The Best Marine VHF Antennas Of 2018

If you've purchased a VHF marine radio, you'll also need a Marine VHF antenna. The antenna is what transmits power and connects your radio to the rest of the world.

The antenna is what sends the nautical radio signal from the radio. Why spend hard earned dollars on a quality fixed-mount VHF radio if you don't select a comparable antenna?

Experts agree that you should buy the best antenna you can afford.

A poor quality antenna misdirects your signals and shortens your range. A quality VHF antenna boosts your range. It also ensures the signal reaches its destination. Finally, it holds firm against all the jostling that high seas and high speeds can bring.

How to Choose a VHF Antenna for Your Vessel

When choosing a VHF antenna, you should consider the following options and weigh them against your needs.

Check the Antenna's dB Rating 

A VHF antenna's dB rating is also called the gain. The gain indicates how much the antenna can focus its energy to increase in transmitting power due.

A high dB rating means the antenna focuses energy perpendicular to its shaft and within a disk-shaped field. As a result, your radio signal appears stronger to nearby receiving stations.

High gain also reduces the amount of energy that transmitted above or below the VHF antenna. This can pose a problem if your boat is rolling or pitching in rough seas. A concentrated signal fades in and out during these conditions.

The height of an antenna increases along with the dB rating. But, the horizontal angle diminishes. For example, broad radiation from a low dB antenna enables a sailboat to heel over and still send a signal toward the horizon.

For this reason, a sailboat should have a 3dB antenna mounted to the top of the mast.

Compare Gains and Losses

A VHF antenna's gain in dB is offset by a loss in dB due to the coaxial cable inside the antenna. An increased gain of 3dB means a doubling of signal strength, but the actual watts that the antenna transmits aren't increased.

They are simply concentrated. This is why a radio with a 6dB antenna sounds like it has a larger transmitter compared to a radio with a 3dB antenna.

Now, a coaxial cable is efficient but loses some energy with every foot. For instance, an RG-58U coax loses 3dB for every 49 feet of run.

Think of it this way, if you have 49 feet run of cable, your radio will sound like it is only transmitting with 12.5 watts instead of 25 watts. If you run the same cable 98 feet, it will sound like a six-watt radio. 

You can put your antenna at the top of an 80-foot mast, and you'll have a good range, small coax and all. Though, your coax reduces the power.

It's recommended that you used the largest coax possible, especially for long runs. You'll have more weight aloft. That will increase heel and diminish sailing performance, so therein lies the compromise.

Pay Attention to the Antenna's Construction

VHF antennas are constructed with fiberglass or stainless steel. Shorter, stainless steel whip antennas work well for masthead-mounting.

They generate less windage and the wide radiation pattern that a heeling sailboat needs. Stainless steel antennas are rugged, so they are great for small powerboats.

Fiberglass tube antennas vary in quality. The best ones are those that are coated with polyurethane. Those last for about five to ten years.

These models will also have stainless steel ferrules as well as copper and brass parts to ensure good range efficiency. Cheaper antennas use nylon ferrules, which are weaker and don't hold up nearly as well.

Below are some reviews of the best VHF antennas for 2018. These are the models that consumers have rated the highest.

Shakespeare 5101 Centennial Antenna

The Shakespeare 5101 Centennial is an upgrade to the standard version of this antenna. It has a significantly improved range compared to its predecessor because it has more copper inside.

It is constructed of brass as well as copper and has a chrome-plated surface. So, it is more durable than most marine VHF antennae. The design is simple, yet stylish.

The antenna's power is as strong as its looks. It works well within a 25-mile range and of course even better in good conditions. It also does well even when operating at high speeds, with its copper antenna providing better range.

The antenna comes with a 15-foot a PL-259 connector and an RG-58 cable. The unit weighs 2 pounds, is 8' in length, and has a 6dB gain.

The one detractor is that it doesn't come with a mounting kit. You'll have to spend a little more money to mount it.

Herdio Waterproof Marine Radio Antenna

The Herdio Waterproof Marine Radio Antenna has the flexibility to make it an excellent choice for boats as well as in cars because of its angled mounting options.

The Herdio has a 180-degree swivel base that provides extra mobility. It also strengthens your reception. It's made of rubber dipole, PPC line, and a stainless steel nut.

The antenna weighs about 5 ounces and measures approximately 16.7 inches. The cable measures about 54.5 inches.

This antenna allows you to listen to AM/FM radio stations with clarity. You'll get about 10 miles of good signal range for all car, boat, and home frequencies.

You won't have to worry about corrosion because the antenna is waterproof, making it ideal for marine use.

TRAM 1607-HC VHF Antenna

The TRAM 1607-HC is a powerful, 46-inch VHF marine antenna that is built to last. It is rugged, made of durable, heavy-duty fiberglass and stainless steel hardware.

It's easily portable even with its solid construction. You'll be able to install the antenna with ease. It can take a 20-ft RG-58 cable as well as an easy, screw-off PL-259 connector.

This VHF antenna covers all marine band frequencies. You will receive all your preferred channels while you are onboard your boat. The antenna weighs about 2 pounds, and the measurements are 51 X 5.2 X 2.5 inches.

Shakespeare 5104 Centennial Antenna 

The Shakespeare 5104 Centennial isn't the biggest marine VHF Antenna, but it is one of the best local antennae. It comes in at around 4 feet and weighs 2.1 pounds. This Shakespeare antenna accomplishes a 3dB gain.

Though, it's just right for finding signals generated by boats in close proximity. Just as you would expect from Shakespeare's reputation, the 5104 is designed well, is attractive, and has the added resistance of copper plating.

Users rave about this antenna's ability to hold up against foul weather. It stands against strong winds better than most other models.

While it doesn't pick up transmissions from far-away boats, the Shakespeare 5104 Centennial gives you the transmission you need.

Shakespeare 5225XT Galaxy Antenna

The Shakespeare 5225XT Galaxy, like the Centennial, is another smart purchase. At 8 feet and 6dB gain, this UHF marine antenna is as strong as you'd expect from Shakespeare.

It's made of copper and brass materials. Shakespeare designed it for efficiency and maximum range. Shakespeare has been manufacturing the Galaxy 5225XT for quite some time.

It maintains its reputation as one of the most popular models due to its efficiency. Customers have attested that the antenna picks up VFH radio broadcasts from boats as far away as 20 miles.

The 5225XT has a chrome-plated brass ferrule with a standard 1-inch, 14 thread. Installing is easy. It includes a connector and 20 foot, low-loss cable.

While you can purchase another VHF antenna that is 8 feet long and cheaper, but you get what you pay for. If you want a reliable antenna, spend the extra on the Shakespeare 5225XT Galaxy.

Shakespeare 5226-XT Galaxy Antenna

The Shakespeare 5226-XT Galaxy shares quite a few characteristics of the 5225XT sister model. Though, the 5226-XT is stronger and provides extra resistance against heavy weather and high speeds.

It's ideal for hard tops, T-tops, radar arches, and other uses where it will take a beating. It's rugged yet gorgeously finished in black, with copper and brass elements.

The ferrule is stainless steel and comes with a 1"-14 thread. The 20ft RG-8X cable and PL-259 connector help you achieve proper installation. The antenna gain is 6dB and has a bandwidth of 3 MHz within 2.0.1 VSWR.

This antenna carries Shakespeare's 5-year limited warranty, which speaks to its tough build.

Shakespeare 5400-XT Galaxy VHF Marine Band Antenna

The Shakespeare 5400-XT Galaxy Marine Band antenna is sometimes called the Galaxy Little Giant. It's 4 feet tall and is made of copper and brass. It delivers the famous Shakespeare performance despite its smaller size and 3dB gain.

It has a 5 MHz bandwidth within 2.0:1 VSWR. The stainless steel ferrule is the standard 1 inch to 14 thread. IT comes with 20 feet RG-8/X low-loss cable. You can easily install this in your vessel with the included PL-259 connector.

Shakespeare designed this antenna for exceptional VHF communication. Its petite size makes it perfect for hardtops and T-tops. This Galaxy model has a gorgeous white finish. It also carries Shakespeare's 5-year, limited warranty.

Shakespeare 5241-R Low Profile Antenna

Yes, another Shakespeare model. The Shakespeare 5241-R Low Profile antenna carries the same benefits as it's cousins in terms of quality.

This model features a notably low profile with center console fishing boats and bass boats in mind. The vessel's compact size is the primary consideration.

The Shakespeare 5241-R At is only 3 feet long. It features a tin-plated, sealed copper wire coil that delivers stellar performance.

Further, the 36-inch, heavy-duty, stainless steel whip provides even more stability during harsh conditions and when your boat is moving at extra-fast speeds.

You can install the Shakespeare 5241-R Low Profile, 3-foot VHF Marine Antenna easily. There is a 15-foot, RG-58 coax cable as well as a PL-259 connector included in the package.

The manufacturer suggests that mounts be either the 5187 Ratchet Mount, the Style 4187 Ratchet Mount, the 4190 Rail Mount, or the 4188-S Rail Mount. 

Shakespeare 5215 VHF Low-Profile Antenna

The Shakespeare 5215 VHF Low-Profile is a low-profile marine antenna made of stainless steel. Many a sailboater considers this model to be a favorite.

The stainless steel, the light weight (approximately 1.5 pounds), and the low-profile design explains that assertion. This antenna has a gain of 3dB, which is the recommended dB rating for sailboats.

3dB means a means a broader radiation pattern and reduced signal choppiness while in rolling waves.

At only 3 feet in length, this antenna has a sealed, tin-plated copper wire coil. The copper coil ensures efficiency. The stainless steel body and whip provides stability.

Shakespeare designed the 5215 for masthead mounting. It comes with a stainless steel "L" bracket for this purpose.

The package also includes 60 feet of RG-8/X low-loss cable, an SO-239 connector, and PL-259 connectors. The Shakespeare 5215 comes with a two-year limited warranty.

Tram 1620-HC 8-foot Marine Antenna

The heavy-duty Tram 1620-HC 8-foot VHF marine antenna is an 8-footer that holds its own in the industry. It is a high-performance antenna for VHF marine radios.

The Tram features a fiberglass construction along with stainless steel hardware, which makes it resilient and durable. It also has a nylon ratchet mount that enables easy laydown. The antenna weighs in at about 5.16 pounds.

The Tram 1620-HC antenna performs well at 1,500 watts. It handles all marine band frequencies. This model has a gain of 6dB. This Tram also comes with a 15ft RG58 A/U coaxial cable and PL-259 connectors.

The antenna has been in productions for quite some time. Most customers have been more than satisfied with their purchase.

Choosing the Right Marine Antenna for Your Boat

Hopefully, this article has given you some intelligent points to start you off on your search for the right antenna for your boat. A marine VHF antenna is as important as the radio itself.

As with any significant purchase, you don't want to be hasty in your decision. Some of the best options on the market are here in this article. From here, you can price compare and select the best model for your needs.

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