UPDATE: I’ve been catching a little heat for this review. I have gotten several emails explaining very succinctly to me why this antenna is not very good and I’ve been slammed for promoting a Chinese knock off. However, know this……….It is INEXPENSIVE. Like China or hate China, because this loop is a fraction of the price of other loops for sale it is going to get some attention. Also, I’m sorry, I don’t care what the specs say…………The antenna receives pretty good. Is it the end all, be all…………….no. God no. But it’s not that bad and it doesn’t cost $300.
I live in an HOA which limits what kind of an antenna I can use for Short Wave Listening. There are a few options of which one of the best is a Magnetic Loop antenna. It has a relatively small profile and can even be kept below fence level and still perform wonderfully.
One of the problems with a Magnetic Loop is that they are fairly expensive. Like in the $250 or higher range. Most old timers or skilled antenna builders will tell you there is $60 worth of parts in the $250 antenna and that you should just hunker down, get smart, and build one yourself.
Enter the Chinese made MLA-30 MegaLoop and damnit this is my blog so it’ll from here on out be known as the MAGALoop. That’s what I’m calling it.
Here it is. In all it’s $43 glory. A simple wire ran through a piece of PVC pipe THAT DOESN’T EVEN COME WITH THE KIT!
I wrote that in caps but I get why they didn’t send a hunk of PVC or broom stick. It makes sense to keep the shipping costs down. No problem with that on my end.
It is pretty simplistic especially compared to my other loops (W6LVP, and Wellbrook ALA1530LN) both of which came in between $250 and $330 respectively. OUCH!
Sooooooooo, now the million dollar question. How does it perform?
NOT AS BAD AS YOU WOULD THINK. The first thing I noticed was that it was quiet and considerably picking up less RFI than the other loops. To be fair both of my antenna were hoisted up a bit and since all of our power lines are run underground for all I know I had them sitting right over the top of a line. I also discovered that the 120v to 12v converter was NOISY as all get out when I used one particular outlet in my bedroom. Go figure.
Probably it is because the amp is powered via USB cable at 5v. I’m sure lower power equals lower noise as well. NOTE: I’ve been told that while the input voltage for the loop is 5v that there is a Step Up circuit that runs the voltage up to 12-14 volts. My mistake.
The connector at the antenna end is hard wired into the amplifier so there is no outdoor connection. That’s pretty smart and the other end that feeds into the box is configured with all SMA connectors so this antenna is more suitable out of the box for an RTL-SDR device. That does not mean you can’t get an adapter and use it on something else I just mean that out of the box it is ready to roll with an RTL-SDR.
If you open the box on the antenna itself it has a red LED that lets you know things are working and the installed circuit board is conformal coated, albeit not very well by what looks to be the pour or brush on method. Probably poured.
But conformal coatings are NOT a bad thing and in fact are a good thing. The potting or coating is not nearly as good as on a W6LVP or Wellbrook Loop. Hey, what do you want for $43?
Here’s what the outside of the box looks like.
So what do I think about it? First of all realize that while I call this a Tech blog that all my opinions here are subjective and not technical.
It’s my practical usage and not me measuring the speed of the elections flowing from North to South inside the preamplifier which lead me to my conclusions.
My practical usage tells me that this MAGALoop is quite useable. It is pretty quiet, and pulls in the signals pretty well.
Does it receive as well as the W6LVP or the Wellbrook? Well, that’s a loaded question. It depends on so many variables.
In my experience it works ALMOST as good as both of the other previously mentioned loops. And here’s the way I’m going to grade this:
- If you spend too much money already on Short Wave Equipment and you are strapped for cash then the MAGALoop is for you. It is an adequate performer.
- If you have a ton of money with more falling from the sky, then buy the Wellbrook or the W6LVP.
- If a W6LVP falls to the ground it WILL break the BNC connector on the amp. This happened to me already and it cost me $50 to fix. So my $250 antenna now costs $300. If a MAGALoop falls……….just bend the wire back into place.
- If you are a camper and take Shortwave gear with you…………..get the MAGALoop.
So the MAGALoop is adequate but lets talk plain economics. If you could only have one antenna and money was an issue then is the Wellbrook worth $300 more? My answer is an emphatic NO. Given the cost of the MAGALoop it is almost a no brainer to have one.
If you have wads of money and want to dig signals out of the mud then buy one of the other loops.
And my closing thought is this…………I have 30′ of RG-6 coax going into a NooElec $12 balun (9:1) which has two 33′ hunks of wire coming off of both sides. Also about a $50 antenna which lays across my fence, is HOA invisible and WORKS AS WELL AS THE LOOPS.
Try different things. Try different loops. And build your own if you can.
Where can I order one?
eBay……..just search for MLA-30
Genuinely useful evaluation of this novel antenna. Curious about the real world practical results one could reasonably expect and answered superbly! Sparked my curiosity to give it a try.
Many thanks and keep up the great readings.
I’d like to hear more about the nooelec balun and the 2 33’ wires. Is it a dipole connected by coax or just 2 wires running into your house? I have my nooelec balun connected to an indoor vertical slinky and the results are just so so.
I’ll do a blog on it soon.
Thanks 4 your review. I think its an interesting antenna.
I wonder if it is there a way to power that think with the biasT 5 V out of the sdrPlay over the coax. I think i give it a try.
Hello from France,
Thanks for the review. How does the loop antenna perform compared to a chinese mini whip (about the same price as the loop antenna) ?
If you haven’t enough outdoor space for a long wire, is the loop antenna the best option ?
I’ve also got a Nooelec Balun to go with my spyverter. Did you connect one of the wires to the ground or did you just put one long wire in each hole.
Thanks for your help,
James……..I just put one long wire in each hole. I have never used the mini whip. I think if you have the space a long wire is better than a loop most of the time.
Thanks for your answer.
I’m trying to receive HF with my airspy mini + spyverter + nooelec balun. For the moment, I only pick up noise. I haven’t got much outdoor space for long wires, that’s why I’m wondering if it’s worth buying a MLA30 loop antenna.
The boost converter for getting the 12V from 5V kills everythig below about 450kHz. If you use another Bias Tee and a 12V linear (regulated) supply it comes back. Saying it covers from 100kHz is a lie in it’s deleivered form.
Good value for money but it is after all a cheap Chinese knock off so don’t expect the world.
I’ll probably get another simply to leave at work in case I need a HF antenna.
I find it a lttle better than the whips but my location is very noisy so whips always have a hard time.
Good info. Thanks!
I bought the MLA-30 off of eBay last month. So far I love it — good performance, highly portable, easy to power. The 60 cm loop that comes with it is nearly worthless below 10 MHz. I made a 6-foot loop from stranded speaker wire, supported by PVC spreaders. Now I have excellent performance for AM broadcast band DXing.
One thing to mention is that the pot you see inside the box seems to control the gain. You may want to turn that to max while using the little 60 cm loop.
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Thanks for the great review
Let’s face it hams are cheap
You can choose Ramen Noodle bowl or Mac n Cheese from a box or go eat real past at a trattoria.
At the end you ain’t hungry anymore
You get what you pay sometimes and sometimes you get a bargain
Great review…. Ill eventually make / buy a loop… I’d rather make. But this antenna is an eye catcher.
Circuit and performance measurements can be found at
I’m using a Par endfed with my icom R75 and about 10 meters of coaxial to the RX and a good earth. The problm is that it picks up so much RFi that it sometimes useless. I’ve tried an AOR SA700, it did not solve the problem. Do you think this loop could help solve the problem of RFI going through the shield of the coax?
The MAGAloop – now you’ve “triggered” me! Where’s my safe space…?
I received mine yesterday and hope to have it up & operating this weekend for use on 630m (and possibly 160m). Thanks for the review & 73,
MAGA = Make Antennas Generally Affordable?
Just got mine. After lots of testing on all bands I have come to the conclusion that it works no better than my random long wire. Ideal if you only have a balcony but nothing more.
Circuit schematic looks easy to make. I might make one while in quarantine…once I feel healthier.
Quite late in this, but I’d like to add a bit of infos about the nooelec balun; if you own a v1 use a cutter to cut the small jumper (0 ohm resistor marked R1) located on the back of the circuit (no worry you may just solder the track later or add a jumper if you want) if, otherwise, you have a v2 there’s nothing to cut since the resistor isn’t there
In either case, after the modification, use the balun for one of the below antennas; if you have a garden/yard with 15 square ft of space, go for the LoG
if, otherwise all you have is a balcony (or a window :D) go for the SRL
in both case use the nooelec balun by connecting the two ends of either loop to the balun antenna holders and then connecting to the sma connector the 50 ohm coax going to your receiver (you’ll also want to enclose the balun into a small waterproof box to protect it)
The two simple and cheap antennas above will give you unbelievable results (I was skeptic at first); just try them for a couple days at different times and hear that by yourself
I’m puzzled by this small active antenna. I started to experiment with a diy coax loop and it works fine to reduce RFI.
I’m very seen on YouTube that there is a MLA-30+ version out there.
Also on AliExpress I found someobe advertising a 2020 revised HW antenna which look identical to the original.
Anybody knows about it?
Hi, can I use the antenna as a tx antenna? Thanks
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I have just received my Magaloop this morning. First, I hung it up on the loft hatch and had a quick play. Once I confirmed it was working fine, I moved it out to the back garden, taking my AIRSPY SDR and laptop with me.
Today, HF is pretty poor as of course we’re at a sunspot minimum, but the Chinese loop pulls in stations with similar signal strength to my 1/2 G5RV and with considerably less noise. Rotating it so that the lobes are away from the house reduces the amount of noise to a minimum. That’s exactly what I wanted. Less local noise!
So for a whole £35.88 including shipping, I am very happy with it.
Will this work if I make a cable with an alligator clip to the center of the coax and clip it to a radio that only has a telescoping antenna? I don’t want to risk damaging my radio, but would love to get a stronger signal.
in case you are still looking for an answer.
I tried this with my MLA-30+ and tecsun PL660.
Answer is “no” for my test
If you are interested in MW – a cheap alternative is the “Tecsun AN-200 Loopantenne” (shouldn’t be more tahan 25 dollar or so – do some searching – the price varies a lot depending on resellers). This passive loop antenna will pull in stations better. (and no, not the 1watt MW station 5.000km away )
I like the way you wrote this article. Just try and do the things in technics. The cost is good amd also the look of the antenna. For receiving nice and solid, I will order one myself. Thanks for you interesting story.
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