My friend Matt, KB9UWU, eggs me on to buy things. Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I don’t. But, eventually he wins me over and I’m usually happy with the purchase (e.g., K3 and Hex beam, although I built the Hex from scratch, which reminds me that I owe the blog a discussion of that). I like to think that I let Matt be the early adopter and then pick and choose based on his experience. He convinced me to buy a copy of N6BT’s book Array of Light. Here’s my review.
If there’s anybody that knows antennas in the amateur community, it’s Tom Schiller, N6BT, the founder of Force12 and now owner of N6BT Next Generation Antennas. He’s also a member of the very successful Team Vertical contest team, who have revolutionized DXpedition and contest expedition antenna systems by replacing trapped tri-band Yagis like the TH-3jr(s), TA-33jr, and A3S, with arrays of verticals located at the water line. Schiller’s work has been nothing short of revolutionary so I had high hopes for the book.
My copy, like every other copy, is signed by the author. It’s a good-quality laser print and has the same spiral binding as the Elecraft manuals. The book is a loosely-edited collection of articles and clippings that read pretty well in series. But, it’s bear to skim or go back to find specific things unless you’ve read the whole thing cover-to-cover a couple of times. But, that’s pretty easy to do because Tom is a good storyteller. My only other complaint is that there are a couple of places where I think Tom has drunk his own Kool-Aid regarding the efficiency of his antennas, especially “linear loading.” This is a topic that I need to revisit with a pencil and paper study at some point because there is a lot of misinformation floating around about traps, linear loading, and “multi-monoband” antennas. It’s not clear to me that anyone has sat down and really examined this in a methodical way. It was disappointing that he quoted numbers like “greater than 99% efficiency” without going into more detail about the efficiency of a full-size antenna versus the linear-loaded one, etc. Of course, this is difficult, but it’s something that always makes me a bit skeptical.
Array of Light is worth the price of admission for a couple of reasons—the first is the stories and the second is the antenna designs. I’m a big proponent of not reinventing the wheel on most of my homebrew projects and this book is sure to provide some proven designs to work with. Especially if you want a good discussion of practical antennas for DXpeditioning and contesting I think it’s a real winner.