Height versus Take-off angle


This “take-off angle” factor is one of the most important one for DXers although many might not be aware of this. Often on this site I refer to the different take-off angles from different types of antennas and their heights.

We know that our signal when using “propagation” via the F2 layer the maximum distance reachable in a single hop is around the 2500 km. (many information about propagation is available on Internet or through reading books).
There are two factors which are capable of changing that distance in our favor.

One is the height of the layer, it various say from 200 to 250 km (and the higher the better)

And second the take-off angle (the lower the better it is for far DX)

Above we see a some simple drawings imagining the earth and a layer from the ionosphere, in this case it is the so called “F2-layer” often used for “real”DX . That F2- layer is situated roughly 200 to 250 km above the earth
Taking another look at the second drawing we see a transmitted wave coming from the earth, imagine the origine is your antenna location.
Your radiated signal from the antenna is drawn in red.

The angle between the earth and that red line is called the take-off angle. (T)

What it does is explained in the first drawing where A shows a high take-off angle which is the case for a horizontal yagi only a few meters above the earth.
In B the take-off angle is lower, this one is produced by a very high placed yagi.

To this question there are only three answers:
– The polarity of antenna we use (vertical/horizontal or perhaps circulair)
– The height of the antenna (height from the ground)
– And the ground conditions. (how wel is the conductivity)

A vertical polarized antenna is capable of producing quite low take-off angles without being placed high above the ground.

A horizontal antenna needs to be at least a half wave length above ground in order to have obtain a lower angle.. but above that half wave in height the horizontal antenna starts to outperform the vertical as it gains something called “groundgain” which can easily be upto 6dB extra !

It is not for nothing a high placed horizontal yagi is tha favour for many.

Example: a normal vertical …GPA is able to produce angle’s in the order of 16 degrees when it is sitting at the ground, a horizontal placed dipole has to be at 9 meters to does the same thing.
A horizontal dipole placed lower then 9 meters will have probably worse DX results as the vertical.

You might now realise / understand why HAM’s often use vertical on lower HF bands. (It is difficult to place a horizontal antenna high enough if you are on the 80M band) .

One bad aspect of verticals however is know, a vertical above bad ground (desert) can’t fill the high expectations which we just gave it. Horizontal antennas often outperform verticals under these conditions.

The vertical depends a bit on a good ground condition around the antenna. ( clay/moist always good) At bad ground it is a bad DX antenna the reasons for that are to far to go into at this site. An example was that a horizontal 1 element quad proved to be 1 to 2 S-units stronger towards Europe from 234 division (very bad ground).
Above good ground this effect seems to be amplified… just think of those /MM stat ions..they are always very loud.

So when you can not place your favorite antenna high enough a vertical can be a solution for you if you want to work some DX.

There are also disadvantages to vertical,
It produces more noises…so the station you want to hear is often deeper away
A vertical is more sensitive to QRM at the neighbors
Above 8 to 9 meters a horizontal antenna will produce a lower or the same take-off angel, thus better for “real” DX.
A Beam polarized vertical will be influenced more by the mast then a horizontal beam, unless it is far enough away from this mast or the mast is made out of non-guiding material.
Most are omni-directional so all stations are heard, this can be an advantage as well.
It performs poor above “bad” ground like desert.


This antenna is from Paolo 1DX101,
The 3 elements Delta Loop has a boomlenght of 5,4 meters.

Paolo is located on a little island in Italy
He is situated only 20 meters from the sea on the East front. 25 meters to the North and about 3 km from the Sea to the west. So, sea all around.

The antenna has a maximum height of 11 meters. With this station he reaches results everyone can be jealous off. Just take a look at cluster.dk and wait until he is on!

Paolo started in begin 2004 and is now (medio 2006) already on 189 confirmed DXCC’s
This is a great Example of what a great location could bring you with a great antenna!


For maximum use of the normal space wave it is important to have the antenna as high as possible above nearby buildings, trees, wires and surrounding terrain. A hill that rises above the rest of the country is good location for a station of any kind. The highest point is not necessarily the best location for the antenna. In the drawing above the hilltop would be a good site all directions but if maximum to the right is the objective, a point just below the crest might be better.This would reduce the coverage in opposite direction. An antenna situated on the left side, lower down the hill, might do well to the left, but almost certainly would be inferior in performance to the right.

Selecting a good DX spot (portable or home QTH) is not easy and depends also on which band will be operated. For our band a wide saltwater horizon, especially from a high cliff, just smells of DX.
(Source ARRL antenna book)

As said and not for nothing, height is important. If you are searching for a big signal on the other side of the world there is are two solutions bigger and higher!

The table below is for ALL horizontal placed antenna over normal ground, they will have the following take off angle’s (T/A) at named heights. And don not believe any other story it does not mater how many elements you have a Dipole or a 10 elements yagi will produce under the named angle its signal!

The table above shows where the main signal is radiated ( we still have radiation at other take-off angles as well.)
Do not forget there is a big difference between take-off angle and gain.
If you compare these with the different take-off angles provided in the chapter verticals, you can see when a horizontal antenna (with the same gain) will outperform the vertical.
For example if you are NOT able to erect a yagi in the near of 8..9 meters, say when you are on a DX-expedition you just might be better of with a vertical
(in both cases the antennas nearly the same gain.)


Which angle are you looking for?
Well to give you an impression: Ideal you should aim for:

Pacific for Europe 1-5 degrees. Those are the lower ones and for Europe these angles should be around the 25 degrees.

And of-course when you are in the peak of the solar cycle you can work the other side of the world with just an indoor handheld,
With programs like VOACAP or with YTAD and The program Yagi Terrain Analyzer from K6STI Which comes with the ARRL-Antenna book.
You can calculate what angle you want for a certain DXCC!.

With this knowledge you can understand that in some cases it can be better to place a high small yagi say a “cheap” 3 elements yagi instead of a lower big gun 5 elements long john. It just depends what you want: are you truly searching for that opening into the pacific for that last DXCC you just might put your money into a higher mast. A 5 elements (free space 8,5 dBD gain) placed 9 meters above the ground would have 13,06 dBD gain at 16 degrees.
At 7 degrees the same yagi still produces 9,52dBD.
A small 3 elements yagi (free space 6dBD gain)will produce the same signal (9,6dBD) at 7 degrees with a height of 13 meters. Visa versa the 3 elements will at 16 degrees take-off angle “only” produces about 10 dBD and that’s a big difference between the 5 elements.

Next example:
Below we see a 4 elements long boom yagi at a height of 12 meters. We see that this antenna is doing a great job at 12 degrees there it peaks.
12 degrees for my location is say..Africa. (north side) The higher take-off angle (C) is actually of no use for use DXers, it might come in handy during Sporadic-E skip but for F2 dx not really interesting.

Next example:.

Now we are going to take a look at a small 3 elements yagi (half the boomlenght) Below we can see the results for that antenna at 18 meters height

We are producing 11,55 dBD at 8 degrees…This means your signal will have the same signal strength and you will receive equally well: stations Which are arriving at 8 degrees at your QTH.

The conclusion Which can be made is: for DXing it might be wiser to spent money in height then in boomlenght.

What about a bigger antenna then?
If you are limited in height then YES go for a bigger yagi a change from a 3 to a 5 elements is definitely a big improvement! also in the regions further away, remember your take-off angle peaks for example at 10 degrees with a 5 elements it would do the same at the same height but the gain is higher, therefore the gain is also at lower angles higher!.

In short…. for 11 meters… horizontal is the winner for DX when it is placed roughly 8..9 meters above ground. A vertical can almost be sitting on the ground for DX but depends a bit on the ground conditions where you are located. It is always wise to know…different antennas and heights could give different angels and thus different favorable situations.

Antenna information 27 Mhz