KISS-SSB Counterpoise Analysis
by KA4WJA

Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:40 pm

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The following discussion about the KISS-SSB marine counterpoise system was posted in the SSCA website forums. With the decline of that site it may eventually vanish along with this valuable information.

John MacDougall, KA4WJA concludes that random lengths of wire cut near the operating frequency can be used to the same effect as the KISS-SSB. John presents graphic displays of his analysis which confirms the KISS-SSB and random wires are about the same. Performance will be the judge and you the cruiser will be the witness.

Many cruiser use the KISS-SSB and report extremely positive results. Their reviews are available by doing a search on the KISS-SSB. This document/web-page is in no way saying that the KISS-SSB is not a good product. It is, however, a means for sailors/cruisers who wish to provide their own (DIY) counterpoise.

I also invite you to read Gordon West's fine paper on "Seawater Grounding For HF Radios".

Good luck, good sailing, and...

May your seas be calm and the wind always on your starboard beam!

KF6BL, S/V Takara


KISS-SSB graphic display of frequency and return loss.

Random wires graphic display of frequency and return loss.


KISS-SSB Counterpoise
by ka4wja Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:40 pm

I've received some e-mails from a few of you, thanking me and asking for some clarifications....
So, you're all welcome...and I hope this posting helps clarify some things...

But, I think what is needed is more use of texts rather than tests... And, since I don't have the time to write a book here, maybe I can add some more test data, along with some other "facts" (that you'd need to believe), and then things will start to become clear...

[I will leave my opinion to the final paragraph...]

1) One such fact is that for vertical monopoles we should all understand that when speaking about "tuned radials" / "elevated radials" (radials not "grounded"), this a very different situation than when using "grounded radials" (where the radials are used to couple to the earth, etc. and hence cannot be resonant), and at least two (and preferably 3 or 4) "radials" are necessary to allow decent efficiency at low-angles of radiation, and they MUST be opposite from each other (and/or 3 - 4, in a symmetrical arrangement), in order for these to NOT add high-angle / horizontal-polarized radiation to your antenna patterns.....

If you had a 1/4-wave monopole in this configuration, and you could achieve the theoretically "zero ground loss", you'd have a feed point imp of about 35 - 36 ohms, and assuming you can match that to your transmitter all your power would be radiated effectively at low angles, by the vertical monopole....

But, on our small / mid-sized boats, with backstays and "counterpoises", etc. it is almost impossible for us to achieve this on most HF bands, since these are sailboats, not antenna platforms....and most (all??) cannot get even one "tuned" radial set-up per band of use...(and many / most, have no "tuned radials" at all, which is fine, as this isn't a necessity...but even if not "tuned", having a symmetrical radial arrangement is still the best design, but again on most boats, almost impossible!!!)

So, This is one of the main reasons why Bill T’S (Bill Trayfors, WA6CCA) praise of, and results from, ½-wave vertical dipoles is so spot-on!!!
As, a ½-wave vertical dipole, where the ¼-wave “radial” is one half of the antenna, and is “reciprocal” in this “symmetrical” Antenna….there is no high-angle, horizontal-polarized radiation (except when “sloped” too far… and, being over salt water, we can take full advantage of the extremely low pseudo-brewster angle, and have excellent low-angle of radiation from ½-wave vertical dipoles!!!)

And when using a backstay, whip, etc. (or any kind of vertical monopole on-board), if we can use the sea water around us (although certainly not "tuned" and lossier than copper), as our "symmetrical" radial array / counterpoise, we can achieve very good results with low angles of radiation from our vertical monopoles....

I'm not saying that a backstay is better than a 1/2-wave vertical dipole (not at all), but that we CAN get results just as good (on at least some bands), if we spend the time/effort....
You see, there ARE many reasons that using a direct sea water connection (for using the sea water as our counterpoise), is recommended by most HF radio antenna designers, for multiband/multiuse vertical monopoles!!!

The above is not just me rambling...there are many books that explain much of this in quite some detail (radio engineering handbooks, arrl handbooks, rsgb handbooks, rsgb antenna handbook, arrl antenna books, on4un low-band dx'ing, etc. etc. etc...), but I don't have 'em handy (200+ miles away from me), so I cannot give you quotes, page numbers, etc...but, if you can have a little faith in me, and believe that I’m not trying to “convince” anyone that I’m right, or that I’m some wacko know-it-all, but I’m just trying to explain why things work the way they do, and why things have been done certain ways for years….(it’s not to get your $$$, but because of physics…)

[Sorry about the above digression, but I thought it was needed to put the rest of this into context...]

2) Some more facts...
Below are more traces [note, in a previous post there were traces showing basically the same resonance points], with return losses and VSWR's of many different "radials", wires, etc. (and a re-post of two of the KISS's traces), in various configurations, that will show the fallacy that you can place multiple "resonant/tuned radials" next to each other, and maintain any distinct resonances...that's not to say that the freqs change too much, but that the "match" / "resonance" no longer really exists, and there is no real-world difference between this and random length wires/radials....(look at the traces!!)


Although back-in-the-day some semblance of resonance could be seen on older GDO / GDM (Grid-Drip-Meter), we knew that the lack of sharp nulls meant a poor match, etc... (and even deflections on "antenna analyzers" these days can be very misleading!!!)

Notwithstanding that many amateur radio vertical antenna manufactures (Hustler, Bencher, etc.) have been selling "tuned radial kits" for their multi-band verticals, for many, many years....the facts are that these multi-conductor wires and/or ribbon wires do NOT represent good resonances at all....and while their use is "convenient", they are NOT any more effective than random lengths of wire strung out as elevated "radials"....
Please understand again, that I'm not saying that radials don't work, but rather that the MYTHS of "multi-band tuned radials" being easy-to-design and build...and that just one per band, etc. is all you need, should be dispelled for good!!!

3) So, with the above accepted, below are some traces that I think will help clarify things...
I grabbed some wire...and cut a few lengths..
[Please note that the exact res freqs are affected by these wires' close proximity to grd...just like they'd be on a sailboat...]
--- one at about 17.5' - 18' long...(which surprisingly made a nice 12mhz radial, just by chance!)
--- one to 16.2' (to approximate a 14mhz 1/4-wave radial)
--- one to 33.5' (to approximate a 7mhz 1/4-wave radial)

--- and then I cut two at random (that ended up being 14' and 16' each)

I strung them up, one at a time, sloping from 3' to 9', above the grass....and swept them...

I also swept them when laying on the ground....

And, also connected them together (keeping them separate), and swept them while in the air and on the ground...

And finally, connected together, in a couple bundles, one bundle, and folded back onto each other (like the KISS-SSB-Ground), and swept them...
The results are not surprising to me, but some of you may find them interesting.....

{Spoiler alert....a group of random wires, works as well or better than the KISS...}

Graphical analysis between random wires or wires cut close to frequency, and the KISS-SSB counterpoise, in different locations, environments and configurations.

Note: John is using a RIGOL SWR Analyzer for his testing.

a) First up is my ~ 17.5' - 18' long wire, strung in the air (which I "measured", by just using 3 fingertip-to-fingertip lengths)...

b) Next is the 16' wire, strung in the air...

c) The 33' 6" wire, strung in the air...

d) The two "random length" wires (which happened to be 14' and 16'), strung in the air...

e) The two random wires, stretched out, laying on the ground/grass....

f) The two random wires, laying on the ground, in one big bundle....

g) Combining the random wires [14’ and 16’] with the 33' 6" wire, strung in the air...

h) The random wires [14’ and 16’] with the 33' 6" wire, laying on the ground....

i) The 33' 6" wire combined with the 16' wire, strung in the air...

j) All four wires (33'6", 17.5~18', and the two random wires[14’ and 16’]), strung in the air...

And, another look at the trace of the KISS-SSB, strung in the air....

k) All four wires, stretched out, laying on the ground

l) All for wires, laying on the ground, in two bundles...

m) All four wires, laying on the ground, in one big bundle....

n) All four wires, laying on the ground, folded back onto each other in one 14' long group....

And, another look at the trace of the KISS-SSB, stretched out on the ground

John has now moved to his boat for additional testing. Note the significant difference between the counterpoise being located on the ground and over seawater.

o) The KISS in my lazarette, first stretched out in a long "U" shape

...and in one large coil...

p) All four of my home-made wires (33', 16', 14' and 17'), in my lazarette....stretched out as best as possible,

scattered about a bit

and in one bundle....

q) And, finally all 4 wires scattered about, along with the KISS stretched out, in the lazarette...

r) And a couple photos of the inside of the KISS, thanks to Chip (SoonerSailor on cruisersforum.com)...

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/the-kiss-ssb-counterpoise-revealed-with-pics-56551.html

4) Again, not trying to write a book here on antenna counterpoises, etc...and not wishing to denounce the KISS-SSB-Ground as snake oil....bur rather I thought I could put some facts out there for all to see....and let you all make up your own minds....

5) With all the above facts floating around, I suppose I should simply lay out my opinion (based on ~ 40 years of experience in HF comms, my professional education, my reading of numerous texts, my understanding of radio waves and how antennas transform the electrical energy of our transmitters into the electro-magnetic fields that move thru the earth, etc. etc...as well as all the testing I've done over the past month, etc...), here's my summed-up opinion:

If you just grab some wire out of a dumpster, cut it into a few random lengths (between 12' and 35'), attach a ring terminal to the end of the group of wires...you HAVE made an antenna counterpoise for FREE that works as well as (or better than) the KISS....and if need to buy some wire, it'll cost you < $5....
BUT, the really good news is that if you can get a short, low-imp direct connection to the sea water, you'd be much better off...but, I digress!!!

(see my comment above regarding the Gordon West paper on seawater grounding)


I do hope this helps clear things up....

Fair winds...

John



Information on this page is for personal use only. The contents and photo, charts, and spreadsheets are the property of John MacDougall, KA4WJA and cannot be used without his written permission.

This page may not be duplicated, but may be linked to. When linking, please give credit to both John MacDougall, KA4WJA and Brian Donaldson, KF6BL.

This page last updated on August 24, 2018