Ham radios are some of the most useful communication devices on the planet. They facilitate long distance communication even when all other communication channels have failed. However, ham radios will probably be of little value if you were to get rid of their antennas.
Sadly, stock antennas that ham radios come with are not usually the best as amateur radio manufacturers focus on creating good radios and not perfect antennas. As such, it would be far better to buy a quality antenna for your ham radio so that you can get the best out of it.
With hundreds of great antennas to choose from for your ham radio, we thought we'd review seven of the best antennas for ham radio to make things easier for you.
Our top pick was the Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band magnet antenna since we believe it has all the features that any ham radio enthusiast would want.
- 1 Why Do You Need an Antenna for Your Ham Radio?
- 2 How We Picked These 7 Antennas
- 3 Have a Quick Look at Comparison Table of Best Antenna for Ham Radio
- 4 Reviews of Top 7 Best Antennas
- 4.1 Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna
- 4.2 Luiton Antenna NA-771 15.6-Inch Whip Dual Band UV VHF/UHF Antennas
- 4.3 Workman Magnetic Mobile Antenna Ham Radio 2 Meter
- 4.4 Nagoya UT-72 Antenna
- 4.5 Hustler HF MultiBand Vertical Amateur Ham Radio Base Antenna 5BTV
- 4.6 Nagoya NMO-72 19.25″ Antenna NMO Mount Dual Band VHF, UHF
- 4.7 Eightwood Dual Band VHF UHF Ham Mobile Radio Antenna
- 5 What to Consider Before Buying Antennas for Your Ham
- 6 Conclusion
Why Do You Need an Antenna for Your Ham Radio?
If you happen to have an elmer as your neighbor, you could probably ask him/her for help and build your own DIY radio antenna.
However, you will soon realize that DIY antennas would take time to build and they require expert knowledge. It is also easy to get one or two things wrong when building your own antenna.
In addition, DIY ham radio antennas might not be plug and play and this means it will involve more work than you may have intended. That usually makes some people comfortable with stock antennas which are still okay for day-to-day use.
Unfortunately, most stock antennas also happen to be single-band antennas, so it makes sense to look for a better-performing antenna when you need performance.
How We Picked These 7 Antennas
In all honesty, selecting the seven antennas was not easy because we had to consider a number of factors that made the antennas ideal for a wide variety of ham radios.
We considered the durability and weatherproofing features of the radio as well as the antenna's user reviews.
Performance was equally something we could not forget, and we looked for antennas with the best features that could cumulatively give you the lowest SWR readings.
Have a Quick Look at Comparison Table of Best Antenna for Ham Radio
Reviews of Top 7 Best Antennas
You definitely need an antenna like the Tram 1185 if you intend to be engaging in long-distance communication with your ham radio. It has a power handling capability of up to 100W which is perfect for any ham radio. However, you will realize even more benefits from it as it is a dual-band antenna.
It will be difficult for this antenna to slip off your vehicle's body thanks to the strong 3 ¼ inch magnet mount that the Tram 1185 comes with. Even though it just measures 19" tall, the strong magnet mount will ensure your antenna remains fixed on the spot you placed it.
In addition, the 12-foot premium RG58 is something you don't often get when you purchase other antennas. A 12-foot coaxial cable like the one you get with this antenna gives you a wide range of options when it comes to choosing the perfect spot for placing your antenna.
Also, the fact that the power handling capacity of this antenna is 100W means that you can use it with other types of radios as well.
The Luiton NA-771 is a high-gain dual-band antenna that is soft and flexible which makes it ideal for use in outdoor or camping events. As it has a power handling capability of just 10W, it is a great antenna for ham operators who are beginners or those who have basic ham radios.
In all honesty, a 10W power handling capability might not be what a professional ham operator is looking for in an antenna. However, the NA-771 can be a great starting point for a new ham operator because it has all the basic features.
The antenna has a VSWR of less 1.5:1 meaning that you will be getting decent reception on your ham radio. You should, however, be careful not to fall for counterfeit versions of the NA-771 since these cheaply manufactured antennas may cause high SWR which can in turn damage your radio.
We were happy that despite the antenna's low power handling capability, it could still support multiple bands.
The antenna also uses the SMA-F connector type but will still be compatible with many kinds of ham radios like the BaoFeng UV-82, the BF-8HP, and the UV-5R.
This was perhaps one of the most minimalist ham radio antennas we came across. The Workman Magnetic Antenna is a mere 15.6 inches long and uses a thin stainless steel. At the base is a small but strong magnet mount that provides support for the entire antenna.
This is your go-to antenna if the stock antenna that you use with your ham radio is not as durable or lacks weatherproofing features. Since it is made from stainless steel and is super thin, it can withstand great wind loads with ease.
We did notice that the antenna lacks a relief spring at the base that would have handled the impact better. However, Workman ensured that the base was strong enough such that most of the sway would only occur at the tip of the antenna.
As it is a dual-band antenna, it can support two different frequency ranges at the same time. Its VHF range runs from 137-149 MHz while its UHF range runs from 437-480 MHz.
It might not have the best specifications when compared to the other antennas on our list, but it is one of the best antennas you should consider getting for your BaoFeng radio. Nagoya's UT-72 is a marvel in many ways because despite having a power handling capacity of 80W, it still performed exceptionally well no matter the kind of radio you use it with.
This antenna comes with a 3.25-inch magnetic mount that will be perfect for your pickup truck, van, or SUV. This is because it is not only wide enough to provide the necessary support, but because it is made from a heavy-duty rare-earth magnet. You can thus count on your antenna sticking on the spot you place it.
It also features a super loading coil which is great for two reasons – it increases UHF reception and greatly improves range. Its installation is also fairly easy since all you really need to do is find a suitable spot on your vehicle where you can attach it then run down its cable to your ham radio.
Elmers will probably love the Hustler HF Multiband antenna because it packs some serious power that only a professional would appreciate. While multiband usually equates to two bands for most antennas, this antenna can give you coverage for five different frequency bands for both transmission and reception.
1500W is more than any average ham radio operator would need, but since the Hustler HF is not for the newbie, it is somewhat justified for going overboard. It is the perfect antenna for a ham radio base station as it will make the best use of all its capabilities.
Its design allows you to mount it on the ground if you wish to do so. The special part is that you won't need a separate mount to make this happen. The only extra accessory you might need is a coaxial cable that will run from the antenna to the ham radio.
The Hustler HF is made from different kinds of material such as fiberglass, aluminum, and stainless steel. You can thus expect it to withstand a lot more than other antennas can handle.
Measuring 19.25" tall, the Nagoya NMO-72 is a great antenna for both beginners and professionals. It has a decent power handling capability and is a dual band antenna that can transmit and receive on the ¼ wave and the 5/8 wave.
The design of the Nagoya NMO-72 is remarkable in many ways. We were first drawn to the base of the antenna. While most antennas come with wide magnetic bases, the low-profile base of the Nagoya NMO-72 means that there will be less wind flow disturbance whenever you are driving
In addition, it lacks a coil in the middle. As such, you won't hear any annoying whistles coming from the antenna while you are going past 40 MPH. The spring base at the bottom also helps reduce strain on the magnetic base by taking the full impact of a sway.
Call it short, but the Eightwood Dual Band antenna is a long antenna if you are to include the high-quality coaxial cable that it ships with. It certainly isn't the most powerful antenna, but for its height, it does have some interesting specifications.
The antenna has a power handling capability of 50W which is phenomenal for a radio of its kind. It is also dual-band, and this means it can let you access two different frequency ranges at the same time.
To make up for its height, it comes with a high quality 16.4-foot long RG58 cable which allows you to place the antenna on nearly any spot on your vehicle.
What to Consider Before Buying Antennas for Your Ham
For most people, an antenna's height and length of provided cable are by far the most important things to consider. However, while these are things that even more experienced ham radio operators consider, there are usually more intricate features that you need to think of as well.
Below, we outline a few of the features you should look out for in an antenna if you intend to use it with your ham radio.
While you can make your own DIY antenna, chances are that you are going to find it difficult to make it either a dual-band or a tri-band antenna.
Antennas with more bands are usually better since they can support a wide range of frequencies that may either be in the very high range or the ultra-high range.
However, you can expect multi-band antennas to cost a little more than single-band antennas.
This is yet another feature that would be difficult to pull off in a DIY antenna. Typically, you should consider getting a high gain antenna since it helps boost the strength of the signals that your ham radio will be transmitting.
As such, you need to look at the signal gain rating of the antenna you wish to buy and ensure that it will meet your needs.
Ideally, feedline loss outlines how much signal a coax cable will lose during transmission. Picking any coax cable for your antenna would not be a good idea since you won't know if the loss is acceptable for your particular system or not.
In fact, you are likely to experience a lot of feedline loss if you will be transmitting at high frequencies. Therefore, it is advisable to select a compatible coax cable that will have minimal feedline loss.
Not all antennas come with UHF support, but you definitely want this feature on your antenna especially if you'll be using the antenna with your ham radio.
Using high frequencies in transmission translated to better range. Many antennas that ship with ham radios usually have UHF support, but it is recommended to ensure the one you are purchasing can support UHF frequencies.
The longer the antenna, the better the range. However, this does not always mean that a long antenna would be ideal for everyone. Ham radio operators who wish to setup base stations or repeater systems can benefit from having long antennas.
Coax Cable Length
The amount of cable you need to run from your antenna to your ham radio will depend on where you want to install it. As much as possible, try to use the least amount of coax cable since longer often experience some level of signal loss.
All in all, buying a great antenna for your ham radio shouldn't be something you need to think about too much. Since antennas are one-time investments, it is best to grab an ideal antenna that will last you for a lifetime. Considering factors such as bands supported, gain, and UHF support will put you on a good path. However, you could equally be satisfied with the performance of our top pick antenna – the Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band magnet antenna.