For the past year, I’ve been using the legendary G5RV HF antenna (Full length, 51 feet each side, 29 feet of balanced 300 Ohms twin-lead, 18 gauge copper wire) and the Alpha Delta DX LB Plus multi-band fan dipole antenna (100 feet, 12 gauge copper). The G5RV manufacturer claims are that it will cover from 10 meters thru 80 meter bands. The Alpha Delta claims are that it will cover 10 meter thru 160 meter. Both antenna are connected to my HF transceiver (Kenwood TS590S) using 50 Ohm coax, terminated on PL259 connectors. The Alpha Delta is setup as an inverted-v at 40 feet with an acute angle of 110 degrees. The G5RV is also at 40 feet, horizontally. Both antenna alignment are perpendicular from one another.
The primary reason which brought me to install both antennas is quite simple. I originally thought that upgrading from a G5RV to an Alpha-Delta would be the end of that. Not so. I quickly discovered after tuner the Alpha Delta to my desired resonant frequencies by shortening and lengthening its wires, that it had an annoying 80 KHz bandwidth limitation on 80 meters. The solution to this conundrum was to acquire and install a much more efficient external antenna tuner. When I decided to take on Amateur Radio, I had absolutely no desire to have my “home office” look anything like one of those hardware cluttered “Ham Shacks”; Multiple radios, each outfitted with external tuners, meters, filters, gadgets and linear amplifiers was certainly out of the question, but those are personal decisions. One radio, one antenna was my ultimate goal, therefor a much more efficient external antenna tuner was not an option.
My HF transceiver’s built-in antenna tuner being able to tune the Alpha Delta from 3.690 MHz to 3.770 MHz and being able to tune the the G5RV from 3.500 MHZ to 4.000 MHz, putting the G5RV back online was a viable solution! A few fellow Amateur operators asked me why I did not not put up a 80 meters dipole instead, since it was my band of interest? Short answer: RealEstate! You see, the G5RV’s 102 feet fits perfectly between the tip of my roof and the furthest tree in my back yard. The 138 feet dipole would not. I’m simply 36 feet short on RealEstate. Anyway, there are ways around this, but the simplest solution, I think, are the best ones; I had to use the G5RV to fill in the areas the AlphaDelta would lack.
My decision to only have one antenna in the back yard had to be renegotiated. The G5RV is stealthy and would not impede my decision to have an antenna clutter free yard. Its 18 gauge black wire is almost invisible when travelling near vegetation.
How do both antennas compare? The Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus is a good antenna on 40,20,10 meters, also gives results on 18 meters, but has offers average results on 160,80,15 event 17 meters. It’s un-tunnable on 12 meter and forget about 6 meter. At the opposite side, the G5RV gave me very good results on 80,40 meter, more than acceptable results on 15 meters. It even appears to be resonant on 12 meter, giving me near 1:1 SWR without using an antenna tuner. One noticeable difference between the G5RV and the AlphaDelta is noise. The G5RV picks-up at least +3 dB of static background noise, which doesn’t make it a popular choice in an urban environment. Lucky, I live in on the fridge of an urban residential neighbourhood and this helped reduce the amount of RF interference and static noise exposed to my antennas. Still, when the background noise is elevated, it’s much more apparent on the G5RV.
Visually, for those who care about stealthiness like I do, the G5RV is as close to being invisible as it can get. Its thin wire, no balun design makes it quite to spot at any distance. The Alpha Delta however is challenged when it comes to stealthiness, with its 6 wires and 4 load coils, it’s harder to miss. Fortunately, I managed to hide it on the fringe of the forest at the far end of my back yard, making it quite inconspicuous. Coax runs are buried under the ground making my “stealth” approach to this hobby a complete success. You could literally walk around my yard and not notice any wire antennas. How do both antennas really compare performance wise. It’s not a contest and I would certainly not declare one antenna much better over the other one all things compared. They both delivery in different circumstances, on different frequencies, with different propagation conditions, but its certainly nice to have both at my finger tips.
The first series of tests was comparing both antennas on 80 meters, which I use mainly for <1500 kilometres local contacts. Upfront, the G5RV is the clear winner, allowing me to tune the entire 75 and 80 meters band. At plus and minus 40 KHz of the resonant point of the Alpha Delta, both antennas perform in a similarly fashion. Outside that “tuned” bandwidth, the G5RV picks-up the ball where the Alpha Delta drops it. I installed the G5RV with operating 75 and 80 meters in mind and am using the G5RV exclusively on these bands. You don’t tune a G5RV by shortening or lengthening its wire, by design, it gives you approximately 3:1 SWR on the whole band. You use your transceiver’s built-in antenna tuner to bring it down to 1:1 SWR. Have a look at both antennas in action on 80 meters.
On 10 meters, the Alpha Delta shines and the results were a little more obvious. When the band is opened, it’s a sweet pleasure to operate the Alpha Delta antenna. Since the antenna is a “Fan Dipole”, it has a dedicated pair of elements tuned for 10 meters giving it a commanding advantage. A picture is worth a thousand words, so have a look at the results for yourself.
My next tests were on 12 & 17 meter. These are WARC bands. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WARC, its stands for (World Administrative World Conference). The WARC amateur bands are 30,17 and 12 meter. Band and frequency allocation may vary from country to country. These bands, specially 17 and 12 meter, are a delight to operate. I found the nicest Amateur Radio operators on these bands, they are not crowded and are often a great place to escape to when contesters are overwhelming other bands. This test show a convincing advantage given to the G5RV on both 12 meter and 17 meter, with the bonus of being resonant on 12 meter.
Finally, some test results on the most popular DX bands, 15 and 20 meters. Here, it’s a split decision. The Alpha Delta has a resonant element on 20 meters, making a clear choice to operate on. On 15 meters, the G5RV receives well, but SWR is seriously high making the worst candidate for transmission. On 15 meters, it’s a different story. The lower half of that band is tuneable with the G5RV while the upper half is tuneable with the Alpha Delta, giving me the opportunity to work the whole band. 20 meters is an interesting band. I made some of my most distant DX contacts on this band. Using either antennas, I made 15,000+ kilometres contacts, propagation conditions pending and depending if I was on the lower side or upper side of that particular band. Even an Australian club station told me they heard me long path on 15 meters, that’s a whopping 23,500 kilometres (14,600 miles) !
In conclusion, I don’t really have a clear choice between both antennas. If you do decide you want to operate on all Amateur Radio bands like I would, putting up both antennas is the only advise I can give you. Having two multi-band antennas is not a bad, things, you will always have a back-up antenna if one decides to come down in the middle of winter, and the last thing on my wish list is having to go fix an antenna in the middle on a Canadian winter.
If you have a favourite band to operate on and only operate on that particular band, I would recommend using a dipole. It’s all a question of needs and compromise. Being fairly new to this hobby, having used both antennas for some time now, I have no regrets having both type of antennas up and operational. They really compliment one another. Seriously.
Summary results; when compared.
Alpha Delta: Best on 160, 40, 20, 17 and 10 meter, will do okay on 80, 15 and 12 meter, horrible on 6 meter.
G5RV: Best on 80, 20 and 12 meter, will do okay on 40 and 15 meter, will tune portions of 6 meter, not very good on 10 meter and horrible on 160 meter. PS: You can always get the “long” G5RV version if you want to operate on 160m.
The word that best describe the single advice I can give someone about putting up either antennas is -height-. Try to put them as high as possible and clear of any metal structure and/or objects. Twenty-five feet is the usual minimum recommended height, I would recommend even higher, 40 to 50 feet if you can manage it. These antennas will work best horizontally, but still work fine as an inverted-v, just remember to have an acute angle of at least 90 degrees and their ends at least 6 feet off the ground.
My next antenna project(s) will probably be Radiowavz’s “Saturn 5-80″, a 5 bands cage dipole covering 80m, 40m, 20m,15m and 10m. I like multi-band dipoles. Since have limited room to deploy antennas, one that does it all is my best option. I would also like to test an 80 meter Double-Bazooka and see if its claim to fame if true. I’ll certainly write a report about it.
Update: This article was written 10 years ago and contained video samples of the test between both antennas. Unfortunately, the video labelling was lost and I cannot show these videos anymore. I removed the video clip link from this article. Although I still have the raw video clips, it doesn’t specify which antenna is being tested. My bad. Sorry, lessons learned!