Diamond BB7V

    I was attracted to this slim antenna the moment I saw it - just a 22 foot "whip", covering (with a tuner) all of 80 through 10 meters!  A dream come true?

    Trying to research it via the web, I found comments from both: 1) owners, and 2) those who had never seen one.  Owners tended towards cautious praise, with some having ultimately rejected it on grounds that it was too inefficient.  The armchair group was firmly united in their condemnation, expressing raw contempt for the "rip-off" that such a "dummy load" represented, and often with an emotional intensity that simply leapt off the screen.

    My prior experiences had convinced me that radiation efficency is only part of what makes a desireable antenna, and I very much liked the idea of an instant QSY.  I decided to buy one and see for myself.

    As a side issue, I made a tactical error at this point - sending my credit card information to a well known vendor, without taking the trouble to ascertain if they had the antenna in stock.  They didn't - and by the time I realized this, it was too late to cancel.  I waited weeks for Diamond to drop ship the item to me.  You shouldn't order without picking up the telephone first, and confirming that your vendor can ship immediately!  There are several large suppliers of ham gear, and one of them will carry what you want in stock.

    Once the box arrived, I was impressed by the usual Diamond quality and attention to mechanical detail - but the thought just popped out "that's all there is?".  It's such a tiny, five pound item!

    Mounting it was a breeze - taking down the old antenna was 90% of the effort.  I put the base at 14 feet, so it tops out at 36.  There are no guy wires (and you could only get away with that with something so lightweight).

    In my installation, I was initally disappointed to find that it wouldn't load above 15 meters.  It took me quite a while to discover that all I had to do was add 5 feet of coax to the feedline! Now I get instant autotune, 80 thru 10, as advertised.

    80 meters, however, is a very short range proposition, so for practical purposes the little antenna covers 40 through 10 meters.

    I worried about signal strength for the first few days, but then a trans - Atlantic station came back to my CQ.  Three weeks later a contact over a 6,000 mile path relaxed me even further.

    With around three hundred contacts, (spread across all continents) in the first 15 months of use, I worry no more.  I am satisfied with the range of this little antenna.  

    DX stations don't reply first time every time, but with some patience distant contacts are easily made.  The little whip will - occasionally - reach right out to the edge of the hemisphere.  What CAN'T be done is making local contacts - I rarely even hear stations from my own state.  That's fine with me, as I'm much more of a closet DX hound than a ragchewer.

    40 meters has proved to be the most consistent band for chasing DX, with many QSOs in excess of 5,000 miles.  An opening on 17 meters provided my best distance to date (see red pin on map).

    I do use digital modes - usually psk31, sometimes RTTY - almost exclusively.  These provide performance comparable to CW, and reach out far better than phone.  SSB might provide a different experience.

    For me, the ability to instantly QSY over a three octave range more than compensates for any shortcomings of this antenna.  It has made a major difference in my enjoyment of ham radio as a hobby, as I can now simply fire up the rig and make a contact, anytime, instead of listening to static and wondering were everyone is!  I will not go back to mono-band antennas.

    The unassuming little BB7V may be something of a special purpose item, aimed at those hams who need a compact, unobtrusive antenna that offers extreme ease of installation - but by allowing me to follow activity across the bands as conditions change, it has met MY rather casual needs very well indeed.

***

UPDATE: This antenna remains my only aerial, eight years after I bought it. It has required zero maintenance, and heavy winds don't faze it.

I continue to make long-haul contacts. I do believe that my experience has been "better than expected" because:

1) Florida is flat country, surrounded by saltwater.

2) I mounted the antenna low, which keeps the take-off angle low.

While there's not much you can do about your QTH, I would suggest mounting the BB7V no higher than necessary to get it above most of the clutter. Just don't forget that set up this way, it is NOT a local antenna. If ragchewing is your passion, it probably won't please you.

***

2017 note: Most of my good times with this antenna were on psk-31. This wonderful digital mode is still in daily use, but is nowhere near as popular as it used to be.

Much current amateur digital activity utilizes JT65A and JT9. True weak signal modes, they are unsuited for conversation, but quite unexcelled for making and documenting long distance contacts.

This explains why they are so popular - you just don't need huge antennas or kilowatt power anymore, when free WSJT-X software from K1JT can dig more than 22 dB below the noise level!

 

"Ham" Radio