antenna - from hereon called the MW - is a very compact HF/VHF antenna for use with small portable handheld rigs like the FT817. The beauty of the antenna is its simplicity: a 56 inch whip is matched to the rig via a single continuously variable auto-tuner formed with a multi-tapped toroidial inductor. This allows single knob tuning to a low SWR on any band from 40m to 10m as well as VHF and UHF. An article in QST a few years ago (still available on the QST website to ARRL members) first described the antenna and the original Canadian designer then turned this into a commercial product which has been quite a hit around the world.The Miracle Whip
A few years ago on the Yahoo “HF-Pack” Group the MW was compared with a variety of other antennas in controlled conditions on an antenna test range. Its gain without a wire counterpoise was measured as 29dB below a dipole and 10dB below with one on 20m i.e. some 5 S points down using just the MW alone (i.e. poor) but only 1.5-2 S points down if a decent counterpoise or earth was used too (not at all bad).
I first used a MW antenna in December 2002 and over the following months tried it with the FT817 on various bands, but always using the antenna indoors and with a counterpoise or local central heating earth. The PSU was usually a small switch-mode mains unit. Operating from my “shack” (actually just a small table in our main bedroom) and with just the central heating radiator next to the table as an earth, results have been quite remarkable. In fact for many months I had no other antennas up at all externally so the results obtained were definitely from the MW and not from the MW coupling into other antennas outside.
On the higher HF bands (15,12,10m) the performance was, as expected, down a few S points on those that would have been obtained with an external vertical, but not by enough to seriously inhibit contacts. In fact the best DX worked proved to be 11,000kms to Argentina on 10m SSB running just 5W. Contacts all over the eastern USA have been possible on QRP SSB as well as to Brazil. Indeed, international contacts were obtained on all bands down to 40m on SSB using the same indoor set-up.
Using the switch-mode PSU with the MW resulted in some noise pick-up; the switch-mode PSU was only a few feet from the antenna on the rig and it emitted some noise right across the HF bands. For this reason, batteries were used instead on many occasions. Last summer the MW managed quite a few DX QSOs into Europe on 6m QRP SSB from the same bedroom table.
More recently, an IC703 was purchased which runs 10W and contains an internal auto-ATU. When using this with the MW antenna attached to the rig’s antenna connector I found it was possible to match the antenna on 80m too and a couple of SSB contacts into LX and ON were obtained at the 10W level on that band, much to my amazement. On the higher HF bands the IC703’s extra 3dB of power compared with the FT817 plus a speech compressor make the MW a very viable antenna and in a recent contest a whole string of QSOs across Europe, as well as Madeira and Cyprus were achieved in just a few hours of operation on 20m and 15m, all from the bedroom.
I’ve still not used the MW seriously out of doors. People have made DX QSOs using just the MW on the FT817 without a counterpoise but I would not recommend this mode of use. A counterpoise makes a BIG difference and results without will be a struggle except in very good band conditions. By the way, at least one person worked a 3B9 expedition from the UK using just the MW and QRP but sadly it wasn’t me!
Alternatives to the MW concept are appearing: the Wonder Wand is a manufactured UK product that is a very similar idea and looks almost identical. It uses pre-tuned switched settings for each band and it also supports a tuneable counterpoise wire. This antenna is not as expensive as the MW but I don’t know how well it works. The Miracle Antenna Company has recently announced some new versions of their antenna including a switched version (not unlike the Wonder Wand) and one with a BNC connector rather than a whip so that wire antennas and “rubber ducks” can be used instead.
Currently the commercial MW is still very expensive to buy in the UK (about £100) and it is worth considering making your own version based on the original QST article. A 56 inch whip can only be as good as a 56 inch whip, but when properly matched and used with even a modest ground or counterpoise system you may be surprised how effective it can be.
A Yahoo Group exists to discuss the Miracle Whip, DX contacts obtained, ideas for improvements and alternatives. It currently has about 500 members and on the group website there are photos, countries worked tables and links to useful sources of data. Please feel free to join us in the group. It has no affiliation whatever with the manufacturers although they do drop in to pick up comments, both complimentary and critical.
In summary, if you’re looking for a very compact QRP antenna that is easy to match on any HF/VHF band (certainly 40m upwards on the FT817 and down to 80m with the IC703) with moderate, but nonetheless useful, performance, then the MW is worth considering. It won’t match the performance of a good external antenna so don’t get one in the expectation that it will, but I have enjoyed using mine and have had many hours of fun with it and am sure you would too.