New Heathkit Antenna Offering

The reincarnated Heathkit company has a new product offering, the Pipetenna, a 2 meter and 440 antenna.  Heathkit claims the antenna is stealth and high performance, featuring a colored, rounded end PVC tubing sort of look.  It’s really not that difficult to build a stealth at VHF and UHF frequencies due to the short wavelengths involved.  The specifications of the antenna lists the gain on 2 meters as 6 dBi, which doesn’t scream high performance.  Puzzlingly, no gain figure is listed for 440.

Heathkit proclaims the antenna has multiple patents filed for many inventions in its design and is waterproof, yes waterproof.  I thought all antennas should be waterproof in the first place, or at least not be affected significantly by rain.  To Heathkit’s defense they go on about how it can be used on a ship or by the ocean where there is corrosive saltwater.  But this isn’t a really novel antenna feature.  What is perhaps a truly novel feature is the choice of colors, currently Light Sky Blue and Olive Green, with other colors such as Terracotta and Camouflage Green listed but grayed-out on the order form.

The antenna sports an N connector, with Heathkit citing that it eliminates an impedance bump, presumably when compared to the common UHF connector.  While this is technically true and the N connector is overall a better connector, the impedance bump of a UHF connector at 2 meters and 440 is negligible.  Furthermore, most of the target audience of this product probably have never dealt with an N connector before.  Perhaps more amateurs should become familiar with the N connector, but it’s overkill for this application.

The Pipetenna has me and presumably others scratching their heads, much like their premier offering, a pricey speaker-lacking TRF AM radio kit.  Overall the Pipetenna is heavy on marketing but light on compelling technical reasons to buy, in my opinion.  Amateurs wanting to learn about VHF/UHF antennas who aren’t so interested in a vintage Heathkit experience could better spend their money constructing a ground plane or J pole antenna.

While the new owners of Heathkit undoubtedly need to take baby steps in building what is essentially a new company from the ground up, these initial product offerings are disappointing and somewhat bizarre.  Some people probably have unrealistic expectations of Heathkit bringing back original tube radio kits from decades ago.  It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Heathkit to release an updated HW-9 QRP rig or some new minimalist handful-of-2N2222s QRP rig.  Even if an “HW-10” design wasn’t significantly improved or a minimalist rig offering wasn’t a great performer, the QRP community, known for its rabid appetite for new rigs, would buy a new HW offering in droves.  Such a rig would be more true to Heathkit’s roots and legacy than the eclectic AM radio product.  The level of marketing is troubling as well.  The products need to speak for themselves and Heathkit needs to build a community of users that extoll the virtues of their products, something Elecraft has masterfully done and assumed the throne once occupied by Heathkit.  I don’t want to be a naysayer and I truly would love to see Heathkit succeed.  I think we all do.

Heathkit Pipetenna is a registered trademark of Heathkit.

This article originally appeared on Radio Artisan.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com.

11 Responses to “New Heathkit Antenna Offering”

  • Jacek KW4EP:

    I’m glad to see that manufacturers start to sell on American market UHF/VHF equipment with N connectors. The main reason why many potential customers have not had prior experience with this type of connector is because this type of connector is absent from equipment marketed to US hams. Good example here is Yaesu FT-857D. Sold in US with SO239 connector for 2m/70cm antenna, but with better performing N connector in Europe.
    Of course SO239 will work on 70cm, but so will speaker wire as a feed line.

  • David WB4ONA:

    “Clever enough to be patented.”

    Sheesh, if the USPTO issues a patent for this antenna it will be proof the U.S. Government has become truly inept, if not outright corrupt.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    Patent? I am having a issue with this guy…He goes out and claims he owns the rights to all heathkit manuals and if you have one without a radio you have to destroy them. You are not allowed to have pdf files either or else..What a moron… Now putting a patent on a antenna design I have seen dozens of times. Give me a break… Maybe he is trying to Heathkit back up and running, but so far I am not impressed with who is running the company. Unless he comes up with some state of he art designs that are not taken from someone else and put a patent on them, I will pass with Heathkit… I had fun building dozens of Heathkit..Ham radio and test equipment. I am getting a bad feeling about this new management…. Just one ham’s opinion…

  • Robert VA3AOD:

    I agree completely Anthony. I saw the description of the antenna on the Heathkit website. I am not impressed. Their marketing plan, if they have one, is very strange.

    I have suggested to the president that they consider a QRP tube HF transceiver
    or a low power stereo audio amp. Some of us old timers who built Heathkits in the 50s and 60s might be interested.

  • va3jfw/jack:

    regarding pl-259`s etc..on one of the sites, over a dozen coax connectors and adapters were fastened together[about 12 inches long] and when tested for loss…it was less than 1%….

  • Boots VK3DZ:

    Agree with comments on N connectors.

    It’s a shame the BNC was not adopted for amateur mobile gear: compact, better return loss & more reliable (vibration-wise) in a mobile environment due to the bayonet lugs. And heaps of BNCs in the surplus market.

    The “M” connector (UHF with an iso? thread) on current Jap gear is a pain in the ring. Almost mates with real PL-259/SO-239 & still lousy return loss above 50 MHz.

    For a while I was replacing UHF on my amateur gear with “C” connectors picked up for cents from disposals. Great for RG8 coax, quick to connect, too expensive now.

  • Scott W9VHE:

    Stealth? Looks like a trident struck the vent pipe. Whatever happened to the old “Ventenna” from years back? Same concept just more funny looking. YMMV

  • Bill Taylor KC5DPJ:

    There is a picture of the antenna on their website. Looks like it is mounted to a utility pole. I know they smoke a lot of dope in California but that wouldn’t be allowed here in Mississippi plus it goes against everything about Ham antennas.. You try to stay away from power lines and poles. I think I’ll just stick with my copper j-pole antenna. No radials, etc…

  • Kc0lrp:

    The antenna as well as this AM radio kit in my opinion is just a little overpriced!

  • Dave, WD8CIV:

    I’ve standardized on BNC for most of the coax cables in my shack, and use adapters to hook them to whatever gear needs them. A decent adapter has miniscule loss compared to the coax that’s feeding it and doesn’t create much of an impedance bump, at least not enough to affect common HF/VHF/UHF gear. It allows me to use the nice 75 watt dummy load with an N connector I got for cheap on ebay.

    You need to use good adapters though. A friend of mine in school bought a right-angle PL-to-SO239 adaptor from Radio Shack to route the coax from his home CB antenna to the radio on his desk, but the radio didn’t work with the adapter in place. He returned the adapter and got another, and got the same result. He finally pulled the adapter apart and found they had used the equivalent of a ballpoint pen spring to connect the center contacts of the ends of the adapter.

  • David WB4ONA:

    There are a lot of pro N-type connector comments here. On the contrary, at VHF and below I am dead set against N-type connectors on Ham equipment – they’re just too fragile to be treated casually. It takes very little to mi-align the center pin and receptacle on an N-type connector, and that invariably leads to damage which then leads to connector replacement. And that’s another problem, putting N-type connectors on (properly) is not a trivial task.

    Here’s just one example of what I’m talking about:

    https://microwaves101.a.cdnify.io/images/content/images/Mortuary/bad_connector.jpg

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