Understanding Shortwave Antenna

The world has seen major changes in communication, with one critical entrant being the shortwave antenna. 

These are devices that receive and transmit radio frequency waves in the 1.6-30 MHz range. 

Funny enough, shortwave antennas are longer than normal antennas to match the wave’s wavelength. 

Moreover, you can find these antennas in different forms, such as dipole and wire antennas.

 Surprisingly, very few antennas can boast of making the same impact as a shortwave antenna in long-distance communication, especially international broadcasts. 

But what are the shortwave features, and how can you set them up? Keep reading this article to find out. 

Table of Contents

Shortwave Radio

These radio frequency waves with a 1.6-30 MHz range support long-distance communication, especially international broadcasts, emergency communications, and any transmission over vast distances. 

Shortwave radio waves reflect and refract radio waves in the Earth’s ionosphere, thus managing to travel long distances. 

The waves are otherwise known as high-frequency waves, and you can capture them using shortwave antennas. 

Funny enough, the antennas are highly portable and have features like baluns which minimize electromagnetic interference. 

Moreover, certain shortwave antennas, like Yagi antennas, are directional (the ability to transmit or receive signals from a specific direction).

What kind of antenna do I need for shortwave radio?

A dipole antenna

(A dipole antenna)

The type of antenna you require for shortwave radio depends on factors like your desired performance, available space, and location. 

But generally, the common antennas you can use include the following. 

  • Long wire antenna: This antenna has a long wire of about 20 meters between two supports. And although this antenna offers a reliable reception, it sometimes experiences interference (noise).
  • Dipole antenna: These are among the most popular options and contain two conductive elements (metal rods/straight wires) separated by a small gap but with a parallel orientation. 
  • Loop antenna: These are shortwave antennas consisting of closed wire loops in circular or square form. We know these antennas for their high resistance to interference and signal reception over a wide frequency range. 
  • Multi-band vertical antenna: As the name suggests, these shortwave antennas function on multiple frequency bands without using separate antennas. 

Features of Shortwave Antenna

An indoor TV loop antenna

(An indoor TV loop antenna)

Shortwave antennas have exciting features that make them excellent in receiving and transmitting shortwave frequency signals.

 This section highlights all the shortwave antenna features.


You will find shortwave antennas longer than most we use for high frequencies. 

Generally, all antennas are designed with a length related to the wavelength it supports. 

Therefore, shortwave antennas have a long wavelength, so they need longer antennas for effective performance. 

Wide Frequency Range

One important aspect of shortwave antennas is their ability to support a wide frequency range (1.6-30 MHz). 

Therefore, it becomes easier to transmit or receive signals over multiple shortwave bands, thus accessing a variety of signals. 

Many Antenna Types

We have many shortwave antenna types, with each option presenting unique characteristics. 

First, we have wire antennas with a simple wire supported by trees or masts. 

Wire antennas are cheaper, with an option for installation in various configurations (sloping and horizontal wires).

Also, we have dipole antennas that have two wires linking to a central insulator.

Loop antennas are more compact and can be found in square or circular shapes. 

Moreover, we have multiband vertical antennas that offer omnidirectional coverage, thus operating well in tight spaces and groundwave propagation. 


A small yagi antenna

(A small yagi antenna)

We have many shortwave antennas, like Yagi antennas, that propagate or receive signals from a specific direction. 

Therefore, you must position them to have a clear line of sight with the transmission tower for optimal reception. 

Higher Gain and Wide Bandwidth

Shortwave antennas have a high gain, translating into a high ability to amplify and focus signals in a specific direction.

 As a result, these antennas have better reception and improved signal strength than other options. 

Moreover, these antennas have a wide bandwidth to support all the frequencies in the shortwave range. 

Therefore, there is efficient transmission of signals across all bands. 

High Portability

Shortwave antennas are designed for portability and ease of installation. 

Surprisingly, they even come with telescopic and collapsible elements to simplify the setup and transportation process. 

Therefore, you can comfortably use shortwave antennas in any outdoor setting, including camping and other outdoor activities. 

Less Noise

Manufacturers design shortwave antennas with features to limit noise and electromagnetic interference.

 They usually use grounding systems to improve signal strength and baluns (balanced-unbalanced transformers).

High Durability

Since shortwave antennas are used outdoors, manufacturers design them to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

 The antennas contain high-quality, durable material that perfectly handles operation in heavy rains, bright sunlight, and strong wind. 

How To Setup A Shortwave Antenna

A technician installing an antenna

(A technician installing an antenna)

Before installing your shortwave antenna, consider and evaluate factors like grounding, location, and space. 

Afterward, follow the below steps to install your shortwave antenna: 

  1. Select the location: One crucial step is identifying a perfect installation location away from obstructions. Never install your antenna closer to sources of interference, like power lines and appliances. 
  2. Select the antenna type: Despite the many available antenna types, one specific option always meets your requirements. Start evaluating the available installation space and location before buying your antenna. Also, consider the mounting requirements and size of different antennas and evaluate the one that best meets your needs. 
  3. Install your antenna: Now that you have an antenna, follow the installation instructions to install it in a perfect location. You must fix and adjust the antenna at the right height and attach the various elements appropriately to offer enough support. And if you don’t know how to approach the installation, there are many expert electricians to hire. 
  4. Grounding: This important step to reduce electrical noise and enhance safety (limiting chances of lightning strikes). Therefore, connect a high-quality ground wire from the antenna to the ground. 
  5. Feedline connection: This step links the antenna to the transceiver or receiver using a coaxial cable. Remember to use a short, high-quality cable to maintain the signal quality.  
  6. Test/fine-tune: After everything is ok, tune your equipment to your desired channel/frequency. This is the time to evaluate the signal strength to see whether it translates into clear pictures; if it doesn’t adjust the antenna height or alignment until the signal reception improves. An alternative approach is to use accessories like tuners to limit interference or amplifiers to enhance the signal quality. 


What is the best length for a shortwave antenna?

The best shortwave antenna length is not a constant factor but rather a factor of the frequencies you intend to transmit or receive. 

Generally, experts recommend at least a full wavelength or multiple of a half-wavelength in meters. 

For instance, a half-wave dipole antenna is about 16m for a 20m band. 

Should a shortwave antenna be horizontal or vertical?

Whether a shortwave antenna should be vertical or horizontal depends on your intended application and specific requirements.

 For example, a horizontal antenna like a long-wire or dipole antenna offers excellent skywave propagation and long-distance communication performance. 

Conversely, vertical antennas are perfect for omnidirectional applications, including groundwave propagation.

 Such antennas find application in mobile operations and when a low-angle radiation pattern is necessary. 

Final Remarks

If you are new to radio communication, then you now understand how important shortwave antennas are. 

Just a reminder that these antennas operate under a frequency range of 1.6-30 MHz. 

According to reviewers, shortwave antennas beat the competition regarding portability and durability. 

All the setup guidelines we highlighted above will help you achieve an effective shortwave antenna installation process. 

Leave a Comment