Improved cooling for the MFJ-949E


At A look at internal losses in a typical ATU I demonstrated that it is quite easy to raise the temperature of the coil in the MFJ-949E to an unsafe level, even with quite modest power.

The most heat sensitive component in this ATU is the coil, specifically the coil supports which are probably polystyrene, and the glass transition temperature of polystyrene is around 100°.

This article documents modification of my MFJ-949E to reduce the risk of damage under some operating conditions. Continue reading Improved cooling for the MFJ-949E

Some thoughts on a two turn small transmitting loop

Small transmitting loops (STL) are very popular with hams, and a fashion is developing for N turn loops. This article lays out some thoughts on a 2 turn STL.

Firstly, to the meaning of “small transmitting loop’. There are a range of definitions used, and they mostly centre around the concept of a size sufficiently small that current is approximately uniform. The issue is about the meaning of sufficiently. Accuracy of estimation of radiation resistance of small transmitting loops sets out a rationale for a single turn loop for criteria that perimeter<λ/10.

This article will compare NEC-4.2 models of loops with the following key parameters:

  • 1m diameter (the loop perimeter is 0.07λ);
  • 20mm copper conductor;
  • frequency is nominally 7.1MHz;
  • 16 segments per turn
  • when not specified as in free space, the loop centre is 1m above ‘average’ ground (0.005,13);
  • the loop is directly fed in the middle, opposite to the tuning capacitor position, cap down;
  • pitch is 0.15m.

The model is sensitive to all these parameters. Continue reading Some thoughts on a two turn small transmitting loop

End fed Zepp

The so-called End fed Zepp (EFZ) is often cited as the basis for many more recent antenna designs, and is leveraged to provide and explanation… though few hams understand how the EFZ actually works.

End fed Zepp

Screenshot - 13_03_16 , 08_38_13

Above is a diagram from the ARRL Antenna Handbook  (Silver 2011).

Though a short conductor is shown to the right of the right hand feed line wire, the length is not specified or discussed in the accompanying text. It is popularly held that this is a “counterpoise” that provides a path for current equal to that flowing left into the main horizontal wire.

Let us explore the EFZ using NEC. The models are a reflection left to right of the above diagram, ie the feed is on the left hand end. Continue reading End fed Zepp

A tutorial on initial design of operating conditions for a valve amplifier

A correspondent asked for a walk through of use of a couple of my online design tools for a 6m 350W single ended valve PA using three QQE06-40 valves. The request was perhaps inspired by a design he had seen, but I sound a caution about a large number of parallel valves (6 sections in this case).

Key design parameters:

  • HV power supply fully loaded: 1200V;
  • Power output: 350W;
  • Class: AB1;
  • Vak min: 180V (from datasheet anode curves);
  • Pi output network, Q at least 12 (for reduction of harmonics on the FM broadcast band), select 15.

The datasheet gives max supply voltage at 450 for plate and screen AM, which implies max ‘instantaneous’ DC supply voltage in AB1 SSB telephony of 900V… so 1200V goes beyond the guaranteed ratings. Of more concern, it is probably close to 1400V lightly loaded, 56% greater than the maximum instantaneous supply implied by the AM specifications.


  • output network efficiency 90%;
  • valves load share equally.

An advantage of a high Q design is that it requires higher input C which makes accommodating the self capacitance of the 6 valve sections somewhat easier. A disadvantage is lower efficiency.

Screenshot - 12_03_16 , 16_21_24

Above is a calculation using Calculate initial load line of valve RF amplifier. Note the anode dissipation, a total of over 190W is quite high for 120W total valve rating (though these are pretty robust valves). Total DC anode current will be almost 0.5A, so the HV power supply must deliver 1200V @ 0.5A. The 0.5A figure is within the absolute maximum of 720mA (for 6 sections).
Continue reading A tutorial on initial design of operating conditions for a valve amplifier

Thinking about SOTA, EFHW and EMR safety

There seems to have been a revival in use of the so-called End Fed Half Wave antenna.

The prospect that a small radio such as the FT817, a magic match box and 10m of wire makes a good 20m field station appeals to many a SOTA enthusiast.

Let us model a scenario with a FT817 powered by internal battery and sitting on an insulating platform (eg a pack) 0.3m above natural ground, a 10m wire strung up into a tree at a 45° angle, and a 1m long mic cord stretched up at 45° in the other direction. The is the popular so-called ‘no counterpoise’ configuration.

A simplified model of just the current paths without regard to the bulk of the radio, or the effect of the helix of the mic cord illustrates an approximate current distribution. The model uses 1W RF input to the antenna over ‘average ground’ (0.005,13).


Clip 142

Above is a plot of the current distribution. Current is a minimum at the open ends, a boundary condition for the problem, and maximum in the middle of the half wave. We expect H field to be greatest near the current maximum, and E field to be greatest near the current minima. Continue reading Thinking about SOTA, EFHW and EMR safety

SPICE model of Zcm of a Guanella 9:1 current balun

At Why the preference for Guanella 1:1 current baluns for HF wire antennas I compared a 1:1 Guanella balun with a 4:1 using the same component baluns.

Broadly, the findings were that the common mode impedance of the 4:1 balun was around a quarter of that of the component baluns, and mediocre at that.

This article extends the reference, documenting the SPICE model extended to a 9:1 balun.

Screenshot - 07_03_16 , 11_17_27

Above, the same component baluns were interconnected to make a 9:1 balun. Note that Zo of the TL section has been increased to 150Ω to suit the notional nominal 50 to 450Ω broadband transformer. Continue reading SPICE model of Zcm of a Guanella 9:1 current balun

APRS duplicate removal – trial #3

The undetected long-delayed duplicate posits that are a feature of APRS VHF are a significant corruption of mapping.

In an attempt to limit the propagation of posits and hence the probability of corruption / delay etc, I have experimented with a path of WIDE1-1 on a recent trip to Canberra (about 400km for the round trip).

Whilst this should prevent packets getting to the Wagga, Newcastle and Tamworth regions which have been the main cause of corrupted posits and mapping defects, it does so at the risk of some loss of posits as some digi infrastructure was never updated to the “New N paradigm” of more than a decade ago and they ignore WIDE1.

Screenshot - 06_03_16 , 14_15_51

Above is a zoomed in view of the Canberra end of the trip, and I am pleased to say that the zig zag double backs that have been evident in recent trips did not occur. The principal reason is that with a path of WIDE1-1, the packets did not pass through VK2RWG-1/VK2KAW. Continue reading APRS duplicate removal – trial #3

End fed matching – analysis of VK3IL’s measurements


David, VK3IL posted EFHW matching unit in which he describes a ferrite cored transformer matching unit that is of a common / popular style.

My EFHW match box. 3:24 turns ration on a FT140-43 toroid with a 150pF capacitor across the input.

Above is David’s pic of his implementation. It is a FT140-43 toroid with 3 and 24t windings and note the 150pF capacitor in shunt with the coax connector.

The popular belief is that these are a broadband impedance transformer with impedance ratio equal to the square of the turns ratio, 64 in this case and therefore a broad band match from 3200Ω to 50Ω.

To his credit, David took some measurements of several different variations and reported them in his article.

Clip 135

Above are David’s measurements of the subject transformer.

Lets explore the matching detail for the case of a 3.3kΩ load at 22MHz, and using the 150pF shunt cap.

Superficially, you might convince yourself that this is explained by the turns squared story, but the 150pF doesn’t reconcile with that story, nor does the variation with frequency, eg the rapid change above 22MHz. Continue reading End fed matching – analysis of VK3IL’s measurements

ATU efficiency

Much is written about ATU efficiency, about the need for them or not, and often in subjective terms like “lossy ATU”, and most of it lacking quantitative detail.

The little quantitative detail is almost entirely for purely resistive loads… as if that is typical of real life conditions.

The most common configuration used today is the ‘high pass T match’, but a range of other configurations are seen as being superior… though usually without quantitative evidence.

MFJ claims

More Hams use MFJ-949s than any other antenna tuner in the world! Why? Because the worlds leading antenna tuner has earned a worldwide reputation for being able to match just about anything.

… so let’s make some measurements with a reactive load on a MFJ-949E. Capacitive loads tend to be very common for antenna systems at lower HF, so let’s choose a load of 50Ω with a 100pF silver mica cap in series at 3.6MHz. The reactance of the cap is -442Ω, so the load is 50-j442Ω, and the 50Ω part is a RF power meter (RFPM1).

The test setup then is:

  • a standard signal generator (SSG) on 3.6MHz with 20dB precision attenuator so that we are confident that Zs=50Ω (important to the adjustment of the ATU for maximum power as indication of 50Ω match);
  • MFJ-949E;
  • 100pF silver mica capacitor (low loss);
  • RFPM1

The SSG was adjusted for -10dBm out directly into the RFPM1, then the ATU+cap inserted and ATU adjusted for maximum power indication. Power indicated was 1.4dB lower, so InsertionLoss and TransmissionLoss are both 1.4dB.

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Above is a simulation of the T network in RFSim99, component values are adjusted for a match and inductor Q is calibrated to the measured loss of 1.4dB. Continue reading ATU efficiency

KL7AJ quick quiz 21/02/2016

Eric posed a quick quiz for the masses to test their knowledge under his heading “Do you really understand impedance matching?”

For your convenience, I will quote his challenge here.

Screenshot - 21_02_16 , 08_04_51

All connections are made with low-loss coaxial cable. The antenna tuner is high quality with negligible losses.
According to standard conversion charts, we find that 4:1 SWR will give us 36% reflected power. Keep that number handy.
Now, we set up the experiment. First, set the slugs on BOTH wattmeters to read REFLECTED power.
Turn on the transmitter, and adjust the antenna tuner for zero reflected power on Bird #1. Switch to forward power, and set transmitter output to exactly 100 watts. Readjust antenna tuner if necessary to achieve zero reflected power, while maintaining 100 watts forward.
Go to Bird #2 and confirm that reflected power is 36 watts.
Question: What is the FORWARD power on Bird Wattmeter #2? How you answer this question determines if you understand the conjugate match theorem or not.

Let us assume that the transmission lines are 50Ω, and that the Bird wattmeters are calibrated for 50Ω.

So, to extract the key information, we have a lossless system (KL7AJ is a lossless kind of guy) and the load is stated to be VSWR=4. Continue reading KL7AJ quick quiz 21/02/2016