- MFJ-259B - I was licensed in 2002 just prior to the ARRL New England Division Convention held in Boxboro. MFJ had a big booth there and this device was my first big purchase in the hobby--even before I bought my first radio!
- Autek VA1 RX Vector Analyst - I bought this device because it was very small and would travel more easily than the MFJ unit.
The MFJ analyzer has served me well. The Autek unit, not so well. I should give the VA1 another chance, but it almost doesn't seem worth the effort. There's no nice way to say it: the Autek unit has been a very big disappointment. It's junk. There. I said it.
I'm in the market for another analyzer. Well, if it can't be small, let's find one that does more than the MFJ! There was an article in the November issue of QST reviewing two analyzers:
- AEA Via Analyzer - Black and white display. About $600.
- Timewave TZ-900 AntennaSmith - Color display. About $1250.
The allure of both units is the ability to see a graph of data resulting from a frequency sweep rather than the single data point presented by a typical analyzer like the MFJ. I have made this point before but it bears repeating: time on the island (or whatever your DX location may be) is limited and precious. If you can plan well on some issue before you leave saving you time on site, it is a big win. Similarly, if you can have a tool that saves you time while on location, that, too, can be a big win. I'm putting these analyzers in that category.
The price difference between the two units is stark: the Timewave device is roughly double the cost of the AEA unit. Either would be a large investment. But, with the kind of antenna work I typically do: improvised antennas, experimental, always in a different location, and compromised on weight, the ability to quickly assess my antennas (especially since I'm always working against the clock) makes this kind of investment worthwhile.
I just window-shopping now but hope to make some decisions on this and the yagi soon. I would very much like to have all of this in place for the St. Kitts trip. The sooner I could get some experience with this stuff, the better.
Finally, I should remind everybody that I'll be running a special event station K1P with my buddy Dave for Patriots Day in April. I'll use that trip as a way of evaluating a bunch of stuff I've collected since the Montserrat trip. If one of these new analyzers were to make the trip, even better! Of course, I'll have a full report here.