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I am happy with my BaoFeng UV-5R Pro but the local UHV VHF repeater and simplex reception is terrible, even for contacts less than 50 kilometers. I assume that it's because the rubber-ducky antenna on it is terrible. What can I replace it with that is readily available commercially, costs less than $100 US, will give me a better handheld reception experience, and still maintain excellent portability (for my case, let's say that means less than 2.5 pounds antenna weight, less than 3 feet tall)?

I don't know much about dBi gain, but I have seen antennas claiming to be "144Mhz 2.15dBi 430Mhz 3.0dBi", I'm still learning so I don't know how to interpret that information.

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closed as off-topic by Kevin Reid AG6YO Jan 11 at 17:03

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If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ You can replace it with a better antenna. There are so many to choose from, though, that if you don't provide any requirements to narrow it down then this question is too broad. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Feb 17 '14 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ Smaller than 3 feet tall, handheld, less than 2.5 pounds, is that enough specifics? $\endgroup$ – Warren VE3WPX Feb 17 '14 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ @WarrenP if you want to know about dBi, you'd probably get a more direct answer asking it as a separate question. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 17 '14 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ I think so too, except that this was more by way of expressing how completely sub-Amateur my knowledge level is. (Still studying for my certificate in Canada) $\endgroup$ – Warren VE3WPX Feb 17 '14 at 16:24

10 Answers 10

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Every time I purchase a cheap HT such as the Baofeng you mention I also spend another $10 or so on an antenna, as the stock antenna is noticeably worse than even an inexpensive antenna like the Nagoya NA-771.

There are still better antennas than this, but there are always tradeoffs. The stock antenna is one third to half the length of the NA-771, which is useful in certain situations. There are vastly better, but more expensive, antennas that mount on and off the radio.

What you need will depend largely on what you're going to use the radio for. Given that you've chosen an inexpensive, low power (even for handheld) radio, though, I suspect you're really looking to improve things as much as possible while still retaining the portability and use as a handheld, without a lot of cost.

So the above antenna is my current recommendation in this situation.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 on the Nagoya, I got one for my Baofeng farm (which I rotate through as batteries deplete). Although the performance is markedly better with the Nagoya, its length makes it unwieldy and almost impossible to use in a car. But I always keep it handy when mobile, just in case that extra drop of dB is needed to stay in contact. $\endgroup$ – Ron J. KD2EQS Feb 25 '14 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ I have the 701 and wish I would have bought the 771 - though you are right, using it in the car would be tough, at least with the top up :) $\endgroup$ – KevinDTimm Feb 27 '14 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't reccomend the nagoya, I got the genuine version, and just a little bumping around has made the top cap come loose, and scratches appear very easily. Get a diamond. $\endgroup$ – Skyler 440 Jun 7 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ As a little side question: will the longer NA-771 antenna still perform good on the extended frequencies that recent Baofengs can reach? The older Baofengs could go up to 480 Mhz, while the newer ones go up to 520 Mhz so I was wondering if the original, shorter Baofeng antenna could outperform the a NA-771 at those shorter wavelengths? $\endgroup$ – jj_ Oct 21 '16 at 10:30
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Requirements:

  • Less than $100
  • Commercially available
  • Better reception than stock antenna
  • Excellent portability

Recommendations:

  • Nagoya NA-771
  • Nagoya NA-701
  • Tram 1185 (Vehicle)

Nagoya NA-771

Nagoya NA-771

Cost: $11 on Amazon.com as of March 2014
Length: 396mm
Weight: 37g

Nagoya NA-701

Nagoya NA-701

Cost: $10 on Amazon.com as of March 2014
Length: 211mm
Weight: 40g

Tram 1185

Tram 1185

Cost: $16 (+7 for adapter) on Amazon.com as of March 2014
Length: 19 inches with magnet mount
Will require SMA female to UHF female RF adapter which is 
$7 on Amazon.com as of March 2014

Tram 1185

Any one of these would serve you well and all meet your requirements. You could even purchase all 3 and still be under the $100 budget!!!

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks this is a good answer but I went with the first one in time. Thanks for the details. $\endgroup$ – Warren VE3WPX Mar 31 '14 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ @WarrenP You are welcome. I liked the other answer as well but I would have wanted more detail if I was searching the same question. $\endgroup$ – Mike Grace Mar 31 '14 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ I have been disappointed with these whip antennas. I thought he rubber duck worked just as well and is easier to carry. $\endgroup$ – SDsolar Apr 17 '17 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @SDsolar The rubber duck antennas are easier to carry. I've noticed the biggest difference when I'm at the edge of reception or my radio's capabilities. $\endgroup$ – Mike Grace Apr 19 '17 at 21:23
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The antenna included with the BaoFeng is notably bad, even for a rubber duck. To answer your question of what would be better: anything would be better. You'd have to switch to a dummy load to do worse.

Whatever antenna you do select, it need not be anything specific to your radio. Any antenna suitable for whatever bands you wish to operate will be fine. The only gotcha with BaoFeng radios is they have a male SMA connector on the radio where every other radio made has a female connector. They are popular enough now you can find antennas with this connector, or you can find adapters.

Quality aside, rubber duck antennas trade size for efficiency. It generally true that the smaller an antenna is made, the less efficient it is. A full-size whip will be a quarter wavelength, so approximately half a meter long for the 2 meter band. There are designs with degrees of shortening anywhere between that and a rubber duck, so get the longest one that isn't "too big" for your preferences to maximize efficiency.

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I also have a couple of Baofeng HTs and little budget to work with, and I have 2 go-to antennas and a couple others I use on occasion.

The one I would recommend is a Comet SMA(in my case, BNC with an adaptor)-24. Performance on 2 meters is similar to a plain 1/4 wave vertical I made out of a bit of wire and a BNC connector, but the Comet's much less awkward than my homebrew and seems more durable. Its performance on 440 is nothing to write home about, but is still significantly better than the factory duck or the 2m 1/4 wave.

I have no personal experience with the Nagoya antennas mentioned here by others, but from what I've read there are quite a few knockoffs floating around Amazon and eBay, so buyer beware. If it costs less than $20-30, it's almost certainly a knockoff. That being said, I have a knockoff Harvest RH-770, which has a similar Nagoya equivalent (NL-770), and it performs even better on 2m than the Comet or the homebrew 1/4 wave, but it's only so-so on 440 and it's awkward and delicate so I'd avoid it as an only antenna because when it inevitably breaks, you're in trouble.

Though it's not directly applicable to your requirements because it's not handheld, I'll mention my other go-to antenna, an N9TAX dual-band roll-up slim jim with 16' of coax. This one I hang in a tree or from whatever I can find, as it's happiest with at least 6 feet of free space around it. The higher the better, as it has a low take-off angle, and the results with it 20' in a tree are nothing short of astounding compared to any handheld antenna, both on 2m and on 440. It rolls up small enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Each of these can be had for about \$30 and are available with an SMA connector to directly fit your Baofeng radio, but if you want to use more than one I'd advise getting the BNC versions and spend another \$5 for an SMA/BNC adapter so they can be swapped quickly and easily without too much wear and tear to the radio's SMA connector. All 3 of them and an adaptor is still under your \$100 budget, and gives you options for most portable (Comet), most gain (N9TAX), and compromise (RH-770) situations.

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Most HT antennas can be purchased for far less than \$100. You can buy a 1/2 wave VHF Nagoya antenna from most online sources for approximately \$10. Better brands will cost a little more.

The dBi value is the forward gain of the antenna when compared to a theoretical isotropic antenna (hence the i in dBi) that radiates all its power evenly in all directions. To be of any use in your case, you'd also need to know the dBi gain of the rubber duck antenna, but, as was stated in another answer, rubber duck antennas have traded off performance for size so any whip antenna is almost guaranteed to perform better.

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For base operations, I am rather partial to the Super Discone for transceiving. I paid $69.95 for it brand new.

enter image description here

It is very wideband.

Note that it has a SO-239 connector, so you will want good coax with PL-259 connectors.

Then you need a pigtail adapter to connect it to the radio.

enter image description here

It is obviously not as effective as a tuned yagi for point-to-point, but if you are looking for an omnidirectional, flexible base station antenna, this is the one that I chose. And I'm glad I did.

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Yes you can try Nagoya with good results. I was thinking you can also try a slim jim antenna found on ebay. This antenna has high marks with unbelievible performance.

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I use a sainsonic 36cm VHF/UHF antenna. It's light (unlike the Nagoya 40cm I had before) and has perfect reception for my needs. I can hear stations up to 80-100km away if I'm high enough (altitude, not R&R). People shouldn't knock the rubber ducky, it's perfect for critical CAMPING comms. A backup antenna, essentially.

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The Quansheng TG-UV2 antenna had about 1-1.5 dB gain on VHF with no difference on UHF under controlled conditions. Of course use maximum output and keep the antenna vertical. SUrecom and Nagoya antenna were marginal and with mixed results none were better than < 1.0db gain.

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  • $\begingroup$ One could imagine any number of specific products that might work better than a rubber duck antenna. What's so great about these? Do you work for Quansheng? $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 17 '14 at 3:55
  • $\begingroup$ TG-UV2 is a transceiver, not an antenna. And using maximum output won't help me receive better. Did you read the question? I'm wondering what kinds of readily available aftermarket antennas work better than factory rubber duckies, not what other HT to buy instead? $\endgroup$ – Warren VE3WPX Feb 17 '14 at 12:17
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I have had no luck with alternative screw-on antennas, even the 771 seems to have less range than the included rubber duck. Magnetic mounts seem to be better but they are for cars or to use the HT as a table radio, not to carry around as HT.

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