1 Store1 Review
Pros: Quick, simple assembly and tuning. Good performance.
Cons: Fiberglass shell splinters after a while (see fix for this).
The Solarcon A-99 is sometimes called the Antron 99. It is designed to be used on the CB (11m) band. However, it also works quite well on the neighboring 10m amateur (ham) band.
The Solarcon A-99 is an omni-directional base antenna that is 18 feet long overall. The lower 18” aluminum section is for mounting using the supplied U-bolts for mounting to poles up to 1-1/2 inch diameter. The top 16.5 feet is fiberglass shell with #14 enameled copper wire inside. The antenna comes in three 6-foot long sections for easier shipping. Electrically, the Solarcon A-99 is basically an end fed half wave, similar (electrically, anyway) to the popular all-aluminum 10m ‘Ringo’. The difference is the Solarcon A-99 has an isolated vertical radiator to make it compliant with the CFR title 16, part 1204 requirement for omni CB antennas to insulate up to 14,500 volts (in case the installer drops it across a residential power line). At the bottom of the antenna is an SO-259 connector that mates with the industry standard PL-259 (male) connector.
Tuning is accomplished by adjusting the twin rings near the base of the antenna. Move the rings together, then lock them in place by threading against each other, like a ‘jam nut’ fitting. Moving the rings down, toward the coax connector lowers the resonant frequency, raising toward the tip raises the resonant frequency. Although, to shift the antenna as supplied to the 10m ham band, you must cut approximately 8 inches off the top section. A pipe cutter and snippers makes it quick, and clean. The rubber tip isn’t glued, just slide it off, trim the top section, then easily slip it back on to keep moisture out. The A-99 is somewhat picky about being mounted near other metallic objects, so pick your mounting location carefully. Bandwidth and resonant SWR will be affected by nearby objects. Try to locate the antenna at least 40 feet away from any large metal objects, and at least 10 feet (to the base) above things.
Performance wise, the Solarcon A-99 has been tested on an antenna test range by a trusted engineer known as Tech 833, and gain figures are close to a typical end-fed halfwave dipole. Although, one test shows a few tenths of a dB less gain because of the feed scheme using coils and capacitors in series (this capacitive coupling is how the A-99 achieves the 14,500 volt insulating capability). The engineer measured gain at 1.9 dBi (that is, dB over an isotropic radiator). That equals -0.2 dB compared to a half wave dipole.
On air testing shows great performance across the band. Since the whole antenna is insulated (see my note below about fully insulating the antenna), there is no wind or rain static noise in the receiver. A good ground is necessary for safety, and also for quiet operation. Even though the radiator portion is insulated, the coax is still directly grounded to the aluminum mounting stub, and static must have somewhere to drain off to keep the receiver quiet. Also, if testing the A-99 with an ohm meter, you will notice a ‘short’ between center conductor and ground. This is normal! There is a small shunt coil in the feed network, and a direct connection between center and shield.
With little wind resistance, the A-99 handles high winds well. Although, over 40 MPH, the antenna begins to sway noticeably. At 70 to 80 miles per hour, the antenna whips around quite a lot, and looks as though it will break. Yet, mine has withstood winds over 90 MPH with no long term damage.
I found it is helpful after assembly, to wrap the joints with electrical tape to keep moisture out, and further insulate the antenna. White electrical tape is available to keep the color consistent. Also, some people have mentioned the fiberglass beginning to splinter after only a year or so in the elements. I used lacquer thinner to clean mine, then sprayed a few light coats of clear lacquer over the fiberglass sections. In 2 years of use, mine still looks perfect with no signs of fiberglass splintering.
Bandwidth is excellent, with under 1.8:1 SWR across the entire 10m band (after tuning). It also covers the 15m band with under 2:1 SWR. Some hams have found that the Solarcon A-99 will cover a lot more amateur frequencies using a tuner. In my tests, I have found the receiving capability of the A-99 to be excellent down to 20m, although transmitting wise, it is lousy that far removed from its design frequency.
The Solarcon A-99 will handle full legal limit power (1500 watts on ham bands) with ease. Running 1500 watts CW, the antenna has not failed. There will be some warming after long periods of keying, but not severe enough to cause failure.
Overall, the Solarcon A-99 is a lot of antenna with no fussing around. Just install, a quick tune, and forget about it.