Wonder Wand WideBander
Yesterday evening after leaving the office, I decided to pick up my Yaesu FT-857D, some 12v lead acid batteries, and go down the beach to try out my new Wonder Wand Wide-Bander antenna and the tunable counterpoise (also made by Wonder Wand Antennas) and see how it performs. The Wonder Whip Wide-Bander, is a variation of the Wonder Wand MK IV but with a different matching network to give you 160m thru 70cm, instead of the WWMK4′s 40m thru 70cm range. The trade-off is, that instead of the 40w capacity of the MKIV, the Wide-Bander is limited to 10w PEP. However, I decided I would like to play with 80m and top band, so I plumped for the Wide-Bander. For those who have heard of the Miracle Whip antennas made in the USA, the Wonder Wand is a UK made counterpart.
Setup was a snip! Just screw the antenna directly to the radio via the PL-259 plug on the Wonder Wand, then attach and extend the BNC antenna. The Antenna is a 1.8m telescopic whip, and it pivots and rotates at the bottom. To begin with, the wind did pull the antenna down, but once I had rotated the whip so the tilt was perpendicular to the wind, it stayed up just fine. At some point I will probably make a plastic sheath to “lock” the pivot in place, as I always should want the antenna to point up. Wonder Antennas also supply a connector to take a wire antenna, which would be interesting to try someday.
The latest release of the Wide-Bander does not come with a connector for a counterpoise like an early one reviewed by G4ILO; perhaps the designer decided if a person wants to use a counterpoise, thet could just attach to the rig chassis. I decided to buy the tunable counterpoise also produced by Wonder Wand. As the FT-857D does not have a grounding point, I just screwed an N Type connector into the other antenna socket and connected the counterpoise to that via the supplied croc clip (saves the rig’s socket being chewed up by the clip). I have to say, the tunable counterpoise does work. When I got it to the best position for the band I was on, a signal would drop a solid 2 s-points when I removed it. Heavens knows how much better it improves TX efficiency – considerably I would think.
On the instructions, it says to tune the Antenna for maximum noise, but as I am only using the FT-857 at 10w max (it’s a 100w transceiver), and it has a roll back SWR protect circuit, I just popped the radio onto FM, adjusted the band switch into a position where the SWR was at its lowest then used the tuning control to bring it down as low as possible. I normally could get it down to 1:1 but where there was a little reflected power showing on the meter, I adjusted the tunable counterpoise and never failed to get it down to a 1:1 match, even on 160m!
I was in an electronically quiet area, but there was a car park a few metres away and I didn’t hear any obvious noise from the car’s electrical systems as they came and went. I started on 20m, which is where I made all my contacts, although I did hear stations on 17m, 40m and 80m. Early on, my impressions were lukewarm, but the band wasn’t open – then it did!
Soon I was hearing stations in the USA and all over Europe. I didn’t work any long distance, as I was either in the midst of a pile-up or listening to a rag-chew, but I would have hoped if I had been more proactive, I could have worked further. I never put out a single CQ call, instead went looking for contacts. I worked IZ7EBY, EE5KB, U3AR, UA3PQ & YT2DDK all on 20m. I could have worked more, but was listening a lot and also talking to passers by on what I was doing – some people were genuinely interested.
I was only operating for about 2 hours, but I already think this antenna is amazing. I will certainly be taking it portable again in the future, when I just want to travel light and setup at light speed. There wasn’t any openings on 10m, but perhaps on my next outing, I can put it through its paces on more bands. If you are into portable and/or QRP operation and you want to travel really light, this antenna is for you!
I have posted some photo’s on the photo gallery on this blog and also posted some YouTube videos (I know I can embed, but I want to keep the blog content accessible to all):