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Microwave radiometry is a spectral measurement technique for resolving blackbody radiation of heated matter above absolute zero. The emission levels vary with frequency and are at body temperatures maximized in the infrared spectral band. Medical radio-thermometers are mostly noninvasive short-range instruments that can provide temperature distributions in subcutaneous biological tissues when operated in the microwave region. However, a crucial limitation of the microwave radiometric observation principle is the extremely weak signal level of the thermal noise emitted by the lossy material (-174 dBm/Hz at normal body temperature). To improve the radiometer SNR, we propose to integrate a tiny, moderate gain, low-noise preamplifier (LNA) close to the antenna terminals as to obtain increased detectability of deep seated thermal gradients within the volume under investigation. The concept is verified experimentally in a lossy phantom medium by scanning an active antenna across a thermostatically controlled water phantom with a hot object embedded at 38 mm depth. Three different setups were investigated with decreasing temperature contrasts between the target and ambient medium. As a direct consequence of less ripple on the raw radiometric signal, statistical analysis shows a marked increase in signal-to-clutter ratio of the brightness temperature spatial scan profiles, when comparing active antenna operation with conventional passive setups.