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mfj-998 autotuner opinions

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by N0NDV, Aug 1, 2008.

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  1. N0NDV

    N0NDV Ham Member QRZ Page

    i need a new tuner my older than dirt mfj-989c is worn out as its been used to death for years and years. thinking about the mfj-998. dont run much power often anyways just an ameritron 811. my wires are pretty well tuned not over 3:1 anywhere i go. but i do work 160 and 75 lots. sure seems like a good tuner but does anybody have personal experience with it?

    i hate to sink my money into a piece of crap. mfj stuff ive had always worked out ok but thats just several manual tuners. sure sounds like an ok deal. fully automatic and all with the ameritron and my icom 746. any on hands opinions?
  2. K5RCD

    K5RCD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I had one for a couple weeks.

    I bought it to replace my MFJ 989 D which I dearly loved, but which was smoked due to my own carelessness (long sad story).

    I used the MFJ 998 for a little while and had no real complaints about its effectiveness. There were a couple small spots on 80 meters that would not tune my 160 meter horizontal loop to less than 2:1 SWR, but I could have remedied that by altering the open wire feed line length a bit. I did find the racket the relays made to be a bit annoying. I previously had an MFJ 993 auto tuner (damaged by lightning) which worked perfectly and made about the same amount of noise. It just seems that the 998 does not have quite the tuning range of the 993 or 989 D and the relays had to operate more often than on the 993 when changing frequency even slightly on some bands.

    I decided to repair my 989 D and sent the 998 back to Burqhardt and suffered the restocking fee. (It's a pretty pricey tuner).

    I would recommend it ONLY if you need an auto tuner with legal limit capacity, otherwise (only because of the cost factor) I would go with another 989 D. The 998 is a good tuner for those needing it, but I am pleased to have my 989 D back up and running.

    For a well written review of the 998 tuner see: "MFJ 998 Legal Limit Auto Tuner Review" on the AD5X website.

    I hope this helps. :cool:
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  3. N0NDV

    N0NDV Ham Member QRZ Page

    thx randy

    ill look at that review. yea ive heard about the noisy relays. im just tired of tuning i hop around lots. and the sucker should tune my stuff here man im resonate on in the middle of 75 and less than 2:1 each end. and 160 about the same. and 75% of the time i run without the amp [hate the tuning it] so the icom tuner does me then. and on 20 im flat in the middle 3:1 on each end and 40 about the same.

    12 and 10 meter i use an alinco dx-70 on an old cb vertical i use a mfj-949e on that radio for 12 meter only never have to retune it. but i sometimes work the icom and 811 on 10 and 12 on my wire and need tuner then. ill think about the sucker a while longer.

    sure be nice to never have to tune tuner then tune amp lol. in fact also thinking als-600 im tired of tuning. takes all the fun out of hamming after tuning junk all the time for 15 years or so. and like i say i hop all over the darn place like a jack rabbit. i could stick my 811/alinco on 10 meter and leave it there. more yakkin and less turning knobs.

    they just want too much for the high power manual tuners for me. ive had this old 989c since the dinasaurs roamed the earth it seems. antenna switch is worn out and needs replaced and im going on the 6st or 7th hair tie from my wife for a drive belt. one thing about it the old sucker will tune a bobby pin might take 30 mins with the analyzer to do it but it gets it done.

    thanks for your thoughts.
  4. K5FH

    K5FH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have had a 998 for a number of months. It's interfaced to an Icom 746Pro and an Ameritron ALS-600 amp. No problems to report, other than sometimes you have to initiate a tune cycle a couple of times before it tunes correctly. That might just be me, of course, since my 75M antenna (a short vertical) is resonant about 20 kHz away from where I normally operate and the SWR that far away from resonance is horrendous.

    Yes, the relays are noisy, but I find that a plus: it lets you know that the thing is working. Plus, after it memorizes a few settings, the clicking only lasts for a second at the most. It's only during setup or changing over to a new antenna that it takes a while to determine settings.

    One annoying thing, but it had nothing to do with the tuner: when I ordered the tuner, the tuner was in stock but not the Icom interface cable. The tuner will work without it, of course, but it's a pain - put the rig in CW or AM (constant carrier) mode, then key up and press the tune button on the tuner. Much easier with the interface cable. I finally gave up and made my own with Rat Shack parts (yes, it is possible). Then, about two weeks later, the *real* cable showed up on my doorstep.

    A great feature is the amplifier protect circuit. Run your amp's key line through the tuner and out to the rig's amp interface, and when you press the "tuner" button on the rig it will automatically take the amp offline so there is no possibility of accidentally trying to tune at full power. The tuner is full of self-protect features. The first day I had it I accidentally tried to tune up into thin air (antenna was connected to position #1 and the tuner was set to position #2). No damage, thankfully, but do not try this at home...

    The digital wattmeter and the L/C readout features are neat, too. Verdict: expensive, but worth it.
  5. N0NDV

    N0NDV Ham Member QRZ Page

    thanks fred

    and im pretty with you on the noisy relays letting me know its working part. and with all the tuner memorys after awhile you been everywhere right lol. i was reading the manual and 1 thing that sorta disturbed me was they say turning off/on power could cause a lockup or something and you might have to reset to factory losing all the memorys. im in florida and man the power burps here often. sure be nice to have bat backup but i dont except some of the puters in the room here like 3 servers and such. what i was thinking was 1 of my old puter ups taking care of the power flickers for the tuner.

    im pretty sold on the tuner and sure like to retire the 811h for the als600 also. it will be a few weeks before i can order the tuner ill be workin on myself to get amp too you can bet on it. and on the cable i downloaded the data already and have the icom interface cable here now ready to go. i made it up this mornin while it was rainin i was bored.

    i was reading the reviews that randy posted man that would be cool having the remote and the works for the als600 because my shack is computer room/radio shack and man i have zero room in here. i have been off the air for about 7 years here life had me busy doing other things. and during that time we moved so i just started putting up wires few weeks ago. darn radio bug got me again here. but with 4 servers and 6 workstations in the 10x10 room here and all this radio junk im packed up. at least all the radios and crap worked after 7 years setting in boxes. and antennas are pretty much built (again) so here i am at loose with the hammin bug again ready for some rf overdosing. bad thing is the darn digital bands died whilst i was away from radio. and im a true hf digital junky.

    what you said about the tuner was just what ive heard from several others and im sold on it. ill order the sucker in a couple weeks and maybe later ill get the amp till then ill have to keep tuning on the 811h i reckon. least i wont have to fiddle with an ant tuner too maybe. funny as an rf junky for 40 years cb long time ham for all these later years i loved tweakin and tuning, not now i hate that i wanta radio not tune. at least i had everything still didnt lose no gear whilst i was away from radio. all i had to do was throw up some wire and away i go except this old boat anchor 989c tuner all i had to do was remember how to use the junk. anyways sorry for rambling fred.

    thx and 73
  6. K5FH

    K5FH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    BTW - the 998 only draws a little over 1A DC in operation, so a small battery-backup UPS with a 12V output would do you nicely as far as keeping the tuner online is concerned.

    In my shack I use an Astron RS-35 to run the backup HF and 2M/440 rigs and all my miscellaneous accessories. I'm not too familiar with them but Astron also makes battery-backup versions of some of its high-current 13.8V supplies, the -BB series. Check the Astron website ( GigaParts has the Astron RS-10A-BB on sale right now for around $85.
  7. K4AX

    K4AX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Will the 998 work in semi auto mode? I have the 993B model, the baby brother of the 998, I love the digital readout with the freq counter. It is nice to be able to glance over and see what frequency I last tuned up on, along with the SWR reading taken.

    Anyway, I don't use a interface cable, I have a FlexRadio SDR1000 and I don't think one is even available. Anyway, all I do is hit the tune button in the Powersdr software which just tosses out a carrier of whatever power I set it too, and the tuner just tunes if needed.

    Can the 998 tune automatically if a SWR level is excedded, and stay locked down and not wander once tuned?

    I've been eyeing the ALS 600, and the 998 would be help make using the extra power a seemless operation.
  8. K5RCD

    K5RCD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here is a link to the Users Manual

    Yes it will operate in the semi automatic mode. It will do everything the 993B will do and operates almost exactly the same except with a tiny bit less tuning range and is good to go with max legal power.

    My criticism about the noisy relays is a minor one. It will probably not bother most folks, but I am hard of hearing and noise sensitive. If price were not a consideration I would have kept it. I also intend to buy an Ameritron ALS 600 Amp, and the 998 would be a great complement to it.

    I decided to repair and use my MFJ-989 D because I was so pleased with it. I already had a chart of all settings in all bands, so it is really easy to use. In addition, I mostly use my Hex Beam antenna on 20 through 10 meters, and always bypass the amp when using the Hex Beam. Besides that, the 989 D was like an old friend sitting there on my bench, and looked sad not being used (LOL). I was really happy when I replaced the smoked wiring. (Do not allow metal objects to rattle around inside the case while using a tuner - DUH !). Long story - please don't ask.

    My only real complaint about the 998 (and all the other MFJ auto tuners) is I wish it had a big separate manual antenna selector / bypass switch, or at least a light or other easy to see indicator showing which antenna is selected, or if in bypass mode. The little characters on the LCD screen are really hard to see.

    If you buy the 998, I think you will be happy with it. I may eventually decide to buy another one after I buy the amp.
  9. W8NGA

    W8NGA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree that the relays do make noise as I have had my 998 for about 6 months now. I am using it to keep the SWR down at the band edges for my 160/80/40 meter W9INN dipole. But here is what I did to make the 998 operate without having to wait and hear the relays each time that you changed frequencies. Since the 998 has a built-in frequency counter and it remembers the settings for the frequencies that you've been on in the past, so I spent some time and went thru each of the bands every 5 or so kHz and hit the tune button. Now all that I have to do is key the mic or hit the key and it's ready to go without waiting for it to tune. Of course, you would have to repeat the procedure if you make any changes to your antennas.

    Greg W8NGA
    Grove City, Ohio
  10. AB8YL

    AB8YL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm sitting here now with my third MFJ-998 on the desk in front of me - cover off. I purchased the first 998 in mid-June of this year from R & L Electronics in Hamilton, Ohio. Got a great discounted price, and was looking forward to using it with my IC-706, AL-572 amplifier and 80m inverted "V" (though more like a "drooping dipole").

    Before I continue, let me summarize both the good and the bad:
    • GOOD - MFJ's customer support has been nothing less than outstanding.
    • BAD - Thus far neither MFJ nor I have benefited from my purchase due to serious product quality issues.
    First of all, I think the design of the 998 is excellent. It's the implementation that I've found to be lacking. Additionally, my experience may be due simply to an extraordinary run of bad luck. I've been very pleased with my other major MFJ purchase - the MFJ-269 Analyzer. The fact that the 998 tuner is designed around the same basic analyzer played a major role in my decision to buy the tuner. I also own a couple of products from MFJ's sister company Ameritron, including the AL-572 amplifier and the ARB-704 amplifier interface. Unfortunately, the lack of a working tuner has prevented me from fully evaluating the Ameritron products.

    Anyway, here is my experience with MFJ-998 quality issues thus far:
    • Drove 4 hours to purchase the 998 from R&L on June 14.
    • Checked out tuner with visual inspection and executed the unit's suite of self-tests. All passed.
    • Used manual to set up for my radio, and did some basic tuning into a dummy load and into my antenna. Unit worked well.
    • Auto-tuned to antenna at low power, then tuned my amplifier into a dummy load. Backed the drive power down, then switched to antenna. Began increasing power. At 985W PEP the tuner suddenly began beeping and both the FORWARD and REFLECTED power meters pegged. Cut transmitter immediately; but subsequent attempts to tune at low power resulted in only a REFLECTED power reading and the message "HUH? INCREASE POWER" displayed on the tuner. Meanwhile, the rig and an additional SWR meter showed normal power being delivered to the antenna, along with displaying the antenna's intrinsic SWR.
    • Contacted MFJ Technical Service for the first time. After going through some basic self-tests at the technician's request, I was told to box it up and return it to MFJ.
    • Received a new (rather than repaired) tuner from MFJ. Noted wire antenna insulator had poked through the side of the box. Fortunately, the unit was double-boxed; and the "plastic peanuts" inside the outer box had protected the appendage from damage. Also noticed that the meter was loose and rattling around inside the tuner. Removed the cover and re-mounted the meter in the faceplate opening after adding additional padding under the meter's mounting tabs (the standoffs for the tabs were too long). Powered up the unit, and noted the meter did not light. Found the red wire from the display circuit board was wrapped but not soldered at the meter's terminal. After getting the meter working by soldering the wire, I proceeded to execute the self-test suite. The unit failed the "Wakeup" test (microprocessor "sleeps" bewteen tuning cycles in order to avoid generating spurious electrical noise).
    • Called MFJ Technical Service, and was told to ship the replacement unit back to MFJ. Tech said he would personally pull a new unit and check it thoroughly before shipping it to me.
    • Upon receiving the second replacement unit, I did visual and rattle check (no problems noted), then went on to the power-up and self-tests. This time the self-tests passed, but the Relay Test failed. Not one of the unit's 31 relays would operate when it's associated software-defined test button was pushed, nor would the unit tune with the transceiver connected.
    • Contacted MFJ Technical Service for the third time. This time the tech had me check some voltages on the surface mounted relay driver chips. Found that while I was probing the IC's 5V V+ pin (28), the relay would operate if I also pressed it's assigned test button. Determined that the pin had a cold solder joint. Re-flowed the solder for pin 28, after which all relays except K27 and K28 would operate per the unit's Relay Test procedure. MFJ tech said they had encountered a batch of defective relay driver chips, but didn't yet know how many were bad. He said to ship the unit back to MFJ. He is going to send me another immediately, and will trust me to ship the defective unit when I receive the pre-paid shipping label from him.
    So, here I am waiting for my third replacement unit (in addition to the originally-purchased tuner). A lot of customers would not have been so patient. However, I am also an engineer in the communications electronics industry, and know the difficulties quality problems can cause for both the business and its customers. I think that has made me much more tolerant than the typical consumer.

    I'm going to stick with this, partly because I think the 998 IntelliTuner is a great idea, and partly because I really want MFJ to get its quality control ducks in a row. I even emailed Martin Jue (MFJ's owner and founder) to urge him to implement a review of quality control practices. As amateur radio operators we really need a company like MFJ whose mssion is to provide innovative but affordable products to satisfy our wants/needs.

    I'll write an additional review if and when I manage to get a functioning tuner.

    AB8YL - Bob
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