FlightAware Discussions

Building a new receiver, this is going in a prime location - Suggestions for receiver/preamp/filter please

I’m fighting to stay at or ahead of the other local feeders. Every new connector is something like -0.5db, correct? I could have a more flexible setup with pigtails, but I want to minimize loss as much as possible.

The run isn’t long enough for me that going to 600 with a pigtail on each end would be more beneficial I believe. I only have maybe 25ft of LMR400 to get to my airspy.

The actual loss will depend on the quality of the connector and the skill of the assembler - If you haven’t measured it, you can’t really know.

Using the Timesmicrowave calculator, over 25ft, you are looking at 0.5dB difference between LMR400/600
Obviously if you use 50c chinese connectors, the benefit of expensive coax is lost.

I use MPD Digital to make any cables for this. They seem like great quality cables.

That calculator is quite nice though. I’ve been messing with it to see if I’d like to try different configs.

Hi @Dav5049915, thanks for your feedback on the coax. My mate opted for LMR400 and bought all the bits. But it turns out that it has a very thick inner core and it’s very stiff to bend. It’s way thicker than we expected. This means the crimpable SMA male connectors he bought won’t fit. The crimpable N type male connector looks like it just about fits.

There’s going to be about 0.5m (or even shorter) of coax between the antenna and the enclosed LNA, and then about 5-6m of coax from there to the bias tee indoors. Here is the original schematic showing the LMR400.

My feeling is that given that a) we have a very short run from the antenna to the LNA, and b) the longer run is after the LNA and is itself is only 5-6m, I don’t think the coax is huge deal. But since we have this opportunity to do it right and minimise losses, that’s the plan.

He now has two realistic choices:

  • Buy thinner coax like RG8 or RG6 or CLF200 which the SMA connectors will fit onto.

RG8 keeps everything at 50 ohms and transmission losses are negligible given a+b above. RG6 at 75 ohms is not a problem, but doesn’t seem to gain anything in terms of transmission losses over such a small run, and also introduces a small impedance mismatch at each end. Nothing to write home about but looks easy to avoid by simply going RG8. CLF200 is classed as low loss and intended for GHz signals and is a bit stiffer but is also 50 ohms and supports the SMA connectors. It never seems to get mentioned much in these forums. Is it not so common in the US?

Processing all that, my gut feeling is RG8 will be fine. I welcome people’s thoughts on that given the above.

  • Stick to the LMR400 and use N type male connectors on all 4 ends. Buy 3 N type female to SMA male adapters to effectively turns them into SMA male connectors. Right-angle adapters are available.

This has the advantage of keeping the LMR400’s low loss, but introduces new losses in the form of these SMA adapters. The physical flex of this cable looks like it may put a lot of strain on the SMA connectors.

My gut feeling on this option is that the cable run is so short, and given a+b above, the low transmission loss of LMR400 doesn’t offer much here (we’re not talking hundreds of feet where it would shine) and the adapter losses may well more than offset them anyway, plus the physical requirements and potentially larger enclosure are a hassle.

By the way I appreciate that in practice these options aren’t going to matter that much. The main advantages here will come from getting the antenna up high and the LNA close to it. I bet in practice any detriment from coax and connectors is minimal. But given that we still have all options open to us for the coax and connectors before commiting it to the roof, choosing the parts which minimise losses makes the most sense.

1 Like

Since you already have the LMR-400, a better option - buy the SMA connectors meant for LMR-400.

Here is one example:

1 Like

Thanks @mikkyo, I didn’t realise they existed. I searched before I wrote the above but was looking for the wrong thing. The link you gave is in the US but I’ve now found the same in the UK. I agree it makes sense to stick with the LMR400 if the connectors are available without needing to mess with adapters, and if the physical flexing of the cable is manageable.


1 Like

An update… to recap my mate was putting his FA antenna and Uputronics preamp on the roof and we were talking about connectors, adapters, coax, etc. In the end he stuck with the LMR400, grabbed some of the larger LMR400-ready SMA connectors and a right-angle adapter. This allowed it all to fit into an IP66 enclosure with both cables entering from underneath.

The right-angle adapter avoided needing a tight turn radius which would have put undue strain on the preamp’s SMA connectors. The preamp was mounted on a piece of wood which was sized to the enclosure, ensuring it wasn’t being supported by its SMA connectors. Then a load of glue to keep things in place and seal the holes. The antenna and box are mounted on the existing TV aerial pole above the height of the TV aerial.


The difference in numbers was immediate and he’s now getting over a million messages a day vs 7-800K messages before. Aircraft numbers are up around 300 a day and range has increased a little. His radar graph is pretty much 360 degrees now. Now we’re going to play with gain a bit but it looks about right from when it was in the attic.


Looks like he would have needed 2 right angle connectors to be honest.
That LMR400 in the top right of the box doesn’t look happy.

That’s what I thought, it’s difficult to tell but it looks like a normal connector with the cable at a very tight angle coming out. If it is a proper right angle plug then I’m sure that’s not the case but it doesn’t look pretty.

Everything looks stressed hanging off the SMA connector.

An easy solution may be to flip the filter box over which would offset the top connector a centimeter or so to the left.

I know the label would be covered but such is life.


1 Like

Yes it’s squashed against the side of the enclosure. The right-angle and tight part is on the preamp output; I’d be more concerned if it was on the input. Physically it’s not the best way; as @SweetPea11 says the preamp could have been flipped over. Mate said he realised that after the copious amounts of glue were already applied, so decided to just try it and see how it went. Turns out it’s happy after all, and a useful learning experience for when it’s replaced or upgraded in future.

I also had a father who spent hours and hours trying to get the most out of a radio. Then the sun spots were at a peak and everyone could talk to other continents with skip.

Ok, in the hunt for minimum loss you overlooked the fact that angled connectors have extra loss.

Luckily it is on the RX side, so it doesn’t matter that much.

Perhaps next time you could use a slightly bigger box, place it closer to the antenna and a more flexible cable (i.e. LMR400-UF or M&P Hyperflex10). You can also drill a hole in the side or even top of the case and use cable glands.

On the RX side of the LNA shielding (screening) is more important than attenuation.

1 Like

Finally going to replace the Pi3B+ with a Pi4. I ordered one today and my plan is to get all the software installed and working here and then it’ll just be a simple matter of going to site, dropping the pole, opening the box and swapping out the Pi.

I don’t expect the range to change but the message rate should skyrocket.

Are you taking bets? :rofl:

Pretty confident :slight_smile:

Please keep us posted. I’m thinking about making the same jump.

What is the message rate on your current Pi, and which model you are running now?

It’s a Pi3B+ and you can see for yourself :wink:

Graphs here

Map here

Having a 3B+ here also, very interested when you upgraded it. My 3B+ receives 1300msg/s there are not that many planes overhere. Interesting to see if your 2500 message rate will increase, you’re CPU is not heavily loaded.

Nice project, I’m currently testing LNA’s. First one received today, let’s monitor tomorrow when the plane# peak is around sunrise.