KØFF Homebrew Tips

Balanced Preamp and Tuner for Frame Antenna        

   by KØFF            

The original design for the electronics for this project are credited to Lyle Koehler, and detail can be found on his webpage at:



Simply stated, four Varactor diodes located right at the antenna are used to resonate a frame or other loop, controlled from an indoor box. An outside rated unit houses the tuning diodes, as well as preamp of the familiar JFET input/ bipolar output design theory. Lyle has gone a couple of steps further by including a balanced design, and also stabilizing the FETs with a current source power supply, and a transformer output.


These are the construction details of the example that I built for use with a 10 foot frame loop with 10 turns of #16 Ga wire, owned by N1LF. Les’ main interest is LF but there is no reason this same circuit can’t be used for BCB or 160 meters using smaller loops. If your interest is in shielded loops, or SLOOPS, this circuit can also be used to remote tune them as well.

Using 4 of the Varicap diodes gives a capacitance swing of 70 to 770 pF, and more or less could be used to tailor the capacitance swing needed.

Of course the frame loop and the Shielded Loop or SLOOP are receive only antennas and should not be transmitted into under any circumstances.

Refer to Lyle’s webpage for the electronics, but I will continue to describe the mechanical details of this example.


 PHOTO #1 shows an overview of both the control box and the outside unit. In this case, I could not find a suitable cabinet for the indoor unit, so one was fabricated out of heavy gauge aluminum stock.

 The outdoor unit utilizes an electrical box made for wet environments. Two H.H. Smith terminals connect to the loop wires

 (This version does not use the center-tapped loop; otherwise there would be 3 terminals). Direct mounting to a groundrod is accomplished via the socket and screw seen on the bottom panel. If circumstances prohibit this, then a brass screw for direct grounding is utilized


Photo #2 shows the backside of the outdoor box, and the method of attaching the SO-239. Here a silver plated/ Teflon SO-239 is secured with stainless steel screws into the heavy aluminum boss at the center point, and a homemade rubber gasket seals against moisture.


  Photo #3 gives some details of the circuit board and internal wiring of the outdoor box. The circuit card is one of my Proto Boards and uses a grid pattern on the back, and a groundplane on the topside. Only one jumper was needed in this layout and then only because I wanted to keep both halves of the preamp balances in every practical way. Ferrite beads on the control wires help to eliminate RF ingress via the leads.

Photo #4 gives a different angle and here you can see the desiccant capsule and neon-bulb spark gap.

Using a spark gap across a transformer-coupled output is a very effective hedge against lightning surges. If a surge does come in, then the transformer winding itself is a shunt to ground. What the gas tube is for is to dampen any ringing voltage actually generated by the inductance of the coil itself, if excited with a fast rise time current. There is little energy ever dissipated in the gap when used in this manner.


  Photo #5displays the simplicity of the control box, and allows fabrication detail to be examined. This cabinet is very simple and made with non-sophisticated tools. All bending was done on a $15.00 brake that gets clamped tighter with “C” clamps.

Control of the diode bias and therefore the capacitance is accomplished via a simple voltage divided and a 10 turn linear pot of 10 k Ohms.

Single point grounding techniques were followed.

Coming off the coaxial power socket is a leaded component that is a PicoFuse, to protect the power source if something shorts out the control wires. Additional fusing should always be provided when small wires are used to feed a voltage to some device, as a fire precaution. If a short, or worse, a high resistance short occurs, the wires can overheat and catch on fire, or cause a fire, long before the 50 amp fuse in the shack power supply blows out. Always fuse the circuit according to the wire size in use.


Finally #6 and Photo #7

show some more details, and the ubiquitous “Do Not Eat The Batteries” label.      73, Geo