I just recently purchased two Baofeng BF-F8 radios and would like to purchase better antennas. Any suggestions?
You mean base station ones, or something better to use on them portable? To be honest, the ones that are supplied are pretty efficient - and they need to be dual band, so swapping them for more efficient UHF whips won’t give much extra at UHF, but probably worse at VHF, and vice versa.
In fact, raising a hand held above your head usually gives better results than any portable aerial. I’ve seen a few specialist portable dual band antennas, but they HUGE and cost far more than the radios!
I assume you want a bit more range? On a portable, chasing range is rarely worth the time - if it’s a marginal path, then a better aerial may still be hardly noticeable.
If you want to have a better RX and TX, you easier way is buying a longer antenna
The challenge with any 2m/440 dual band whip antenna is that it is trying to be everything on both bands at once. Even a single band antenna is going to be pre-tuned to hit some frequencies a little better than others, although the difference will usually be marginal because they are all on the same band. A portable whip antenna that covers multiple bands, especially those that aren’t next to each other within the spectrum, can’t be expected to hit every frequency on every band perfectly, so it stands to reason to expect that they will typically be tuned for maximum performance on a certain range of frequencies within each band.
Of course, the materials used to make the antenna, the quality of those materials and the quality of the manufacturing process will also have a lot do do with the performance of the antenna. I’ve tested antennas from the same manufacturers and even found variances in the performance on some within the same make and model.
The radio itself also is a major factor. For instance, a Nagoya NA-771 (my personal choice for my Baofeng UV-5R) doesn’t seem to perform as well on my Wouxun KG-UV8D, while my son uses an NA-701 on his UV-5R that has a slightly different firmware version.
I’ve tested quite a few antennas with my handheld radios and I’ve discovered the performance varies widely depending on both the antenna and the individual radio. I know other hams who have figured out which antennas work best on which band for their own handhelds and they will carry several of their favorite whips around with them, swapping out the antennas when they want to switch bands. While it seems a bit cumbersome in concept, it actually makes sense, and given the fact that the antennas are removable, very inexpensive and changing them is usually easy and fast, it’s really not a bad idea.
That’s just my two cents.
Unless your hobby is fiddling with radios, then you need to avoid working on the edge of the performance envelope.
Reliable comms needs surplus signal so that when the receiver is in a null or weak area, it still works. Faffing around with different aerials is futile for reliability. Holding a radio two feet up in the air is often more effective than a different aerial with gain. You never see a Policeman fiddling with aerials or trying different types. They often use very poor aerials so they are more compact, and just accept reduction in range.
Longer aerials may well have gain - 3dB or more is possible, BUT - they also become very picky about radiation angles. Change from vertical to a few degrees of tilt can reduce the range compared to the standard ? wave with no gain. I did see somebody with a construction type hard hat, lined with foil, and a socket on the top, and they had a pretty efficient ? wave aerial, high up. Worked nicely I suspect, but he looked a total prat! If having radios is so you can talk reliably, then trying to squeeze extreme range is rarely something achievable. It may work held up to your mouth, but clip it on your belt and you won’t hear the calls.
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