Longer broadcast and reception range is definitely better than shorter range, and longer antennas definitely give better reach.
That was BoatingLAB’s conclusion after lining up five popular antennas and calling to a mobile station at one- and five-mile ranges. Eight-footers, installed seven feet above sea level, all reached our mobile station five miles away, but shorter units lost their reach quickly after one mile. That’s only logical since a VHF signal travels via line of sight and antennas are made to polarize their signals on a horizontal plane.
But we wanted to know if you could hear a distinction between the signal and sound quality of a higher-priced antenna and that of a lower-priced antenna. The answer was an inconclusive “not really.”
Aside from signal reach, we found important differences in components that justify the added expense.
We tested two high-end VHF antennas ideally suited to a powerboat from 20 to 40 feet long. We also took a look at one value antenna and two short antennas suited to small boats or sailing vessels.
Pricing for our test antennas came from online retailers whose price points often reflected bargain prices on premium products. The slider bars on price/value are not influenced by those prices but by our assessment of quality components and manufacturers’ product positioning.
Here’s our test.