Tag Archives: Elecraft AX1

Guest Post: Extreme QRP–Testing the AX1 with WSPR and 20mW

Many thanks to Keith (KY4KK) who shares the following report:

Extreme QRP – Testing the AX1 with WSPR and 20mW

by Keith (KY4KK)

Thomas, thanks for all of your activation videos related to the Elecraft AX1 antenna.  I ordered one the day you announced the package deal, and it arrived in less than a week.  I’ve activated a few parks with it already (20m SSB).  Like you and many others, I’m impressed.

I was very interested in Thomas Barris’ (DM1TBE) March 12 QRPer post using WSPR to test his POTA antennas in Germany.  Then I saw Bob’s (K7ZB) post about his ZachTek Flea with 300 milliwatts in CW mode.  To me, extreme QRP represents some of the magic of HAM radio.  I’d like to share one of my most recent WSPR experiments related to the AX1.

About a year ago, a friend (NG4S) loaned me his pair of WSPR transmitters and suggested that I explore building and comparing antennas. I’ve been hooked on antennas of all kinds and WSPR since then.

I began doing WSPR tests on the AX1 the day after it arrived.  With two transmitters set to the same frequency and power output, you can do direct comparisons between two antennas under identical propagation conditions.

I’ve already done a couple of comparisons between the AX1 and other commercial antennas.  But I think the test I just completed might be of particular interest because it pits the AX1 against an antenna I’ve seen you use many times – a 28.5’ end fed with a 28.5’ counterpoise.  I used 24 AWG silicone insulated wire. The end of the radiator was placed on a 19’5” telescoping fishing pole.  This is my preferred POTA mast when I can’t use a tall tree.

I spent some time trying to control other variables so that the only significant difference during the test would be the antennas themselves.

For example, the SOTA Beam WSPRLite Classic transmitters don’t have an ATU.  So, I had to make the antennas resonant on the 20-meter WSPR frequency of 14.097 MHz.  For the AX1, Thomas’ videos helped a lot.  I used a clip-on capacitance hat and adjusted the counterpoise to 15’ 2”.  This gave me an SWR of 1.17:1.  For the end fed, I tried the two UNUN’s I had available and settled on the 49:1, which got me the closest (2.2:1).  I then used a manual tuner to achieve an SWR of 1.29:1.

I also wanted to deal with the difference in power output between the two transmitters.  Although they’re identical, and both set to 20 milliwatts, there is no way to ensure both are actually producing that output level.  Based on tests by NG4S, one of the transmitters runs at 19 milliwatts.  The other actually outputs 27 milliwatts.  So, my plan was to run the test for 48 hours. At the end of 24 hours, I would switch the transmitters (and callsigns) so that both antennas would benefit (relatively equally) from one of the transmitters being stronger.

At the end of Day 1, I reviewed the data from the two transmitters on dxplorer.net/wspr.  The end fed averaged a 5.7 dB gain over the AX1 based on reports from receiving stations that spotted both transmitters in the same 10-minute block (simultaneous spots).

On Day 1, the stronger transmitter was on the end fed.  The maps below are from WSPR.rocks.

AX1 – Day 1

End Fed – Day 1

I was pretty impressed that the AX1 got into Europe and Africa on only .019 Watt!  I always have good luck with end feds, so was not too surprised to see this one perform well. Continue reading Guest Post: Extreme QRP–Testing the AX1 with WSPR and 20mW

AX1, AX2, DS-1, HFJ-350M, MFJ-1899T: Compromised portable antenna strategies vary by location

Many thanks to Terry (N7TB) who sent the following question by email and has kindly agreed to allow me to share it here along with my response on QRPer:

Hi Thomas,

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your POTA videos and all the suggestions you have made that I have adopted. I look forward to every activation you put on video. […]

[…]I have a question for you about using your AX1, and would really like your advice. I marvel at how quickly you can activate a park even with an AX1 antenna on 5 watts. I also have an AX1 antenna, counterpoise and KX2[…].

Anyway, I was out today activating K-0213, Maude Williamson State Park, about 20 minutes from my QTH in West Salem, OR. I operated 12W into a 33ft. EFHW antenna suspended vertically from a 31 ft. Jackite mast. All my activations are CW; I usually activate 20 meters.[…]

I was able to finally work 22 stations in an hour and a half, mostly in CA, UT, MT, and one in AZ. I did get a contact in KY, AZ NM, and MB, but it was a tough go for them to hear me. Most of my activations take me a bit over an hour to get 20 contacts.

As I thought about how much easier it seems that you are able to activate, I started to think about geography and population density differences between the East and West coasts. I used Google Earth and measured almost all points east of the Mississippi from Asheville and most were within 1200 miles. I would guess 2/3 of the US population live in this area. I drew the same range from my QTH and I get about half way into MT, barely into WY, most but not all UT, just touch the NW corner of AZ, and all of CA. In all but CA, I would guess the population total in this vast area is less than Illinois. That is my dilemma. I would love to be able to go out, setup my AX1 with my KX2 on even 10 watts, and make quick activations, but I would be surprised if I would get many contacts because the distances are so vast in the West and population density so low. I will actually try using the AX1 when the WX gets better and I can sit at a picnic table. So far, I have had little success with it, even deployed with the correct counterpoise. Do you have any thoughts on how to be successful with the AX1 from the West coast for POTA, or should I just concentrate on other antennas?

[…]Thanks again, Thomas, for the emails you have sent me with suggestions about equipment, and for all your great videos.

Very 73,



Hi, Terry,

First of all, thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate that!

Regarding your message:

Keep in mind that the day you were operating was a very strange day in terms of propagation. There were times when we were having radio blackouts (especially in the western half of the US) and there were times propagation was amazing, yet very unstable. We were hit by so many heavy CMEs this weekend–one seemingly on top of another.

I think you do have a valid point, though, about the geography–one I try to mention when talking about compromised antennas like the AX1.

QSO Map from my latest AX1 activation.

I realize that I enjoy a lot of success with the AX1 because of where I live. I guarantee that the bulk of the US ham radio population is within easy reach of my AX1 antenna, no matter what band.

For you? There are no hams to your west (within easy reach), extremely few to your north (save WA and BC), and the best ham density is to your south in California.

In your shoes, here’s how/when I’d try using the AX1 (keeping in mind I’ve never operated POTA in the western states):

First, I would focus on using 40 meters when the band is healthy and/or for early morning, late afternoon/evening sessions. That should snag contacts across WA, OR, and CA with the AX1. Might be a stretch for southern CA, but I think you could make that work. The only caveat is that flaring has been wiping out daytime 40 meters a lot lately. You might check band conditions in advance.

I would also consider spending time on 17 meters, and possibly 15 meters with your AX1. This might throw your signal across to the midwest, Ohio Valley, and beyond. 17 and 15 meters isn’t typically as productive as 20 meters (at least, for me) but I routinely log west coast stations on 17 meters with the AX1. 15 meters is also getting a lot of attention in the POTA spots!

A wire antenna is almost always a better option than the AX1 if you have the time and space to put it up, but the AX1 is just so darn convenient.


More suggestions?

The reason I asked Terry for permission to post his question and my reply here on the blog is because I suspect there are west-coasters (and those in similar geographic situations) who may be able to share some helpful strategies.

There are so many factors involved beyond what I mentioned in my reply. In fact, I imagine if the goal is to work parts further east, then adjusting the activation schedule for Central and Eastern time zones might also help (for example, not activating during dinner hours when I always see a bit of a lull in hunter activity).

If you have some experience, please feel free to comment!

Lunch Box POTA: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 with the Penntek TR-45L!

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been using the Elecraft AX1 in heavy rotation this year. I made a commitment to myself to do a string of activations with it in January and February and also pair it with a wide variety of radios beyond the Elecraft KX2 and KX3.  So far, I’ve paired the AX1 with the:

In truth, the AX1 can be paired with any radio when you use a tripod mount.

It’s a bit trickier when connecting the AX1 directly to a radio and using the Bipod as a support because 1.) the antenna connector on the radio mustn’t be too high off of the surface, 2.) there needs to be enough clearance on the back of the radio to accommodate the bipod legs and 3.) ideally, it’s nice to have a ground point on the radio, else you’ll need to clamp the counterpoise to the shield of the BNC connector.

In addition, if your radio doesn’t have a built-in ATU of some sort, then you’ll also need a capacity hat or external ATU to finish off the impedance match. (For more notes about the AX1 and AX2, check out this previous post.)

Of course, you don’t have to use Elecraft’s bipod to support the AX1 when directly connected to a radio–you can build or 3D print your own support–but the bipod is really convenient when it does work.

Objective: Lunch Box Radio

One radio I’ve been eager to pair with the AX1 is the Penntek TR-45L.

Why? Because I love the form-factor.

Something about having a lunch box-sized radio sitting on a table with a telescoping whip protruding out the back and, with that combo, the potential of making contacts all over the globe. Continue reading Lunch Box POTA: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 with the Penntek TR-45L!

SOTA-Inspired License Upgrades: Thomas activates two Edinburgh summits with his Elecraft KX3/AX1 kit during business travel

Many thanks to Thomas (DM1TBE / M0KEU) who shares the following SOTA field report he also shared on the excellent SOTA reflector.

How two Scottish SOTA activations encouraged me to upgrade my German license

by Thomas (DM1TBE / M0KEU)

I just wanted to tell someone this story. Not sure if you want to hear it, but I will tell you anyway :wink:

During June last year, my boss asked me if I could step in for an ill colleague and visit a business partner in Frankfurt and Edinburgh. As a SOTA activator, I first checked the map and have happily spotted a summit within walking distance of the hotel in Edinburgh.

Unfortunately, there were three issues to solve:

  1. The UK does not accept my German “Klasse E” (CEPT novice/intermediate) license;
  2. operating a radio on the summit requires written permission and
  3. as the duration of the trip was planned with just 2 overnight stays, only hand luggage was possible.

At the Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, I asked an RSGB representative if it is possible to get a British license as a German. Mark, M1MPA, explained to me how the process worked, so I started the online course provided by GM6DX. It was not too difficult, and I soon passed every mock exam. Roughly, two weeks before the trip, I passed the RSGB operated online exam and got my UK foundation license, so I could operate in Scotland as MM7TBE.

Regarding the issue with the permission to operate on the summit, I first chose to ignore and pretend being a stupid foreign tourist until I was told that it is really enforced, and my activation could be deleted. So, I asked the Ranger Service at Historic Environment Scotland for permission less than two weeks before my activation and received it just one day later with a comment that it is usually expected to ask one month in advance. Many thanks to the Ranger Service, next time I will come earlier – I promise!

The last issue was the size of the equipment.

There is no tree on top of the summit Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272, and I had very little space left. So I went with a KX3 with an AX1 antenna and a FT2D for 2m FM.

Now the journey could begin.

On the first day, I was at a very high place in Frankfurt but unfortunately, it did not qualify for SOTA. That evening I arrived in Edinburgh.

The next day, late afternoon, the fun could start.

A colleague and I walked from the city centre to the summit Arthur’s seat. Continue reading SOTA-Inspired License Upgrades: Thomas activates two Edinburgh summits with his Elecraft KX3/AX1 kit during business travel

Pairing the Elecraft K2 with the AX1 at Tuttle for some QRP P2P DX!

If you recall from my last field report, I’ve been pairing the Elecraft AX1 antenna with a number of radios. For me, it’s been a fun exercise because I always enjoy seeing what sort of results the AX1 might produce. So far, it has never disappointed.

On Thursday, February 2, 2023, I packed two radios in my car with the idea of fitting in two consecutive park activations.

At my first activation of the day–Lake James State Park–I paired the AX1 with my Mission RGO One transceiver. The activation was a blast! Not only did I stay busy working stations, but I also managed a little QRP DX thanks to a hunter from Italy.

K2 and AX1 Under Shelter

Little Guatemala Café

After grabbing a curried chicken salad wrap at Food Matters and a coffee at Little Guatemala roasters in Morganton, I hit my second and final park of the day: Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861). It was rainy, so the park was empty which allowed me to take over the very large picnic shelter at Tuttle.

Even though this particular shelter is in a bit of a dip in the land and has a large metal roof, I’ve had successful activations there in the past employing the AX1 antenna.

My hope was that history would repeat itself!

Setting Up

Attaching the AX1 antenna to the back of the Elecraft K2 was not complicated because the K2 has a BNC connector with nothing protruding to get in the way of the Bipod. Continue reading Pairing the Elecraft K2 with the AX1 at Tuttle for some QRP P2P DX!

Elecraft AX1 Test Using American Radio Supply AM-801 Window Mount

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:

AX1 Test using American Radio Supply AM-801 Window Mount: POTA Activation at Stuart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge, K-0228

February 19, 2023

By: Conrad Trautmann (N2YCH)

If you’ve been reading the posts here on QRPer.com lately, you probably already know that the Elecraft AX1 has proven to be an excellent antenna for POTA activations for CW, SSB and Digital modes.

Personally, I used it for a New York City POTA rove I did at the end of 2022 and was able to activate four parks in one day all over Manhattan.

Recently, Alan, W2AEW contributed a story to QRPer.com detailing how he used a window bracket he constructed with an AX1 to do a CW park activation from his car. I’ve actually done a few digital activations from the car using the AX1, however, I used the tripod with the Elecraft tripod adapter and ran coax to it out the window and draped the counterpoise down the hood or trunk. This has worked well except for windy days where it would blow over. I was intrigued by the possibility of using the window mount and a number of the commenters to Alan’s post suggested sources for these types of mounts. I ended up ordering an AM-801 from American Radio Supply.


Since the AX1 depends on a counterpoise wire to operate properly, the first thing I did after receiving the AM-801 mount was to drill a hole in the base for a screw and a wing nut. The base is painted black, so I got my continuity meter out to double check that the screw was making a good ground, which it was. I had to bend the mount up slightly for the antenna to be vertical, since my Jeep windows don’t have much of an angle to them. I’m sure it would be just right for most cars.

My next step was to give it a try. Continue reading Elecraft AX1 Test Using American Radio Supply AM-801 Window Mount

Notes from new Elecraft AX1/AX2 owners

After posting my latest field reports using the Elecraft AX1 antenna, I’ve received a number of messages from new AX1 owners. All of the following have kindly allowed me to share them here with you.

AX1 Patio DXing

From Michael (K1ETA):


I am a subscriber and an avid follower. [L]ike you, I do a lot of portable ops with various antenna setups and radios. I was recently offered an AX1 and I was told it was basically a dummy load. Having seen your videos and proof of success I accepted it and I can’t say how much fun I have with it. Yesterday, I made 22 DX contacts throughout Europe in the ARRL World Wide CW contest from my patio in my back yard with 5 watts, the AX1 and my KX2.

I would never have tried that with the AX1 had I not seen your videos. You see it is even good enough for contests if you don’t try to compete with the big guns. Listen, search and call back the stations without pileups!

Many thank for all you do and for making me an AX1 believer.


Michael Kenney (K1ETA)

Pairing the AX2 and Emtech ZM-2

From Michael (N7CCD):

Hi Thomas,

I just finished your video comparing the AX1 and AX2 and thought you might appreciate a solution I came up with for making my travel more compact.

I purchased the AX2 during the February sale and found it pairs well with the ZM-2 ATU for my IC-705 (wow what a mouthful of acronyms. No wonder my wife and daughter call me a nerd…). I didn’t get the tripod adapter in the sale, but found the AX2 sits perfectly on the ZM-2 which acts as a very stable stand. There is some body capacitance when tuning, but not too much. I was even able to easily tune it on 17M. I need to try other higher bands sometime.

I set it up in our breakfast nook just for kicks and sent a few JS8 and FT8 transmissions to see where I was being heard (I’ll include a screenshot). Was able to successfully send an APRS text message, and I even made an SSB contact into a special event station in Nevada!

I found a hard sided case I can store the tuner and AX2 in, which also had enough room to put in a “speaker wire” antenna as an option. Why not?

I think this may replace the AlexLoop for air travel since it’s so compact and versatile.

Hope all is well on your side of the country!

Michael – N7CCD

P.S. +16 into Michigan!

AX1 DXing

From Kevin (KD8IE):

Hi Tom,

After video about the AX1 recently, I decided to order one and it came last week.

The weather’s been kind of chilly up here. As a matter of fact, it was 41 when I decided to go out and do an activation then at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Well, suffice to say I made contacts with the antenna a lot farther than I expected it would be. The bands were really long. First station I worked was in New Brunswick. The last two stations were Italy and Slovenia.


Many thanks to all of you for sharing your experience and tips using the AX series antennas!

As a reminder, Elecraft has a February promotion on an AX1 and AX2 packages that includes free shipping. There are a few days of this promotion left at time of posting.

Jim’s “WD-PT-PB” AX1/AX2 table/bench clamp mount

Many thanks to Jim (N9EET) who writes:


I look forward to all your videos and am enjoying how you use the Elecraft AX-1 in the field.

I have built the “WD-PT-PB” attachment for my AX-1 antenna.

That is, it is for Windy Day-Picnic Table-Park Bench use. It can be set up horizontally or vertically on the edge of a picnic table or at any angle on the back of a park bench and is a secure attachment for the AX-1 off the radio.

[I] bought the bolts straight and put them thru a random C clamp secured with a nut or wing nut and then bent one in my vise. Loosen the wing nut and angle the bolt any way I want and tighten the wing nut.

The pictures show it better than paragraphs of a description.

Jim Long
Madison, WI

That’s brilliant, Jim! I love how versatile the clamp is and that it even fits in your Maxpedition pouch! No doubt, it’ll help the AX1 (or AX2, or any similar antenna) survive the windiest of deployments.

Thank you for sharing.

Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Mission RGO One with the Elecraft AX1 at Lake James for some QRP DX

Welcome to my first Postcard Field Report!

If you’ve been following QRPer.com and my YouTube channel for long, you’ll notice that I typically post two field reports with videos per week when my free time allows. Each report takes about four hours to produce along with a video. I’ve currently got a small backlog of videos I need to post, so in order to squeeze them into my schedule, I’m going to use a slightly more abbreviated field report format: a “postcard” format!

My Postcard Field Reports will still be information-packed, just slightly more concise and distilled than my average field report. I’ll primarily post these for sites I visit frequently.

Speaking of which….

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

Thursday, February 2, 2023, was a rainy, dreary day so the perfect time to play a little POTA, right?  I made time in my morning to visit Lake James State Park (K-2739).

When I arrived at the Catawba River Access, the parking lot was empty. Not too surprising considering it was a Thursday morning on a chilly, rainy day.

Of course, I had the picnic shelter all to myself, so why not use it to stay dry? Continue reading Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Mission RGO One with the Elecraft AX1 at Lake James for some QRP DX

Video: What are the differences between the Elecraft AX1 and AX2? Should you buy one?

The Elecraft AX1 paired with the KX2.

During the months of January and February 2023, I’ve given my Elecraft AX1 a thorough workout. As I mentioned in a previous post, I thought it might be fun to take the AX1 out on a good 30 days worth of activations.

Turns out, I’ve had such brief windows of opportunity to play radio recently, the AX1 and now AX2 have been valuable tools in my field kit. They are, no doubt, the quickest-to-deploy and most portable antennas in my collection.

The Elecraft AX2 paired with the KX2.

If I only have a 20 minute window to squeeze in a quick park activation, the AX1 and AX2 make a valid POTA activation–with 10 logged contacts– a reality.

I originally purchased my Elecraft AX1 in the spring of 2020 and have used it extensively since then. In January 2023, I finally caved in and purchased the most recent addition to the AX family, the mono-band AX2.

Elecraft AX1 vs. AX2

Since I’ve been publishing numerous field reports recently using the AX1 (with more to come) and since Elecraft has included both the AX1 and AX2 in their February 2023 Specials, I’ve received questions from readers asking:

  1. “Should I buy an AX1 or AX2–?”
  2. and “If so, which one should I buy? What are the differences?”

At first, I simply pointed readers to the concise comparison guide that Elecraft publishes on their website (linked below).

I realize, though, that there are characteristics of each antenna that you might only discover after actually using them in the field.

I decided to make am unedited video–based on a few notes–not only describing the differences and similarities of the AX1 and AX2, but also if either would potentially benefit you as a field operator or traveler.

One quick note about resonance…

One point I touch on in the video is that both the AX1 and AX2 antennas are designed to be mostly resonant on 20 meters.

Small verticals like the AX1 and AX2, that use coils to electrically “lengthen” the antenna, have a higher Q than, say, a large aperture quarter or half wave antenna. In practical terms, this means that the window of resonance is narrow and more fickle than, for example, an end-fed half-wave.

A lot of factors can affect the SWR on higher-Q antennas like the AX1/AX2 including:

  • the type of terrain,
  • height off the ground,
  • length of counterpoise,
  • configuration of counterpoise,
  • and, most notably, the operator’s own body capacitance.

You may find that the AX2, for example, is natively resonant on 20 meters at one location, but isn’t at another location. This is quite normal. It’s also the reason why Elecraft states that both antennas are designed to be used with an ATU.

If you are pairing the AX1 or AX2 with a radio that doesn’t have an ATU (or you can’t use an external one), then you might consider making a simple capacity hat. Check out this field report and video where I paired the AX1 with the IC-705 and used a capacity hat to sort out the SWR.


As with all of my videos, this one is unedited and commercial-free. If you’d like to skip through the video to the parts you might find most relevant, simply hover your mouse over the YouTube time line and click on the chapter indicated:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Another note here: I have no affiliation with Elecraft, but pushed this article and video to the front of the line to help those who are consider taking advantage of Elecraft’s  AX1/AX2 February 2023 Package Deals.

I hope you find the video helpful. I’ll try to answer any other questions you might have in the comments of this post.


Thank you

I hope you enjoyed this comparison video.

I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)