Searching for a quality VHF/AIS combo antenna, Shakespeare 6500-WB found

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

12 Responses

  1. greg young greg young says:

    Interesting articles on antennas .. and yes VSWR is imprtant, but its only one of the spec thats important.
    Antenna gain and beamwidth /tilt across the desired frequency band of operation are also very important.
    There are typically design tradeoffs when desiging “gain” and wide band antennas – to maintain not only VSWR but also gain/beamwidth tilt across the band of interest.
    VSWR is very important no question – but doesnt speak to the antenna gain or pattern tilt.
    For a narrower bandwidth (eg AIS only freqs, rather than the “whole” VHF marine band) its “easier” to achieve higher gain AND flat VSWR across the desired band in a given size (length) antenna.
    So (as always) – its compromise and choice – depending on the circumstances…
    Having two separate antennas has some benefit of “redundancy” … albeit voice vs AIS, but in an emergency, you can always swing the AIS antenna across to the VHF (albeit with crappy VSWR)
    and I like the higher “gain” (& very low VSWR) that I get from a dedicated AIS antenna.

  2. Hi Ben – the double-female “ferrule” with the big hole you have is a Digital Antenna F114.
    WRT antenna gain – for you power guys, the extra gain with a longer antenna is often usable, but for us rag-baggers, not so good if we’re you know, actually sailing!

  3. Hi Again, Ben – one other thing for those looking to mount marine antennas on the cheap – 1″ X 14 thread matches 3/4″ pipe – so you can roll your own at the hardware store 🙂

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, talk about broadband VHF, I just learned of the Digital Antenna 922-M 8-foot 6dB antenna with a claimed VSWR “<1.5:1 at 146-166 MHz (20 MHz)" plus "<2:1 at 134-176 MHz (42 MHz)":

    http://www.digitalantenna.com/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=0017992-M

    • Hi Ben, I have one of these I bought and mounted in 2018, though they went unobtanium right afterwards and have only recently popped up available again. My measurements say it doesn’t really go down to 136 (more like 139/140 MHz) but it does top out in the 170s. If it really has 2 dB more gain than the Shakespeare, I can’t tell. It is slimmer and more tapered than the Shakespeare, though, so it is a bit more attractive. Its also lighter in weight and therefore easier to mount.
      FWIW, a friend in USCG Comms says they have lots of the HS-2774-1-R antennas in service and they like ’em a lot.

  5. Hah! Great minds think alike. I have a project underway to reduce the number of VHF antennas from 3x down to 1x on my boat specifically because of a long running conversation Doug and I have been having about AIS and VHF performance. With his data and experience, and testing I have been doing the last month, I have definitely proven that having a correctly tuned, single antenna with quality cable as short as possible from the antenna to the radio is the best solution for me.

    I am using the Morad 159Mhz tuned antenna https://www.morad.com/products/vhf-antenna-159-hd-ais which is a match for the Morad antennas I installed last year, just in case I do need to leave one around for some reason. This has had great ratings and reviews as well as an excellent antenna that handles both VHF and AIS well.

    For testing, I have been using both the Vesper Cortex with a VHF downstream of it, and two splitters, including the Vesper one I’ve had for a long time. I’ve been using VHF radios from ICOM, Standard Horizon and Furuno as the downstream radio, and as a second radio on another VHF antenna to gauge the quality and strength of the signal. There is a local automated radio check station that has been invaluable in helping me test the real results of the various configurations.

    The final setup I hope to settle on is the Vesper Cortex connected to the Morad 159Mhz antenna, and then downstream of that connected to the Cortex VHF/splitter port, the new-ish Standard Horizon GX2400 with remote station as the backup VHF. I will likely leave one more VHF antenna installed but not connected for a few months in case I want the VHF connected directly.

    The more data I gather, and the more folks I talk to about single antenna setups, the more I’m learning that it seems like the best of both AIS and VHF worlds which is great for simplifying installations. I’m glad that splitters and technology has improved enough to make this possible.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I look forward to your write-up, Steve. Right now I have the Standard Horizon GX6000 using the Cortex’s exterior splitter (and the original Vesper splitter, since the GX has two antenna ports). So this single 6500-WB antenna is supporting 2x VHF radios, 1 AIS transciever, and 1 AIS receiver. And all seem to be working fine.

      In fact, I compared the GX before switching from the comparable DA VHF antenna mounted at a very similar location, and saw no change in number of AIS targets received or VHF WX channels I can hear well (four, which is quite good where Gizmo lays). I also saw/heard the same results with the Cortex VHF.

      I don’t know the ultimate setup I’ll settle on, but think I’ll at least keep a second VHF antenna up ready to go if needed.

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