Every amateur radio station should be provided with the following minimal test equipment:
A frequency-measuring instrument accurate to within 10 Hz.
An RF power meter capable of measuring forward and reflected power, or power and VSWR.
An accurate digital multimeter (with a high-voltage probe for safe measurement of voltages above 500V).
Assorted RF jumper cables (PL-259, BNC, N, SMA in various combinations.)
A well-regulated bench power supply (13.8V/25A minimum).
For more sophisticated station adjustment (SSB audio, modulation envelope, tones in digital modes etc.), we should add:
An oscilloscope with a minimum 3 dB bandwidth of 50 - 100 MHz.
An audio signal generator (or tone-generator software) covering 50 Hz - 100 kHz.
A good-quality frequency counter with a minimum frequency range of 100 MHz, preferably with a 1 GHz C-channel.
A handheld antenna analyser.
A grid-dip oscillator.
Radio amateurs who are interested in aligning and repairing their own (or their friends') radio gear may wish to go a few steps further:
A good-quality RF signal generator covering 400 kHz to 500 MHz, with a built-in attenuator.
An FM communications service monitor.
An RF spectrum analyser with an upper frequency limit of at least 100 MHz (for HF) or 1 GHz (for HF/VHF/UHF and up), with a minimum resolution bandwidth of 100 Hz.
A tracking generator for use with the spectrum analyser, or alternatively a vector network analyser (VNA).
An RF millivoltmeter or microwattmeter (100 kHz - 1 GHz, -50 to +30 dBm).
A number of good-quality fixed RF attenuators.
A good RF step attenuator.
A variable-voltage bench power supply (0 - 20V, 25A).
A vector network analyser (free-standing or PC-based).
We have already accumulated a pretty good little RF lab here. For radio performance testing, we can add:
A second high-quality RF signal generator and a hybrid combiner, for 2-signal receiver testing.
An audio 2-tone generator, or equivalent tone-generator software.
An RF noise generator.
A precision 10 MHz frequency standard with low phase noise, to clock other instruments using a 10 MHz reference (e.g. counters, signal generators).
A pulse generator, for AGC and noise-blanker testing.
Baseband spectrum-analysis software, for filter response measurements etc.
An audio distortion analyser, distortion meter or SINAD meter.
Not necessarily! As the old saying goes. "it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good." Perhaps the greatest boon which the dot-com bust and the telecom implosion conferred on the amateur radio community (at least on those of us whose livelihood was not affected by these events) is the availability of top-quality test instruments on the second-hand and surplus market. At many hamfests, one will see such legendary makes as HP/Agilent, Tektronix, Fluke, Boonton, Millivac, Philips, Systron-Donner and even Rohde & Schwarz, sometimes at pennies on the dollar.
ARRL Test Procedures Manual, 2010 Edition
ABC's of Probes
Fundamentals of Quartz Oscillators (HP App Note 200-2)
Introduction to Oscilloscopes
XYZ's of Oscilloscopes
Basic Oscilloscope Features
Better Spectrum Analyser Measurements
8 Hints for Better Spectrum Analysis
Optimising Spectrum Analyser Amplitude Accuracy
Optimising RF and Microwave Spactrum Analyser Dynamic Range
Better Measurements Using RF Signal Generators
8 Hints for Making Better Measurements Using RF Signal Generators
Spectrum Analysis Basics (HP App Note 150)
Spectrum Analyser Fundamentals (R&S Primer)
Phase Noise Measurement Techniques (R&S Tutorial)
Agilent Spectrum Analyser Measurements & Noise
2-tone IMD Measurement Techniques
Agilent Spectrum Analysis Amplitude and Frequency Modulation
Agilent 8560E/8590E Spectrum Analysers: Comparing Power Measurements on Digitally Modulated Signals
Reducing Phase Noise at Microwave and RF Frequencies
Oscillator Phase Noise: A Tutorial
A Closer Look at RF Power Measurements
Fundamentals of RF and Microwave Power Measurements
Fundamentals of RF and Microwave Power Measurements (HP AN 1449) Part 1 2 3 4
4 Steps for Making Better Power Measurements
Choosing the Right Power Meter and Sensor
The Most Common Power Meter Mistake
Power Meter Measurements
dB or not dB? R&S App Note 1MA68 mirror
VSWR Measurements Using In-Line Power Meters
High-Accuracy Noise Figure Measurements mirror
Noise Figure Measurement Accuracy - The Y-Factor Method
10 Hints for Making Successful Noise Figure Measurements
Improved Methods for Measuring Distortion in Broadband Devices - including NPR
Watkins-Johnson Technical Publications on classical RF and broadband wireless topics
An excellent resource for test-equipment manuals
Tektronix information and manuals
Cushman CE-31A/B Operating & Service Manuals, with schematics, on CD-R. Price: USD 25.00, postage paid.
List of my User Reviews & Test Reports
HF Receiver Testing: Issues and Advances (presentation at NSARC)
Simple PEP Test Procedure
Absolute RF Power Measurement
Why is the term "RMS Power" meaningless?
A simple VSWR nomograph
Return Loss/VSWR and dBm/Volts/Watts conversion charts - courtesy Mini-Circuits Inc.
Lossy, Mismatched Transmission Lines - relationship between line loss and VSWR
Choosing an RF Signal Generator
Repairing Bird RF Wattmeter Elements
Life's too short for QRP...
Noise Figure Measurement by KO4BB
NPR Test, by Gianfranco Verbana I2VGO (paper delivered at 11th RENON Convention, September 2009)
DX Engineering RPA-1 HF Preamplifier Test Report, including NPR testMulti-Band NPR Test Results:
Competitive Analysis: IC-7410, TS-590 and FT-950 including NPR tests on all 3 radios
FTDX-3000 Test Report: NPR and 2 kHz DR3 Tests
FTDX-1200 Test Report, including NPR test
My Perseus User Review & Test Report (NPR tests pp. 12 - 15)
My Apache Labs ANAN-100D/200D Test Report (NPR tests p. 8)
My ELAD FDM-S2 Test Report (NPR tests p. 4)
Measuring the IMD of SSB Linear Amplifiers
A Comparison of ARRL Lab Data For Selected Transceivers by Jim Brown, K9YC mirror
My friend Walter, VE7WRS' website (including Testing)
A presentation on RF Test & Measurement by Walter VE7WRS and myself at NSARC
My NSARC presentation "HF Receiver Testing: Issues and Advances" - APDXC 2014 video
Jeff Smith, VE1ZAC's Website including test methods & equipment
John Miles KE5FX's Website
A Brief Treatise on the Decibel by George T. Baker W5YR (SK)
Kiss Electronics - classic and refurbished HP test equipment, and repairs
Amtronix Instruments - a resource for HP/Agilent service monitors. HP/Agilent 8935
Cycles/sec. to Hertz converter - for those among us who are "of a certain age"
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Copyright © 2002-2009 A. Farson VA7OJ/AB4OJ. Last updated: 05/22/2015