[TowerTalk] 2006 Top Ten Chutzpah Awards - the top two

Jim Lux jimlux at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 22 16:36:15 EDT 2006

At 12:08 PM 8/22/2006, Pete Smith wrote:
>Both New Product announcements from September QST -
>p.41 Isotron 40/20 meter antenna that looks like a cross between a 1960's 
>UHF antenna, a birdhouse, a ceramic coil from a BC-375 and a collection of 
>leftover flashing material.   Really, guys, are we supposed to believe 
>this works?

Depends on what you mean by "works"... They aren't making any specific gain 
claims (and, wisely, they have no numerical claims on their website, so the 
FTC won't be hounding them), just that it handles 1kW PEP (and so does the 
MFJ/Heath Cantenna) and a variety of bandwidth claims.   In fact, it it 
superior to the Cantenna, because it: "Can be mounted in ANY Position 
Without Loss of Performance "

Yes, one might hope that the ARRL would publish a "why small antennas 
inherently can't work as well as a big one" article, but, they need someone 
to write it.  This is a non-trivial task, because once you get past the 
flat statement of fact and then start to try and explain "why", it gets 
kind of complex.  Remember, to be effective, such an article couldn't just 
rely on anecdote (worked a gazillion DX stations on 7 bands!) or modeling 
of specific examples: because manufacturers of Isotrons, CFAs, Rhode Island 
miracle antennas, etc. would all claim that their antenna is "special" and 
can't be modeled by conventional techniques.

What we need is some wealthy amateur to go out and buy one each of all 
these various antennas, and pay to have them measured on a HF antenna range 
at NIST. (and even then, the mfrs would claim: well, that's because you 
didn't install it like it's intended to be installed).

>p. 32 "Broadband Manpack Antenna and Mast from B&W" -- claiming less than 
>2:1 SWR 1.6-60 MHz.  Picture looks like two christmas tree light reels, a 
>lot of hookup wire, two three foot pieces of tubing and a humongous 
>balun/dummy load.  Rated for 20 watts.  $545 for the antenna alone, or 
>$1190 (!) for the antenna and mast kit.

Well manpack, in this case, doesn't mean it operates while attached to a 
manpack, but, rather, that it can be carried by a man in a pack.

This antenna is the same old terminated folded dipole that has been B&W's 
mainstay for aeons.  The new fiberglass poles and the canvas bag are new.

Sure enough, it's got a 2:1 match over the band. It's somewhat(!) 
inefficient, but, heck, it *does* radiate, and from a system design 
standpoint, maybe the appeal of no moving/controllable parts against the 
cost of whatever increase in Tx power (if any) is needed to close the link 
is attractive.  It's aimed not at hams, but at folks with a bit more cash, 
who aren't interested in homebrew, and who are running a $5K+ ALE radio 
into it.

Cost-wise it seems expensive, but compare it against something designed to 
compete squarely against it in the same basic market: the long SGC whip and 
the companion autotuner.  In procurement costs, the ability to get all the 
stuff packaged together in one box/bag that fits is probably worth a good 
part of the purchase price, as opposed to procuring the antenna from one 
place, the mast from another, the attachment fixture from a third, and a 
suitable bag from a fourth, not to mention that the intended buyers aren't 
interested in fabrication.  This is a turnkey product that fills a 
particular need.

That is also the "manufacturers list price".. I suspect that the actual 
price to your local buyer is somewhat less. When I worked for a 
manufacturer of theatrical equipment in this price range, the factory price 
was always higher than the dealer price, because we wanted to protect our 
dealers. What we changed the dealer was substantially lower, because they 
have to cover their costs and profit, plus have room to negotiate on a 
package deal.

   In this case, the buyer would probably be going to some retailer of 
emergency comm gear for some package, including radio (from Harris, Racal, 
Vertex, etc.), antenna(s), carrying cases, support, training, etc.  B&W 
might be getting all of $500 for their part of the deal.  I'd venture that 
you'd have a tough time duplicating the product for the same price, 
especially if you buy new materials and pay reasonable wages, and deal with 
all the paperwork, not to mention probably waiting 90 days to get paid.  We 
used to figure that the "retail sell price" would be 5-10 times the 
purchase cost of the components... using that rule of thumb, could you 
duplicate the B&W product for <$120 in brand new parts?

(after having read through countless posts on a new portableantennatesting 
yahoo group)
Jim, W6RMK

More information about the TowerTalk mailing list