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.

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7 responses to “New Heathkit Antenna Offering

  1. (I left this comment first on amateurradio.com, but then I saw the fine print about the article being a repost from here…)

    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.

  2. I guess the guys at Heathkit are not aware of what is really going on in ham radio today. How sad, a 2 meter antenna offering and a AM radio kit. Some one needs to head up the company that is up to date. Remember the Ringo Ranger 2 meter antenna by Cushcraft? It is still being made. I wish them luck. They are going to need it.

  3. I think that you left out an even more puzzling detail: the price. They’re asking $150 for this puppy! I’m sorry, but $150 for this thing is really highway robbery. There are so many other similar, high-quality antennas on the market at a fraction of that price.

  4. The strategy appears to be to design products that require very little effort, so they can claim to be alive and in business. This is known as the “low hanging fruit” method.
    Note the number of mod kits for old Heathkits…possibly developed by evolving a known common enthusiast upgrade into a PCB design.

    The pipetenna, at least, continues the new Heathkit tradition of overpricing. A commercially-available variant, fully assembled, is available for $79.95 from the Ventenna folks, model VT-27.

    By the way, the reason N connectors are rarely used outdoors is because the center pin of the male is not mechanically captured very well, and as your coax heats and cools, that pin will, in not much time, pull itself out of the female. I learned this on a large commercial product: within 30 days, 50% of the 144 N connectors on our large phased array failed for this reason.

    • Hi Franke. I agree with the Ventenna being a better value. However, regarding N connectors, they are used outdoors quite extensively in the commercial world, outside of amateur radio. Nearly every cellular/PCS and two way installation uses them, and they’re also ubiquitous in the microwave industry when waveguide is not used. You see them used in any frequency below 10 Ghz and power levels up to 2 or 3 kW. You may have had a bad batch of connectors or poorly installed ones. N connectors of reasonable quality, installed properly, and weatherproofed should last a lifetime, or at least outlast the equipment and feedline it’s connecting.

  5. RE the use of the N-connector, many do not realize that it is basically a BNC connector in that if you cut off the locking ring of a BNC connector, it will plug into an N-connector. This is sometimes used as a “quick-connect” for cables that are frequently plugged in and unplugged when calibrating and verifying test equipment. The center pin of the BNC connector is a very little bit smaller and more pointed, in some cases, but otherwise, it’s the same and works fine.

  6. As a ham from way back, I used an HW 7 as one of my rigs at one time, and had a blast with it. Was it the best rig out there? Of course not. But I think that there might be a place for a low cost, entry level kit type radio for new hams who want to actually build something that they can use to contact hams with, while not breaking the bank. And I don’t see any reason that it could not include some newer technology, while still giving the beginning builder a feel for how these things actually work. And if it is offered first just as a CW rig, that might be a good idea, actually. Morse Code is still a viable and useful mode, and what better way to encourage it than by letting the newbie build a transceiver that they can use to communicate with that mode, and price it at about a C note. Not just about nostalgia, but also about making our operators more than just glorified CB radio operators of old. Or I could be all wet, and this is a horrible idea.

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