Monkey Made MM5 vs. the Predator 10K vs. the 102 Stainless Steel Whip, with a bonus Francis Fiberglass antenna evaluation
WE EVALUATE A FEW OF THE MORE POPULAR CHOICES OUT THERE, AND WADE THROUGH THE HYPE IN SEARCH OF FACTS
Antennas. Since radio was invented, the antenna has been there side-by-side to connect transmitter with receiver. As technology increased, so did experimentation and design of modern day antennas. We now can enjoy the luxury of satellite radio in our automobiles with an antenna the size of a Zippo lighter. Listen to and play wakeup music for spacecraft orbiting the earth. Talk with deeply submerged submarines on the other side of the globe, and communicate world wide via cell phones from antennas we don’t even see. Without a good antenna system, even the best of transmitters would fail miserably in the quest for communications.
So, how does this apply to CB radios? Because success is directly related to the most important item in your setup, the antenna.
My quest to learn more about antennas came when I bought my first used CB setup. A neighbor was moving and needed to sell his junk. I bought everything from him including a radio with a cheap microphone, a stainless steel whip, some coax, an old Micronta meter with broken switches, a push up tower that had been run over by a car, a small rusty power supply, and a very old copy of Now youre Talking. He was kind enough to teach me about setting SWRs, and then he was gone. As I played with the system, I tried and tried to get my SWRs below 2.0, but to no avail. It was always close, but remained high. Damn that cheap whip! A good friend of mine recommended I try a Francis 8ft fiberglass antenna. By this time, I had been reading that Now youre Talking book and was learning a few things that were useful. When I purchased and installed my new Francis, SWRs were awesome, and I began making contacts. Success had arrived at last.
That was many years ago, and my knowledge has improved a bit. I still have that radio, and if you hear me out there in DX land, I think you will be impressed with its sound. The antenna I could not tune had been trimmed. I have upgraded most everything else though.
I would like to state for the record that I am not an antenna expert, nor trying to pretend I have the knowledge of an antenna engineer. I am a radio operator who has grown tired of the hype and falsehoods we read about on the internet, and decided to put some fact-based information out there for others to consider when deciding what best fits their situation and budget. I have built an array of knowledge and some decent test equipment, and will hopefully provide you, the reader, with some realistic information to judge what fits you best, while trying to dispel some of the misinformation you may find on the world wide web. Here goes
I have tested four antennas in six configurations. Each antenna has various differences, but remain top sellers in the CB radio market. Two of these antennas are coil antennas, the other two are conventional. I tested the setup of the conventional antennas with and without a spring (applicable to their size) wanting to display how it affected their readings. Although I have my favorite of them all, my emotions and opinions will stay out of this article. You will see only what the meter read, with my personal observations of my experiences with each antenna. The test results stand by themselves. Also, it must be noted that I purchased each of these antennas and test equipment with my hard earned dollars. No sponsorship to pollute the findings.
THE SETUP USED FOR TESTING
The setup for all testing was on my Chevrolet Silverado. I run LMR-240 coax from radio to antenna, including jumpers made of the same material through various items including an external SWR meter and pre-amp. Only silver plated PL-259 connectors are used throughout, all built and soldered by myself. The mount is a Predator 10K (ring terminal connection style) hard mounted through the roof with a large metal backing plate inside for stress distribution and strength. The shield of the coax is grounded directly to the truck cab near the mount. Testing of the antennas with the MFJ-259B was straight from the antenna to the meter with approximately 18 feet of coax. Testing with the external SWR meter was run through my accessories as listed above. All testing (with the external SWR meter) was performed with 4 watts of carrier power, and the meter recalibrated at each individual frequency test.
I show both meter readings so the reader can compare and see how running multiple items with multiple jumpers can affect SWR. If you only care about the truest reading, follow the MFJ-259B readings exclusively. In a perfect world, everything would be 50 ohm and jumpers wouldn’t make a difference. Well, it’s not a perfect world, and coax lengths tend to change readings whether it “should” or not.
First Up- The Monkey Made MM5
The Monkey Made line of antennas is one of the original line of big coil antennas that remain in business today. Also sold under the Megatron name for awhile from an internet retailer, they have stood the test of time and remain a hot seller to this day. Manufactured in Florida, they produce a line of antennas designed to fit various applications and lengths.
When I first joined the CB radio internet forums, this was the antenna of choice for many. Yes there was the “55” I must acknowledge with utmost respect, widely referred to as the hottest CB antenna ever made. But the cost and size of it turned away many who were seeking something more simplistic, or just werent willing to spend the cash for it. Intimidation comes to mind when looking at it years ago. Big antennas take larger mounts, reinforcements, etc. All add to the cost. There were other versions such as Crossbones Antenna (X-Bones) who hand-made antennas, and on the west coast a small company named Mr. Coily was getting started and making a name for themselves. But on the internet, the next best thing in terms of big coils and power handling abilities was the Monkey Made. More affordable, it grew in popularity as it tailored to consumers by way of different versions with varying number of coils, shaft lengths, and even a small trucker version called the MM9. For those who have seen photos of the arcing and burned Monkey Made antenna on the internet, be advised of what you are looking at. That is the MM9. Manufactured of tightly wound ½ aluminum flat stock coils, this antenna stands less than 59, and is the only 3 diameter coil antenna made by this company. Although supposedly able to handle high wattage, it was designed with one purpose in mind, big trucks with Department of Transportation set height limits. Mount it on a mirror mount of an 18 wheeler and you were good to go. This little antenna was not designed to be used for automobiles, as their other line of antennas filled that niche. Someone pumped it full of watts and melted it down, and it’s been negative internet hype ever since. Pictures speak a thousand words but only sometimes. Only a fool would judge the entire line of antennas based on one internet photo. Negative experiences spread like wildfire on internet forums, and it seems everyone knows a guy who knows a guy whose cousins sister from a different mother had one and said they were junk. But of course they all claim first hand knowledge. I would guess that most have never seen one in person, just sucked into the hype. I’ll leave it for you to decide what you wish to believe.
The rest of the Monkey Made line of antennas is made with ¾ flat stock aluminum with welded construction. The stinger is the stiffest of all antennas tested, tapered larger at the bottom than top. If you are worried about flex at highway speeds, you dont have to worry about this one. No question of varying SWRs or reflect at highway speeds here. Tested was the MM5 with a 12 shaft.
This photo is of the Monkey Made MM5 from http://www.monkeymade.com/
I purchased the Monkey Made (MM5, 5 coil, 12 shaft, 4 diameter coils, 64 ½ total length (tuned with this mount/location) in 2002 and have years of use, and many miles of travel on it. I really liked the looks from the beginning, but mostly loved its performance. I researched through both the internet hype and negativity for months before finally shelling out the cash and purchasing it. Results were immediate in talking to my locals friends. They instantly noticed a significant difference in my signal strength compared to my ageing K-40, and I could talk much farther locally than ever before. I really experienced an incredible increase that made me a believer in this antenna from day one. My first impressions remain with me to this day. Below you will find some personal experiences:
Myths and Truths on what I have seen:
1) The Monkey Made antennas fill up with water. I have read this enough on the web that I suspect there is indeed some truth to it, but my personal experiences in the down pours of Florida to the ever lasting rain of Washington State, I have yet to have that problem with mine. Maybe I got lucky and the antenna Gods have smiled upon me, but seeing this problem related many times on forums led me to check my own antenna after extended rainy periods. For me, no water has filled up or penetrated my Monkey Made. However as stated above, the stinger is tapered being largest at the bottom. Tuning to your vehicle may indeed expose a gap whereas water intrusion could become a reality where the stinger inserts into the shaft.
2) Monkey Made antennas are prone to corrosion. Yep, a true story for me, but not a show stopper. I have had green corrosion on the brass fittings, and also aluminum pitting on the coils themselves. Neither affected performance or SWR, but was visibly present and required me to clean it up occasionally. It would seem that if not maintained, corrosion would inevitably lead to SWR issues. Like any antenna, DO YOUR MAINTENANCE! Clean occasionally and use dielectric grease on joining parts. If you are too lazy to do these simple task, dont blame the antenna when it fails.
3) Monkey Made antennas are heavy. I dont think so. Especially for the size, I found them quite light. However, the wind load of ¾ flat stock coils is sure to stress a weak mount. I traveled from Florida to Washington State, a 3000 mile journey at highway speeds (and severe cross winds in Wyoming enough to shred my boat cover) and never had any problem, no movement of the magnet mount whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I have only seen it move once when I had to drive under a low tree limb to avoid an accident. The mount slid (an MFJ Tri-Mag mount at the time), but the antenna did not break. That says quite a bit about the strength.
4) Tuning. I did have to work slowly to tune the Monkey Made, but it required no cutting of the stinger. Far from hard.
Below are the results of my testing:
SECOND UP- The PREDATOR 10K
The Predator 10K line of antennas is the currently most hyped line of antennas out there on most internet forums. Surely you’ve seen “It’s a 10K World!” in your research if shopping for a new antenna. Manufactured in Texas, it has grown in popularity to be the hottest selling coil antenna in the current Citizens Band radio market. The Predator 10K is made of interchangeable pieces so the product can be varied to fit most any installation situation. Each piece can be replaced if somehow your antenna becomes damaged. From 9″, 12″, 17″ 22″ and 27″ shaft lengths, it can be installed from vehicle rooftops to toolboxes behind the cab of pickup trucks. Also made are double coil antennas to reduce the overall profile for those needing a shorter antenna without sacrificing performance.
I purchased the Predator 10K (17″ shaft single 3″ coil) in August of 2005. First impressions holding in my hand was how light this antenna was! It is also a very well made antenna with superb customer service from the manufacture, hard to find in today’s market of any CB related product. Because of so many configurations it can be set to, the stinger is sold with the same length for all Predator single coil antennas, and you must trim to tune to your individual setup. I noticed the stinger was more flexible than that of my 102″ whip, and far more flexible than the MM5. So we set about tuning it. I soon found out that flexible does not relate to weakness, and this stinger is tough to cut! I used a Dremel type tool with a cutting wheel to trim it most effectively. Much like my first impressions with the MM5, this antenna really helps you reach out to touch and receive distant stations.
This photo relates the difference between the 12″ shaft of the MM5 vs. a 17″ shaft of the 10K
Myths and Truths on what I have seen:
1) The antenna is light. Yes, extremely lightweight yet strong and well made. This wind load on this antenna will be less than the MM5.
2) The manufacture provides great customer service. Another Yes, and it’s refreshing to see such a proactive manufacture really supporting the customers who purchase their product.
3) The antenna is difficult to tune. Not really if you have any experience in using an SWR meter and are not afraid to trim the stinger (a requirement on most, if not all Predators sold). Trimming is essential, sometimes by many inches. Fortunately, there is about a 6 inches that the stinger slides into the antenna shaft for compensation in case you trim too short.
4) SWR readings can reach the lowest of settings if properly tuned. Yes. By far the lowest tuning antenna I have ever tried, attached test equipment to, and owned. To say I was impressed is quite an understatement.
5) The antenna is illegal. Not True. Forgive me, but its story time, and I have to tell this tale. I had someone approach me in a parking lot quite irate about me having the Predator 10K on my truck. I did not even have the radio on, I run clean radios, so impossible for me to be coming over anything being I had not transmitted all day. He identified himself as a “Amateur Class Extra Hammie” (his exact words), and that my antenna was illegal because it multiplied the power output of the radio. He raved on wanting to know what I was running, trying to look into my truck, threatening to call the FCC and was just a prick overall. Now I know quite a few ham operators, and these guys are awesome. They wonder why I study to learn so much, spend my money, time and put so much effort into CB radio, but as the oldest says (while laughing), that I’m just a young rebel chasing after the wild wild west. Yes, he is accurate. I enjoy the wild wild west aspect of CB radio. These gentlemen have a tremendous amount of knowledge, hear me on their scanners, and know I keep it clean even while having some fun. Well, they have taught me quite a bit as well. First, stay off their bands. I concur, as that is the only real headache they have with CB’ers is those who get on the 10 meter band. Second, they don’t call themselves “hammies”. Third, it’s “Amateur Extra class”. Fourth, any Amateur Extra class and most all ham operators who study antenna theory (and most do well) realize how wrong this guy was. I picked it up quickly and played with him like a two year old plays with a noisy toy. I kept my cool enjoying outsmarting him and shooting down every theory he had. I respect the ham community completely, but folks, he was no ham operator. His final point was that my antenna was too high. It was not of course (13′ from ground to the tip), but to actually make a point here for those who care, the legal height of your mobile antenna should not exceed 13’6″ by Department of Transportation rules. The Predator 10K is 100% legal, go figure. My ham friends like the construction of the Predator 10K, but that’s about where the constructive conversation ends, and they’re back to razzing me about me chicken bander antenna on steroids, and “why don’t you pursue ” For what it’s worth, that guy who gave me hell drove away with a four foot Firestick type antenna on the rear bumper of his truck, right up against the tailgate. Nothing against Firesticks, but that was a bad location for it to be. I don’t believe he could spell SWR. It must suck to be a mudduck. Okay, back to the results.
I have experienced a wind noise from this antenna that I don’t on either the MM5 or the 102″ whip. Oddly though, the noise comes back when I install the Francis antenna on a spring. I contribute this most likely to placement on my vehicle rather than the antennas themselves. I have not pursued further troubleshooting to remedy this.
For once it seems much of the internet hype I’ve read concerning this antenna appears to be true, and it’s all positive. I cannot yet validate how it compares in on-air testing with the other antennas, but will attempt that in the future. I can say that it really works well from my personal experiences, and this is my normal antenna I run fulltime. It just plain works.
Below are the results of my testing:
THIRD UP- The 102″ STAINLESS WHIP
What can I say, this is the antenna that all CB radio antennas are compared to. Basically a full quarter wavelength long (with spring) within the CB frequencies, it has been the standard over decades of proven use. Although there is no power rating that is advertised, I’ve known many who have put 1000+ watts into it without problem. Probably the cheapest antenna to purchase, for some reason there has become a lack of faith in this old standard for reasons unknown to me. The largest downfall to this antenna is it’s size and flexibility, which are also it’s classic strengths in opposing ways. Strong and flexible, it can take a beating and continue to operate flawlessly while radiating its full length. However, you may hit many low lying trees, bridges, overpasses, etc. depending on where it’s mounted on your vehicle. Not recommended for the drive through at fast food restaurants, although we just may thank this antenna for every gas station in the nation now having roofing covers over the pumps of at least 20 feet high. It was quite common years ago to have the whip take out entire lines of fluorescent bulbs as a vehicle entered or departed the filling stations.
I was floored when I put the meters to this antenna testing it’s bandwidth. I would not have believed it to evenly cover such a frequency range with such little variance if I hadn’t performed the test myself.
Myths and Truths on what I have seen:
1) The antenna requires a spring for optimum performance. Not true. Yes the spring adds length to achieve the full quarter wavelength of the CB frequencies, but it is really dependant on how and where it’s mounted on your vehicle. In some cases it will benefit, in others it will not. My tables show this in my testing. Your results may vary. On my setup, adding a spring and then trimming the antenna bit would be most beneficial for optimum performance. For these test, the antenna was not trimmed. I have provided two tables for comparisons purposes of with the spring and without.
2) The reflect varies as you drive around. My initial test of two years ago proved this wrong, but I have changed mounts, locations, etc. I don’t have those notes anymore and won’t comment on this now. I plan to retest this with my current setup.
I have always been a huge fan of the stainless whip, and will probably always be. Unfortunately, on my current mount, it rides about 15’+ high and it’s just too high for a daily ride around antenna.
Below are the results of my testing:
FOURTH UP- The FRANCIS 5’5″ cb 26
I included this in the article for those that are looking for a shorter antenna that performs well and is cheap on the wallet. I am sure on air testing with this antenna would result in reductions of TX and RX compared to the three antennas above, but it’s not made to compete against them either. At less than $20, it is pre-tuned to the CB frequencies to keep it cheap and simple. Placed on a roof of a vehicle, it will perform quite adequately with very good SWR’s within the CB band frequencies. It’s maximum wattage capability is advertised at 150 watts, obviously not designed for those that run a little fire, but should handle most dual final export radios just fine. Nothing fancy here, no hype about this antenna either, but it does serve its designed purpose quite well. It also reacted quite differently with and without a 3″ medium spring. I have included dual charts to also show how it read in both configurations.
Looking at the graphs showed that on my particular setup, this antenna did not like the spring. This can be quite beneficial for those looking for the simplest of installations. A good grounded mount with coax and antenna and you’re set.
So, which antenna is best for you? It’s up to you to decide. All tested superbly within the CB bandwidth, with most testing superbly throughout the entire range of testing. On my graphs, one may stand out better than the rest depending on what you are looking for, but there are many factors that come into play. Some people like the looks of the coils, some people don’t. Some believe the hype they read, some don’t want to stand out to thieves, some want something practical, some want high power ratings, something quickly removable, or the cheapest antenna to get started. Desires and budgets will vary as well. Your type mount, mounting location, grounding, coax (size, type and velocity), and how (including where) you tuned the antenna all come into play. Chances are if I tested each of these antennas on your mount, the results would change, and another may fair better or worse. I had different results with initial testing on a MFJ Tri-Magnet mount last year. Once hard mounted, I had to retune both coil antennas. I now have a solid ground, so you can see that many things will affect your results. There are hundreds of antennas out there, and each result will fallout differently.
But, don’t let that discourage you. Your antenna is by far the most important tool in your setup, and not the place to skimp. Typically, the longer the antenna, or the higher it can be placed will result in better performance in both transmit and receive.
Also, it was not my intention to test these antennas against each other. Once properly setup, I would like to evaluate on-air test, but that’s in the future. I don’t believe I could present accurate results comparing the MM5 against the 10K with differing shaft lengths to decide who “wins”. Ultimately I will probably put them all on the line against the 102″ whip and see how the results fall out. I believe in facts versus hype, and let the testing equipment tell me the truth. But that takes a suitable location and something much more calibrated than a big long whistle and such.
Also, there are many other fine antennas that might compete with these, but the choices I have here are because this is what I own. I like the Wilson line for magnet mounts. I’ve had decent luck with K-40’s. I loved my old 96″ Francis fiberglass and wish I had one to evaluate now, but some other CB’er decided he needed it more than me. I really liked that antenna too and have heard they have been discontinued. Bummer. Also, I had a chance to see and get hands on the new line of Mr. Coily antennas in August of 2005. After speaking with Dan the manufacture, I really wish I could have purchased one. Their older line from years ago look much like the Monkey Made line, and their new line looks more like the Predator 10K line. Had I just a few more bucks in my pocket, you would have seen it here as well. There are more of course.
Whatever you do, invest in a good solid antenna, good coax, a well grounded and thoughtfully placed mount and get on the air. Even small radios will produce exceptionally well with this combination.
(This article was written and submitted by a good friend of CBradiomagazine.com and I wish to personally thank him for his time and work in preparing such a great article.)