What Antenna Analyzer should I get for building my own antennas?

Discussion in 'Antennas, Feedlines, Towers & Rotors' started by KC9IZS, Jun 3, 2016.

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  1. KC9IZS

    KC9IZS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I plan on working the HF bands for the first time. I'm an electronics technician so I want to have fun and not just buy an antenna. So I am currently reading up on how to build antennas and my first antenna will be a dipole and I will be hanging it on two trees. I want to know what is the best Antenna Analyzer that would make building antennas fun and easy. My budget is $0 to $500. My goal is to build the antenna so I won't need a tuner. Also I would like an antenna analyzer that can work on 2m antennas as well since I plan on modifying my 2m mobile setup. Be it two different analyzers for HF and 2m or an all in on unit. Please let me know if anyone has any suggestions. Thank You!
  2. KK4WMX

    KK4WMX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've been happy using a Rigexpert AA-170 (covers 0 - 170 Mhz). Stand alone functions are good, but I get a lot of mileage out of the USB PC connection used with the supplied AntScope software. It adds TDR functionality as well as the ability to archive & compare SWR sweeps. It greatly expands on the built in functions.

  3. KC5PKB

    KC5PKB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I could be wrong, but the conclusion I've come to is that any antenna analyzer that's cheaper than an antenna tuner isn't quite useful.

    If you get a automatic tuner, make a half-wave center-fed dipole that's roughly resonant on the lowest band you want to operate, with correctly laid-out ladderline as your feedline, you'll be ahead money and time because it'll operate with 90%+ efficiency on all HF bands with only a 3-6 second matching time between band changes.

    If I'm wrong, I welcome correction.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    He stated his goal is to build antennas that won't use a tuner.

    My only suggestion here is: Modern analyzers are wonderful tools, but it's easy to build antennas that work wonderfully and match beautifully without one.

    I never even owned an SWR bridge until about three years into my ham career (in the 60s) and that was after my first 5,000 or 6,000 contacts were logged. Then, the SWR bridge served the "adjust antennas for a good match" function for many years before I owned my first analyzer of any kind.

    Actually, if you use an automatic tuner, all it's adjusting for is minimum SWR.
  5. KC9IZS

    KC9IZS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello KC5PKB, What you're saying with your experience is to forget the Coax cable and go with a ladder or window feed line instead. Using a window feed line I will have no choice but to use a tuner that has balance feed line inputs correct? How would I know if I built the dipole correctly with a window feed line, without an antenna analyzer? Or do you just follow the known formulas as best as you can and know you're going to come close from that? Thanks, I'm learning!
  6. KC5PKB

    KC5PKB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't say with "experience" because I haven't laid out the cash for a tuner, yet. I say this based on what I've read. When I get tired of 20 and 40 meters, I think the "fun" of making 9 separate antennas will have worn off. Plus, I don't have a place to hang them, then figure out a sensible way switch between them.

    High SWR in coax leads to high losses, and ladderline/windowline doesn't suffer these losses, it seems like the sensible thing to do is just spend a couple hundred(if that) on a tuner, have one antenna that does it all with minimal compromise.
  7. KC9IZS

    KC9IZS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello WB2WIK, You said it's easy to build an antenna that can match beautifully without an antenna analyzer. How did you go about doing this even before using an SWR meter? I already have the radio, antenna, SWR meter, etc. But I am receiving very high SWR and it's because I mistakenly purchased a 10m to 80m type antenna. So I've taken a step back and I'm taking the time to learn how to build an antenna and use the correct feed line. So I've decided to go all out and do this correctly starting with the antenna. I'm running QRP so the antenna I have isn't the best choice and I know that now. A tuner with my QRP rig and my current antenna is going to drop my watt output to useless. This is why I've decided to take the challenge of building an antenna that is band/frequency specific to take the most advantage out of my radio.
  8. KC5PKB

    KC5PKB Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think some tuners have a bypass option that would result in negligible losses.
  9. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you like tinkering with antennas you'll find an antenna analyzer is a good investment as it tells you more than just SWR as in the actual resistive and reactive components that might be leading to elevated SWR. But I agree an antenna analyzer isn't strictly necessary but it sure speeds the process and gives you better insight than just an SWR meter.

    I use both a RigExpert AA-170 and an MFJ-259B. Either does the job just fine but they have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance when building something like a homebrew loaded mobile antenna it's really helpful to be able to quickly sweep through frequencies and see where the antenna is resonant before changing dimensions or loading. The MFJ is really handy that way as you can quickly spin a dial and see where the SWR dips and read the resistance and reactance at frequencies of interest. It takes a bit longer to punch in center frequencies and sweep ranges and plot an SWR graph on the AA-170 but that ability to plot and even store those graphs for transfer to a computer are really handy with the AA-170 during final tuning and evaluation of the antenna.

    Anyway there are a lot of good analyzers out there, I do like the packaging and overall performance of the RigExpert series but have had good luck with MFJ analyzers as well.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2016
    KC9IZS likes this.
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Initially on HF I used single-band dipoles, cut to resonance per the formula then adjusted for maximum power transfer (which occurs simultaneously with minimum SWR) using a $5 WW2 surplus RF ammeter.
    Looked about like that, but was mounted in a cool wooden hinged cover box. Lots of WW2 surplus was available very cheaply when I was a kid, as a lot of it was 20 years old or less and "we" overbuilt by the ton since nobody knew when the war would end.

    But even without the RF ammeter (which are still available BTW) the dipoles worked fine and required very little adjustment from the 468/f length.

    What is it, exactly? Most "80-10m" antennas require a tuner and can be very effective as long as you use a good tuner. Without one, not so much. Let us know what it is, though.

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