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Technical FAQ

Technical FAQ

The Technical Information Service pages contain a brief overview of a particular topic, followed by links to ARRL and other downloadable articles about the subject and a list of other web pages with more information.  Many of the pages also contain an FAQ section, where the ARRL Lab staff provide an answer to the common questions we receive on the subject.

Another excellent resource is the ARRL Periodicals Archive and Search, available to ARRL members.

The ARRL Lab staff is happy to answer technical questions unanswered on our website.

Note: Lab consultation is an ARRL Members Only benefit. Contact Us


Q) Why won't the lab tell me the best radio to buy?
A) You need to consider your needs and budget.   Not everyone needs a radio that covers 160 and 6  meters.  You  may not have enough  room for a decent 160 meter antenna.  6 meters may be too fickle a band for your tastes.  The same radio may be too cheap for one ham and too expensive for another!  Hams typically turn to QST Product Reviews for measured test data. can be very useful for finding issues that may only bother a few hams

Q) Why don't I hear more signals with an expensive radio compared to an entry level HF rig?
A) Modern HF radios are  limited by local noise rather than noise generated internally by the receiver.  It has  been that way for decades.  But, expensive radios handle strong signals  with less overload.

Q) What is the  best antenna?
A) There is no antenna that does everything well.  But, if you want to homebrew your first antenna, it is hard to find something that beats the half wave dipole.  Lots of bang for the buck.  If you need more bands, the "Compact Multiband Dipole" in the March 2016 QST is a good antenna to cover both 10 and 20 meters without a tuner.  And it does well on  40M with a tuner despite its small size of 48'.  The popular G5RV works well on 80 and 40, but you need an antenna tuner and twice as much room.  And  you sacrifice 10 meters, the only band where Techs can operate HF voice.  But, these antennas are only an option if you have tall trees to use as antenna supports.
If you live in an HOA the best antenna may be a 20 ft Flagpole, as allowed by the Florida version of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.  With an autotuner at the base and a good radial system, I have gotten good results on the 40 through 10 meter bands. 
An Inverted L is often the best compromise when you are limited in space--by making the vertical portion taller you not only improve DX performance but reduce the horizontal run required.  While a single band Inverted-L is best tuned for quarter wave resonance, it is common for multiband versions to be non-resonant.  While it may seem better to make it resonant on a favorite band, the harmonic relationship of the ham bands means that optimizing one band requires sacrificing others.

Q) How  can I run my old 16 bit  ARRL Software on my new computer?
A) You need to run an emulator such as DosBox, Virtual PC, or vDos.  But, since running an old operating system like Windows XP opens up security holes, it may be best to run old software on an old machine that isn't connected to the internet.

Q) I don't understand my new computer and nobody has the time to teach me.
A) Go to a bookstore and find an understandable book.  Some people need teaching materials with a lot of pictures.
  Many communities have low cost adult education courses for those who prefer in-person classes.



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