Every amateur radio station should be provided with the following minimal test equipment:
A frequency-measuring instrument accurate to within 10 Hz. Examples: HP 5314A, Fluke 1911A, Radio Shack 22-305 or 220-0305 (discontinued).
An RF power meter capable of measuring forward and reflected power, or power and VSWR. Examples: Bird 43, Coaxial Dynamics 81000, Daiwa CN-101L.
An accurate digital multimeter (with a high-voltage probe for safe measurement of voltages above 500V). Examples: Fluke 87, Fluke 175.
Assorted RF jumper cables (PL-259, BNC, N, SMA in various combinations.)
A well-regulated bench power supply (13.8V/25A minimum). Examples: Astron RS-35M, Astron SS-30.
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. Examples: Tektronix 455, 465, 465M, 475, 2225, 2230 or 2235; HP 180, 182, 183 or 1725.
An audio signal generator (or tone-generator software) covering 50 Hz - 100 kHz. Examples: HP 200, 201C, 651A, 652A, 654.
A good-quality frequency counter with a minimum frequency range of 100 MHz, preferably with a 1 GHz C-channel. Examples: HP 5315A, 5316B; Fluke 7260A; Racal 1992 or 1996.
A handheld antenna analyser. Examples: MFJ 259B (HF) and 269 (VHF/UHF), AEA VIA, AIM 4170C (HF), Kuranishi BR-210 (now rare), Timewave TZ-900S AntennaSmith.
A grid-dip oscillator. Examples: Measurements Corp. 59, Millen 90651 or 90651A, military AN/PRM-10.
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 (or higher), with a built-in attenuator. Examples: HP 8640B, HP 8642B, HP 8648B; Boonton 102D or 102F; Marconi Instruments 2018, 2018A, 2019, 2019A, 2022C/D/E; Fluke 6060B, 6061A, 6062A; Gigatronics 6061A.
An FM communications service monitor. Examples: IFR 500, 1000, 1000S, 1200, 1200S; Cushman CE-31A, CE-31B, CE-46, CE-50; Schlumberger SI 4031, HP 8920A/B; Marconi Instruments 2955; Motorola R2600A.
Note: Due to the rapid obsolescence of cellular phone protocols, specialised cell-site test sets such as the HP 8921A, 8922, 8924 and 8935 are often available at bargain prices. These instruments usually include a full set of service-monitor features, including a nice spectrum analyser and tracking generator with duplex offset function.
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. Examples: HP 141T w/8552B and 8553B/8554B plug-ins, 8590 series Opt. 140 (narrow RBW), 8560A, 8560E, 8568A (a big beast); Tektronix 2710, 2712, 2795, 494P, 496, Marconi Instruments 2380/2382 or 2380/2383.
A tracking generator for use with the spectrum analyser. Examples: HP 8444A, 85640A. Some spectrum analyser models have a built-in tracking generator.
An RF millivoltmeter or power meter (100 kHz - 1 GHz, -50 to +30 dBm). Examples: Boonton 92B, Millivac MV723B or MV823B, HP 432A/B w/478A or 8478B sensor, HP 435B, 436B , 437B, 438A or E4418B w/8482A sensor. Make sure that the meter you acquire comes with a good sensor (probe) and cable!
A number of good-quality fixed RF attenuators. Examples: HP, Narda, Mini-Circuits, Weinschel, JFW.
A good RF step attenuator. Example: JFW 50DR series.
A variable-voltage bench power supply (0 - 20V, 25A). Example: Astron VS-35M.
A vector network analyser (free-standing or PC-based). Examples: N2PK, W8BIG and DG8SAQ designs.
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 (e.g. Mini-Circuits), for 2-signal receiver testing.
An audio 2-tone generator, or equivalent tone-generator software. Example: NCH Tone Generator.
An RF noise generator. Example: NoiseCom NC6110, or build your own around a NoiseCom noise diode.
A precision 10 MHz frequency standard with low phase noise, to clock other instruments using a 10 MHz reference (e.g. counters, signal generators). Examples: Frequency Electronics FE-5680A Rb oscillator, or a GPSDO such as HP Z3801A/3805A/58503A or Trimble Thunderbolt.
A pulse generator, for AGC and noise-blanker testing. Examples: HP 8011A, 8012B; Tektronix 2101, Systron-Donner 101 series.
Baseband spectrum-analysis software, for filter response measurements etc. Examples: Spectrogram, SpectraPlus, Analyzer2000.
An audio distortion analyser, distortion meter or SINAD meter. Examples: HP 331A, 334A 339A; Helper Instruments Sinadder 3.
A true RMS AC voltmeter. Examples: HP 3400A, HP 3400B, Ballantine 323.
Copyright © 2002-2010 A. Farson VA7OJ/AB4OJ. Last updated: 06/14/2021