Originally Posted by ridgescan
This thread made me see that one could be had for way cheaper. Now I may need to add this to my toy list
I started out swl back in the day with a Palomar noise-bridge. No metering, you just listened for the quietest settings. These days I prefer the analyzers.
While measuring at the feedpoint is generally recommended, if you use a tuner, you can put the analyzer to use right there and get to the proper settings quickly - especially if you are only going by ear, and your antenna is so high q that the settings are easily passed by if the band is quiet or the settings are extremely touchy. There may also be multiple settings that going by ear alone seems the same - which for amateurs allows one to pick the *better* setting for transmit.
It also allows one to figure out unseen problems, like cutting an antenna by the book dimensions, and readings are out of the park - something is wrong somewhere, like failed construction, or proximity to other objects that are detuning it, and can alert the op that this just isn't poor band conditions.
SWL or amateur, I can't think of a better acessory than an analyzer. But be your own judge on how much complexity you can handle or even use the features. If all you do is just check for resonance or shoot for ballpark swr's, then a simpler unit like the MFJ 207 may be all you need to get started. Still, if the budget allows, I think the Comet CAA-500's quality, coverage, and simplicity would be the better bet although swr alone doesn't tell the whole story. With the smarter analyzers, the sky's the limit for doing much more, but just be sure you are comfortable with using it.
There are some that say that for rx-only, due to modern receiver sensitivity and band noise in general, that optimizing an antenna is not really necessary - and rightly so under many circumstances. However, I'd rather have an efficient antenna where it allows one to turn OFF preamps and in some cases turn ON attenuation, rather than have it the other way around.
In other words, with an efficient antenna, you'll be on the bands sooner, and stay later.