Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > The Gear and Tool Review Board

Katio AN-200 AM loop antenna

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Alan Georges:
Pro: Works, and can help fetch the news when the chips are down.  Doesn’t require power, or even a physical connection to the radio.  Easy to tune.  Mildly directional.  Looks pretty good too.

Con: Quality may vary (but that problem may be in the past).  Complicates tuning slightly.  Too big for a BOB.  If you have an EE degree, you can probably build something ten times better from scrap parts (but you wouldn’t want it in the living room).

OK, so what relevance does an artsy-looking AM antenna have to a survival forum?  The answer’s pretty easy.  Nighttime clear-channel AM broadcasting reaches out hundreds of miles, and was the U.S.’s first nationwide real-time news medium.  (Here’s a write-up and listing at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear-channel_station)  As with most technologies, the farther back you go, the more robust the systems.  That’s certainly the case with AM radio.  On the broadcast end, if AM’s off the air probably everything else is too.  On the receive end, if you can’t dig up an old AM radio somewhere odds are you can’t find any other kind of radio either.  It’s basically the last-ditch mass telecommunication method in this country.

That sounds like a great rock-bottom broadcast system (price is right anyway), but the little “loopstick” antennas in most portables these days aren’t that good.  I remember after Katrina, sitting here on the MS Gulf coast trying to get news at night over a little AM/FM solar-crank radio.  WWL from next door in New Orleans came in fine, but they were having troubles of their own at the moment and focusing on local news.  The other AM stations were just tantalizing static, where you could *almost* understand the newscasts.  It was frustrating.

So while dabbling in shortwave recently, these loop AM antennas kept popping up on the “Amazon Recommends” window.  At $25, sure, why not.

Well, it works.  How well it works is hard to quantify, but let me put it this way: let’s grade radio reception like a school grade – A, B, C, D, F.  Call A as good as AM gets, B is not perfect but you’d listen to music on it, C would be OK for voice, D means you can understand what the newscaster is saying but it’s work to make it out, and F means you can tell something’s there but that’s about it.  This antenna brings things up by about two solid letter grades.  In other words, what was “yeah it’s there but I can’t understand it” turns into “I’m getting the news now.”

From a prepper point of view, that’s significant.  On that same little radio I used after Katrina, it’s easy to pull in voice on major stations 500+ miles out at night.  On a Katio PL-660 it’s slightly better, call it a letter grade.  While times are good (like now) it’s pretty cool to listen to the Grand Ole Opry live on WSM, straight out of Nashville.  WSB Atlanta is usually easy, while several stations out in Texas are in there too.  And in the daytime it cleans up the signal on a little Cajun station in Golden Meadow (hoo-wee!), as well as low-powered WGSO New Orleans (home of Baldie and the Blonde).  I could get those last two previously, but they weren’t any fun to listen in on.  All better now.

On a side note, it also pulls in longwave.  The only LW station I can get is in Spanish, 280 KHz.  Don’t know who they are, but they are very enthusiastic!

About tuning, there’s one big knob hooked to a capacitor that adjusts the resonant frequency to match the station and your radio.  There’s no calibration or dial, you just twist it until the frequency pops into focus.  It’s easy, but it may be a little outside of a few folks’ technology comfort zone.  The antenna loop itself is mildly directional.  You pick it up and turn it to get the best signal.  There’s a signal wire included, but if your radio doesn’t have an AM input, don’t worry.  The antenna can concentrate the signal into a radio’s internal loopstick antenna.  Just put them near each other and it works like, well, magic.

Finally, it looks pretty sharp: curvy black base, 10” clear plastic hoop wound with sexy lacquered copper coils.  Early reviews on Amazon indicated poor quality – coils sliding off the hoop, stuff like that – but mine’s solid.  Guess Katio got their act together.  Back to the prepper lifestyle, it’s fine for home use but it’s not really field gear grade.  It’s also probably too big to stuff into a BOB. 

Well, that’s about all.  It’s just an antenna, it won’t change your life and I’ve probably gone on too long.  It has some disaster preparedness value, it’s fun to fool with while times are good, it didn’t cost all that much, and it looks pretty slick too.  OK, that’s it.

Alan Georges:
Where is my brain?  The brand name throughout is "Tecsun" not "Katio".  Same company, different brand labels.

TexasGirl:
Do you have a link for the antenna? 

Wonder if it would work with my Radio Shack DX-394 General Coverage receiver?  I'm picking up WSM 650 on it tonight out of Nashville, down here in Southeast Texas.

~TG

Alan Georges:

--- Quote from: TexasGirl on April 08, 2012, 10:05:43 PM ---Do you have a link for the antenna?

--- End quote ---
Right here: http://www.amazon.com/Kaito-AN-200-Tunable-Passive-Antenna/dp/B001PNNXGO/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333947290&sr=8-1-spell


--- Quote ---Wonder if it would work with my Radio Shack DX-394 General Coverage receiver?  I'm picking up WSM 650 on it tonight out of Nashville, down here in Southeast Texas.

--- End quote ---
Probably.  The lead wire has a mini stereo jack on each end, same as earbuds, etc.  It's probably only using two parts of it, the center hot and ground, so a 2-element mini-mic plug would do the same thing.  If your radio has that for an AM input, you're good to go.  But even if it doesn't (none of mine do), it works fine by just being placed near the radio.  I had to try it before I believed it myself, but it does work.

The real question is, is this loop antenna better than what you already have?  The internal loopstick in my little PL-660 is best described as mediocre, so this is a big improvement.  It may not be such a jump up for you though.  BTW, that DX-394 looks really nice!  Too bad RS doesn't make those anymore.

How's WSM sounding over your way?  It's good and clear here tonight with the external loop, but pretty crummy on the loopstick – call it grades B+ and D, respectively.

TexasGirl:
I'd give WSM a "B" But considering how far away that is, not bad.  A directional antenna might make a big difference.

After I get moved, an improved antenna arrangement will certainly be on the list. 

~TG

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