This time we were treated to a talk by Peter / ZS1PGC, proud owner of a RigExpert model AA-600 Antenna Analyser. The "600" portion of the model number indicates how high in frequency the device can measure - in this case up to 600 MHz. There are higher-frequency models, which come with appropriately higher price tags!
Radio hams like to optimise their antennas in order to "get their signals out". This involves measuring the antenna's operating characteristics (resonant frequency, Standing Wave Ratio, impedance, radiation resistance, and capacitive and inductive reactance being the main parameters). We have relied on a range of tools to measure them. Traditional tools such as Grid Dip Oscillators, SWR meters (and even light bulbs!) have been used. More recently the MFJ range of antenna analysers have made the task of tuning antennas to resonance far easier.
The RigExpert range of analysers has, however, shifted the paradigm yet further, as we were to learn from Peter's enthusiastic demonstration. He showed us how his device can not only measure the above parameters for a particular frequency, but draw graphs of the antenna's performance over a wide range of frequencies. In seconds.
By linking his AA-600 to a laptop computer, Peter was able to project the results of each scan onto a screen via the club's video projector, sharing them with the audience
Peter had brought some antennas along to show how the AA-600 quickly draws a graph of the SWR, the Return Loss, Impedance, Resistance and Reactances of an antenna. He zoomed into a portion of the SWR graph to show the low-value SWR's (between 1.3:1 to 1.0:1) on a narrow bandwidth of, say 5kHz., and then even narrower bandwidths. This makes for precision "fine tuning".
Peter then showed us some tricks his analyser can do, such as "Multi-SWR" (showing various frequencies where low SWR's are to be obtained), Time Domain Reflectometry and even Smith Charts! The TDR function was particularly useful to check on quality of coax cable and could even show how far down the cable the barrel connectors were situated! The Smith Chart function was fascinating in its ability to show the true points of resonance and low SWR of an antenna. Peter was even able to show us how two antennae in close proximity to each other (though electrically disconnected) could affect the SWR of the main one.
The purchase price of this versatile instrument was justified, as Peter put it, in that he was "buying a whole training course on antenna parameters and behaviour". We could see his point as we all quietly wondered which heirloom rig we could sell to fund the purchase of an AA-600...
Sadly, the afternoon wasn't long enough to allow for the full range of capabilities of this remarkable instrument, but Frank / ZS1CM and John / ZS1AGH also made appropriate contributions to the topic after Peter's excellent talk.
Paul / ZS1S rounded off the afternoon by showing us a fascinating Dubillier widget that could (theoretically) use the mains wiring of a house for a receiver antenna. Clearly intended for use with hollow-stage receivers and developed long before sensitive MOSFET front-ends were in use.. Eek! Use with caution.
After the meeting, outside, great interest was shown in a mystery high-power RF (transmitter?) unit that has been kindly been made available to our club (photos at the bottom of this article). Festooned with dials, verniers, power valves, coils and other components, this item would be the ideal addition to any shack or man cave (for those of us who have any space left there, that is...)
All-in-all an excellent, educative afternoon for our club. Thank you to all for attending, and especially to Peter and the other contributors.
|Our Chairman, Rob / ZS1SA opened the CTARC meeting, reported back on|
the recent committee meeting, mentioned forthcoming events and activities,
then introduced Peter / ZS1PGC - main speaker of the day.
|Peter has obviously found the RigExpert to be a fascinating|
piece of antenna test gear, which offers a wide range of capabilities
|He set up the RigExpert to link to his laptop|
and the CTARC video projector
|Here the RigExpert shows a range of SWR values, with two main|
low-SWR "spikes" across the frequency range
(Apologies in advance for the variable quality of screen shots, which were
shot at an oblique angle and later retouched)
|Detailed parameters could be called up instantly|
|Radiation Resistance can be charted against Reactance|
|SWR can be determined, initially over a broad frequency range...|
|...And then over a narrower frequency range, for greater accuracy|
|Peter also demonstrated the units ability to|
draw Smith Charts, in order to find
"real" points of antenna resonant frequency
|Peter demonstrated how the RigExpert analyser could show how|
non-connected metal elements (e.g. reflectors and directors) can affect the
main antenna's SWR and other parameters
|Using the RigExpert as a Time Domain Reflectometer, Peter showed us|
how to check coax cable for quality, and even how far down that cable
a connector, or a fault, can be located
|Frank / ZS1CM also expounded on the complex issues of antenna|
performance and Smith Charts
|John / ZS1AGH also made a contribution to the debate about cables,|
using a medical analogy
|Paul / ZS1S ahowed us a fascinating Dubillier widget that purports to let|
you use your house mains wiring as a receiver antenna
|Tony / ZS1TK brought along this fine yagi that Peter kindly analysed for him|
|Something attracted the attention of some members over there...|
|It appears to have fallen from the sky...|
|Anybody have any idea as to just what|
the mystery RF item... is???