Twixt Review variety wholesalers
During my daily internet searches for hobby-relevant news, I came across a blog by a Japanese SWL where there was a report about the BCL-Loop11. According to the Japanese SWL, this loop amplifier- called BCL-Loop11- produced good reception results. Since this blog was in Japanese, the Google-translation resulted in a very strange-sounding text. It took a while before I was able to find out the manufacturer of the loop and his web page, which was also in Japanese. I sent the developer Susumu Hashimoto a mail asking him to send me a test unit of this amplifier. The answer from Japan did not take very long. Susumu was surprised at this request and sent me a test unit of the BCL-Loop 11. After a few days I received a Jiffy bag from Japan.
After a couple of e-mails and further investigation I found out that the Loop11 had a predecessor model, the Loop 9 and the Loop 10 which underwent several improvements. On the left you can see the amplifier board which Susumu Hashimoto sent me.
In order to test the Loop11 as quickly as possible, I had to find a water tight enclosure. I "abused" the case of the Bulgarian Loop amplifier AAA1C, which is still waiting for its completion.
After attaching it temporarily to the BabyLoop with its 75 cm diameter, I could run the first tests. The first thing I noticed was that the noise level of the Loop11 was rather high when compared to other amplifiers. In the upper left corner of the amplifier board is a potentiometer which controls the amplification. I turned it down a little and-bingo! - Reception was a lot better.
Now I could start. As always, I started with the lower frequencies. I tried to receive the German military station DH 038 on 23.4 kHz. Unfortunately, I did not succeed. Almost all stations below 500 kHz could not be received at all or very weakly at best. Further tests showed that the Loop11 was just not designed for the lower frequency ranges. Only medium wave stations could be heard well. Shortwave stations, on the other hand, could be received very well and were on par with the NTi ML200. Starting at about 18 MHz there was slight loss of sensitivity, which was not too tragic, however.
A fast series of tests with other loop amplifiers showed where the Loop11 has its shortcomings. These start at the lower frequencies of the long wave spectrum up to approx. 1000 kHz. The small Loop11 has potential, after all and on shortwave it was in the same league as the other well-known loop amplifiers. On shortwave, the SNR (signal / noise ratio) was identical.
Günter (DL4ZAO), a hobby friend and antenna expert, who was following the discussion in the dx-unlimited forum, made some suggestions to improve the Loop11, which I sent to Susumu Hashimoto. I reported the problems and the importance of the lower frequency ranges for us Europeans. Of course, I told him that the Loop11 worked very well on shortwave.
In order to push the envelope, I connected the loop 11 amplifier to my big loop with its 4 square meter area. The amplifier proved to be very patient; there were no big signal problems. . With this big reception area, stations on long wave and even below could be received. On and off, the time signal on 60 kHz was heard very well.
After some days, Susumu Hashimoto replied and thanked me for the valuable suggestions which he put into practice immediately. After some weeks, I received again mail from Japan with three amplifier boards: two Loop11 MK2 and a Loop12 beta. In the case of the Loop11 MK2 the input transformer had been changed. The Loop12 beta's circuits had been optimized and better components were used. The final version of the amplifier board of the Loop 12 is in production and will be available soon.
|BCL-Loop12 beta||BCL-Loop11 MK2|
How does the Loop 12 beta play?
This was the right start: When the station SAQ in Sweden sent Morse code on 17.2 kHz, the Loop12 beta was ready for testing. And lo and behold: the big loop received SAQ very well. The changes in the circuits and the new components showed good results.
Reception of VLF and low wave signals was convincing and on par with the NTi ML200. This antenna received weak signal slightly more quietly, but the level was the same. On medium wave the differences between the Loop12 beta and the ML200 were even smaller with the ML 200 being a little quieter. On short wave, reception was convincing and there was no reason for criticism. The 10 / 11m band was received equally well with both amplifiers.
The Loop12 made a very good impression. The circuits of the amplifier are not very sophisticated but do well and do not have to hide from the bigger ones. Strong signal performance is also very good. At no time did I notice any intermodulation or FM interferences.
The Loop12 can be purchased directly from the manufacturer including a bias tee and a waterproof enclosure.
Website from Manufacturer: http://blog.goo.ne.jp/shin749r
Mail address: [email protected]
NTi MegaLoop ML052
The story of the NTi ML052 starts at a DX Camp which took place near a FM radio station. The Dxers wanted to compare the ML200 with other H-field antennas. They soon found out that the ML200 did not work as expected; there were overloads and strong interferences from a FM station which was not even 200m away. Both the other H-field antennas, the HDLA and the Bulgarian AAA1C showed no such effects.
Unfortunately, it was not taken into account that the ML200 is a broadband antenna for frequencies up to 170MHz. The HDLA and the AAA1C on the other hand, are designed for frequencies up to 55 MHz and also have blocking filters. No wonder then, that the ML200 did not meet the expectations of the DXers.
Because of this experience, Mr. Rudolf Ille started to develop an alternative antenna which would also work in the neighborhood of FM stations. After some time, he sent me the ML052 for comparison with the ML200.
Function of the FM-blocking filter
The FM-blocking filter is not a conventional low-pass filter which simply attenuates all frequencies above a certain point. The FM-blocking filter used here is a notch filter. It is designed in such a way that it attenuates up to 32dB (high gain) at the beginning and the end of the FM spectrum.
Such a filter is not only made use of for the ML052 but also for the well-known HDLA loop amplifier.
|ML052 Low-GainLow Gain: 9kHz-52MHz with -7dB lowering the gain.||ML052 High-GainHigh Gain: 9kHz-36MHz|
Thanks to Bonito for the diagrams
How does it work?
During several weeks, I compared the ML052 with the broad-band ML200. I wanted to find out how both the loop amplifiers differed. In order to demonstrate this, I took some screenshots which show what the basic noise level and the important signal / noise ratio (SNR) of both amplifiers fastened to the same loop were like. The loop which I used had a circumference of approx. 8m and an area of almost 4 square meters. As we all know, the frequency bands are subject to fading and other interferences and so the screenshots are actually snapshots of a particular moment and are no indication of an over-all performance. If I wanted to make the comparison as exact as possible, I would have to change the loop amplifiers as quickly as possible.
Because the differences were so small, I did not take any screenshots of the upper frequencies.
23.4KHz DH038 ↓
198KHz BBC ↓
1278KHz France Bleu ↓
5800KHz unknown station ↓
9655KHz Romania ↓[file: /// D: / Fenu-CLOUD / OneDrive / Websites / Fenu-Radio - Website New / photogallery / photo00015761 / real.htm]
17490KHz China Radio ↓
The noise level of the ML052 is higher than the one of the ML200 by 2-3dB, but that is of no importance because amplification is higher by 2-3dB as well. As a result, the signal / noise ratio (SNR) is the same as for the ML200. These differences are not noticeable at all and could only be seen in the spectrum. Reception of the ML052 is on par with the ML200. The ML052 has a FM blocking filter and is the antenna of chopice if you live in densely populated urban areas or close to a strong FM station.
Many thanks to NTi (Mr. Rudolf Ille) for lending me the ML052.
posted: April 6, 2016
NTi MegaLoop ML200
After I had gained some good experiences with the electric field (E-field) active antenna NTi MegaActiv, I also ordered the magnetic (H-field) MegaLoop ML200. Mr. For testing purposes, Rudolf Ille sent me the latest version with improved large signal immunity. The ML200 is said to have an IP3 of + 40dBm and an IP2 of + 85dBm, which are remarkable values as such and set expectations even a notch higher.
The ML200 has the same enclosure as the MegActiv, i.e., it's rather compact and watertight. The supplied antenna loop is made of copper, has a circumference of 5 m and is insulated. Supplied is also a flexible power inserter CPI1000DP, which can be powered by USB with 5V or via a barrel jack (5-15V max.). For this test, I powered the ML200 with the barrel jack and 13.8V. Additionally, you will be supplied with a 10 m antenna loop made of stainless steel.
The ML200 is made for portable operation. It is not a fixed and rigid construction such as the Wellbrook ALA1530, but the loop is put temporarily over a bush or on a tree. If you want to use this antenna for stationary operation, you would have to think of some kind of permanent mounting. You could fasten it to a wall or a wooden construction. The antenna should be erected free and unobstructed so it can achieve its potential. Walls and wet wooden mounting constructions would impede reception, though.
In order to have an optimal surrounding for the ML200, I built a stable suspension made of bamboo and stainless steel. This is a very trendy combination and makes for a nice look as well. I constructed this suspension in such a way that it can be easily dissembled and transported and so this antenna can be used as a portable and at DX-Camps.
The ML200 is made for the 9kHz - 170MHz range which is a rather wide range for a magnetic loop. The antenna's electronics offer selectable amplification (+ 0dB / -9dB) to adjust it to different levels. This is done by jumpers. To access these, you have to open the enclosure. Next to the green jumper, there is also a gas discharger which protects the antenna from overloads. Additionally, you will find a ground connector (brown cable) which can be attached to the ground on the enclosure. All outside screws are made of stainless steel. ↓
Testing the ML200 with a 5m loop
Thanks to my T-construction, erecting the antenna was quickly done. I compared the ML200 to a cross loop / RLA4C antenna, which was fastened on the same mast with a 2m distance. The RLA4C renders high levels with an excellent SNR. I operated the ML200 with the 5m copper loop. It is recommended to experiment with the selectable amplification of the ML200. I could operate the ML200 with the high gain jumper position. The + 0dB (High Gain) produced no noticeable noise.
In a direct comparison with the cross loop, which of course was always pointed into the same receive direction, the ML200 showed strong reception signal in the VLF range. Below 100 kHz, the cross loop was definitely at a disadvantage. From 100 kHz to approx. 15 MHz, it was the other way around and the ML200 was not as good as the cross loop. Similar to the cross loop, the ML200 has an excellent SNR, but rendered less signal level, the difference being approx. 6dB. These few dBs can be decisive, however, when doing 'hardcore' Dxing.
Operation with the 10m stainless steel loop
Spoilt by the cross loop and the BigLoop, which I owned in the past, I exclusively use highly effective antennas these days, and so I was anxious to test the ML200 with the 10m stainless steel loop. This loop produces considerably higher levels out of the Ml200.
Starting again at the VLF range, I compared the same frequencies one more time. The ML200 with its 10m loop produced almost frighteningly strong signals. The ML200 puts the already effective Mini-Whip types at a considerable disadvantage. I also experimented with the "gain jumper". In the high-gain position, there was no increased noise and the SNR remained very good, too.
On long and medium wave, both the antennas had a neck and neck race. There were no relevant differences to be noticed. Both antennas worked on the highest level. Up to approx. 15 MHz, there is no difference between the cross loop / RLA4C and the ML200. The ML200 produced a slightly stronger signal. Starting at 15MHz, the ML200 keeps its level and remains very efficient up to the 10m-band, whereas the cross loop / RLA4C loses some of its efficiency. In the 11m and 10m bands, the ML200 is excellent. The important SNR was also convincing on the higher bands.
|MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loop CrossLoop / RLA4C|
On the long and medium wave both antennas in a neck and neck race. Relevant differences were no noted. Both antennas play here at the highest level! ↓
|MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loop||CrossLoop / RLA4C|
Up to approx. 15 MHz, there is no difference between the cross loop / RLA4C and the ML200. The ML200 produced a slightly stronger signal. ↓
|MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loop||CrossLoop / RLA4C|
Starting at 15MHz, the ML200 keeps its level and remains very efficient up to the 10m-band, whereas the cross loop / RLA4C loses some of its efficiency. In the 11m and 10m bands, the ML200 is excellent. The important SNR was also convincing on the higher bands.
| MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loopYou can see here the SNR of the ML200 between background noise (2) and signal peak (1). SNR = 41.9dB. The bigger the difference between background noise and peak signal the better the SNR.↓ CrossLoop / RLA4CNotice the SNR of the cross loop between background noise (2) and peak signal (1). SNR = 37.5dB.↓ |
Look at the values in the upper right corner (MK2-1) = SNR. (Video)
Also in the 6m band, the differences are clearly noticeable.↓
|MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loop||CrossLoop / RLA4C|
The electronics of the RLA4C are only designed for up to 55 MHz, but it receives the FM band reasonably well, too.↓
|MegaLoop ML200 with 10m stainless steel loop||CrossLoop / RLA4C|
Over the years, I have had a couple of good antennas which almost left nothing to be desired, especially the Reuter Loop electronics RLA1B to RLA4C. Together with my home-brew loops, they produced excellent results. But the NTi MegaLoop ML200 is in a league of its own! Across the complete frequency spectrum, this antenna produced at least the same results as the cross loop / RLA4C. I was especially surprised by the receive qualities in the VLF range. No other antenna produced such strong signals with an excellent SNR as the ML200. It also convinced me as far as the upper frequencies are concerned.
After a test period of almost two months, I have found a new winner: The NTi MegaLoopML200!
Many thanks to Mr. Rudolf Ille for putting the ML200 at my disposal.
The ML200 are available in the Hamradio shop.
A tip for erecting the antenna by Hans Joerg, DE2HJW
Inspired by your construction for the MegaLoop, I gave it a try.
But with installation pipes for cable wiring and clips for stabilization. The loop has a circumference of 10m. Construction on a 12m "van der Ley mast". The booms are fastened to the mast with cable tie, which seems to be stable enough for a light weight.
posted June 20, 2015
Although more and more radio stations are switched off for good, there seems to be a revival of the market for long, medium and shortwave antennas. Especially small active antennas, the so-called mini-whips and their further developments, are in the center of attention. That is not surprising because these tiny E-field antennas, hardly longer than 30 cm, render an almost unbelievable reception quality. Additionally, there is the attractive value for money.
The whips made by the NTi & Bonito Company belong to this type of antennas. Bonito and NTi work closely together and are constantly working on making these small and inconspicuous antennas even better. Mr.Rudolf Ille, the owner of the NTi Company in Southern Germany close to the Swiss border, is responsible for the development and production of the whips. Mr. Dennis Walter, the owner of Bonito, conducts the tests of the products and helps Rudolf with his ideas and proposals. But also ideas and criticisms from customers are welcome, and whenever possible they are implemented. Dennis Walter visits DX camps regularly to compare the antennas with other products. The results are then analyzed and made use of for further improvements. That is really customer-friendly !! When the antennas are ready for the market, Bonito is responsible for distribution.It is often advantageous, if antennas are tested by people not involved in the production and distribution of the products. Only then you can find out how the antennas work when they are operated in a different place and with different receivers. Additionally, there should be comparisons with other types of antennas because you would like to know in which category of antennas a specific type of antenna belongs. To find this out, I was sent a MegActiv before the market launch.
The MegActiv 305 comes with a 18 cm long receiving element made of rubber and a power inserter You can also order a mast clamp made of stainless steel, an antenna cable and additional accessories.
The watertight enclosure is made of plastic and seems to be stable enough. Because of its antenna adapter, also made of stainless steel, and which has a M6 thread, the antenna is flexible and is ready for experiments. You can also experiment with different lengths of the receiving element.
Special attention must be paid to the power inserter. Besides the normal DC power connector, it also has a USB port for power supply and so you can power the antenna with either a PC / Notebook or a 5V power bank. This makes for two options regarding the power supply of the antenna. The voltage of the MA305 is between 5-15V max. My recommendation: It is best to use a 13.8V stabilized power supply. Switching power supplies are often of inferior quality and cause interference.Because of its low power consumption of max. 40mA, you can operate the MA305 with a 5600mAh for days on end and it makes this antenna very flexible to use. Especially for portable operation or in case of faulty electrical lines at home, this solution really pays off. A real novelty!
Installation of the antenna is really easy. Screw the mast clamp on and start operation. I fastened the antenna to a 7m-meter aluminum mast. For comparison, I used a Dressler ARA30 which was modified for the lower frequencies and starts reception at 20kHz.
For receivers I used the Perseus SDR and the Colibri SDR.
Starting with the VLF frequencies and up to approx. 1000kHz, the MA 305 was the clear winner. The ARA 30 produced vey high levels, but the SNR (signal-noise ratio) was not as good as it should have been. Compared to the MA305, the basic noise level was always higher by 10-12 dB. Here, the MA305 showed its strength: best SNR with an equal noise level. In the lower frequency ranges, weak stations could be heard better and more pleasant with the MA305.
On medium, wave, the difference between the two antennas became smaller, but the ARA 30 was not the winner here. Compared to the MA305, the noise level was higher by approx. 10dB but it still could not surpass the good SNR of the MA305. Additionally, there were mixer products coming from long wave frequencies. Because of its good SNR, the MA 305 is the winner again on medium wave.
And so it continued on shortwave. On the lower shortwave frequencies up to approx. 4 MHz, the MA305 was better again. The ARA30 had a higher basic noise level, which made intelligibility worse. Starting at approx. 4 MHz the picture changed somewhat. Both antennas showed the same receiving qualities. Up to approx. 15 MHz both antennas worked equally well and the longer receiving element of the ARA 30 showed its properties. Some stations could be heard a little better. There still was an increased background noise and the MA 305 lost some of its reception. With the higher frequencies up to the 10m band, the ARA 30 proved to be better and better. I made use of the flexibility of the MA 305 and tried to improve reception by adding a home-made 1m long antenna element made of a 6mm stainless steel pipe. On the higher frequencies, a higher signal level was noticeable by approx. 10dBm and the MA 305 came close to the ARA 30.
Here you can see the signal / noise level of the NTi MegActiv between basic noise level (1) and signal peak (2). SNR = 40.8dB
The bigger the difference between basic noise level and signal peak the better the SNR.
Here you can see the signal / noise level of the ARA 30 between basic noise level (1) and signal peak (2) SNR = 31.5 dB.
It is a well-known fact that the height of a mini antenna is of great importance. In order to test the MA 305 with a different height, I shortened the mast to three meters and ran tests throughout the whole frequency ranges and I came across the following results: On the lower frequencies, there was hardly any change. With increasing frequencies, the levels were higher by 10dBm. Possibly, there were resonance frequencies caused by the cable and which attenuated reception. I used the longer receiving element once again and compared both antennas at a height of approx. 3m above ground and now the MA 305 was on par with the ARA 30. On the higher frequencies, both antennas worked equally well, although the MA 305 had a slightly weaker level but because of its better SNR, the MA 305 could compete with the ARA 30.
The MA 305 works on frequencies up to 300 Mhz. With the ICOM IC-R9500 and the Colibri-SDR, I could run tests on the higher frequencies. For these tests, I used the Dressler ARA500 which is made for these ranges. In the 6m-band on 50.058 MHz the amateur radio beacon from Säntis (CH) could be heard with both antennas equally well and with identical signal strength. ↓
The MA 305 is also suitable for the FM band and is on par with the ARA 500. Only in case of weaker stations, the ARA 500 is better because it is tailored for these frequencies.↓
The last signal which could be received satisfactorily was the aeronautical beacon Zurich-East. Both antennas were almost identical. Because of lack of signals, I couldn't run any tests on the 2m amateur radio band.↓
The NTi MegActiv is a small receiving antenna with excellent reception results. Erecting the antenna proved to be without any problems similar to the Boni-Whip. Despite its small size, the antenna receives signals from VLF to the FM bands very well. When installed correctly, it offers an unbeatable SNR! What is really important when using this type of antenna is the height. The MA 305 works best when it is between 2 and four meters above ground. If it is erected too high, there may be resonance frequencies caused by the cable. Another asset is the flexibility of the antenna. You can use longer receiving elements to improve reception. An alternative to the rubber receiving element is a 1m-long rod which increased the level at the same SNR.
My thanks go to Dennis Walter for lending the MegActiv.The MegActiv can be ordered at the Hamradio shop.
posted May 25, 2015
Fenu-CrossLoop / RLA4B
Inspired by the new cross loop RLA3B by the Reuter Electronic company, whose receive direction can be changed electronically in 45 ° steps, I started to build a cross loop double the size of the RLA3B.
My cross loop with a diameter of 120 cm is of a quality which meets the highest expectations. Both loops are 40x4mm and aluminum profiles. In order to achieve a round loop, the profiles had to be rolled. The rod in the middle, which serves a supporting rod and as a grounding device, is made of 18x1mm stainless steel to give the antenna more stability. Aluminum would have been too weak for the rod. The antenna base plate is a dye-cast aluminum housing made by Rittal and is 160x160x90mm and watertight. This case houses the RLA3B electronics. No wonder then that the antenna weighs 6.3Kg.
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