Miracle Whip Buyer's Guide
The Miracle Whip antenna for the FT-817 has proven to be a source of controversy in the FT-817 user's community. Some folks performed some test measurements, which show that the Miracle Whip doesn't perform quite as well as other small whip antennas, and a lot worse than larger antennas. This has led some people, most of whom have never used or even seen a Miracle Whip, to make statements such as "it is a lousy antenna."
Perhaps these people have some hidden agenda, such as to encourage the sales of vastly more expensive competitive products, otherwise they might just say that the Miracle Whip makes compromises that aren't acceptable to them, personally, and leave it at that. The Miracle Whip is a compromise antenna. All small HF verticals are compromise antennas. The FT-817 itself is a compromise, primarily between power output and size. As Abraham Lincoln once said: You can't please all of the people all of the time.
However, the Miracle Whip certainly is pleasing enough for me. I've tried the Superantennas MP-1 and the ATX Walkabout as well as the Miracle Whip, all at different times, and purely from subjective on-air results I wouldn't say that any one of those stands out as working better than the others. I make contacts where I get good reports and the guy hears me clearly, contacts that are a struggle, and I call stations that don't seem to hear me at all. That happened with all three antennas. If it was possible to do direct A/B/C comparisons it would probably show a difference. But I'm sure it wouldn't be as dramatic as some of the figures I've seen quoted suggest.
What I can say is that the Miracle Whip is the smallest and lightest antenna of the three I've just mentioned, and far and away the easiest to use. It doesn't require a counterpoise. That, for me, is its killer feature. Just screw on, tune, and go. The Miracle Whip lets me use my FT-817 exactly the way I wanted. If I can be bothered to mess about with counterpoises, I can toss a length of wire into the trees instead, and tune it with something like the excellent Emtech ZM-2 QRP ATU or the Elecraft T1. Or I could throw up a dipole. I have no use for a portable whip that's as much hassle to set up as something that would work a lot better.
By the way, I have no connection with the manufacturer of the Miracle Whip, and don't make a penny from any sales. (I sure as hell wish I'd had the idea for this antenna, though!) My motivation for creating this page is simply to present a balanced view of the pros and cons of this antenna. I think it would be a shame if some people missed out on the fun a truly portable, easy to set up and easy to use HF antenna can give them - the chance to use their FT-817 literally anywhere, anytime - just because a few have decided to rubbish the Miracle Whip.
Is the Miracle Whip for me?
I think the easiest way to look at what kind of applications the Miracle Whip is best suited for, is to consider a few scenarios.
I travel a lot and want to keep in touch with HF amateur band activity from numerous locations where it isn't possible to erect a good antenna. I might even do some short wave listening. I'll probably be listening much more than transmitting. I don't want to go to a lot of trouble every time I set up the radio, just for this.
Buy a Miracle Whip! The Miracle Whip is an excellent short wave receiving antenna. It is far, far better on HF than the rubber duckie supplied with the FT-817, and much better than the proverbial length of wire shoved in the antenna socket. It performs usefully on all frequencies the FT-817 can receive. Just screw it on, extend the whip, twist the tuning knob for maximum signal and you're there! If you ever want to turn your FT-817 on just to see if there's any activity, even if you have a better portable antenna for serious operating - in fact, especially if you have a better antenna for serious operating, since it probably takes too much time and effort to set up just to have a quick listen - you'll appreciate the convenience of the Miracle Whip.
Of course, if you just want an antenna for receiving you could make an active antenna more cheaply than you could buy a Miracle Whip. But the Miracle Whip offers transmit capability too, doesn't require a battery, and won't be damaged if you accidentally transmit into it. Its tuning control helps prevent receiver overload due to strong out-of-band signals, too.
I want to make some fun contacts on HF when I'm out in the wilds. I don't want to fill up my rucksack with wire and antenna hardware, or an ATU. I don't want to attract attention to myself with trailing counterpoises or ground planes. I'm going for a hike, with some fun radio thrown in, not a QRP DXpedition.
Buy a Miracle Whip! The Miracle Whip is the smallest and lightest multiband HF antenna for the FT-817 you can buy. It is the only one that will work without a counterpoise. You can attach it and tune it up in seconds. If conditions are good, you'll be making contacts while users of other portable antennas are still laying out radials and trying to get a good SWR.
Yes, some of these other antennas, once you've got the counterpoise the right length and tuned them up properly, will outperform the Miracle Whip by an S-point or so. For a look at how well the Miracle Whip performs, see my own review. But let's get things in perspective. Band conditions will affect propagation to a much greater extent than the difference between any of these short whip antennas. An element of luck is always needed to make contacts on HF using low power and a short antenna. Any short antenna. The fact is, if the guy with the fancy $250 kangaroo-basher is making contacts, you will be too. If there are no sunspots around, even the guy at home running 1KW to a beam is going to be struggling. So let's get those dBs in perspective.
When I go out with my FT-817, I go out with the specific aim of making some good contacts. If there's DX around, I want to have a stab at working it.
Don't buy a Miracle Whip, at least, not for this purpose! If you want the best chance of making DX contacts with your FT-817, the Miracle Whip isn't the ideal solution. But bear in mind that the better solutions on offer don't mean high-priced, over-hyped, fancy short whip antennas, either. If you can hang up a full-sized dipole, it will outperform any of these whips by a handsome margin. If you make it right, you won't even need an ATU. There's no need to be too fussy about SWR. As long as no more than three bars are showing on the FT-817's SWR meter, the radio doesn't reduce output power. And feeder losses in the kind of short length of co-ax you're likely to be using out in the field are still pretty small. So a dipole is the simplest, cheapest and most effective antenna you can use with your 817 out in the field. All you need is a place to hang one,
In fact, these expensive loaded whips can be regarded as wacky, eccentric dipoles. A lot of the better performance claimed for these whips comes about because of the quarter wave counterpoise that they require, which of course acts as a radiator. Think of the counterpoise as half a dipole, lying on or near the ground. So why not throw away the fancy whip and use another quarter wave of wire, and make a proper dipole? Can you make contacts using a dipole lying on the ground? Of course you can. But try raising the center up a bit! Even a dipole at a height of a few feet will work pretty well. By accepting the need for resonant length counterpoises you've already forgone the benefits of instant set-up and instant band-changing. So cut out the loaded whip and go for a full-sized dipole!
I hope that I have managed to bring some perspective to bear on the topic of the Miracle Whip. Perhaps it's the name that upsets people. Perhaps they think it really has to defy the laws of physics to call itself a miracle antenna? But it's just a name. No-one, even the maker, makes outrageous claims for it.
What the Miracle Whip does is enable you to listen and transmit using your FT-817 in situations where you could not or would not deploy a better antenna such as a dipole, or even one of its rivals that require a counterpoise before they will work at all. It takes moments to set up, so you can start using your 817 even if you only have minutes to spare. Its benefits are convenience and ease of use. Its purpose is to let you have fun. It won't outperform a dipole, or any other reasonably long wire antenna. But nor will any other four foot whip, no matter how fancy it looks or how many bucks you pay for it.
Robert Victor, designer of the Miracle Whip, told me in an email that his aim was to make an antenna that let him use the FT-817 the way he wanted. I think he succeeded. He made an antenna that allowed me to use my FT-817 the way I wanted, too. Don't let the know-alls and the naysayers put you off. Decide for yourself. Other whip antennas may have the edge on the Miracle Whip when it comes to signal strength measurements, but no other antenna lets you get your 817 on the air as easily and quickly when you just want to have some fun. Isn't that what the hobby's supposed to be about?