AT-100 ATU Sontheimer coupler using a single binocular ferrite core

A reader of my recent article Sontheimer coupler – transformer issues and the follow up articles giving better transformer designs asked whether the coupler use in the popular AT-100 ATU wouldn’t be a good solution.

A quick Google search did not turn up any published design rationale or measurement data for the AT-100 coupler design.

The above circuit is from (Grebenkemper 1987) and is an embodiment of (Sontheimer 1966). In their various forms, this family of couplers have one or sometimes two transformers with their primary in shunt with the through line, and another which is in series with the through line to sense current. To achieve good Directivity, these transformers must be symmetric, nearly ideal, and they must be independent, ie no significant coupling between the transformers by magnetic or electric fields.

The AT-100 uses a Sontheimer coupler, they are very popular with ham users for perceived better performance, notably better Directivity over a wide frequency range. Continue reading AT-100 ATU Sontheimer coupler using a single binocular ferrite core

End Fed Half Wave matching transformer – 80-20m – model and measurement

Reviewing consistency of measured and model data, the first posting was based on an incorrect model parameter (aol), the article is now revised for the correct value, apologies.

End Fed Half Wave matching transformer – 80-20m described a EFHW transformer design with taps for nominal 1:36, 49, and 64 impedance ratios.

Keep in mind that this is a desk design of a transformer to come close to ideal broadband performance on a nominal 2400Ω load with low loss. Real antennas don’t offer an idealised load, but this is the first step in designing and applying a practical transformer.

The transformer comprises a 32t of 0.65mm enamelled copper winding on a Fair-rite 5943003801 core (FT240-43) ferrite core (the information is not applicable to an Amidon core), to be used as an autotransformer to step down a EFHW load impedance to around 50Ω. The winding layout is unconventional, most articles describing a similar transformer seem to have their root in a single flawed design, and they are usually published without meaningful credible measurement. Continue reading End Fed Half Wave matching transformer – 80-20m – model and measurement

NanoVNA – trying the DiSlord built in cable length measurement feature

A recent discussion online on the use of this facility in some model or other NanoVNA/firmware combination quickly ran to over 100 posts, and you might think it is really difficult, or plain does not work.

Let me say I am leery of built in features that invite users to perform something they do not understand, and may misinterpret the outcome.

Lots of the discussion ran to explaining why measurement of a sample of coax  would be out by 5% or more, lots of pseudo tech discussion about age related, contamination related, quality related explanations for the measurement, things which might cause the measurer to condemn the sample, to discard it.

Well, you would want to be pretty confident in yourself to make that call, given that the explanation might well be measurement error.

I don’t use this facility, so I am quite unfamiliar with it, and there is no documentation, so one make make an informed guess as to how to use it.

Let’s measure… Continue reading NanoVNA – trying the DiSlord built in cable length measurement feature

Transformers and flux density

Lots of online discussions on ferrite cored transformer losses might make you think that the core material is in a path in series with the transferred power and that it acts to some extent like an attenuator.

That sort of thinking betrays a lack of understanding of how a transformer works.

If you take a good 50/60Hz 1:1 power transformer, assume no losses, no flux leakage, and ignoring distributed capacitance, you might ask: Continue reading Transformers and flux density


An online expert held forth on the design of ferrite chokes and transformers, and to quote one paragraph:

Equally selfevidently we don’t want ANY real part of the reactance in a transformer and, for a practical transformer, we want the self inductance on each side (primary and secondary) to be at least j10*R(Load or Source) and the coupling to be as close to 100% from primary to secondary. It is the real part that heats up transformers a LOT and, since ALL of the current is seen by the ferrite in a transformer, not just the part that got reflected back on the outside of the coax in a choke, losses are abos-posilutely-undubiously NOT desired and the u”R needs to be as close to zero as we can get at the designed frequency for minimum loss and minimum power dissipation.

Setting aside the hyperbole and the wooly thinking, let’s drill down on u”R needs to be as close to zero as we can get at the designed frequency for minimum loss and minimum power dissipation.

It is a pretty general statement without really specific quantities, needs to be as close to zero as we can get and minimum loss and minimum power dissipation does not give useful guidance of acceptable values of µ”, and may even impart the impression that the following chart is for material that is not suitable above perhaps 200kHz, if that.

Above, µ” is greater than 10 above about 200kHz, greater than 100 from about 2 to 100MHz. Is this what the quote condemns? Continue reading Selfevidently

On ferrite cored RF broadband transformers and leakage inductance

By broadband transformer, I mean a transformer intended to have nearly nominal impedance transformation over a wide frequency range. That objective might be stated as a given InsertionVSWR over a given frequency range for a stated impedance. eg InsertionVSWR<2 from 3-30MHz with 3200(+j0)Ω load.

These are used in many things, including medium to high power applications such as EFHW matching transformers.

Leakage inductance is the equivalent series inductance due to flux that cuts one winding and not the other, and vice versa. For most simple transformers, the total primary referred leakage inductance is twice the primary leakage inductance. Since the leakage inductance appears in series with the signal path, it causes degradation of nominal impedance transformation, the very simplest approximation of the frequency response is that of a LR circuit.

Above is a Simsmith model of a 1µH total leakage inductance in series with a 50+j0Ω load, the InsertionVSWR is greater than 1.5 above 3MHz.

Is this a common scenario? Continue reading On ferrite cored RF broadband transformers and leakage inductance

Tips and techniques for measuring small RF inductors and transformers

Over more than 50 years, I have measured literally thousands of RF inductors and transformers. This article gives some hints and techniques for making / preparing prototypes for measurement, and measurement.

RF inductors and transformers will often use enameled copper wire (ECW) or some form of insulated wire or coax.

Solid core LAN cables are a good source of small insulated wire for prototyping. The conductor is around 0.5mm, and overall about 0.9mm.

Handy tools

Above, from left to right: Continue reading Tips and techniques for measuring small RF inductors and transformers

NanoVNA-H4 v4.3 – initial impressions

I have owned a NanoVNA-H v3.3 for more than two years now. It required some modification to fix a power supply decoupling problem on the mixers, reinforcement of the SMA connectors, replacement of the USB socket, rework of the case so the touch screen worked properly / reliably, and some minor works (eg battery charger chip, bad patch cables, faulty USB cable).

With recent enhancement of firmware to support an SD card, the prospect of stand alone use becomes more practical, so I set about researching and purchase.

It seemed the best option was to buy a ‘genuine’ NanoVNA-H4 v4.3, and I started the search at the recommended (by Hugen) store, Zeenko… but whilst there was a listing for v4.2, there was no v4.3 listing (perhaps it is out of stock). I did find another store selling what they described as a ‘genuine’ NanoVNA-H4 v4.3, but this is a high risk transaction, experience is that Chinese sellers are not to be trusted, and Aliexpress is an unsafe buying platform.

This is one of those concerning transactions where the seller notifies shipment and gives a tracking number hours before the deadline, then a week later change the tracking number (the ‘real’ shipment).

Above, the promo image from the listing. Continue reading NanoVNA-H4 v4.3 – initial impressions

No-name video baluns common mode impedance

I purchased a bunch of no-name, no-spec, video baluns on eBay for use with radio antennas at MF and low HF. A pair of these are for transporting 75 ohm coax video signals over twisted pair LAN cable.

Above, the two styles of baluns purchased. Given the label, nondescript as it is, there is quite a possibility that the internals are the same. Continue reading No-name video baluns common mode impedance