Thursday, 17 November 2016

More On The PAØRDT E-Probe


Another recent reflector question about noise mitigation for active e-probe antennas brought further incite from Roelof Bakker, PAØRDT.

I found particular interest in his method of determining if the noise is being picked up by the antenna or being introduced by the feedline. As well, Roelof suggests one of the most important aspects of homebrewing ... keeping detailed notes of all tests or changes. He also suggests maintaining a healthy outlook regarding noise and rather than getting discouraged, take on the challenge of overcoming it!

Hello all,

I have been dealing with this subject for more then 10 years now and
I am pleased to pass on what I did learn so far.

The first item to look at is noise pick up on the feed line. This
can be a coax cable or a CAT5/6/7 network cable. Looking for noise
pick up on the feed line should be done without the active antenna
connected. Otherwise everything should be the same as when using the

Ideally the antenna should be replaced by a 50 ohm termination that
can handle the power that is supplied by the DC-power supply feeding
the antenna. However, this is not necessary to achieve good results.

I am fortunate to own a PERSEUS SDR, that besides an excellent
receiver is also a nice piece of test gear. For noise pick-up
measurements I use HF-Span that changes the PERSEUS into a 0-40 MHz
spectrum analyser with a noise floor of -112 dBm. For narrow band
measurements the PERSEUS is used with Linrad, which can provide
accurate results.

Whilst looking at noise pick-up on the cable, one can unplug all
suspect devices and check if the noise is still present.

The most effective measure is grounding the shield of the coax cable
at the bottom of the mast, but I had still noise ingress of about -
100 dBm around 15 MHz. This could be solved by moving the power
supply and interface of the antenna from the operating position to
the location of the cable entry to the house. This minimises the
length of cable inside the house before the a rf-isolating
transformer used in the interface.

It is mandatory to use a separate radio earth, isolated from the
mains earth. My PC is connected to a mains outlet with a mains earth
connection, but no other equipment in the shack is using the mains
earth. This works for me.

There is also a discussion about the use of a common mode choke
versus a rf-isolating transformer. I have tried both and they both
work. However a rf-isolating transformer is much easier (and
cheaper) to build than common mode chokes with a winding of coax

In this regard, I should mention a source of interference that is
easily overlooked: receivers. It is not uncommon to own more than
one receiver and it appears that the antenna port is often far from
clean. I am using four SDR's which are fed from a balanced Norton
amplifier / four port splitter and these produce noticeable noise.
Using four rf-isolating transformers at the outputs of the splitter
eliminated the noise. My mini-whip is feeding up to 8 receivers
(hardware) via amplifiers /splitters / rf-isolating transformers
without degrading the receiver noise floor by mutual noise ingress.

The last point is about masts. A metal mast will decrease the signal
level when the antenna is mounted close to it. A short PVC extension
mast will help. The reason I am using a non-conductive mast is a
practical one as cheap and sturdy stackable camouflage net mast
sections were and are still available in western Europe. These are
ideal for either testing antennas and for permanent installations.
Metal masts can introduce problems by being resonant at a certain
frequency and receiving noise that can be transferred to the feed
line. However, checking the feed-line as described above will make
clear if this is the case or not. If there are no problems, there is
nothing against the use of a metal mast.

As every location is different, it is no use to provide an exact
recipe to solve noise problems. I believe that a systematic approach
is mandatory; take notes etc. as it is too easy to run in circles.
By all means do measure what you are doing, otherwise you will walk
in the dark for sure.

The good news is that it is still possible to build a low noise
reception system in the city and doing so can be fun! What might
also help is to change the attitude from 'it should not be there
after all' to 'what can I do about it!'

Best regards and 73,
Roelof Bakker, pa0rdt

If you're thinking about having a listen on LF or on 630m, the e-probe antenna can be a very effective solution .... and it takes up very little space. The finer details regarding the PAØRDT active antenna may be found here and here. All previous blog postings related to this topic may be found here.

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