in fairly well. Simplex type communications on VHF are often more difficult to receive. In that instance, having a dedicated VHF antenna would probably be good, since you would get the best performance on VHF, but still be able to hear the UHF signals.

Q: How well will I be able to receive stuff?
A: This question is almost impossible to answer. It depends on how close you are to the transmissions, your elevation, the topography, and many other things.

Q: I've seen other antennas for less money. What about those?
A: No doubt, there are less expensive antennas out there. But if you compare features and parts, you'll find in most cases that the cheap antennas being offered by other companies don't compare. For instance... Our Blade Indoor Models include RG8/X cable... Most companies include off brand RG58 cable, if any cable at all. Our Outdoor Vertical Models include an N connector... Most companies use the cheaper, less weather resistant UHF connector. All the DPDP outdoor models include mounting hardware... That's extra on many other people's antennas. The simple fact is that most $20-30 antennas you see advertised, won't even make it through a decent winter. The majority of these types of products are produced by large corporations that have everything made overseas by cheap foreign labor. It's virtually impossible to make a quality product in the US, using US citizens, and still be able to charge competitively low prices. Often people who own $5000 or more of radios say they don't want to spend more than $50 on an antenna. In radio, you have to take the whole system into consideration... Any system is only as good as its weakest link. Yes, radios are more fun to spend money on... but a good antenna and cable is just as important. Plus, if you have to replace a cheap antenna every other year, it's not such a great deal in the end.

Q: Will I only hear things in one direction on the LP directional antennas?
A: No! The LP antennas don't function as if you are hearing things through a tube from just one direction. You will still hear signals from all directions, often-times as good as a basic omni type antenna would. The LP antennas just hear signals best in the direction they are pointed. This type of antenna can be designed numerous ways... In the design process, you have a choice of making an antenna that is very directional, or one that is directional, but still has decent omni ability... The DPDP LPs were designed to have respectable omni ability, as well as improved performance directionally.

Q: Do I have to have a rotator to use one of the LP antennas?
A: Absolutely not... A rotator can help if you want to turn the antenna to hear best in the direction a certain signal is coming from. Otherwise, you can mount the antenna in the direction you are most interested in, and you'll still get decent reception from other directions.

Q: Why can't I mount the LP antenna horizontally?
A: Configuring the antenna to be horizontal would be counter-productive. Virtually all the signals you want to hear are typically polarized vertically. Using an antenna that has opposite polarization from the one that is transmitting, will usually lower the performance quite a bit.

Q: I heard the railroads are changing to digital... Will I be able to listen still?
A: Yes! There is about a 90% chance you will still be able to listen. But this is a very slow process (as in years)... So don't worry. Check out this page for more info on the railroad band restructuring.

Q: Where can I get the hardware needed to mount an antenna on the roof?
A: Believe it or not, good old RadioShack is still good for something. It depends on the store, but they often stock standard 1 1/4" mast and various hardware to mount on the side of a structure or roof. Home centers like Lowes sometimes have stuff in the TV section also. Typically you don't want to use a 1 1/4" mast higher than 10' without using guy wires.