On the Elecraft mailing list, there’s been a flurry of e-mail discussing antenna analyzers. The most popular antenna analyzers is the MFJ-259B. As is often the case when MFJ equipment is discussed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Fortunately, the thread did not turn into simply a “bash MFJ” item. Instead, several guys suggested alternatives:
- miniVNA. This analyzer is available from WiMo in Germany. This unit has several nice features, including a frequency range of 0 – 180 MHz and computer integration. Unfortunately, the latter is also a drawback, as this analyzer cannot be used without a computer. Cost: 255 euros (about $350 USD).
- VK5JST AERIAL ANALYSER. This is a kit sold by the South Coast Amateur Radio Club, Adelaide, Australia. This looks like a nice unit, and as the guy who suggested it says, “The price is good and you get the added bonus of making it yourself.” Cost: about $110 USD, including shipping.
- AMQRP AA-908. This is a project of the American QRP Club. This is built on top of the Micro 908 board. The price is kind of steep—$230—if all you want is an antenna analyzer, but you can also make the unit into a PSK modem, DSP audio filter, and an intelligent signal generator.
- N2PK VNA. This is a real homebrew project. Printed circuit boards are available, but no complete kits are available. Larry, N8LP, commented, “The N2PK is an awesome piece of gear for the money.”
- Autek RF1, VA1. I suggested looking at either the Autek RF1 or VA1. They fit in the palm of your hand, are inexpensive ($150 for the RF1 and $200 for the VA1), and work pretty well. They’re certainly accurate enough for most amateur radio antenna work. Disadvantages include the lack of a computer port, finicky tuning, and the lack of an analog meter.
- Tenna Dipper. If you’re really on a budget, get a Tenna Dipper from the 4 States QRP Club. It only outputs one frequency per band, and you can only use it for 50-ohm systems, but only costs $25.
There are other options from Kuranishi, TimeWave, and AEA, but they’re very expensive. They may be worth the money, but are probably overkill for most amateur radio applications.