Screwdriver auto controllers - thoughts?

Discussion in 'Mobile Radio Systems' started by KC8QVO, Feb 24, 2019.

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  1. KC8QVO

    KC8QVO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi All,

    I am looking for suggestions/thoughts on automatic controllers for screwdriver antennas. What have you used? What don't you like? What do you like?

    I am thinking one that does RF sensing tuning may be best as opposed to the presets, or both options. The radio is a Yaesu FT-991A for now and I have a couple Tarheel screwdrivers. Right now I am running a Little Tarheel II but have a model 400 I use mobile also.

    My goal is to tune the HF bands without much effort. Over the years I have always used the up/down switch and watch SWR to tune. I don't want to be doing that going down the road. Its one thing to tune up when stopped, but I want to surf bands on-the-go and thats where a controller needs to come in - not just a turns counter button box, but an actual automatic controller that can put the antenna in the right spot without any interaction on my part (other than pushing a single button or keying up a constant carrier).
  2. K0BG

    K0BG Ham Member QRZ Page

    In my opinion, the TuneMatic is about the most robust one out there. Although it tries to be everything to everybody, set up correctly, to use just the SWR, you really don't need the head unit.

    Incidentally, Robert Young, Tarheel's tech guy (and founder), helped the folks at TuneMatic during the development phase.
    AK5B and K0UO like this.
  3. WN2C

    WN2C Ham Member QRZ Page

    I use a Scorpion antenna and don't use a auto controller. I just tune for max noise and just have to bump it up or down from there. Save the money, buy a better antenna or put it to a cap hat.
    K7MH, AK5B and K0UO like this.
  4. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have tried most all the screwdriver controllers. I started with the SDC-102 with 10 presets. That worked. Then tried two TargeTuners and a TuneMatic. Both TargeTuners failed, the first one I returned, the second I just threw away. I didn't like the TuneMatic, though many do.

    I finally settled on the SDC-104. It reads the frequency from the radio and goes to the nearest saved setting. It doesn't auto-tune like the TuneMatic, but after setting it up with numerous presets, it is fast to change bands. Just change bands ( or frequency ), press one button on the controller, and you are there. When I go mobile I tend to change bands and modes a lot, and the SDC-104 serves me well.
    AK5B likes this.
  5. KC8QVO

    KC8QVO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Peter - What about the TuneMatic didn't you like? Was it cumbersome to use or problematic to use? Does the SDC-104 overcome what you didn't like about the TuneMatic, or is the theory of operation so far different that it is just a different thing all together?
  6. N4UP

    N4UP Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Steve --- I like the idea of the TuneMatic. RF sensor, going to a preset, and then fine-tuning the SWR. That would be nice. But when I went through the documentation I found it cumbersome and complicated. No doubt many get through that, but I prefer something simpler, that works. Plus I had the bad experience with the TurboTuner where the RF sensor failed and then nothing would work. The SDC-104 does what I want.

    With the SDC-102 you have to remember what band and frequency each preset is set to. With the SDC-104 it has many more than 10 presets, and you don't have to remember anything. Just change frequency on the radio and the radio tells the SDC-104. Then one button press and it goes to the closest preset. I would not want it to be fully automatic, i.e., tracking the radio frequency instead of just reading it and letting me trigger the antenna move, because many times I want to tune around the band before moving the antenna.

    Probably the bottom line is just personal preference. I like the way the SDC-104 works.

    I will make an observation, and the "experts" can correct me if I am wrong, but I have the impression that the TuneMatic had a somewhat higher resolution than the SDC-102 or SDC-104. In other words, the tuning increments seemed smaller, meaning you get a better match. That helps on the lower bands. However, in my experience, weather conditions can easily overcome that match and you can be off just a bit. For that reason, I also have an automatic antenna tuner to fine-tune things if needed. The controller gets me close. The AAT gets me closer. Mostly I don't need it because the controller gets me close enough to resonance. I look at the SWR meter after the SDC-104 has done its thing, and if it is a good match I don't bother with the AAT.
    AK5B and K0UO like this.
  7. K0BG

    K0BG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Isn't it a shame that BetterRF became a silent key?! Their controller, albeit only for the IC-7000, was fully automatic, once set up. Pushing the tune button on the transceiver is all that was needed. Unfortunately, everyone else it seems, wants to complicate the issue with all sorts of buttons, remotes, and complicated wiring. We are diminished!
    AK5B and AI7PM like this.
  8. N5RFX

    N5RFX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I mark the buttons on the SDC-102 with the band. I tune each preset to the center of the band. It is then easy to use the up/down buttons to fine tune. I have been looking at auto tuners too, but I don't think I would be satisfied with the result.

    Attached Files:

    AK5B and K0UO like this.
  9. KB4MNG

    KB4MNG Ham Member QRZ Page

    The best way is to go with the tune matic or equivalent. If you can find one taylored to a radio such as the icom 706, it works really well
  10. KE4IAJ

    KE4IAJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm in the same situation looking for an auto screwdriver controller. It might be just me but I don't want to save my money. I'd rather press one button and keep my attention as much on the road as possible.

    After a little research I think I'm going to try a TennaTronix ITT-1 TurboTuner 2. I have an IC-7100 and I can just use the tune button with the TurboTuner 2.

    Any experience with the TurboTuners anyone?

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