It's been a little over a month since I've had my multi-band Hexbeam installed. In that short time, I've learned a lot about how the antenna performs and I thought I'd post an update about how things have been going so far.
First of all, despite all of my great intentions, I've yet to raise the mast above the original installation height. Right now the mast is extended to about 20 feet and that puts the antenna itself at around 25 feet. I have the ability to raise the telescopic mast to a full height of approximately 40 feet above the ground, which would put the antenna at about 45 feet or so. However, I'm not real keen on raising it to the full height just yet. Instead I want to raise the mast up to 30 feet, placing the antenna at 35. That will still allow the antenna to clear the roofline of the house and effectively double-up the strength of the highest mast section by leaving the smallest section still within the third piece. Right now it's completely blocked in the eastern direction by the roof, although I don't seem to have any ill-effects contacting stations in that general direction.
SWR readings are as good as advertised. On 20, 17, and 15, I have not seen a reading above 1.5. On 12 and 10, a little higher at 1.7 in spots. Perfectly acceptable to me. I am not using a tuner with this antenna, by the way. By comparison, I MUST use a tuner on my ZeroFive vertical on any band I operate on. However, the tuner never has a problem finding a very good match, generally 1.3-1.4 or lower.
I'm going to backtrack on my initial observations that this antenna is noiser than my vertical (which sort of surprised me at the time). The longer I use it, the more I'm able to tell that the hex is indeed a quiet antenna. One thing that I have done is to tie all of my station grounds together, per Thom's (the manufacturer) recommendation, and also ensure that the hex is well connected to the substantial radial field that I have for the vertical. While I always had my equipment grounded, I had not paid as much attention to this as I should have. Shame on me.
Directivity is obvious and I'm pleased with this aspect. I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I had failed to properly tighten the mast extension for the antenna to my rotor when I first put it up. Effectively the hex sometimes spun around in high winds and completely got out of 'calibration'. When I thought I was pointed in one direction, I was actually a good bit off. Again, my mistake. Whenever I did spot checks, it must have been total coincidence because it usually appeared to be pointed correctly. It wasn't until a few days later that I noticed that I was about 120 degrees off! No wonder I started to doubt the hex's performance.
And even though it spun around in high winds, the hex presents a really small profile in the wind and now that I've secured it, I notice very little movement, even when the wind is blowing hard. I have no concerns so far.
So, how does it work? Darn good. Compared to a 43 foot vertical it often pulls in stations that I simply cannot hear otherwise or that are way down in the noise. On a particularly poor day recently I could not hear the ladies at VP8 at all on my vertical or my G5RV, yet I could copy them easily (and worked them) on the hex. On 20-10 I have found that there is no comparison, the hex wins hands down in reception. As for transmitting, I'm quite pleased. One thing that's happened is that I've discovered a new means of communicating...SSB. That may sound like a joke, but I rarely could make a QSO on SSB to a distant DX station on 20-10 using the vertical. Now I feel like I have a shot at least. Do I get through on the first call? Not usually. Second, third, fourth? If there's a pileup, not usually. Am I receiving reports that I'm the loudest signal on the band (like you sometimes read on eHam)? Uh, not hardly. But I generally DO get through, if I'm patient and the DX hangs around long enough. And that makes it all worthwhile to me.
I'll keep making notes and hopefully I'll be able to raise it soon. I think that may help more than anything (Thom seemed to think so). In the next few days I hope to make and post some recordings of the differences between the hex and the vertical. For me this has been eye-opening. Lastly, I'll add this...for the past year and a half, give or take, I've played an expensive game of what I'll call 'radio roulette'. I shudder to think how much I've spent (although my wife could tell you to the penny) on 'upgrading' my radios. I'm now getting rid of some of them (finally) like I've been saying I was going to. The point is, each time that I bought a new or different rig, I only made very modest improvements to my station, if any. Sometimes I think I took a step backwards. It was a very expensive lesson. In the end, it's like all knowledgeable hams will tell you, it's not so much the radio, it's the operator and the antenna. I read and heard this adage, and yet I still went bullheaded down the wrong path. So for the next LONG period of time, it's all about the operating, and not the 'stuff'.