uTracer - Two Thumbs Up!

Discussion in '"Boat Anchor" & Classic Equipment' started by KW4H, Oct 30, 2021.

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  1. KW4H

    KW4H Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    For the past couple of weeks I've set aside the boat anchor restoration projects to build a uTracer -- which is a modern tube tester that measures all sorts of valuable parameters. For anyone interested in building one of these, I have nothing but praise for the device. The build manual is Heathkit quality and the parts are first rate. It doesn't come with tube sockets, wiring, or a chassis -- that's up to you. Photos attached of the work on it so far -- I've completed and tested the circuit board and have finished the chassis mechanical work (chassis is my own design) -- now it's time for the wiring.

    73 - Steve, KW4H

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    KD2ACO, N0TZU, W3SLK and 2 others like this.
  2. KW4H

    KW4H Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    No boat anchor owner should be without this thing -- someone in our local ham club has one of these and I've seen it operate. I'm stoked. It blows the old style tube testers completely out of the water. So -- an update on the uTracer and a brief explanation of how this thing works. Today I wired the uTracer board into the chassis, and labeled the front panel. The only thing that remains is to wire the tube sockets to the banana jacks.

    In a nutshell -- here's how it operates:

    - First, a reminder -- the uTracer you buy as a kit is the circuit board and the components on it. Everything else is your own design; however, there are plenty of examples online.
    - Looking at the banana jacks -- the top row (the gray ones) connect to the tube sockets. The bottom row is connected to the uTracer terminals. From left to right is Grid, Cathode, Heater, Screen, and Plate. The reason for TWO rows of these (optional on your part) is to allow the connection of two tube pins to one terminal, which may be desirable in some testing situations. Some people don't bother with two rows.
    - The serial port at the bottom connects to a computer, running the uTracer software (the software is free).
    - To use the uTracer you have to do these things:
    1) Grab a data sheet for the tube you want to test.
    2) Using banana plug jumpers, route the uTracer terminals to the correct pins.
    3) Fire up the uTracer and its software and program in the tube parameters from the data sheet (it takes a little time to set up, but you can save a configuration for testing the same tube later on).
    4) Test the tube.

    What you get on the screen is a graph that tells you the actual performance curve of a tube against the data sheet. This thing makes the old pass/fail tests obsolete.

    Steve, KW4H

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