This article is mainly for new hams, to help them understand the cables used in our Ham Radio hobby. So you’ve just got your license, and you pulled up your browser, went to the amazon website or a shop and bought your first VHF handy radio (also known as Walkie-talkie).
Or let’s say you have bought a base station like ICOM 2300H (that’s what I used in the past) or some other VHF radio. Now you are wondering about which cable you should be buying. Well, technically, your guide/teacher/professor must have explained to you about the cables during the course that you took.
However, let’s honestly accept, who remembers everything, I mean then, all cables are just cables. Referred with a couple of alphabets at the beginning followed by few numbers. Like for example RG58, RG213, and LMR400 all are coax cables for 50 ohms usage.
The RG58, which is used more often for mobile installations. Something which requires shorter cables, to avoid power loss. These cables come in 2 types; RG58U is the Single-Strand Cable which can be used from -40 to 80 degree Celsius.
RG58 C/U is a multiple-strand cable which can be used from -35 to 80 degree Celsius. RG58, if bend at a particular angle, has chances of breaking the core part of the cable, resulting in a huge signal loss. Whereas RG58 C/U having multiple strands has very fewer chances of breaking the core part (strands).
Some hams prefer single core while others go for multiple strand cable. It depends, let’s say you have to use the cable every day at different places, I mean you have to remove and install it again and again, travelling places, carrying around the cables here and there. Then you should go for Multiple Strands.
However, if you wish to install it in your shack permanently, you should go with a single strand cable. This Rg58 cable is not recommended if your radio is away from your antenna. For example, let’s say you have a 100 ft cable using on 145 MHz frequency. In that case, there will be a good amount (5.5 dB) of signal loss, which means only 28% of the power can go through that cable. Even if you go for RG58 C/U Single strand cable than the loss would be 4.5 dB, not much difference though.
RG58 cables are more used with VHF & UHF Ham Bands. However, using RG-8U type cable will decrease the loss to 2.4 dB, which means 58% of the power will get through the cable. So the larger cable size has an advantage. Since this article is for new Hams, let me put some straightforward words about RG213 and LMR400 without going too technical on their specifications.
RG213 is damn heavy because it’s made up of copper. It has multiple strands. My sir Mr Sudhir Shah loves this cable, and I hate this cable. It’s too heavy to carry around. LMR400 is very light because it is made up of a single copper pipe (of course the outer is made with aluminium). My sir hate this cable, and I love it. This is the cable I used with my HF radio and got my DXCC. The cable length I used was 32 Ft long.