4 Feb 2013

Simple low cost test equipment

There was an interesting post in the last day on the GQRP Yahoo group asking about portable workbenches that led on to talk about test equipment. This got me thinking about simple pieces of test equipment and what one needs to do basic QRP design work.

In my own case the most useful pieces of kit are (1) a signal generator, (2) an inductance/capacitance meter, (3) an oscilloscope,(4) a basic power meter, (5) a wide coverage all mode RX, (6) a multimeter. I keep thinking about building a dead basic spectrum analyser too. Test probes too of course. Also a good lot of cables with BNC plugs one end and croc clips on the other.

Just wondering what other people use? Certainly for HF QRP work only very basic test gear is needed, which is why I enjoy it so much.

In a way it is a little surprising that no-one sells a low cost "all in one" test box for amateurs with many of the above in one unit. A bit like a CB test box?


Julian Moss said...

I've got by for years with a £5 digital multimeter a Lake Electronics QRP power meter and a dummy load.

Next to those my most often used bit of test gear is my antenna analyzer.

Anonymous said...

Ya, I have a miniVNA that works with my PC. Indispensable for antenna and inter-stage matching work.

Have a look at the "RF Explorer" hand-held spectrum analyzers here:


They are relatively inexpensive, but I haven't checked the specs yet.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly Practical Wireless published a design for something along those lines back in the early eighties. It was a test box for 2m fm and had a deviation meter, power meter, dummy load, voltmeter and signal source on S20 all in one box and was a handy piece of kit. It strikes me that it would be reasonably straightforward to do something similar today but based on a PIC or one of those Arduino boards.

The thing is though, that with all the cheap test equipment on Ebay and from China it probably is more cost effective to buy from them than build it oneself.

I tend to acquire quite a lot of test gear but I still tend to use my old Tandy analogue multimeter in preference to my newer digital ones, add things like RF probes etc and it becomes a very useful piece of kit. But my favourite is my MFJ analyser due to its versatility and how easy it makes it to adjust antennas.


Kevin G6UCY

Graham said...


I have a SWR Analyzer that is from a kit from Fox Delta


While it's main focus is for testing antennas and providing a SWR/Return Loss Measurement it is in fact a basic scalar VNA which with a bit of creativity can be used for much more.

The current version of software permits it's use as a low level power meter i.e. around 0dBm max (based on the AD8307 chip) but with a suitable antennuator or power tap can measure much higher levels. It can also be used a signal generator.

Using that bit of creativity you can measure capacitance, inductance, tune filters or ATU among other things.

Price is right too. Kit took me about an hour to assemble not including putting in a custom case.

Uses a computer running Windows.

cheers, Graham ve3gtc

Steve Wigg said...

I prefer my trusty AVO8 over a couple of DMMs I own.

An OS1000 scope is always my best friend for picking over the faults as I progress through circuits, she must be over 30 yrs old now but still working on both beams.

Others stuff includes a Marconi TF2015 sig gen, Maplin Freq counter, a homemade LF generator.
A Philips Colour Bar gen for a few old TVs I am asked to repair from time to time.

Recent purchase and one I find very useful, is a MFJ259 Analyser

73 Steve