What’s That Connector on My HT?

All ham radio handheld transceivers are shipped standard with an electrically-short monopole antennas, more commonly called rubber duck antennas. I usually refer to this type of antenna as a very convenient crummy antenna. A rubber duck is handy when carrying your HT, adequate for many uses but not as efficient as a full-size antenna. It is nice to be able to attach a higher performance antenna when needed, such as a longer handheld antenna or a mobile magmount antenna.


A handheld antenna with a rubber duck antenna.

The BNC (Bayonet Neill–Concelman) connector is used in a wide variety of electronic products and it used to be the standard connector for HTs. It is particularly convenient due to its “twist and lock” operation —-easy on, easy off. As handheld transceivers became more compact, the BNC was largely replaced with the much smaller SMA (SubMiniature version A) connector.

BNC photo

BNC connectors on the cable and on the HT

For example, the Yaesu FT-60 uses a female SMA connector for the antenna connection. Since Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood all use this connector, I’d say this is the standard approach for the amateur radio market.


Yaesu FT-60 with female SMA antenna connector

A few manufacturers have decided to use the male SMA connector as the antenna connection for their handheld radios. I suspect that these manufacturers are following the lead of commercial radio manufacturers (e.g., Motorola) who also use the male connector. This approach seems to be popular with the Chinese manufacturers (Wouxun, Baofeng, etc.)

Wouxun SMA

Either gender of SMA connector is just fine but you’ll want to be aware of which one your radio uses when buying accessories for your HT. Sometimes hams adapt these SMA connectors back to the good old BNC, to connect existing BNC cables or antennas.

SMA-BNC Adapters

The adapter in the center is a common adapter for cable use but arguably mechanically weak for adapting HT antennas. The adapter on the left adapts BNC antennas to an HT with a male SMA connector and fits snugly on the top of the HT, providing mechanical support. Similarly, the adapter on the right adapts BNC antennas to an HT with a female SMA connector. The adapter on the left is available from Import Communications, while the other two adapters came from Affordable Radio.

I hope this helps you sort out the different connectors on your radio. You’ve got to get connected if you’re going to connect on the airwaves! Thanks for stopping by Shack Talk.

73, Bob K0NR