Wednesday 23 July 2014

Wellbrook Loop Plans

My present 9.5' active loop

During last winter's DX season I built and played with a number of different preamps for use with my (almost) 10' diameter shielded loop. I had been hoping to get the Burhans Preamp to play-nice above 500KHz so that I might use it for DXing the broadcast band with my new Perseus SDR radio. By bypassing the preamp's LPF, the level of BCB signal delivered by the 10' loop was just too much for the preamp's JFET front end to handle with the consequence being various strong intermod products showing up at several places inside the band. Several different toroidal input transformers produced varied results but none were satisfactory. Although I didn't try it, a smaller aperture loop might do just fine with the LPF removed and even better if there were no blowtorch BCB signals in the vicinity. My particular location, on the east coast of Mayne Island, looks directly across Georgia Strait to several 50KW BCB transmitter sites near the points of nearest landfall. Luckily, this direction is usually in the loop's null when pointing in my favorite target direction of SE/NW for the central U.S. Even so, it would be nice to not have to worry about loop orientation in order to guarantee intermod-free performance.

I did have much better success on the BCB using a version of the PA0RDT active antenna preamp, modified with transformer input to match the shielded loop's low impedance to the JFET amplifier input.

Courtesy: Aldo Moroni

Gain of the system was adjusted by swamping the transformer's output with various levels of 'R' until there were no signs of intermod products with the loop pointing away from the Vancouver blowtorch signals. The end result was a preamp that had good performance throughout the BCB, even with the big loop, as this recording of French language station, CJBC (860KHz) in Toronto(identifying as 'Radio Canada') demonstrates.

....but unless the loop was oriented in my favored SE/NW direction for most North American targets of interest, there were still a few frequencies that produced some very low-level intermod products. Again, had the loop been just slightly smaller, I think this preamp would do a great job as a wideband loop amplifier for the BCB and above. Although still usable down at 540KHz, performance dropped off rapidly as I went lower in frequency and was not considered usable for the LF NDB band. Perhaps more inductance in the input transformer as well as higher value coupling capacitors would improve LF performance. There is still room for further development of this circuit for LF use with a medium-sized shielded loop.

I recently ordered and received a Wellbrook ALA-100LN loop preamp, which I am anxious to install for the upcoming DX season. With its front-end of 8 JFETS in push-pull parallel, the Wellbrook boasts extremely good strong-signal handling capability within the BCB and below.

Please visit:

My present plans call for a new and lighter loop frame, this time using PVC tubing in some sort of H-frame. I will aim to make the loop as large as possible while keeping within the Wellbrook's circumference limit of about 21m. Mid-summer doodling has produced one possible front-runner but no final decisions have been made.

10' x 20' LF / BCB Loop

I always savour the design and 'what-if' phase of any new project and the new loop is no exception. Any other ideas for possible frame configurations would be most appreciated.


Douglass Allen said...

How has the Wellbrook amplifier worked for you?

Doug K4LY and WH2XZO

Steve McDonald said...

Doug - I have been more than pleased with the preamp's performance. It seems to be pretty bullet-proof regarding overloading or intermod products from loud stations. My nearby NDB at about .5mi away is 59+++++ and there is not a hint of intermod from it.


Joao said...

Cam you please comment on HF performance for the ala100+wire loop?

Thank you

Steve McDonald said...

Joao - I use the loop mainly on the BCB and on MF but I have listened with it on HF on occasion. I also have some vertical wire antennas on HF that are very good and when comparing the loop to the wires, the wires are often a bit better. If you don't have room for any high outside wire antennas I think you would be happy with the loop on HF.

Joao said...

Hi Steve,

Thank you for the quick reply.
Indeed I have space for erect a big antenna. I'm just looking for improving my HF aero listening activity, mainly from 3 to 18MHz. Before I spend that amount of money on the ALA100LN I'd like to have sure that there are no other cheaper options that can also achieve the same sort of performance on HF.

Steve McDonald said...

Joao - to be honest, I can't think of too many situations where the Wellbrook loop would outperform a full sized wire antenna mounted at medium height. A simple PA0RDT active e-probe antenna will work very well on HF as well, if you want something compact. The only benefit to the loop is compact size and the ability to null or peak a signal / noise direction. As well, a properly located loop, may be somewhat quieter when it comes to noise. If you are determined to use a loop for HF, their dedicated HF model (one of the 1530 models) should be better as the AL100N is more suited to MF and LF.

Joao said...

Hi Steve,

I have built some HF loop antennas with a variable capacitor for tuning and had great results with much less noise than wire antennas. Certainly the gain for wire antennas are higher but the noise increase as well so for the S/N ratio I really think that still the loop shines in my location (which is rural btw). The problem for me is that I often connect to my Airspy HF+ remotely and it is not possible to tune the loop that way.
The ALA1530 is good as you know, the problem is that for me is difficult to justify such an expensive cost without having sure that I'll get really significant improvement (no users here with a ALA1530 to test unfortunately).

Steve McDonald said...

Joao - I understand. You might then consider a homebrew loop for HF with preamp. I have seen some interesting plans on the web....or perhaps a broadband wire loop in the trees. There are cheaper alternatives to lo-noise HF reception should you want to build something.