Reflected power alarm for the MFJ-993B

This article describes an add-on to a MFJ-993B auto ATU to provide an audible alarm when reflected power exceeds a set threshold. A deficiency of the original design IMHO.

The solution uses the generic heating / cooling controller (hcctl) configured for its alarm function only, including a function to silence the alarm.

screenshot-03_12_16-18_34_50Above is the directional coupler part of the MFJ-993B. The REF test point is designed to present voltages within the range 0-5V when used within the stated power ratings. Continue reading Reflected power alarm for the MFJ-993B

Radio-Kits SWR meter – build and review

This article describes my build of a Radio-Kits SWR meter (v1.1) and post implementation review.

Advertised features:

  • HF coverage – 1.8-30MHz
  • Displays VSWR, forward power, reverse power and supply voltage
  • Peak reading power meter
  • Bar graph or numerical format
  • Reverse power alarm with adjustable threshold
  • Auto turn on in presence of RF – sensitivity about 1 watt
  • Optional turn off after preset time – 10-240 seconds
  • Backlit LCD display with variable brightness
  • Reverse polarity protection

I purchased the kit some years ago, and on receiving it and reviewing the circuit I formed the view that it was likely to have unacceptable Insertion VSWR on 1.8Mhz, and probably 3.5MHz bands… so I lost interest in assembling the kit. However, I have belatedly constructed the kit, calibrated and tested it.


The kit is supplied as a PCB and parts, no casework is supplied.

The board was difficult to solder, the strain relieved ground plane connections of components have very little donut to contact for heat transfer and are much harder to solder than the other pads. The strain relief is a dubious feature that makes soldering difficult.


Above, the kit assembled in a die-cast aluminium box. An opening for the LCD was milled into the box, and holes drilled for the rest of the fit up. The kit does not lend itself to this boxing as the buttons out the top and display out the front are a problem to fit up. A poor mechanical design.


Above is the interior of the box showing the LCD display and the external BNC connectors fitted (substituted for the ubiquitous UHF connectors supplied with the kit). Continue reading Radio-Kits SWR meter – build and review

Grebenkember’s original Tandem match

(Grebenkemper 1987) describes a directional coupler that has become very popular, especially in commercial implementation.

screenshot-22_11_16-07_23_25The simplified circuit above from Grebenkemper’s article illustrates the key elements of the directional coupler.

An important detail of the design is that the primary of the right hand transformer appears in shunt with the antenna load, and the magnetising impedance of that transformer core compromises Insertion VSWR. It is important that the magnetising impedance is sufficiently high (or the admittance sufficiently low) to not cause significant Insertion VSWR.
Continue reading Grebenkember’s original Tandem match QRP SWR bridge

The project is to build a test a couple of QRP VSWR detectors by ( rated at 10W.


Above are the completed kits.


Above is the schematic. The bridge uses a type of Sontheimer coupler (Sontheimer 1966) and these are commonly poorly designed. The first question is whether the magnetising impedance of T2 which appears in shunt with the load is sufficiently high to not give rise to poor insertion VSWR. Continue reading QRP SWR bridge

Walter Maxwell’s teachings on system wide conjugate matching

Walt Maxwell (W2DU) made much of conjugate matching in antenna systems, he wrote of his volume in the preface to (Maxwell 2001 24.5):

It explains in great detail how the antenna tuner at the input terminals of the feed line provides a conjugate match at the antenna terminals, and tunes a non-resonant antenna to resonance while also providing an impedance match for the output of the transceiver.

Walt Maxwell made much of conjugate matching, and wrote often of it as though at some optimal adjustment of an ATU there was a system wide state of conjugate match conferred, that at each and every point in an antenna system the impedance looking towards the source was the conjugate of the impedance looking towards the load.

This is popularly held to be some nirvana, a heavenly state where transmitters are “happy” and all is good. Happiness of transmitters is often given in online discussion by hams as the raison d’être for ATUs . Continue reading Walter Maxwell’s teachings on system wide conjugate matching

Zo of two wire line

I saw a recent discussion where the blind were leading the blind on the dimensions of a twisted two wire line for Zo=50Ω for use in a balun.

The poster had used an online calculator which used the well known log function for estimating Zo of an air spaced two wire line… the calculator, like most quotations of the formula do not state clearly that it is only an approximation of limited validity, and the calculator returned results for ridiculous inputs (like negative spacing).


The graph above (Duffy 2008) shows the log approximation, and the underlying acosh based estimate. I say estimate because the acosh function does not account for proximity effect which becomes significant at the very closest spacings, and internal inductance which becomes significant at lower frequencies. Proximity effect depends on more than just the spacing/diameter ratio and so cannot be shown on the above graph.

So how did our poster find dimensions for wires for Zo=50Ω when the log graph above shows that as the wire centre to centre spacing approaches the wire diameter, it the wires approach touching, Zo approaches 83Ω? Continue reading Zo of two wire line

The sign of Return Loss

I was browsing a ham forum recently when I came across a Return Loss plot apparently from a ham grade miniVNA Tiny.

Lets just remind ourselves of the meaning of the term Return Loss. (IEEE 1988) defines Return Loss as:

(1) (data transmission) (A) At a discontinuity in a transmission system the difference between the power incident upon the discontinuity. (B) The ratio in decibels of the power incident upon the discontinuity to the power reflected from the discontinuity. Note: This ratio is also the square of the reciprocal to the magnitude of the reflection coefficient. (C) More broadly, the return loss is a measure of the dissimilarity between two impedances, being equal to the number of decibels that corresponds to the scalar value of the reciprocal of the reflection coefficient, and hence being expressed by the following formula:

20*log10|(Z1+Z2)/(Z1-Z2)| decibel

where Z1 and Z2 = the two impedances.

(2) (or gain) (waveguide). The ratio of incident to reflected power at a reference plane of a network.

Return Loss expressed in dB will ALWAYS be a positive number in passive networks.

Return Loss according to the miniVNA Tiny


Above, the miniVNA Tiny presents Return Loss as a negative value. Continue reading The sign of Return Loss