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The well-known DXpeditioner Adrian KO8SCA wrote a review about RigExpert antenna analyzers on the popular HAM radio portal

ko8sca“Indispensable piece of equipment”

In the next few lines I’d like to share some of my thoughts regarding
my RigExpert AA-600, an antenna analyzer that I highly recommend.
I won’t bore you with technical details here.
These units and especially the latest models have some sophisticated
functions but you can read about those in the user manual.

I mainly use the antenna analyzer to answer 2 questions:

• Where is this antenna resonating?
• I have this long coaxial cable and it seems broken; where is the
exact location of the fault in the cable?

A few years ago, while in a DXpedition, I realized that using my
needle-based antenna analyzer just didn’t cut it anymore. The problem
was that when you install antennas in a new environment you need to do
QUICK and REPETITIVE measurements every time you do incremental
adjustments to the antennas, until they are tuned to the required
resonating frequency. So I was spending too much time tuning the
antennas instead of enjoying the pileups.

A trustworthy friend, who have given me good advice before, suggested
I should get a RigExpert Antenna Analyzer. I checked the HRO website
and was taken aback by the price. But in the end I trusted my friend’s
advice and bought a RigExpert AA-600 Antenna Analyzer. I could have
waited to buy the unit while at Dayton Hamfest to save some money, as
every vendor offers discounts at the show, but I was getting ready for
another DXpedition and needed the unit quicker.

This was 5 years ago and my trustworthy AA-600 already traveled 5
continents (see the list on my page) and I am still using it.
It feels like the gift that keeps on giving. And here is why:

Easy to use:
Type in the frequency your antenna should be resonating on (option #2
“Set freq.” on the main screen) and press OK button. Then press option
#4 “Scan SWR” button. Please note that I said “press” and not “touch”.
Fortunately the unit has buttons and not a touch screen. A touch
screen, especially the ones using a stylus are really not suitable for
field use, especially in rugged environments such as DXpeditions (your
hands are dirty, wet, cold etc).
Recently I was part of the advance antenna installation team for the
ZK3A DXpedition together with ZL3WW and N7QT. We used the AA-600
extensively while installing 4 square antennas for 80M and 40M because
each of the 4 antenna masts has to be measured individually and then
together. The last thing you want is to tell your teammates working on
installing antennas in 100F weather is: “hold on, while I fiddle with
the analyzer”.
In this case, just 2 button presses on the unit and a few seconds
later you see the resonating point. One can quickly see if it is too
high or too low. It can’t get easier than that.

Quality LCD:
In the scorching sun of Tokelau in the recent ZK3A DXpedition, one can
still easily see the reading on the LCD screen so the LCD has a good
contrast. And in the same time, the brightness on the LCD is perfect
as it allows working during the night as well. Certainly not a feature
that matters for home installations or troubleshooting but it is a
must during DXpeditions.

The unit uses 3 AA NiMh rechargeable batteries. This is good, because
I avoid using non-rechargeable batteries in expensive equipment for
the fear of batteries leaking especially during the periods between
DXpeditions, when the unit is not being used. A charge is more than
enough for use during the entire DXpedition. 5 years later and the
batteries are still charging to almost 90%. Usually rechargeable
batteries don’t last that long. It must be the German quality (VARTA)
at work here. I did not have any issue with the battery door
compartment that was mentioned in other reviews. Maybe some batches
have this issue and some others don’t.

Computer connection:
The analyzer uses a regular USB cable to connect to a computer.
This allows saving the data to the computer for further analysis which
is handy when checking the performance of a new antenna as well as
historical data. If the analyzing software that comes with the unit
does not fit your needs you can easily import the data into more
sophisticated software.
I like to compare the performance of my DXpedition antennas at
different heights or different types of ground, like answering the
question: how much is the resonating point changing if the antenna is
raised to 15M instead of 12M?

Coax cable testing (TDR function):
While in a DXpedition we had a brand new roll of coaxial cable with
connectors. It was packed really neatly and conveniently from the
factory and we didn’t bother to test it.
After installing the cable, we realized the cable is defective. With a
few pressed buttons, the AA-600 came to the rescue, to quickly answer
the question: where is the fault? Is it in the connectors, is it in
the cable? If it is the cable, where exactly is the fault: at 50 feet,
at 100 feet etc?

Rugged design:
The case is rugged enough to protect the unit from dirt, sand and
light rain. It did that successfully in ZK3A where rain will start
suddenly while we were doing measurements on the field.
The unit is of course not submersible and it is not protected against
(grave) user errors such as transmitting while using the analyzer.
I learned that the hard way when a couple of years ago, in my
excitement to catch the grey line propagation I didn’t pay attention
and connected the analyzer to the output of the radio instead of
connecting the filter. So I had to send my unit for repair to
RigExpert office in Canada. They fixed it quickly and now I have a
different color coaxial cable for the analyzer, to avoid these types
of mistakes.

RigExpert AA-230 Zoom:
While in DXpedition to Somalia (6O6O) with my friend Ken (LA7GIA), we
used his RigExpert AA-230 Zoom Analyzer. I don’t have to tell you how
important it is to minimize the time outside the protecting walls of
the hotel, in order to install and tune antennas, in these locations.
The RigExpert AA-230 Zoom, one of the latest model in their line of
antenna analyzers, came in really handy for that. I liked two main
things: the display, the unit size and weight.
The display graphics are way nicer.
When I travel to DXpeditions, I always carry my analyzer together with
my radio in my carry-on bag to minimize the chances of my sensitive
equipment from being damaged or lost. So the size of the equipment
does really matter and for this reason alone I would like to upgrade
my AA-600 to an AA-230 Zoom as this newer model is a lot THINNER
(3.2 X 7.2 X 1.3 in instead of 9 X 4 X 2 in) and LIGHTER (only 8.3oz
instead of 23oz).

Next stop for my AA-600 analyzer is Bhutan
Let’s see if my trustworthy friend continues to be up to the task.”

Adrian /KO8SCA/

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