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Old 10-03-2011, 11:52   #1
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The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

There has been a lot of discussion about the KISS SSB GROUND PLANE SYSTEM on this forum. It seems to have features very attractive to yachtsmen who are faced with the seemingly dark art of installing a HF SSB radio that performs reliably and well, all with a minimum of time, effort, and hopefully expense. As most of us here know, the important issue of what constitutes a good and proper RF ground (or counterpoise) on a seagoing vessel has long been a point of contention and controversy. Most of us want a solution that is high performing, easy to install, maintenance free, and reasonably priced. The KISS SSB has been promoted as that solution and we have heard from a number of satisfied customers on these forums that will offer their anecdotal evidence in support.

There remains the mystery of what it really is. The KISS SSB is described (at Home ) as having "
over 600 feet of exact length wire radials built in it." and "perfectly measured lengths of copper and marine sealed coils".

I have always been a skeptic. The theory behind its operation, as proposed by the seller, did not make sense to me, and I was not convinced that it could be any more effective than any bundle of random length wires attached to the autotuner ground lug and tossed into the bilge. I decided to spend the money on one and open it up to see.

The 4 foot wire that attaches to the tuner ground lug passes through a plastic plug into the approx 1" diameter plastic hose. Within this 10 foot long hose, the ground wire is soldered at one point to seven differing lengths of insulated copper wire that run the length of the hose and are folded back on themselves once or several times. Thats it. No other electrical or electronic components. The hose does seem to make for a well sealed bundle of wires, but I don't think any real RF engineer would consider this folded bundle wires capable of functioning as a collection of 1/4 wave radials tuned for specific bands. The beauty of your autotuner is that they don't have to be to be capable of providing some function.

I'll leave it to the reader to decide if its worth the money. A number of people believe it works well for them. Many others believe it is over priced for what it is. I'm not presently in a position to evaluate its actual performance, so I'll just leave you with some pictures.

KISS SSB
Half Open
Guts Removed

Chip


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Old 10-03-2011, 12:59   #2
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed with pics

Well did it work for you? I accept that it's not complicated, but if it works I am getting one.
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Old 10-03-2011, 13:43   #3
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed with pics

It reminds me of those "turn your whole house wiring into a giant TV antenna" things sold back in the '60's and '70's.
They were a plug in device which looked like it had cooling fins on the case.
The case was only plastic and had one metal plug pin and one plastic pin.
Inside was a .001 ufd disc capacitor which connected to the ac hot side of the line.
It acted as a high pass filter, and sold back when a dollar was worth something for $19.95.

Imho, this KISS thing is just a newer version of the same idea.
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Old 10-03-2011, 14:58   #4
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed with pics

Chip,
Thank you so much for spending the $$$ and time to do this!!!!

While this thread will probably turn into a circus (which I have no desire to dance around in), perhaps I could add a few tid-bits of info (facts) that may be helpful????
(Disclosure here: I'm NOT a fan of the Kiss-SSB Ground....although, as long as you stretch the normal meaning/use of words, it DOES appear to actually be what it says...."over 600 feet of exact length wire radials built in it." and "perfectly measured lengths of copper and marine sealed coils".)




Quote:
Originally Posted by SoonerSailor View Post
I don't think any real RF engineer would consider this folded bundle wires capable of functioning as a collection of 1/4 wave radials tuned for specific bands.
1) Actually in an "RF world", wires folded back onto themselves are what's referred to as "linear loading", and in antennas, etc. is typically a better (lower-loss / higher efficiency) type of loading (adding inductance), than "coils".....

And, when attempting to make reasonant length wires, such as for antennas, radials, etc. the interaction between the (close-spaced) wires can be a REAL pain in a** to adjust for......although with modern computer modeling it is much easier than in decades past.....(but even most modeling software has difficulties modeling "counterpoises" / "grounds")...
So, are these wires in the Kiss-SSB Ground, "cut-to-reasonant-length" and tested/adjusted as needed?????
Maybe??? Maybe not????

A good test to see if they are actually tuned precisely, would be to sweep it in a test jig, with a net analyzer.....or in a pinch, connect two of the Kiss-Grounds together as a dipole antenna and sweep it with an antenna analyzer, stringing it up high in the air and in the clear of other objects....
----Anyone with a ant. analyzer and a pair of the Kiss-Grounds, please post the results...it would be nice to know if they are just cut for "somewhere close" or are actually "tuned".....





2) We have now seen what it is....and it appears to be what it says it is....
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoonerSailor View Post
There remains the mystery of what it really is. The KISS SSB is described (at Home ) as having "over 600 feet of exact length wire radials built in it." and "perfectly measured lengths of copper and marine sealed coils".
But, that does NOT mean that it is actually an efficient counterpoise, etc....
And THAT is the real issue.....(I never suspected that it was anything other than what they say it is.....and it appears that it IS....)
But the real question / issue is, "what does it do????
And, here is where the "circus" starts!!!!

{BTW, while my late good friend L.B. Cebik, W4RNL would cringe when he heard people use the word "counterpoise", as it is so often used incorrectly.....thats the term I learned in the 70's, so that's what I use.....
http://www.cebik.com/content/gp/cps.html
Sorry if that rubs some the wrong way....}

Entire books have been written about counterpoises, etc......and written by guys with a far better understanding of the science than I...
(Yeah, I'm good.....real good with antennas, counterpoises, etc....but I'm no Walt Maxwell or L.B. Cebik, Frank Jones, Bill Orr, etc. etc....)
So, what to write here that anyone would believe????
Hmmm, I'm not sure....(hopefully I'll come up with some good ideas later....but 'til then, here a few quick things...)



a) The way we use antennas for HF comms on-board our boats, the "counterpoises" we use, function in multiple ways....depending on the freqs/band, length of antenna (backstay, whip, etc.), and exact design/lay-out of the counterpoise, any/all of the below are the primary ways our counterpoises function:

1 -- reduce/eliminate feedline radiation.....
2 -- on some freqs / bands, they provide "the other half of the antenna"..
3 -- shunt "un-radiated" RF to ground (reducing RFI, etc.).....
4 -- assist an antenna couple (auto-tuner) in making an adequate match..

(although, some may question the "necessity" of this last item these days, as our modern auto-tuners could match a "coat-hanger", etc.....what this last function gives us is, the ability of the auto-tuner to find a more efficient tuning regime, thereby allowing more of our transmitted power to be properly coipled TO the antenna...is it "necessary", no....is it "desireable", YES! )


Opinion alert here~~~~
----- I'm going to go out on a limb here, and assume that the "Kiss-SSB Ground" does provide this function #4, pretty well.....and if it the auto-tuner (and associated wiring) isn't designed/installed correctly, it can provide some of function #1.....
Further, I will state that I do NOT think it does anything at all for functions #2 and #3.....
End of Opinion~~~~

If the manufacturer says it will improve your transmitted signal, I'd say they're just fine stating that....
Although, I'm not sure exactly what the manufacturer says it is supposed to do.....so I cannot comment further on its real-world usefulness vs. the marketed usefulness.....



b) There are many antennas that do not "require" a counterpoise / radial / etc.....such as 1/2 wave dipoles, whether center-fed or end-fed.....
(although, end-end 1/2 wave antennas usually DO need a way to prevent feedline radiation....but since they also need a way to couple their 1000's of ohms impedence to a 50 ohm line, many times the antenna coupler itself does this fairly well.....)
But, as I wrote above, the way we use our HF comm antennas on-board, our "RF grounds" / "radials" / "counterpoises" perform multiple functions....and since we have an inherent "need" for a truly frequency-agile antenna system (useful and efficient from 2-30mhz), we should all be trying to optimize our antenna system (counterpoises included).....



c) One of the misunderstandings that always amazes me is that many do not grasp the "differences", since little distinction is made, between different ground/counterpoise systems....

The simple fact that using wire radials as a "counterpoise" does work, and
the simple fact that using copper strap to connect to the sea water, using the sea water as a "counterpoise" also works.....
They are NOT mutually exclusive....they are just different.....
(on-board radial-type counterpoises are typically made to be reasonant on certain bands/freqs, and work "good-enough" elsewhere......
and, sea water-type counterpoises are broadband, and typically also have a fair amount of copper strapping inside the vessel that is functioning as part of the "counterpoise", similarily to the fact that the GTO-15 wire leaving your auto-tuner IS part of your antenna....)

There are pluses and minuses in both.....(barnicles, installation time/effort, complexity, possibility of RFI, etc.)
They both work.....which one you choose depends on many variables....
What works well for one application / one owner, may not be opitmal for another.....





3) Hopefully I shed some light on things?????
In summary, I'm NOT a fan of the "KISS-SSB Ground" (never have been), but it appears to be what they say it is......although I still question the "value" of it, literally ($$$) and figuratively (other counterpoises have the potential to perform much better!!)




4) Okay....I've now spent over an hour typing and trying to figure out what to say, and how-to say it.....
So, I think that's enough for now.....



Fair winds...
John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 10-03-2011, 15:28   #5
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed with pics

Have to agree with senormechanico and chip's interpretation It can work (indeed anything can be made to work with the right tuner settings) but how well? I'm confident it will not work any better than a simple ~1/4 wavelghth counterpoise -ideally capacitively coupled to the sea water for plastic boats (ie run against the hull as straight as can be managed) or perhaps direct connected for metal So I'd vote for the cheaper single wire. Just as important is the radiating element. A 1/4 or 5/8 vertical antenna probably may work even better than an elevated insulated backstay and takes better advantage of the reflective seawater for a lower radiating angle. If the stick comes down you will still have it. Mine was a just a bamboo stem with a wire wrapped & fibreglassed to it , and I had contacts all around world with it. As an aside these days I'd recommend a 'J' pole antenna for the vhf. Many diy examples on the web. Advantage is the feed point is essentially grounded so static is not such a problem although still dubious for a direct lightning bolt. Ive been at sea when everyones hair stood on end in a almost clear sky so static is around.
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Old 10-03-2011, 15:42   #6
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed with pics

A decisive answer can be made simply by doing an A/B comparison with a distant contact.
Use a KISS unit, then quickly transfer the connection to a single piece of wire laid in a reasonably similar area, but not tightly laid next to the KISS.
I'll bet the signal strength of both transmit and receive will be virtually identical.

Meanwhile, I'll be doing this:
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Old 10-03-2011, 16:24   #7
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

So to the experts if you were building a new foam samwich crusing catamaran for long distance crusing how would you plan and set up for an ICOM ssb. i.e. how would you set up your ground and aerial.

In laymans terms please.

Thanks in anticipation
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Old 10-03-2011, 16:57   #8
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

Chip,
One thing I forgot....
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoonerSailor View Post
....yachtsmen who are faced with the seemingly dark art of installing a HF SSB radio that performs reliably and well, all with a minimum of time, effort, and hopefully expense.
If I can break this down intro two sentences, I think I may be able to shed some light onto what some are made to think is a "dark art"....

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoonerSailor View Post
....yachtsmen who are faced with the seemingly dark art of installing a HF SSB radio that performs reliably and well,
It's NOT really much of a "dark art", but just like anything that is not known or understood by an individual, they need to LEARN something about it.....

I believe it was Dave (or Eric) who wrote in a thread here, a while back, that he is still surprised that many cruisers will spend many $$$ and many days/weeks taking classes in diesel engine maintenance/repair, navigation, first aide, etc. (even some that are new to sailing, etc. take "sailing classes"), but those same folks won't take a free class or two on radios, etc..... nor buy some books, spend a few evenings reading from paper and learn something about radio comms, radio propagation, basic electrics / electronics, etc.....

And, I couldn't agree more!!!!

I, too, was confused by the resistance.....until one e-mail I got last year from a fellow sailor who simply said that with netbooks, "smart phones", 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, OpenCPN, the internet, etc. all seeming to be designed as "plug-n-play" / "idiot-proof", most non-radio-nuts just assume that their radio communications should be the same...

To be honest, my friend's e-mail made me realize that I should be a bit more patient with those who are not well educated / trained in radio comms, propagation, etc.....
So, I AM trying to be more understanding.....although, that doesn't mean that I still don't think people should actually want to learn. it's just that I'm being more patient with them!!!




Quote:
Originally Posted by SoonerSailor View Post
all with a minimum of time, effort, and hopefully expense.
Chip, here is where the rubber meets the road......
Everyone wants their long-range comms system to work well and be reliable.....and assuming you are correct, they want it all to work and be installed:
a) quickly???
b) easily???
c) cheaply???
Wow, those are some tall orders.....
But, they ARE do-able, to some extent......assuming someone actually IS willing to do the above, and learn what's needed....

The difficulties, pecularities, and vagraties of designing / installing / optimizing / using anything hi-tech on-board an ocean going sail (or power) boat should NOT be underestimated.....and when you add in the above mentioned lack of understanding of radio comms, propagation, basic elcetronics, you find the crux of the problem.....

A sailor CAN have an excellent MF/HF long-range comm system on-board......
But, they CANNOT have it quick, easy , and cheap...unless they know what they are doing.....
If they decide to learn some things about radio comms, propagation, basic electronics, etc. then they CAN make their own determination on what will work best for them....and will be able to figure out where to put their time, effort and money......
Or they can go on-line and take advice from "experts"....


Okay.....it looks like the circus is about to start.....gotta' go...


Fair winds...

John
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Old 11-03-2011, 09:34   #9
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

John,

Thanks for your long and considered posts...obviously, you've thought a lot about this, and you've come to some conclusions.

I share most of them, with a few differences:

1. Re: your #3 function (shunting "unused" RF to ground), I believe that ANY good counterpoise system works, in part, to collect unradiated RF and return it to the feedpoint of the antenna system where it is re-radiated in a later phase and contributes positively to the effective radiated power (ERP) of the system;

2. after playing with and installing the KISS-SSB radial system on several client's boats and after numerous on-the-air contacts I believe that the system not only works as claimed -- including it's ability to tune up easily on both marine and ham frequencies -- but that it represents a good value for many sailors.

Here's why. First, it has got to work better than a single-wire radial because it uses "tuned" radials and, as we know from experimenting with radials over a long time, tuned radials help the tuner to find an efficient match. A single-wire radial can only be a "tuned" radial on a single band. Yes, if you're only interested in, say, the 40 meter amateur band, then by all means lay in a 33' long length of insulated wire as your counterpoise. It will tune easily and do a nice job for you.

However, for most cruising sailors, there is the need for a multi-band antenna system...one which will operate reasonably well on any band from about 2 to 30 mHz. A set of tuned radials would do that (and that's what the KISS-SSB system purports to be and, in fact, seems to be). And, presumably, the matches delivered by the coupler would be more efficient, yielding fewer losses of available RF power.

One nice thing about radial systems -- whether of the KISS-SSB variety or other -- is that they require no contact with or even "coupling to" seawater. The "coupling to seawater" is pretty much an oft-repeated myth, IMHO. You don't need to and, in many cases, you don't want to. Radials laid out on the deck work just fine and, if we are to adapt the experience from many radial systems on land, elevated radials work much better than ground radials or buried radials. Consider here, also, the lowly single-band 1/2 wave dipole antenna. It requires no coupling to seawater whatsoever and, turned on its end and mounted close to the deck, it is probably the most effective seagoing antenna you can mount on a sailboat, due chiefly to it's extremely low angle of radiation.

I have noted before in a disclaimer that I'm a dealer for the KISS-SSB radial system. A very discourteous poster who obviously knows little about me or my character implied that that's why I say such good things about it. Not so. The KISS-SSB system is the ONLY piece of gear for which I am a dealer; I'm not in the business of promoting things for gain (and, in fact, any $$$ profits associated with the KISS-SSB system are negligible).

I routinely recommend and install other types of ground systems for my clients. Which one to choose depends on a host of factors, both those associated the boat itself -- including intended use and cruising areas -- and with the proclivities and abilities of the clients themselves. In the business of antenna systems for boats, this is a case where one size definitely does not fit all :-)

Bill
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Old 11-03-2011, 10:31   #10
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

The KISS works. I am glad I did not spend days laying copper foil all over the boat, when I can simply attach one wire and get the same results. Perhaps I did not "earn" the right to clear transmissions without the foil, dynaplates, thru hulls, and assorted 1950's myths, etc. I don't care why it works, it just does.

A good friend that has raced with me, and subsequently raced his own boat in the Vic-Maui (1st overall) had a KISS for the race. The reports from everyone was that he had the strongest and clearest transmissions. He often relayed other transmissions for the other racers. Victoria, BC to Hawaii is a lot of open water. If it worked there, it will work anywhere.
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Old 11-03-2011, 11:21   #11
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

For myself, I don't doubt that people get their signals out when using a KISS for an RF ground. I do have doubts that it is any more effective than $20 spent on seven random lengths of copper wire crammed into a plastic hose, or some copper wire or foil run to a nearby through-hull, or the classic 100 sq feet (yikes!) of copper foil. As long as people understand that is likely the case, I'm OK with it.

I do have issues with the idea represented by the maker that these wires folded up in the hose have any relationship to resonant radials - which would provide the most efficient radiation of signal. Each wire may be the proper length for a 1/4 wave radial for bands of interest when stretched out, but when folded up into an overall length of 14 feet that "tuned" length is out the door. I don't think Bill would find his resonant dipole was resonant any longer if he folded up the shield leg of it into a much smaller size. Perhaps the maker has, using something like a vector network analyzer, made his product empirically resonant on certain bands when it is stretched out in a hold next to the sea, but no data has been offered to support that idea. The only "evidence" offered is that an autotuner will still present a 50 ohm load (+/-) to the transmitter when this thing is used, and that is a nearly meaningless benchmark.

I would suggest that the parsimonious cruiser spend $20 or so on some insulated copper wire and a ring terminal, and fashion their own Medusa's head of wire to throw into the bilge for their RF ground and see how it works. Don't worry about exactly how long the wires are, I don't think it matters. I suspect you will have something that works as good as the KISS for $125 less, and you won't be wedded to the idea of having to have the specially designed tube of wires.

On the other hand, if the idea of the pre-made watertight bundle of wires that seem to make a number of customers happy is worth the $145 to you, then it might be just the thing.

Chip
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Old 11-03-2011, 11:36   #12
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

Chip,

In a personal communication with the maker, he told me that the lengths of wire had been carefully chosen and trimmed and tested. They are NOT the same length as they would be if stretched straight out, as you point out correctly.

However, as John pointed out earlier, the inductive coupling between the parallel loops of each radial might well have a beneficial effect in creating a more efficient "counterpoise", making tuning easier.

I don't disagree at all with your contention that simply cutting separate length "tuned" radials and throwing them in the bilge would have much the same effectiveness as the KISS-SSB product. However, I do not agree that random-length radials would be quite as effective, since the match with the tuner would be less efficient (greater loss).

The reason why the $145 is worth it to many folks is that:

1. it's a very neat, easy-to-install, compact package that works just fine; and

2. there's no way in hell you could possibly duplicate such a counterpoise system yourself for less money, given the many hours which would be required to play with the various wire lengths to get effective tuning capability on desired bands -- even if you had a good antenna analyzer or network analyzer -- plus the time to collect the materials and assemble and test them in a neat package.

A couple of years ago I made a 5-band tuned radial system, using 5-conductor AWG14 insulated wire, intended to be used in the "straight out" orientation. I can tell you that the time and expense required to make even that simple resonant radial system were worth a lot more than $145!

Bill
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Old 11-03-2011, 15:19   #13
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
I believe it was Dave (or Eric) who wrote in a thread here, a while back, that he is still surprised that many cruisers will spend many $$$ and many days/weeks taking classes in diesel engine maintenance/repair, navigation, first aide, etc. (even some that are new to sailing, etc. take "sailing classes"), but those same folks won't take a free class or two on radios, etc..... nor buy some books, spend a few evenings reading from paper and learn something about radio comms, radio propagation, basic electrics / electronics, etc.....
That was me. *grin*

I spent a good bit of time over the last couple of years talking to the developer of the KISS-SSB before recommending it to my clients and becoming a dealer. I don't sell or recommend kit I don't believe in.

If a cruiser wants a DIY solution s/he can almost certainly save some coin pulling tuned radials for bands of interest. If a cruiser wants to pay me or someone else to set up their system for them it is cheaper for them if I install a KISS-SSB -- the labor hours pulling wire overwhelm any possible cost savings.

I've put KISS-SSB on boats and abandoned corroded copper strap well past its life span. The owners got much better performance without paying me for many hours of fishing new strap. My experience has been very consistent.

@John - I agree with you and W4RNL about the use of counterpoise vocabulary, but I think we are stuck with it.
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:11   #14
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

Quote:
Originally Posted by downunder View Post
So to the experts if you were building a new foam samwich crusing catamaran for long distance crusing how would you plan and set up for an ICOM ssb. i.e. how would you set up your ground and aerial.

In laymans terms please.

Thanks in anticipation
Building new means you can add the ground system to the laminate like on Jedi: the aft section has a copper mesh in the laminate which is soldered to a small copper plate. The position of the copper plate is visible as a hump under the fiberglass. Now you can drill and tap into the copper for the tuner ground connection. What you create is a giant capacitor to the sea-water. Works perfectly but I would not dare to state that it works better than the KISS counterpoise.

ps.: the Kiss opened up is exactly like I imagined it to be... what makes people think it's a hoax?

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 12-03-2011, 09:50   #15
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Re: The KISS SSB Counterpoise - Revealed ( with Pics )

I can't comment on the KISS as I've never tried it. What works for us, and what is IMO always worth a try before spending time and/or money on anything else, is a thruhull. I connected the tuner, via a copper strap to a thruhull. The copper strap is just clamped on to the through hull by a hose clamp and it works just fine. The entire SSB installation took me less than 8 hours to complete. The water doesn't even have to be salt for it to work. It worked just as good as we came over the scottish lakes on the caledonian canal as it does here in the Atlantic.

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