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.