Sunday, March 19, 2023

What test equipment should you get as a new ham?

Here is a question sent to me recently, and wanted to share some ideas with others who are new to the hobby.

"Relatively new ham here and not sure what I might even need. Was thinking a meter at least but wondering what you think would be good for a new ham?"


My first observation is that these types of questions can get many responses from different people. My goal is to make an attempt at pointing to the north star and giving them some sort of logical direction. 

Here is my response.

It really depends on what you want to do in the hobby. Many types of test equipment can be used to diagnose issues and make adjustments in your shack for peak performance.

At minimum, a ham should have
  • external watt meter
  • external SWR bridge/meter (don't rely solely on the radio if this feature is built in)
  • multimeter (to verify voltages, resistance, and continuity)
  • reliable power supply
  • 50 ohm dummy load
The list of analytical equipment can go up from there including
  • audio analyzer
  • service monitor
  • VNA or antenna analyzer
  • TinySA
  • oscilloscope
  • tone (audio) generator
  • waveform function generator
  • signal generator


All of these tools can be used in conjunction to either test, analyze, or repair ham shack equipment such as radios, antennas, coax, etc. 

One of the reasons we use this equipment is to verify our radios and antennas are working well, even if the most advanced radios have some of these features built in. Those built in features can either fail or provide faulty measurements. And we all know how expensive these radios can get – We use this equipment to protect our investment, among other things.


What would you recommend? Feel free to share them in the comments.






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