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Crimp, Compression or Solder?

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#1
I have always bought preassembled jumper coax cables but they are always too long or too short and I want to clean up behind the desk by assembling my own and make them all the correct length they need to be. So the question is - should I use crimp, compression or solder connectors? I will be using LMR240 with mostly BNC connectors (right angle) with a couple PL259 and F connectors. I will be using for shortwave and scanners - receive only. I have read never crimp and crimping is great, must solder and don't solder, etc. I am leaning towards compression but looking for any advice from those that do put on their own connectors. Thanks!
 
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#3
Commercial and public safety two way radio system installers have been using crimp on connectors for a very long time without issue.
The people that usually complain about crimp connectors being an issue are often old timers that want all technology to be stuck in the 1950's.
A properly install crimp connector will work just fine -if-it-is-installed-correctly-.

If someone gives you crap about it, walk away, you don't need that sort of negativity in your life.

I've been using crimp coaxial connectors for years, both when I was in college in the professional video industry and the past 20+ years I've been working in telecommunications.

Soldering is fine. It won't hurt to solder connectors if that's what you have. I've soldered PL-259 UHF connectors as well as center pins on N connectors.

Compression type connectors, like the F connectors used by the cable TV companies work fine at well up to 1GHz. If they didn't work, the cable TV and satellite TV companies wouldn't be using them. Again, using the correct tools, techniques and connectors for the cable you have is the key to it working right.

I've done a lot of Heliax connectors, too, and there are versions that need to have their center pin soldered and those that don't. Again, if they didn't work, they wouldn't be sold and used in the industry.

With the right test equipment, you may be able to see a very slight difference between a crimped, soldered or compression fitting. But really, it's probably tenths or hundredths of a decibel, and without lab grade test equipment, you'll never be able to tell the difference.

What matters more is like I said above:
Use the correct connectors for the coaxial cable you have.
Use the correct tools for the coaxial cable and connectors.
Practice, practice, practice, then when you think you are good, practice some more. Buy some extra coaxial cable and connectors so you can do this.
Also critical is proper waterproofing techniques. It doesn't matter if you connectors are soldered, crimped, compressed, welded, or installed by a virgin on the vernal equinox with solid gold tools dipped in holy water, if you don't properly protect them from the environment, it will fail.

If you are curious, take a look over at www.tessco.com and see what they sell. Tessco caters to the commercial and public safety radio industry. They sell a lot of crimp connectors.

I'd also say "good job" for wanting to do it yourself. Once you learn how to do this, you'll find it's pretty easy to do. It's also a lot cheaper than buying the pre-terminated cables.

And, ignore the people that give you crap for using crimp connectors. I assure you, they don't know what they are talking about.
 
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#4
If you want the best performing, most perfect connections, get the Times CST-240A tool and use the EZ style connectors. These do not have a center pin you install, instead the prepped coax goes up inside the connector and makes permanent contact with the captivated center pin.

I use these connectors all the time on LMR400 and they sweep to over 6GHz with perfect return loss. I can't always put on a crimp style with solder center pin and have it meet the same specs and it takes me 10X longer. You have to be extremely careful soldering the center pin on LMR coax as the foam dialectic can melt and ruin your day if your not careful and well trained.

I have not seen any "compression" style connectors outside the CATV and satellite industry for RG-6 and RG-11 coax, buy maybe I'm just not up on current stuff.
prcguy
 

W9BU

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#6
The people that usually complain about crimp connectors being an issue are often old timers that want all technology to be stuck in the 1950's.
Or, they are too cheap to buy the proper cable prep and crimp tools. So, they make do with whatever tools they have. Then, when the connector fails to perform to their satisfaction, they place blame on the style of connector rather than the method of installation.

I'm approaching old timer status in both life and amateur radio. I consider soldering a PL259 connector onto RG8 cable to be an amateur radio rite of passage. But, once you've done it a few times, you buy the proper tools and go with crimped connectors. Quicker, easier, and more reliable.
 
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#8
Keeping in line with the thread and not knowing your soldering skills or connector installing ability, I'll throw this out.

I would bet (a dollar) that if I gave you some LMR240 and had you make some cables using solder type connections including the center pin, and some completely crimped Times EZ style connectors, there is a good chance you would make poor quality connections with the solder and perfect connections the first time with the EZ connectors and associated tools.

If I swept the cables you made with solder I doubt they would have perfect VSWR above 1GHz unless you have a lot of experience and time to install the connectors. If you are not a seasoned connector installing guy there is a good chance the VSWR would start having problems in the couple of hundred MHz range or even lower.

I would also bet the very first totally crimp EZ connector you ever put on in your life would sweep to its rated frequency (probably 8GHz?) and be within spec.

This is why cables made for critical use are crimped and unless somebody really screws up they are all the same and all meet specs no matter who put them together.
prcguy


A soldered connection is always the best electrical connection in my opinion.
 
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#9
Properly soldered connections are always better than ...
This is what I always read.

If I swept the cables you made with solder I doubt they would have perfect VSWR above 1GHz unless you have a lot of experience.
Soldering experience I do not have.

A properly install crimp connector will work just fine -if-it-is-installed-correctly-.
But, once you've done it a few times, you buy the proper tools and go with crimped connectors. Quicker, easier, and more reliable.
I would also bet the very first totally crimp EZ connector you ever put on in your life would sweep to its rated frequency (probably 8GHz?) and be within spec.
And this is why I asked.


Thank you yall for your input and your advice. I was not even thinking about crimping because I have never really heard anything positive about crimping until now. I am definitely going to check out those EZ connectors - thanks for that info cause I have not heard of those. Appreciate it everyone!
 
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#10
Keeping in line with the thread and not knowing your soldering skills or connector installing ability, I'll throw this out.

I would bet (a dollar) that if I gave you some LMR240 and had you make some cables using solder type connections including the center pin, and some completely crimped Times EZ style connectors, there is a good chance you would make poor quality connections with the solder and perfect connections the first time with the EZ connectors and associated tools. prcguy
EZ connectors are made for people without solder skills. I have 35 years of solder and connector building skills. Sorry but you lost this bet. A crimper is good, solder is better when a person knows how to do the job correctly.
 
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#11
EZ connectors are made for people without solder skills. I have 35 years of solder and connector building skills. Sorry but you lost this bet. A crimper is good, solder is better when a person knows how to do the job correctly.
Ever try soldering a connector on to a cable on top of a tower on a windy day?

As for soldering skills, I have them, along with several different types/sizes of irons depending on what I'm doing. Even a 200 watt iron is going to have a hard time soldering a large connector on a windy day.
 
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#12
I must have crimped hundreds of RG178 cable to BNC while retrofitting aircraft with in-seat video and then made up spares in the side shop. Given the proper cable stripper, good crimp tools and good jaws that get checked with a go/no-go gauge weekly, then you can make a first-class joint in less than a minute - and sometimes in awkward places that you wouldn't be able to see well enough to guarantee a good job with a soldering iron.

Most of the reported defects were done by passengers who would slam the armrest down on the remote or it's cable!
 
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#13
My 42yrs of experience, engineering and training says otherwise. You would not even be allowed into an area assembling connectors for aircraft or other critical industry with that point of view or attitude. Solder is fine for your ham stuff that you personally use, but not for anything critical.

Do you really think you can assemble and solder or half solder (center pin only) an N connector on LMR400 and have it sweep perfect to 6GHz with 25dB or more return loss? I can do it in one minute flat with Times EZ N connectors. I can install 10 or 15 of them and they will all be perfect in the time it takes for you to attempt to install one by soldering and I'll bet more than a dollar it wont pass spec above a GHz or maybe 2.

I still do contract microwave/satellite work in the field all over the world and could not do some of the connector installs if it had to be soldered, I would be tossed off the job site just for the time I wasted. A few extra $$ spent on the proper stripping and trimming tools plus the crimp tools is paid for 10X over in one job overseas with done once, done right and passes all sweep tests the first time.

And with the proper tools anyone can make perfect, reliable and long life connections with virtually no experience, and those connectors will test better above 1GHz than most any you can make by soldering.

It would be good for the OP to learn how to solder and assemble certain kinds of connectors, but if he really wants to make a bunch of very good quality LMR240 cables that will work without question, then crimping is best in the long run.
prcguy



EZ connectors are made for people without solder skills. I have 35 years of solder and connector building skills. Sorry but you lost this bet. A crimper is good, solder is better when a person knows how to do the job correctly.
 

SpugEddy

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#14
Great thread.
I was always a firm believer in solder connections. I trained
under a Mil spec many years ago and that's how I was taught.
Fast forward a few years and now I'm working in prisons installing
video systems. As stated above, try walking around a prison with
a solder iron to do all of your connections. So crimp on connectors
was the norm. Later on, a new company I was working for was using
the old 3 piece BNC connectors with the separate center pin. They insisted
on soldering the center pin. I introduced them to the 2 piece BNC that were
"Crimp" only. Needless to say, they switched and I got a nice $1000 check
for the time I saved everybody by using crimp on vs solder. After making well
over 600 video connections, in a few days at Merck Pharm, I became an expert
at BNC connectors. Fast forward to less than a year ago and I tried compression
for the first time. Much faster, must easier, and, in my opinion, just as secure
of a connection as any of the other. Maybe even a bit more secure.
 
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#15
Properly crimped are superior. Look at any cables in the aircraft industry, soldered RF connectors are not allowed, only crimped. The given reasons are reliability.
prcguy
Not true. When I was in the Air Force doing aircraft electrical maintenance (which included fabricating wiring harnesses from scratch), everything was soldered. Crimped connections are more susceptible to corrosion if the connection is ever exposed to moisture or high humidity, and are more likely to separate if mechanically stressed.
 
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#16
I worked in 2-way many years ago. All we did was crimp connectors. Back then my skills were much better, and I use to strip coax with only an Olfa retractable razor knife. Crimp/compression connectors work fine. The only time I pulled an iron out was to solder the centre pin on either BNC or N connectors.

I will never use full on solder connectors ever again for my radio stuff and I transmit.

Nothing worse than seeing a PL259 with a reducer in a mobile LMR setup.

Crimp/compression connectors will work just fine. Buy a good stripping tool and buy a decent crimp tool with the correct dies for the coax/connectors you will be using and the rest will take care of itself.
 
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#17
When was that? In the mid 1990s I built a harness for a Navy A-3 used as a radar test bed and we started the project with some solder type RF connectors and all assy people were mil 454/weaponspec with a few NASA certified. I was also a mil certified solder inspector at the time.

In the early rounds of progress discussions for the harness it was learned we were using some solder connectors and were told they are prohibited due to reliability problems and only crimp type was legal to use. All solder type connectors had to be removed from the assy area. They would not even allow a person with the highest level of solder skills possible (NASA) and mil qualified inspectors to put a single solder type RF connector in the flight control part of the harness. The actual test radar equipment didn't matter because lives didn't depend on a connector failure there.
prcguy

Not true. When I was in the Air Force doing aircraft electrical maintenance (which included fabricating wiring harnesses from scratch), everything was soldered. Crimped connections are more susceptible to corrosion if the connection is ever exposed to moisture or high humidity, and are more likely to separate if mechanically stressed.
 
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#18
Since the OP is looking specifically at LMR240, the use of solder type connectors on that is even more critical. If you follow the basic instructions for a PL-259 with reducer, folding the braid back over the reducer then try to solder the braid through the holes in the connector you will destroy the coax.

The foam dielectric on LMR cable is very heat sensitive and will turn to a clear oozing goo well before the braid takes solder, and the center conductor usually migrates into the braid and shorts out. You have to take special precautions like quickly and carefully solder the braid just to the top of the reducer and cool it quickly before even screwing the connector together. You then have to closely inspect what you did to make sure the center conductor is still centered in the dielectric and the dielectric is not damaged before continuing to assemble the PL-259 and when you finally solder the center conductor you have to do it very quickly.

I've seen countless failures of LMR coax from people who soldered them together, even from very experienced people who are experts with other types of coax. This doesn't happen with crimp.
prcguy

I worked in 2-way many years ago. All we did was crimp connectors. Back then my skills were much better, and I use to strip coax with only an Olfa retractable razor knife. Crimp/compression connectors work fine. The only time I pulled an iron out was to solder the centre pin on either BNC or N connectors.

I will never use full on solder connectors ever again for my radio stuff and I transmit.

Nothing worse than seeing a PL259 with a reducer in a mobile LMR setup.

Crimp/compression connectors will work just fine. Buy a good stripping tool and buy a decent crimp tool with the correct dies for the coax/connectors you will be using and the rest will take care of itself.
 
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#19
1991-1995. Crimped connectors were used for some things, but solder connectors were used exclusively for critical stuff like C-5 and C-141 engine wiring harnesses for reliability reasons--crimp connectors had more failures due to corrosion causing bad connections, and they also failed due to mechanical separation (the wire pulling out of the crimp) more frequently.

I agree that crimped connectors are faster and more convenient to assemble, and there are situations where it would be extremely difficult to do a proper solder joint (such as an in situ repair on a tower in windy conditions). But a properly soldered connection will always have a lower electrical resistance, and be mechanically stronger and more corrosion resistant than an equivalent crimped connection.
 

jwt873

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#20
I have a friend who is an electrical engineer and a ham operator. He's big into amateur microwave and came up with a feed horn design that bears his call sign (Just as G5RV got his call associated with the antenna he desiged). He does a lot of moon-bounce using frequencies up to 47 Ghz. He's written technical papers and gets invited to speak at microwave conferences worldwide.

His opinion is that crimp connectors are best. Needles to say, all I use now are crimps :)
 
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