Improving the reception on your shortwave receiver at home is easy and doesn’t have to cost the earth if you take a little time to set up a simple shortwave wire antenna.

Length of a Shortwave Antenna

wire antenna
Any extra antenna length you can add to your shortwave receiver is going to improve reception but always try to keep it “working” length and not have huge coils of wire hanging around as this will just cause high levels of interference. Use just what you need to make your wire antenna without going overboard, having 80 foot of wire running around the average household is going to pickup noise from every piece of electrical equipment you own.

Best Wire for a Shortwave Antenna

Using a thicker gauge wire is going to give better reception results but try to keep in mind that you have to be able to easily bend the wire while setting up the antenna so don’t go overboard with the thickness, something around the 22 gauge mark will do the job nicely.

There is a lot of flexibility when it comes down to the actual type of wire you can use with bare solid copper wire being the most effective but you can also use plastic coated wire or even enameled wire (thicker gauges can be expensive). Stranded copper was is OK to use if no solid core is available and actually makes a better connection when wrapped around a telescopic aerial, best to leave the insulation on though as it can get very complicated when stripped long lengths of stranded wire.

Wire antenna wire types

Wire Antenna Wire Types

Remember that copper will rust very quickly when open to the elements so if you are installing your wire antenna in a damp environment then go for a insulated wire type to avoid having to replace the entire antenna in the future. If joining different lengths of wire together to make your antenna try and use the same gauge throughout for better performance making sure that every join is solid (soldered) and as neat as humanly possible.

How to Avoid Interference

Every home is full of electronic equipment that can cause havoc with your hobby and when running any wire antenna around the home you should be aware of how close these items are to your wire antenna. Some of the worst offenders are televisions, plasma screens, computers and fridges/freezers(evil electric motors).

You are never going to completely stop the interference altogether but being aware of where these items are in relation to your wire antenna will at least keep it at a manageable level.

Connecting the Antenna to your Receiver

Some shortwave receivers will be fitted will a 3.5MM jack plug (same as on a pair of personal headphones) for plugging in an external antenna. The center pin on the jack plug is where you need to attach your antenna wire and its a good idea to solder it on to give you a solid trouble free connection.

If you have no way to plug an external antenna into your receiver (very common on many portable models) you can simply attach it to the telescopic aerial already fitted to your shortwave receiver. You can attach the antenna to the telescopic aerial by simply wrapping the bare wire around it a few times and securing it in place with some sticky tape or for a tidier quick release option invest in a small crocodile clip.

Wire antenna telescopic connection

Wire Antenna Telescopic Connection

If using the crocodile clip method its best to attach it to the thicker bit of the telescopic aerial where it goes into the radio and making sure the aerial in not extended. Some crocodile clips have a strong grip and by placing it at the base of the aerial you are minimizing any possible crush damage to the aerial.

Places to Fit your Wire Antenna

Keeping in mind to avoid all the major causes of interference from other electronic items in your house you can pretty much put a wire antenna anywhere. The loft is always a favorite because you should have a good deal of room and the antenna can be fixed to any wood supporting beams easily by using cheap U shaped tacks. A wire antenna can also be fitted around the inside of any window big enough to give you a reasonable length.

The placement options are many as long as you can fit enough wire to greatly improve reception and stay clear of sources of interference.

A Little Antenna Experimentation Goes A Long Way

The position/length of the wire antenna can make all the difference to reception (even more when used indoors) and trying out a few setups will soon give you a better understanding of whats going to work for you.

Trying to get some sort of standard signal reference as a benchmark on the shortwave bands can be a nightmare with all the fade. I like to use one of the airband automated weather transmissions as they give a pretty good indication of any reception improvements as the antenna is adjusted.

Keep in mind though the very nature of signals on the HF bands means reception varies from one hour to the next as the day progresses. Try to check for any improvements the moment alterations are made or at the same time every day for more accurate results.

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10 Responses to Wire Antennas for Shortwave Radio

  1. Tony says:

    22 guage wire? What is this thickness in Europe?

  2. Tom H. says:

    Hi. Just bought a new shortwave radio Tecsun PL-660. New to this. I have a 3 sided balcony on 8th floor. Can I run a wire antenna back and forth around the 3 sides of the balcony to perhaps get 60′ or what ever exposure. Will having right angles or spacing strands apart about 6″ cause any interference or cancel each other out? Also, preferable length and gauge.
    Thanks for any information,
    Tom, Windsor Ontario.

    • Carl says:

      Hi Tom

      That arrangement does sound a little messy, remember there’s never going to be a ‘perfect’ length of antenna wire for the SWL unless your restricting listening habits to a tight set of frequencies.

      A uncoiled antenna is always going to perform better and if you really have no room to run a wire why not take a look at some of the wideband HF verticals available. These are very much centered around the HF ham bands but still do a good job for the shortwave listener.

  3. Pete says:

    Awesome article. Thank you very much. I have a question. Do I need to use a balun or an unun with this antenna?

    Also, do I need to worry about lightning protection?

    Thank you!

    • Carl says:

      Hey Pete

      I personally don’t use any type of matching when using these antennas as they are usually temp affairs, but experimentation is what makes this hobby so great and if you have one (or can throw one together) give it a go,

  4. Gary says:

    With this wire do you need a ground? I’m thinking about running a wire to the screw on the faceplace of an electrical outlet?

    • Carl says:

      Hi Gary

      I really wouldn’t use the ground on any mains wiring in your house as its poor at best and not suited for use with SW antennas. You can get away without a grounding system and its still going to be a lot better than using the set top antenna.

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