Alpha EZ Military vs Chameleon MPAS Overview

Overview

The Alpha EZ Military VS Chameleon MPAS series was put together to compare these systems to one another. We are looking at performance, quality, materials, durability, construction, deployment configurations, and value for money.

Before we get started its important to point out that we understand these are not the most efficient antenna systems going into the comparison. There certainly are more efficient systems available to an operator. However, These systems are tested with the understanding that they are broadband antenna systems offering 80-6M (Alpha), and 160-6M  (Chameleon) coverage. Its also understood that we sacrifice some efficiency for a system offering

  • Multi-Configuration options
  • Rapid deployment
  • Portability
  • Self-supporting

What we are not doing, is comparing them to full-scale, more efficient antenna systems. Since those system are neither portable, or offer the configuration options we require.

Hopefully by the end of the series, any mysteries remaining about either system will have been brought out into the light.

Alpha EZ Military

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Alpha EZ Military

The Alpha EZ Military Antenna Gold is a kit put together by Alpha Antennas

The kit sent for testing included the following items.

  • Alpha Military Whip
  • Alpha Match
  • Jaw Clamp
  • Tripod
  • EMCOMM element
  • NVIS element
  • Counterpoise kit

The Alpha EZ Military Gold kit initially seemed a nice entry level kit for those who have not completely understood their communications requirements, but want a kit which covers all their imagined requirements.

The fact that it’s a complete kit has its advantages! Of course it might have components which you will never use, but its better to have them and not need them, than to need them, … Still, the most important concern is the quality of the components used to make up the kit.

The Alpha EZ Military Gold comes off as very good “home-brew” equipment. In some ways that homebrew look and feel has some appeal. Honestly I don’t care what it looks like as long as it performs well. I’ve already had some surprising results with it, and a few minor issues. All in all it’s a very basic kit.

One thing I forgot to mention in the first video was the quality of the wires used in the EZ Military system. I really think at this price the wire should be improved, and especially so for areas with warm or cold temperature extremes. The end result is I would not purchase the wires (Emcomm element, NVIS Element, Counterpoise kit) and instead, would build them myself using a better wire, adding wire winders, and with a substantially lower price.

Steve from Alpha says the wire is rated for -20C but refuses to provide a data sheet for the wire. During the series,  a subscriber found the source for the “garden wire”, from a home improvement store.  The same subscriber found the housing used for the Alpha match to be a schedule 40 end cap and schedule 40 plug ( Homebrew?).

Dealing with Alpha Antenna

Steve from Alpha Antennas is seemingly very helpful, and fast to answer questions. Unfortunately, I found it completely impossible to believe anything he said. Making it necessary to verify and validate his claims about the product, From the limited time I spent exchanging emails, it seems like Alpha has good customer service, but, the goal of that polite and friendly exchange, is to deceive you about the product. So when you’re dealing with Alpha Antenna as you need to ask very specific questions, and demand very specific answers. Finally rather than taking them on their word, demand the documentation to back up any claims they make on quality, performance, or manufacturing.

One issue that was very frustrating with Alpha, was being constantly bombarded with marketing nonsense. I really have no use for the marketing (blablabla) and would rather just have good, informative, technical, documentation! There were also times when I felt Steve was purposely being misleading or out right avoiding my questions. Often when I had a problem, refused to admit obvious manufacturing issues, or production shortcuts. instead, made up marketing nonsense about it being a “special method” to achieve better results! This kind of “Sales at all cost” attitude was very frustrating. It’s also the same sort of red flag we see from companies like gotenna, who target the preparedness community with “colourful truths” to increase sales.

Documentation

In the first video I told Steve that IMO the documentation from the EZ Military was quite bad. Steve informed me that they will be updating the documentation about their products, which is a very good thing for the customer.

Update: The documentation was updated. More disclaimers were added, but almost nothing in the way of technical documentation about the product. It’s often been my experience that a lack of good documentation is a reflection of the company. Thus this documentation perfectly reflects the current image I have of Alpha Antenna.

Other videos

A few videos from customers have popped up during the series.  As a result of this series being published chameleon antenna actually now sells the kit from their    guess the series is stirring up the bee hive. It was not my intent. In fact, I only wanted to do an objective comparison between these two systems. Nevertheless, here are the videos.

I’ve published some high resolution images of the Alpha EZ Military here. The album will be updated periodically.

Of course we should thank Alpha Antenna for sending the gear here for review. If you decide to purchase the kit, please let them know this video series helped you make your decision.

Chameleon MPAS

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This is my own man portable kit based on the Chameleon MPAS

The Chameleon MPAS is an essentials kit, put together for the SurvivalTech Nord channel on YouTube. Unlike Alpha, its meant to be a starting point, not a complete kit. It is still a very capable kit!

As a result of this series being published, chameleon antenna now offers the kit from their website!

The MPAS system includes:

There are also optional components, allowing the user to mix, match and combine the different products into a solution which meets their requirements. Its easier if you just watch the video, than me trying to explain it here.

I have not had any deployment issues with the MPAS kit or any of the accessories. However, after watching some of my videos, Carl did offer lots of advice on maximizing the deployment possibilities with the MPAS. Our discussions continue to this day, and I always come away from them having learned something new.

The MPAS is to a radio operator as Bang & Olufsen or Harmon are to the audiophile! The attention to detail at every step of the way, from production to packing is pure awesomeness. You open the box and feel like “Wow, someone really cared about my first impression”.

I did have a problem with the wire used by chameleon on the counterpoise kit. We had a particularly cold couple of weeks here (near -30C) causing the wire to become brittle and ultimately break during unraveling from the wire winder. In response Chameleon is upgrading the wire they use in production, to something that should work well on a satellite or a Mars rover. More details in the video.

Dealing with Chameleon

Carl from Chameleon Antenna is always ready to answer questions. He has an educators way of sharing the knowledge, so one learns from interacting with him. To be quite honest, I don’t know when the guy sleeps!

I haven’t had any bad experiences with Chameleon. My subscribers also seem to be happy and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realize that quite many of them bought the MPAS, or other Rapid Deployment products from chameleon.

Supporting videos

You can view hi resolution images of the MPAS here.

The video series

Here is a breakdown of the video series. The videos are not published in any particular order.

  • Alpha EZ Military Gold “First Look”
  • Chameleon MPAS “Detailed Overview”
  • Side-by-Side Comparison
  • Conclusion
  • Buyers Guide

The series is not set in stone, so beyond what I’ve written here, will be made up as we go along.

WSPR Testing

IMG_20160404_142936The test environment will be the Yaesu FT-817ND, with the z817 tuner. Both systems will be setup as they would be by the end user.

The setup for the WSPR tests will be like this:

  • Each antenna system will be setup on location in real-time.
  • We will pick  a band to test, tune up the systems then allow the WSPR beacon app or WSPR-X to manage the transmissions.
  • We will also do reception tests on WSPR as well.

During my WSPR testing I found a strange issue which I could not immediately understand. Intermediate range stations were often void from the Alpha EZ Military map plots. Steve felt this problem might have been caused by the shorter 3x element counterpoise system used by the EZ Military compared to the Chameleon MPAS which used the 4x element 25 ft, counterpoise kit from Chameleon.

I promised to test the EZ Military using the Chameleon Counterpoise kit and do the tests again.