Saturday 13 January 2024



When I go out to play radio, I usually use a Sotabeams BandHopper II 20/40m Linked Dipole or a BandSpringer Midi EFHW. They both perform really well, but they need height and a lot of space around them, which is not always easy if you're at a popular location.

For a long time I've looked at portable verticals but could never make my mind up - there are so many and it seemed like none of them quite did everything you wanted - or they did, but at an astronomical price - £600 to £700. 😮 

Some models have been plagued by reliability problems and quality-control issues. Not the sort of thing you want to hear about when you're lashing out a lot of money! Some designs are super-portable and compact, while others are bulky and a bit of a faff.  After spending months casually researching all the options available, I decided that none of them was worth circa £700.

Anyway, as usual, I came across one of my favourite situations - I spotted a virtually new, unused kit at a heavily discounted price and then proceeded to barter until I got it for half-price. I love it when this happens because it ends up being a very safe purchase where I can experiment with the equipment and if it doesn't perform as well as I hoped, I can easily recoup my money. The seller lived in nearby Rochdale, so we met halfway and did the deal.

So this  time it was in the form of a Super Antenna MP1C LXMAX DELUXE KIT with a SUPERPOD tripod from California, USA. The MP1 is a 1/4 Wave vertical which uses a loaded coil and a set of tuned radials to give you 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 11, 10, 6 and 4m coverage. In this DELUXE pack, you get another 3 Coils for 80m, 60m and 2m with the appropriate radials. Power Rating: 500W SSB, 300W CW/DATA

A full copy of the MP1LXMAX USER GUIDE can be found here.

The stand-out feature of the Super Antenna (apart from its compact dimensions) is the quality of materials and manufacturing. Everything is of a very high standard indeed. This particular model is the very latest incarnation with the model "C" coil and the TM4 tripod, benefitting from over 20 years of development and improvement.


The tripod is light, yet very strong and well made, with a 3/8x16 stud to which you attach the antenna’s UM3 mounting bracket. It’s height adjustable with 3-sections and an extendable centre column, taking the tip of the antenna to around 12ft. The trouble with light tripods is that they’re not particularly stable in high winds, but luckily, the bottom of the centre-column has a hook to which you can attach a weight. 

A good alternative to weighing the tripod down would be to guy it off, so I drilled three small holes in the mast head to accommodate this. It's worth doing, because if your tripod was blown over and one (or more) of the coils was smashed against a rock, you'd be gutted!

If you don’t want to carry the tripod around with you, you can opt to use the SP-3 Ground Mounting Spike which makes use of the UM3 SuperMount bracket to quickly setup your vertical on grass or sand, etc.

Normally, the basic MP1 comes with a telescopic whip, but the Deluxe Kit also has  Titanium SW1 SUPERWHIP. This 44” whip can be coiled into a 12” circle and stored neatly on the outside of the kit’s Go-Bag as shown in the image below...

So that’s the kit described - how is it deployed?

With the tripod erected (all of 30 seconds), you attach the whip to the top of the MP1C Coil and attach the two aluminium extension legs to the bottom of the MP1C, before fixing it to the tripod bracket. Then attach the appropriate radial-set and lay them across the ground. Some people keep the wires together as one, but I prefer to spread them out around the tripod.

When ready, choose your band and use the handy plastic gauge to determine the height of the loading coil as shown in the image below. It really is very simple and quick. You can fine tune it using your radio’s S-Meter to achieve (usually) a 1:1 reading. Needless to say, your location, height, radials and proximity to nearby objects can affect your readings.
Prior to owning one, I always thought that the
plastic gauge would be thin and flimsy,
but it's quite thick and strong!

If I’m going to operate on a hillside, I tend not to use the tripod, preferring instead to deploy the SP-3 Ground Spike. With this, the radials start off much lower to the ground, whereas they are raised up five feet when connected to the tripod. I reckon the radials don’t work quite as well when they don’t have that upward slope, but you can still get a very workable SWR.

Sometimes it’s nice to operate from your car/truck (static) and to facilitate that, I have a PL-259-to-3/8 Adapter so that I can fit the MP1 to a regular SO-239 Mag-Mount. This works really well, but I still use the supplied tuned radials.  Another option would be to use a PL259-PL259 Coupler between the Mag-Mount and your UM3 Mount (that might actually be better).

Performance : At the end of the day this is a 1/4Wave Vertical - it’s short and can’t (in my opinion) compete with my SotaBeams Dipole, but then my dipole can’t cover 13 bands!! And the vertical’s low angle radiation pattern can sometimes bring surprisingly good DX contacts when the conditions are right. 

If you wished to, you could buy an extra MP1C coil and use the antenna in a dipole configuration, but would the improvement be worth the expense? I kinda doubt it.  I found a post about this on OH8STN's blog but it all looks a bit long-winded to me.

If you were thinking that this might be an antenna you could use at home indoors or on a balcony, forget it. Under those circumstances you'd be wasting your money - better off buying a loop. If you've got a small garden, that's different - it may work well depending on how built-up the area is and how noisy your neighbourhood is (electrically speaking).

Of course the big downside to using a loaded coil system with a short whip has to be the narrow bandwidth which can make tuning fussy at the 40m end. This is similar to my MagLoop which has very sharp tuning across its range. 

I should point out that the MP1 uses a standard 3/8"-24 connector which means that you could experiment with other whips. Many amateurs already have a variety of whips laying around which they've collected over the years and they're very cheap to buy anyway.  I plan to experiment with a 17ft telescopic whip that I have. I’m guessing that you won’t have to fully extend the coil if the whip is significantly longer? Mind you, changing the whip means the plastic FG1 tuning gauge becomes redundant. Hmmm, we’ll see how it all pans out.

Operating from a good take-off point (hillside or seaside) and using the supplied tuned radials I found the performance to be really quite good! When using the TM4 tripod, I try to keep the radials off the ground, by using tent-pegs. I have had no problems making Transatlantic contacts on SSB with 5-10W. 

Near Winter Hill I quickly setup the antenna at the back of my truck and hurriedly jumped into the comfort of the passenger seat (it was a FREEZING COLD day). Inside the glovebox was the amazing little FX-4CR and I quickly got on-air and started to search for someone to speak to.

Unfortunately, it seemed like everyone was calling for DX, so I had to keep spinning the dial - eventually I found LY2NK who gave me a 55 to start the day. Then I got a 59 from contester S51CK before bagging a few others, including VO1NO from Nova Scotia who has no QRZ log.

Before I froze to death, I managed to contact two Americans - N4LA and W4TJE. They were quite surprised to hear that I was using the little MP1 antenna considering the signal. Below is a clip of the QSO I had with Juha - OH6JJ, showing how well the FX-4CR and MP1 work together… 

Click HERE if video doesn't load

To a newcomer, these kits may seem a little complex and there are certainly a lot of parts in the Go-Bag, but it's like anything else - you soon get used to it and start to realise that you only need certain parts for certain bands. If you just want to use say 40, 30, 20, 10, then you only need the MPC1 coil and a single set of radials. I keep the relevant coil with the relevant radials, which makes it a doddle to pick the right stuff from the bag without searching around and reading labels.  Couldn't be easier!

In this hobby I often find myself looking for ways to improve things and end up fabricating accessories and re-purposing things that make my equipment better in some way, or easier to work with. It feels like the guys at Super Antenna have done most of that for you in this kit - there's a myriad bits and bobs which just make things easy. Having said that, for £700 they could have made it perfect by adding the PL-259 Coupler which I mentioned earlier, the three holes in the mast head for guy-lines and two or three wire-winders.  

I love 💚 the idea of 'one antenna covers everything' - just like I love 💚 the idea of a shack-in-a-box like the IC-7100 - I reckon this is a great pairing, since the 7100 is pretty unique in its band coverage. Okay, so the antenna is compromised, but bear in mind that both these items will be used in some of the best locations possible - out in the great outdoors - usually at height!

So in summary,  I would heartily recommend this antenna system for anyone who wants a portable antenna which is quick to deploy and doesn't need throw-lines, trees, masts and guy wires. Just stick it in the ground or on a tripod, throw out some radials and use any band you want, including 6m, 4m and 2m.

So what about the elephant in the room - the price? Yeh, that's one big elephant and I can’t imagine why people would spend £700 on this outfit (or any of the others out there). It's an awful lot of money, but then everything in amateur radio is crazy expensive these days. At the end of the day, this is a convenience antenna that you can use in a variety of different situations and locations which might not otherwise permit you to play radio. 

Obviously,  you don't have to buy the top-end deluxe kit to benefit from this high quality antenna system - you can start with the basic MP1C Coil and whip for around £170 and add extras as you go along. 

Am I glad I bought this bundle? For that money, yes!

Feel free to leave a comment below 😊

73, Tom, M7MCQ.


PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hello Tom, again a very nice article about the Superantenna MP1. It's nice to see it is being developed and you can now buy much more articles expanding the antenna. I got an "original" MP1 for a long time and bought it from an english HAM that was also blogging years ago. He always wrote amazing stories about what he reached with the antenna with just 5W. So, in the end he wanted to sell it and I could get it for a good price (it is expensive and it was years ago). I have to say I'm amazed although to let it perform well it really needs to get off the ground. At that time only a cheap chinese clamp was included, I bought myself a tripod and made it fitting the tread like Superantenna is doing now. Another tip is to cover the coil with a platic bag when it is raining. Used this antenna a lot in previous activations (stories on my blog). Even managed to work a station in China on 5W SSB with the MP1 on the tripod in my garden. Just to say I'm glad I bought this antenna just like you. 73, Bas

MadDogMcQ said...

@BAS Hi Bas, thanks for your visit and comments.

I wonder if it was you who bought from Julian, G4ILO?? He bought one but thought it was too much hassle. The introduction of the Frequency Guide certainly saves time getting the coil in roughly the right position - it gave me an SWR of 1.5:1 before I’d even done any fine tuning (which brought it right down).

I’ll look into making a rain-hat as you suggest - thanks.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hello Tom, I did not buy it from Julian. I bought it from someone else. He still has a blog but decided to be SWL. I doubt he still has a transmitter. I made such a frequency guide long before Superantenna started to sell it commercially. As a matter of fact I think some of the ideas are from what I wrote on my blog. Although I cannot prove that of course. 73, Bas

MadDogMcQ said...

@BAS : Ahh okay Bas. Well if you were the originator of the Frequency Guide, it shows that the manufacturers do at least listen to their users. You just need to put a claim in for the royalties owed, lol.

Best wishes,