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Antenna Analyzer advice wanted- Which one should I Buy?

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NC1

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#1
I decided it is time to consider buying an antenna analyzer, but being new to this aspect I'm not sure which ones are good and which to avoid.

Here is the breakdown of my basic requirements (of course I am a little flexible):

It should be portable and battery powered.
Frequency range (approx.) 130-180 and 400-520.
I would prefer a graph reading rather than just numerical.
Budget is around $175, but not completely firm should I have to spend a little more to get what I really require.

This will be used for making my own antennas and for testing installations. I don't need a lot of bells and whistles just yet as far as I know.

Looking on eBay, I found the KEV520A but it's just a bit over the limit of an already stretched budget. It would be a little while until I could see my way clear to make that purchase. I am kind of leaning toward that should it be my best option even if I have to wait a little longer.
My second option is purchasing one used, and do not know if that is a good idea or not because you don't really know if it was abused, or innocently mishandled, enough to throw off the calibration.

I have already been using the SWR meter method, but want to graduate up to a bigger and better toy.
Maybe there is something out there that does the same thing for about 1/3 the price?
Any and all input from people who own or have used these instruments would be GREATLY appreciated.
 

N4GIX

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#2
I own a Surecom SA250 antenna analyzer and am quite happy with it!

There are a number of vendors selling this same unit, one of which has it marked down to $176.17.

Here is a link to all vendors, so you can see what the screens look like.

SURECOM SA250 132-173 / 200-260 / 400-519MHz
Colour Graphic Antenna Analyzer

sa250 in Radio Communication Electronics | eBay
 
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#3
I've owned the MFJ-259B and its complete junk, its switches went intermittent shortly after I got it and many friends have had trouble with similar MFJ products. I do a lot of antenna work and bought a Comet CAA-500 a few years ago and have been completely thrilled with it. One thing that swayed me towards the comet is the continuous coverage and I play a lot with 225-400Mhz antennas, which other analyzers do not cover.

The cost is a bit above your budget but the Comet is more a good piece of test equipment than a ham radio toy. I've dropped mine out of a tree and it still works fine and should for a very long time.
prcguy
 
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#4
Consider looking at past reviews at
eHam.net Reviews - Antenna Analyzers

I use the AimUHF analyzer that sells for just under $1,000. I like using my laptop for control and in addition, I can measure antenna impedance, feedline impedance [with TDR] and feedline loss of an open piece of coax..

Keep in mind using any antenna analyzer, your readings will be altered by the quality and loss of your feedline. Until you know your feedline loss end-to-end, your SWR readings are just a guess. Without knowing your feedline, your SWR should be measured within 6 feet of your antenna.

For example, if your coax is RG213, which is a better version of RG8, and you use 100 feet to your UHF [440 MHz] antenna. The loss for new cable is 5 dB, so when you measure the antenna SWR at the radio, you could have a severe mis-match of 5 to 1 SWR, but it would read 1.2 to 1 instead. The reason is the loss in the coax reduces the power to the antenna by a factor of 68% and any reflected power is also reduced by 68%. Therefore, if your radio ran 25 watts, you would get 7.9 watts to the antenna, and if the SWR was 5-1, then 3.5 watts would be reflected back to the radio. You then add the loss of the return path to the radio and the measured return power is only 2.4 watts. This represents a 1.2 to 1 SWR instead of the real 5 to 1 SWR, AND THIS IS FOR NEW COAX.

Check your coax with a through-line wattmeter and 50 Ohm load at the end of the coax. Measure the power at the radio first, then at the load at the end of the coax. The difference in power at your operating frequency is the loss. The SWR at the radio should be 1.0 to 1 as you are measuring a 50 Ohm load. If not, you have some bad cable, or a bad connector.

The antenna is the most important part of your system. The feedline is the second most important part. Because of a poor antenna/feedline system, I have sometimes found radios work better with just a whip on the back, due to (a) moisture in the connector at the antenna; (b) moisture in the feedline causing additional loss, and (c) corrosion of the antenna matching section causing a poor connection.

Good luck and have lots of fun.
 

NC1

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#5
N4GIX - thanks for the info on the Surecom SA250 and the link. I have been considering that one as well and have not ruled it out, not yet anyway.

prcguy - it looks like the CAA-500 does not go to the 400-520, that would be a critical requirement.
I'll check the other Comet products for something more in line with what I need. The MFJ products have not had really good reviews overall, so I am not even looking at them. Thank you for backing up my opinion on their items.

freddaniel - the area of $1,000 is not even an option for me at this point. She, who must be obeyed, would hit the roof, and probably knock down an antenna. lol
I am somewhat aware of the feedline issues and appreciate your going into more detail on that point. I will be using only a few feet at best, this is 99% for checking the antenna only. When looking into checking installations, I will have to figure those variables at that time.

Hmmmm, looks like I will be taking the whole weekend or more to research this. I hate to buy junk, it's both a disappointment and a waste of time. I'm still unsure about the used stuff, maybe there is a Hamfest coming up soon in my area where I can get hands-on.
 

N4GIX

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#6
Keep in mind the features the OP wants:

  1. It should be portable and battery powered.
  2. Frequency range (approx.) 130-180 and 400-520.
  3. I would prefer a graph reading rather than just numerical.
  4. Budget is around $175, but not completely firm should I have to spend a little more to get what I really require.
Points 1 & 3 are the real key. Of all of the analyzers mention, aside from the SA250 I own and have recommended, none of them meet these two requirements.

The SA250 is not just "battery powered," it has a lithium rechargeable battery and an included USB power cable.

The only thing I can complain about is that it is difficult to see the screen when working outdoors and bright sunlight. I work around this by keeping the unit in a roomy black bag so the screen is shaded well enough to read easily. This makes it very usable even when at the top of a tower... :wink:
 

NC1

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#7
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#8
The Comet CAA-500 goes from 1.5 to 520MHZ continuous.

prcguy - it looks like the CAA-500 does not go to the 400-520, that would be a critical requirement.
I'll check the other Comet products for something more in line with what I need. The MFJ products have not had really good reviews overall, so I am not even looking at them. Thank you for backing up my opinion on their items.
 

NC1

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#9
I now see where I got confused. The picture of the unit had a sticker on front which ended at 255MHz, didn't notice the 300-500MHz option to the right of it. That one is discontinued, but is replaced with the CAA-500 Mark II.

It looks like a well built piece of equipment, unfortunately it comes with a $399 price tag. That is well over twice my budget and can't be a contender for that one reason alone.

Right now I am comparing the SA250 and KVE520A, and expanding my search from there.
 

NC1

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#11
LOL, that AEA is over $600, you are going the wrong way where price is concerned.

If budget were not an issue, I have seen some nice ones from $2,800 to $11,000.

Anybody ever buy one used? Good or bad experience?
 

NC1

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#13
I bought a RigExpert AA-1000 a few years ago. It's way better than the MFJ I used to have.
Now that one has everything, and for the $800 it seems like a good deal.

I do like it for sure, now I'm thinking maybe I don't need the motorcycle any more and it is the time of year to put it up for sale. After getting the Analyzer, I can buy some new 9913, a new radio, a much better soldering iron, some adapters, lol

Yup, don't think I need the bike any more. Time to clean it up a bit, give it a quick wax, and take some pictures for the sales ad.
 
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#14
FWIW, the top four SURECOM sellers on eBay all have what are considered POOR feedback ratings. (Yes, 98%-99% is considered POOR considering how easily a vendor can clean up complaints.)

ARRL has reviewed several analyzers and even has an ebook on how to choose and use them, although the ebook is pretty simplistic and basically says everything is above average. Still, that's another resource.
 

NC1

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#16
Very strange, right after I posted this thread and started really looking into buying an antenna analyzer, everybody who sells them started playing games with their prices on these things.

eBay was by far and above the most noticeable in regard to raising their prices across the board on almost all the new models being sold by companies in China.

I will have to suspend my purchase for a while and wait until they come to their senses with pricing these more in line with what they really should be. I still might go through Amazon where I can get $50 off, but as of right now I am a little disgusted with the games they are playing with their prices.

As for now, the wallet is closed, and the paypal cash will just sit in paypal. I hope they all have fun looking at their inventory while it all goes down in value over the next number of months.

The issue is not so much the money as it is principal. I could pay the extra, but I am not going to.
 
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#17
I have experience with both an MFJ-269 (junk) and a Bird AT500 (AWESOME piece of kit). The MFJ lacks consistency. I can check a system 3x in a row and get 3 different results, from a match of 1.1-1 at the desired frequency to a match of 3.2-1 at the same frequency.. with no changes to the system at all! And it doesn't have a graph which the original poster was desiring. The Bird AT500 on the other hand, is a superb piece of gear, consistent results, good graph, can save 12 traces for later comparisons... HOWEVER, I believe it is WAY out of the price range at around 1100-1500 depending on source for a brand new one. It covers from 5-520 MHZ, so it might be overkill.. the discontinued Bird AT400 (which I've seen used on eBay for around 300-500) drops the HF part of the spectrum and covers from 65-520 MHZ. Still a little higher than your desired price point, but one should do the job quite well. The Birds are even backlit with settable contrast.
 
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#19
I own a Surecom SA250 antenna analyzer and am quite happy with it!

There are a number of vendors selling this same unit, one of which has it marked down to $176.17.

Here is a link to all vendors, so you can see what the screens look like.

SURECOM SA250 132-173 / 200-260 / 400-519MHz
Colour Graphic Antenna Analyzer

sa250 in Radio Communication Electronics | eBay

How does your SA 250 still work? I am looking at getting an antenna analyzer for vhf/uhf and it;s coming down to this one or a times technology t100 for $100 on ebay.

prolly will go for the SA 250 just wanted to know how it was holding up.
 
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