Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chameleon CHA P Loop review

The Chameleon CHA P Loop antenna
I had a chance to once again use my new Chameleon CHA P loop antenna  and it's now time to give this antenna my humble review. To begin with I shopped around for a loop antenna and looked at the following brands. The Alexloop walkham  loop, the Caras HF 315 loop, Alpha loop antennas and finally Chameleons CHA P loop antenna. Most of these antenna had good reviews for the most part but I chose the Chameleon CHA P loop for it's rugged construction and slightly better reviews. The loop comes with very easy to follow instructions that contain in-depth details about the antenna. I ordered it from DX Engineering and the delivery time was GREAT along with their customer service. The loop does not take long to assembly and wth practice I have it up and running in under 10 minutes. Below is a list of the positives I found with antenna:

  1. It has a very small foot print when setup and is very portable which makes it easy for traveling on foot or bike. 
  2. In very little time you can get very proficient as setting up the antenna. 
  3. The Loop (LMR-400) section and PL-259 connectors are very good quality and also they are fitted with heat shrink to add a nice water tight fit. 
  4. The tuning box is sealed and weather proof just for those days when Murphy decides to bring some rain on your portable operations. 
    The tuning box 
  5. The 6:1 reduction gear makes tuning accurate and finding the peak noise level very fast. On the tuning box I added a 40-10 meter decal to remind me of tuning direction. Also I added the DX Engineering sticker as I am blown away with their customer service. 
  6. I was able to successfully tune the loop to at least 1.3:1 on all bands wether is was 10m or 40 meters. 
  7. Once the antenna was tuned to the lowest SWR and you move away from the antenna the SWR does not change. In the past with other loop antennas I have used the tuning know was on the top of the tuning box. Your hand being in the loop would affect the SWR and once your hand was removed the SWR would change and this made tuning frustrating. Other loops did not have the 6:1 gear reduction and finding the sweet spot and lowest SWR was a challenge. The slightest touch of the tuning knob threw the SWR off and often you would have to start over again. 
  8. On the base of the handle is a 1/4-20 female thread that makes putting this antenna on a tripod a breeze. Other loops I have used do not have this and I had to make up a homemade mount. 
  9. RG-58 with integrated RFI choke feed-line decouples the Faraday coupling loop from the radio which is essential to prevent SWR fluctuation while rotating the antenna or moving the coax cable around.
  10. If you have an HOA situation and getting on the air is a challenge this antenna could be the answer for you. 
    Quality PL-259 on Loop
Some of the drawback I found with the antenna are:
  1. The coax that runs from the antenna to the rig is only 12 feet and longer would had been better but that is my humble opinion. In all fairness the other portable loops I have own I had the same issue. Now Chameleon does offer coax with the RF choke in a 50 foot length for 65.00. 
  2. The telescoping mast seems a bit delicate and could if your not careful become damaged making the antenna unless until it's replaced. 
  3. I noticed right away the PL-259 connectors on the feed line are the crimp type and look of low grade quality. In my opinion this makes for a very weak point in the antennas construction. The loop section has quality grade PL-259 but this was skipped with the feed line. 
    Crimped PL-259 
  4. The carry bag it comes with is defective right off the self and admitted so by Chameleon. I'm not going to go into detail about that here but you can read my post about it HERE.
In conclusion I am very happy with the antenna and it's built quality, easy deployment and reduction gear tuning. It is pricey but in all fairness all the loops of similar characteristics are in around the same price. 

6 comments:

  1. Hello Mike, excellent review. I'm planning to make my own portable loop, Though a capacitor with 1:6 reduction is hard to find so I use one I got. 73, Bas

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    Replies
    1. Good evening Bas, very good to hear from you and do post your progress as you start to build your portable loop antenna.
      73,
      Mike

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  2. Mike,

    here some clarifications about the CHA P-LOOP:

    The crimp PL-259 connectors that we're using with all our RG-58 coax aren't cheap. We're using ONLY the UHF-7604L connectors from PAN-PACIFIC. They're the best and the leader in the industry.

     There is no need for soldering; therefore, installation time is reduced.
     It takes an experienced technician about 15 seconds to install a crimp-crimp connector, thereby greatly reducing the time required to create cable assemblies. This is very important in today's cabling market where time is of the essence and fewer technicians are being asked to maintain more and more equipment. Digital video, computer and network cabling is almost universally crimped today.
     Crimped connections, done correctly, can be superior to soldered connections.
     A good crimped connection deforms the metal sufficiently past the yield point, but not too much, so that the "spring back" keeps the connection secure, even under thermal cycling (the coefficient of expansion of the two metals might be different) and vibration.
     A good crimp connection is gas tight and won't wick: it is sometimes referred to as a "cold weld".
     Like the solder method, it can be used on solid or stranded conductors, and provides a good mechanical and electrical connection.

    The bag issue:

    When we manufacture antennas we’re testing everything in advance to offer the best we can find at the best cost possible. But sometime, mistake can be done while purchasing in large quantity. We manufactured about 200 units of the CHA P-LOOP (first version) antenna and bought everything needed in large quantity. We only find out months later, when all the units were sold and shipped half-way across the world, that the top zipper of SOME bag might break due to poor quality. An estimated of about 3 to 4 bags with that issue has been reported to us which is less than 2%. It’s not ALL the bags! Since January 2017, we changed bags manufacturer and now the zipper issue is totally gone! The new bag is offered with our new CHA P-LOOP 2.0.

    The telescopic mast issued with the P-LOOP, P-LOOP 2.0 and the F-LOOP 2.0 is more rugged than it might appear. They’re made of aluminum extrusion anodized. About 500 magnetic loop units using that system is currently in circulation around the world and NONE has been reported to be broken.

    Carl

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  3. Good morning Carl, thanks very much for taking the time to comment and for bringing forward some clarifications. With regards to the PL-259 connector that is great information and only but builds up the quality of your product. To include some of this information in the spec's section of your website would be a great advantage toward your product and great information for a purchaser to know and understand.

    With regards to the telescoping section of your antenna I admit I am used to products such as Manfrotto and may had been using an unfair comparison. In no way was I saying the mast was of poor quality but I felt the operator may want to be careful when extending it. My intent was to give mindful advice when extending and retracting the mast section. Having said that including in your specs that the mast is also made from "aluminum extrusion anodized" again would add information to the buyer and at the same time add to the product.

    With regards to the carry bag and not to beat a dead hoarse I stand by what I said in my post. My issue was not with the bag but how the issue was handled. It's great news to hear the issue has been looked after at your end but DX Engineering came through 100% with YOUR 2% bag issue.

    Carl thanks again for taking the time to post your comment and very clearly informing me and my blog readers about your product. Again information that would be great to see on the website as it only builds upon your great product. The CHA P loop is one of the best I have ever used keep up the good work.
    73,
    Mike

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  4. Mike,

    I've added the information to our website and also added a CHA P-LOOP 2.0 20% OFF discount for your readers, at the link below. The discount will be applied at the check out. The discount is valid until the end of July 2017.

    https://chameleonantenna.cartloom.com/product/cha-p-loop-2-0

    Cheers,

    Carl

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    Replies
    1. Good evening Carl, great to hear from you and it's very generous of you to offer the discount. If it's ok I will make up a new blog post mentioning the CHA P Loop 2.0 and mention the discount as well and that it's until the end of July.
      Mike

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