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I'm hoping to set up a ham radio in my small apartment, to operate on the 2 meter band. I just picked up my general license and I don't know where to start or what equipment go get.

Here is a picture of my balcony. I'm hoping someone can give me some ideas for an antenna that might fit nicely here. I'm currently looking at the MFJ-1622 & the MP-1. Can anyone offer some advice, or another alternative? Bonus question, if you have advice regarding other equipment I may need.

I live in the northern part of Austin Texas, and off to the left in this picture is the direction towards downtown. Which is convenient that my balcony is facing this way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Plop a mag-mount mobile on a cookie sheet, set something up with diagonal radials, build a vertical dipole, or buy a "discone" $\endgroup$ – Chris Stratton Oct 19 '15 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ Whatever you do, place the antenna first but don't connect it to the radio for about a week. This gives the neighbors who notice the new antenna, time to find any pre-existing interference problems (TV, phone, etc.) before you start actually transmitting anything -- otherwise they may blame you as it will appear to be "your fault". This is more critical as you approach big sports events (super bowl, olympics, etc.) $\endgroup$ – MarkU Oct 19 '15 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Could you add a second photo from farther back and getting a better view of the balcony itself? In particular, showing both the railing and the roof. And perhaps some measurements of the width & height of the opening? $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO Oct 19 '15 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ Wow that didn't even cross my mind great idea, its going to be hard to keep from playing with it though. $\endgroup$ – mosfet386 Oct 19 '15 at 3:30
  • $\begingroup$ Not much more helpful, but here is another image. I can't step back any further as I'm up against the wall. $\endgroup$ – mosfet386 Oct 19 '15 at 3:33
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Those balcony railings look like stucco, which has a metal mesh inside, so you will probably need to treat them as RF obstacles and place the antenna well clear of them or use an antenna that can work directly above a semi conductive surface, like a quarter wave ground-plane (with radials). You're in a similar position to David KF4MDV who asked a question about a similar balcony.

You say you want to operate on 2 meters, but both of the antennas you mentioned are designed to also operate on HF. This means that they will be more expensive, heavier, and might be less weatherproof (I'm not familiar with the specific designs) than a dedicated 2 m antenna. On the other hand, if you want to get into HF and want to have less total equipment and be able to experiment with adjustments, they could be good choices.

I also live in an apartment with a balcony, but my balcony is wood, which makes it much less problematic. I would personally suggest obtaining a 2 meter (or 2 m/70 cm) ground-plane type antenna, with horizontal radials, and mounting it just above the edge of your railing, in the middle horizontally. This should minimize the effect any metal in your building has on the antenna.

The above advice is if you want to optimize your 2-meter antenna. If you're in easy reach of everyone you want to talk to on 2 m then you might find that the HF/VHF verticals you mentioned are good enough and will give you additional options.

Don't forget to think about how you will actually mount the antenna. Even if the antenna you buy comes with a clamp, it will likely be too small to fit on those railings, and could damage them if it did fit. You will probably want to get some kind of stand to sit behind the railing to mount the antenna on, and it will need to be guyed or weighed down for stability. How exactly to do this depends on what materials you can find locally and care to work with (wood, PVC pipe, metal pipe, angle iron, etc.).

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