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Amateur Radio Antennas - For discussion of all amateur band designed antennas and related accoutrements. This includes base, handheld, mobile and repeater usage. For commercial antennas on the amateur bands please use Commercial Radio Antennas below.

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Old 03-21-2017, 11:13 PM
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Question Any SWR Meter Recommendations?

Sorry if this is posted in the wrong section, but I figured the antenna section seems to be the most appropriate based on the descriptions of the others. If not, moderators, please move to the appropriate section.

Can anyone suggest a good, moderately priced SWR meter for the Ham toolkit I'm getting together? I want to start building my own antennas and troubleshooting equipment as well.

Also, multimeters, I'm looking at the Fluke 106 (description here: Fluke 106 Palm-sized Digital Multimeter for Professional Measurements ), seems to be of good quality, moderate price, has everything I think I need for Ham stuff, and well it's a Fluke!

Any help would be appreciated.

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Old 03-21-2017, 11:40 PM
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Bird 43 with appropriate slugs. A new one is expensive, but you can find them cheap on the used market. Nice thing about them is that there really isn't a lot that can go wrong with them. Dirt simple and built like a tank. Easy to buy replacement parts. There's really only the line section, the connectors, the meter, a cable that connects the two, the case, the carry strap and hardware. Doesn't get much simpler. Good way up past legal limits for amateurs and you can get slugs to cover just about any frequency you are likely to use.

With the right slugs, they are pretty accurate.

Durable as heck. Mine looks like it was dropped off a tower, might have been, still works well.
I keep a 100 watt 50Ω load with it, makes a useful little test kit. Add some jumpers, adapters and you're good to go.

As for a meter, can't go wrong with Fluke.
For my own personal use I have a Fluke 27 that I bought back about 25 years ago. Solid meter.
I bought a used/ex-military model 27 off E-bay a few years ago for about $50 and keep that one in the truck toolbox.

At work I've got a Fluke 73 I've had for almost 15 years.

There are some cheaper models out there that work pretty well. Make sure you include a set of test leads with the appropriate probes/clips to do what you want.

Put together a stash of coaxial adapters. While I don't use them in installs, they are handy for testing. I've amassed quite a pile of the over the years.
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Old 03-22-2017, 1:54 AM
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Oh my! Those birds are definitely out of my price range at the moment. I have yet to get a good mobile dual bander (got my eye on IC-2370A) and well HF is going to be down the line a bit but I really would like to get an IC-7100 so that I can do HF,2M, 70cm AND DSTAR from home. That's the upgrade path anyhow.

The Fluke is on the lower end of meters they make, but it does measure volts AC/DC, Resistance, Capacitance, Continuity and Current AC and DC. Am I missing any functions for most ham-centric projects or will this fit the bill?

That said, $600 for an SWR meter is going to put a big damper on things. I just need something that for the time being will be good enough for me to experiment with building antennas and testing out any antennas I buy.

Thanks for the tip about the coax adapters and the various clips and leads, I hadn't thought of it, but I could see where they would come in handy.
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Old 03-22-2017, 6:27 AM
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Plenty of used Bird 43's can be found on ebay for under $200. Add a slug as needed, $50-$75 each. Even a new Bird 43 is only $339 (Bird 43 Thruline RF Wattmeter). Now there are other model Birds that are more costly, as well as Coaxial Dynamics and Telewave meters. Here's a fellow who sells new and used meters. Used one's are tested prior to sell, The Best Source for ALL you Bird Equipment Needs Including Bird 43 43P 4431 4331 4301 4310 4330 4305 4521 Meter meters NM3E. He also sells "peak reading" add-on boards for about $100 and will install if you buy meter and board from him.

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Old 03-22-2017, 6:32 AM
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For constructing antennas, an antenna analyzer would be a better choice than a simple SWR meter. Analyzers can provide a lot more information such as return loss and the inductive, resistive, and capacitive components of the load. The better one's can give you a graphical SWR plot over a range of frequencies.

They can be quite costly. MFJ makes some affordable ones. This one does graphing, but doesn't go high enough for the 440 band --> MFJ Enterprises Inc.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:03 AM
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I agree and an SWR meter can be limiting when checking the band width of an antenna because in some cases you would have to transmit out of band to get the readings. With that said some of the Diawa cross needle meters will measure HF through 2m and used ones are not too expensive.

In my opinion the MFJ antenna analyzers are junk, mine and many others have intermittent switches and unpredictable problems. For VHF and above this thing is an unbelieavable piece of equipment for a cheap price. It will measure antennas from 137MHz to 2,700MHz and give you lots of technical information about the antenna with a graphical display, I got one for around $165 and the quality is great, it performs like analyzers costing in the $500 range. N1201SA UV RF Vector Impedance ANT SWR Antenna Analyzer Meter Tester 140MHz - 2.7GHz Sale - Banggood.com Thanks to mancow for steering me towards this great analyzer.
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Originally Posted by jwt873 View Post
For constructing antennas, an antenna analyzer would be a better choice than a simple SWR meter. Analyzers can provide a lot more information such as return loss and the inductive, resistive, and capacitive components of the load. The better one's can give you a graphical SWR plot over a range of frequencies.

They can be quite costly. MFJ makes some affordable ones. This one does graphing, but doesn't go high enough for the 440 band --> MFJ Enterprises Inc.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:23 AM
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Depends on what you feel the need for. Many CB SWR meters work well up through 2 meter, and can be had for as little as $10. For better quality, check out Diawa, or MFJ, or for top of the line, go with bird. Personally, I use a Diawa cross needle model. I did use a a CB meter from the seventies that worked fine on 2m, but I decided to get a bit fancy, and got the Diawa.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
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In my opinion the MFJ antenna analyzers are junk,
Yes, I threw in the MFJ link as an example of an antenna analyzer. I've never used an MFJ analyzer and I know that MFJ has a poor history with some of their products.

I have a Rig Expert AA-600, https://www.dxengineering.com/parts/reu-aa-600 but never recommended it because the OP indicated that spending $600 was a little over his gear budget.

A Google search for antenna analyzers followed by a search for reviews of what's out there would be the best course of action.
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Old 03-22-2017, 10:44 AM
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I've researched just about every antenna analyzer on the market and after my disappointment with the MHF, I went with the Comet CAA-500 several years ago. Its a very good HF through UHF meter but probably out of the OPs budget. At $165 the N1201SA VHF through microwave analyzer can't be touched by any other graphic analyzer under $350. Its that good.
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Yes, I threw in the MFJ link as an example of an antenna analyzer. I've never used an MFJ analyzer and I know that MFJ has a poor history with some of their products.

I have a Rig Expert AA-600, https://www.dxengineering.com/parts/reu-aa-600 but never recommended it because the OP indicated that spending $600 was a little over his gear budget.

A Google search for antenna analyzers followed by a search for reviews of what's out there would be the best course of action.
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Old 03-22-2017, 11:01 AM
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Since I'm going to be focused on 2M and 70 cm initially, I am very interested in that N1201SA. I'm sure over time, I will acquire many different tools and testers and at some point I will absolutely feel like I NEED a high end instrument to get things just right, but for now that looks like a great option. I'm open to anything you guys have for me. The more opinions and recommendations the better.

Also, is the multimeter I described earlier going to have what I need in terms of ham radio applications? I'd hate to spend the money only to find out I'm missing out on an important function that could have been had for only a few dollars more.

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Old 03-22-2017, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahwg View Post
Also, is the multimeter I described earlier going to have what I need in terms of ham radio applications? I'd hate to spend the money only to find out I'm missing out on an important function that could have been had for only a few dollars more.

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You can't go wrong with Fluke. They're the Lexus/Mercedes of meters.
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Old 03-22-2017, 12:29 PM
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Yeah, new Bird 43's are expensive. Used ones are cheap. I think I got mine for $75 off e-Bay. Like I said, there really isn't much to them, so the risk of getting a bad one is pretty low.
While it's more expensive than the ones you are looking at, it will be the last/only one you need to buy. As I said, with the right slugs it'll cover every frequency and power level you'll ever need.

As an amateur, I wouldn't buy a new one. Just not worth it.

I do know there are some good cheaper ones out there. Might be a good option if your budget is tight.


As for the multimeter, sounds like that's all you need. One thing I'd suggest is making sure you get one that covers up to 10 or 20 amps DC. That can be useful for some troubleshooting, especially when dealing with mobile installs.
Other than that, most of them have decent accuracy and the basic functions are all you really need. What does make life easier is getting a good set of test leads, probed, alligator clamps, etc.
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Old 03-22-2017, 4:33 PM
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The big concern with buying a used Bird 43, is to ensure the meter movement is working. That is the only part that generally can sustain damage. Yes the individual slugs the meter uses can be abused, but generally the ones you find on the used market are working within limits.
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Old 03-22-2017, 9:29 PM
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If you can find a good used Fluke 8060A it was their best hand held DVM at one time. Its 4 1/2 digits and very accurate. Even 20yrs out of cal its probably more accurate than a brand new cheaper meter. Its also an audio frequency counter with some other features. I keep one around for more precision measurements and it was also a standard piece of equipment in the broadcast industry. There is a guy on eBay that offers a cal service for these meters for only $25.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahwg View Post
Since I'm going to be focused on 2M and 70 cm initially, I am very interested in that N1201SA. I'm sure over time, I will acquire many different tools and testers and at some point I will absolutely feel like I NEED a high end instrument to get things just right, but for now that looks like a great option. I'm open to anything you guys have for me. The more opinions and recommendations the better.

Also, is the multimeter I described earlier going to have what I need in terms of ham radio applications? I'd hate to spend the money only to find out I'm missing out on an important function that could have been had for only a few dollars more.

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Old 03-23-2017, 8:24 AM
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There's a local guy in Augusta that sells electronics on a regional weekly sales paper that's put out by Recycler called Iwanta. He has a Bird 43 for sale for $225 now as I type this and several slugs sold separately. His prices are a little steep, but I have purchased ham related items from him in the past after negotiating to an equitable price.

Bird 43 Thruline WattMete | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 50W 50E 400-1000MH | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 500W 500E 400-1000 | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 500W 500C 100-250 | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 100W 100A 25-60MHz | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com
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Old 03-23-2017, 8:56 AM
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Average price for a good used Bird 43 around the Los Angeles area is $110. For $225 it should include three VHF/UHF slugs or one VHF/UHF and an HF slug.
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There's a local guy in Augusta that sells electronics on a regional weekly sales paper that's put out by Recycler called Iwanta. He has a Bird 43 for sale for $225 now as I type this and several slugs sold separately. His prices are a little steep, but I have purchased ham related items from him in the past after negotiating to an equitable price.

Bird 43 Thruline WattMete | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 50W 50E 400-1000MH | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 500W 500E 400-1000 | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 500W 500C 100-250 | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com

Bird43 100W 100A 25-60MHz | For Sale | Augusta GA | recycler.com
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Old 03-23-2017, 9:06 AM
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Default Bird 43 as an SWR Meter

RigExpert products are great. They connect to your PC and you can print graphs etc. You don't need a transmitter to determine all sorts of measurements of your antenna and feedline! You don't need BIRD slugs of all sorts.

Remember, the BIRD 43 is a WATTMETER, not an SWR meter. It measures forward power and reflected power, that's all.

You'll need to carry a chart or use an SWR calculator along with the BIRD to determine the SWR, after having read the forward and reflected power from the meter. The meter is quite vague too, determining reflected power accurately to fractions of watts is very difficult.

Stick with the RigExpert products. Easy to use and fully functional with tons of cool measurement possibilities with slugs and a transmitter.

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Old 03-23-2017, 9:36 AM
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The OP indicated he wants to measure VHF/UHF and the cheapest Rig Expert that does that is close to $600 and out of his budget. The $165 N1201SA mentioned previously is a much better choice in this case.

Any wattmeter with forward and reflected sensing IS an SWR meter and its no big deal to have a chart to get the final SWR numbers from forward and reflected power readings. In many cases its the only way to measure your antenna because of nearby transmitters.

Try using a Rig Expert analyzer at a busy repeater site and you'll find its absolutely useless due to more power coming into it from other transmitters and antennas than it puts out for the measurement. In this case all you will get on the Rig Expert is a blank screen, been there and done that. In fact I've not found any antenna analyzer on the market except for some high end HP/Agilent or Anritsu analyzers that will work at repeater sites.

Every piece of test equipment has its limitations but some like the Bird 43 is a standard of the industry and has many potential uses.
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RigExpert products are great. They connect to your PC and you can print graphs etc. You don't need a transmitter to determine all sorts of measurements of your antenna and feedline! You don't need BIRD slugs of all sorts.

Remember, the BIRD 43 is a WATTMETER, not an SWR meter. It measures forward power and reflected power, that's all.

You'll need to carry a chart or use an SWR calculator along with the BIRD to determine the SWR, after having read the forward and reflected power from the meter. The meter is quite vague too, determining reflected power accurately to fractions of watts is very difficult.

Stick with the RigExpert products. Easy to use and fully functional with tons of cool measurement possibilities with slugs and a transmitter.

Matt - K2MFW
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Old 03-23-2017, 9:53 AM
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Has anybody recommended the Comet analyzer? I recommend it very much over the MFJ and it covers from HF-500MHz. It can be had for well under $500.00

Look here: Comet CAA-500 Mark II Antenna Analyzer - DX Store

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Old 03-23-2017, 11:04 AM
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I have one and its very good, makes the MFJ look like the toy that it is. But the OP indicated he didn't want to spend that much.
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Has anybody recommended the Comet analyzer? I recommend it very much over the MFJ and it covers from HF-500MHz. It can be had for well under $500.00

Look here: Comet CAA-500 Mark II Antenna Analyzer - DX Store

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