Finding the best dual band HT antenna can be a tough job. It seems every time a person gets their license one of the first questions is what kind of antenna can they upgrade to so their HT radio will work better. Unfortunately this is not as easy as it may sound. For the purposes of this article single band radio is refering to 2m since it is the most popular and dual band means 2m/440.
Better at what?
The first question I have to ask is “make your HT work better at what?” If you want it to fit better in your pocket a really short stubby might be the best bet. If you want to receive better way out in the middle of nowhere, a portable J pole might be the best solution.
Typically the answer I get is people looking to get better connections out on the fringe of a repeater’s coverage area while still being in a fairly populated area. This comes down to one of two types of antennas; the stock antenna which does a remarkably good job (more on this later) and an aftermarket replacement.
The difference depends largely on how many radios are in your area. A few repeaters and the aftermarket would probably be your best bet for increasing signal whereas in a very radio dense area you might be better off keeping the stock antenna as it will have better rejection of unwanted signals.
Take for example my town of about 38,000 people and really only one working amateur radio repeater. Add in the bevy of repeaters for police, fire, utilities, city, county, and state organizations and you have a reasonably dense area. Fortunately many of those are using trunking systems which do not seem to cause as many issues. Here I can use an aftermarket antenna with pretty good success.
On the other hand if I take my HT a little south into downtown Houston that same aftermarket antenna actually hurts my use of the radio and switching back to the stock antenna really cleans things up.
Which aftermarket antenna?
Once you decide you want an aftermarket antenna you realize there are a ton of them out there. No one I know has tested even a fraction of them against each other. Even those of us who have used quite a few different ones haven’t really compared more than two or three at a time against each other. So how do we know which ones are good?
Of all the ones I have used, two stand out. These two are not only ones I have used and that worked well for me, but are also favorites of all the radio clubs I know as well as very popular online. You can of course look at the Amazon reviews for them too.
My absolute favorite is the Diamond SRH77CA for radios using SMA connections like Yaesu or the Diamond SRJ77CA for reverse SMA connections like Baofeng. I consistently get excellent results from these antennas when used either on a dual band, or a single band radio. Since I have owned both types of radios, I find using this one antenna solves all my issues. The dedicated single band antennas I have tried either performed no better or only marginally better than this dual band antenna even when only using the 2m band.
The Diamond antennas have improved reception and transmit capabilities and are very well made. I have lost a couple, but never had one break or stop working. Will it turn your HT into a mobile rig or give it the range of a base? Not even. It will however give you a little extra bump to pull out those repeaters at the very edge of your operating range.
The next antenna I want to talk about is the Nagoya RH-771 SMA antenna for Yaesu type radios and the Nagoya NA-771 reverse SMA antenna for Baofeng style radios. These antennas are roughly half the price of the Diamond models listed above and provide most of the performance enhancements.
The down side of these antennas is that they seem less robust than the Diamonds and clearly show some issues with quality control. The last one of these I purchased (a NA-771 to be specific) had the little rubber tip at the top just fall off having never been glued on at the factory. While this is a really simple thing and took less than a minute to fix that is just the latest thing I have seen, some much more dramatic such as threads that would not tighten and improper soldier connections that caused the antenna not to transmit at all.
In all fairness the problems I have heard about with the Nagoya antennas are pretty infrequent, but that compares to me never hearing of a problem with a Diamond out of the box. I own both and use both but tend to use Diamonds on my expensive HTs such as Yaesu and Kenwood while using the Nagoya antennas on my Baofeng radios.
What about the rest?
I really thought long and hard about including four or five different antenna brands or major models but then I just asked myself why I wanted to do that much work. With these two (four if you count the different types of connectors) I can cover all my radios with an excellent antenna at two different price points so there really is no need to get carried away and look at twenty different models, none of which does any better realistically than the two I have already discussed.
Pick up either the Diamond SRH77CA for radios using SMA connections like Yaesu or the Diamond SRJ77CA for reverse SMA connections like Baofeng if you want the absolute best bang for your buck in terms of performance and quality. If on the other hand you want most of the performance at half the price, grab a Nagoya RH-771 SMA antenna for Yaesu type radios or the Nagoya NA-771 reverse SMA antenna. Either way you will have an excellent antenna.