Category Archives: Antenna Tuners

The Elecraft T1 Protection Case by TufteIn

Long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators. Over the past few months, Joshua has sent me various prototypes for feedback and also to test in the field. You’ll see some of his antennas in upcoming field reports and activation videos. I’m very impressed with his designs.

If you’re an Elecraft T1 owner, you should be especially interested in his T1 Protection Case.

Joshua sent me an early version of this clip-on case several months ago and it immediately replaced the simple cover I printed from a Thingiverse file. (To be clear, the Thingiverse case served me well for a couple years, but I prefer this one since it doesn’t require a rubber band to hold it on the T1.)

The Elecraft T1 is a hearty little ATU and I don’t worry about damaging it while tucked away in my SOTA pack, but the little buttons on the front are prone to be pushed with any amount of applied pressure. This can result in unintentional operation which can accidentally place it in bypass mode or at least shorten the life of your 9V cell.

The Elecraft T1 is not an inexpensive station accessory and, at the moment, they’re about as rare as hen’s teeth. The lead time on new T1s is counted in months rather than weeks (at time of posting, this is due to vendor board issues).

The TufteIn Protection Case simply snaps on the Elecraft T1 and protects the BNC connectors, ground point, and the front panel buttons.

The case material is durable and adds very little to the bulk of the T1.

Of course, you can’t operate the T1 with the case around it because the BNC connectors are covered, but I have propped up my T1 on the case while using it on rough concrete picnic tables. I’d rather the case be scratched than my T1!

If you own an Elecraft T1 and don’t have a protective cover, I’d encourage you to either print one, or buy Joshua’s T1 case. For years, I simply removed or reversed the 9V battery to keep the T1 from engaging while packed, but that doesn’t protect the buttons and (frankly) it’s a pain to pop the battery out and flip it for each use (then to remember to flip it back when packing away).

The TufteIn case is a simple and affordable ($16.50) solution!

Thanks for sending this to me, Joshua. I dropped my T1 while setting up my TX-500 for Field Day and it protected my favorite little ATU!

Click here to check out the Elecraft T1 Protective Case on Etsy.

Barry’ review of the ATU-10 QRP Antenna Tuner

Many thanks to Barry (KU3X) for sharing the following guest post originally posted on his website:


ATU-10 from Banggood.com

by Barry (KU3X)

There are times I find myself in need of an ATU. One example is when I use my half wave end fed 40. I can not always erect this antenna in the clear. I did purchase the LDG Z100 Plus 705 with interfacing cable. The unit does as advertised but I am not impressed with its performance. My biggest complaint is, when interfaced and the IC-705 tells the LDG to tune and it does not know the antenna is matched and resonant, the LDG adds capacitance and inductance which actually raises the SWR. It’s too dumb to go into bypass. I resolved this by not using the interface cable. Now I only tell the LDG to tune where needed. Most of the time I turn the LDG off by toggling between bypass and tune using the button of the front of the unit.

Size matters to me and the LDG ATU is too big. Another downside is it uses SO-239 connectors instead of BNC connectors. Everything I have relating to QRP operating uses all BNC connectors, including my home brew two position antenna switch. I do want to get my hands on an Elecraft T1 ATU but Elecraft can’t get the parts from the manufactures to make them. So the hunt was on for a small ATU with internal batteries and BNC’s instead of the dreaded SO-239 connectors. Here is what I came up with.

I ordered the above pictured ATU-10 from Banggood.com. I have also seen them posted on Amazon.com. They can be found on eBay as well. I did not provide a link for ebay because some ebay adds are dated. There is a very good demo posted on YouTube. Here is an overview of the ATU-10 [PDF].

My ATU-10 arrived 11 June 2022. Here are my findings:

The package contained an Allen wrench and a USB cable for charging the battery as well as for updating the firmware. The package DID NOT include the interface cable for the Icom 705 nor did it included any paperwork…….no manual! My battery showed about half charged and firmware version 1.4 was installed. If you forget to charge the battery and go on site with a dead battery, you can supply power to the ATU-10 via the USB charging cable. You may have to give it a few minutes for the batteries to take a little charge, but from that point on just leave keep the ATU-10 connected to the USB cable.

The needed interface cable is nothing more than a stereo audio cable with 1/8″ male plugs on both ends. But, the ATU works without the interface cable, it’s just not controllable from the radio. As for the matching, I can say it works as good as or as bad as my LDG Z-100 Plus. Where ever the LDG provided a match, so did the ATU-10. On 80 meters where the LDG did not do so well, neither did the ATU-10.

I first tried the ATU-10 without the interface cable. I just sent a carrier from the radio and the tuner went into the tune mode. It’s that simple. It takes anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds to find a reasonable match.

To use the ATU-10 with the interface cable, there is the setup procedure. Hook up all of the cables, including the interface cable to the IC-705. Now turn the ATU-10 on. Once booted, turn on the IC-705. Go into the, “Function” screen and tap the, “tuner” icon. You are ready to go. You do not have to change modes to have the ATU-10 go into the tune mode. In any mode on the radio, like SSB, just key the mic and the tuner will tune. Give it a second or two and you are ready to go. Change bands and key the mic, same results. I lost communication between the radio and the ATU-10 when I went to 80 meters. I have no idea why? I just turned the radio off, then back on and everything was reset…ready to go.

When I received my ATU-10, I noticed all of the hardware was not that tight. I retightened each nut and Allen screw.

User group for the ATU-10 and the ATU-100.

Pros:

  • Size…the ATU-10 is small enough to carry in your shirt pocket ( 5″ x 2-3/4″ x 1″ )
  • Antenna connections… BNC. All of my cables used when I set up portable use BNC connectors.
  • Power source ….the ATU-10 has two internal rechargeable batteries so no external power source is needed. Since the ATU-10 uses latching relays, the only power that is needed is for the display. The display has a time out timer and the ATU will turn off after 30 minutes on non use. The ATU will last you for months on end before needing to be recharged.
  • Display… the display shows SWR, power out and the state of charge for the internal batteries. It also shows what firmware is installed. The display will fall asleep after 5 minutes of non use. If power is applied, the display will wake up. The entire ATU will turn off after 30 minutes of non use.
  • Bypass mode (simply turn the ATU-10 off)
  • Construction…..the ATU-10 is built inside of a solid metal enclosure.

Cons:

  • Loss of communication….more than once communication was lost between the radio and the tuner. Easy fix by turning the radio off and then back on but this is very inconvenient.
  • No manual…..not even a little sheet of paper showing the specs. Whatever you need to know can be found on this site: ATU-10 info at GitHub.

Final notes:

For the price, it think this is a great buy. It does exactly what I want it to do and provides a reasonable match to make the radio happy. You can use the ATU-10 with any radio at power level of 10 watts or less. It’s a perfect size for backpackers. I don’t think the interfacing between the radio and the ATU-10 is all that importable. I myself choose not to use the interface cable. Since the tuner will go into a tune mode if the SWR is too high, that’s all that is really needed.

Norm recommends the MFJ-212 Matchmaker for effortless tuning

Many thanks to Norm (VE3WNS & M0CEL) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

[…]At my condo QTH in downtown Toronto I’ve been using a balcony tripod mounted MFJ 1886 along with my Icom 7300. I heard about the MFJ-212 Matchmaker and decided to try it out. It worked brilliantly. What it does is put out a signal in the form of hash and you can see the resonant point moving along the band scope on the radio as you tune the antenna. Once the hash is centered you are on frequency without ever transmitting.

I’m back at my QTH in Manchester where I have a pretty respectable station, you can see both on QRZ. Anyway, your videos are responsible in a large part for getting me interested in POTA so I’ve purchased an ICOM 705 and a Chameleon F Loop 3.0. I decided to purchase another MFJ 212 Matchmaker and again, it works brilliantly. No transmitting required as the antenna can be tuned visually on the 705 band scope. The 212 can be powered externally or, as in my case, I’m using the 9 volt battery option. I figure the battery will last for ages.

[…]I have to say the MFJ Matchmaker has made working with a hi Q loop a pleasure, especially one that tunes as smoothly and finely as the Chameleon F Loop.

73

Thank you for sharing this, Norm and for the kind comments! I had no idea such a product existed. I love the concept, though–this could be especially useful tuning antennas like loops with high Q and thus narrow bandwidth. 

Click here to check out the MFJ-212 Matchmaker at MFJ ($149).

Update: A number of you have pointed out that the MFJ-212 is a noise bridge! I think it’s so cool that, in a sense, this accessory is even more useful when paired with a transceiver with spectrum display. Thanks for the comments!

Richard recommends the Phoenix QRP Pocket Transmatch

Many thanks to Richard (M0RGM) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

Hope this email finds you well, and thanks for all the recent blog updates and videos.

Like many other QRP ops we sometimes need an ATU or matching unit. For a while I’ve been looking for a small compact unit for use with my QCX-mini, MTR-3B and TX-500. I was sorely tempted by the Emtech ZM2, but they are quite expensive over here in England, especially as I’m awaiting delivery of a Venus SW-3B!

After much research I stumbled on the Phoenix Transmatch sold by Kanga Products. Paul, the proprietor, sells quite a range of quality QRP goodies. Having purchased the assembled device (work gets in the way of construction these days), I can say that this is a really good lightweight model that suits my purposes fully. No, it doesn’t have the tuning range of the ZM2, but I rather hope my antennas are not too far out of resonance!

For size comparison, see the attached photo taken whilst playing in the sunshine….

For anyone interested, the web details can be found at https://www.kanga-products.co.uk/ourshop/cat_1750054-QRP-ATUs.html

I have no connection with Kanga other than being a satisfied customer!

Regards,

Richard M0RGM

Thank you for sharing this, Richard. I love the size of Phoenix Tranzmatch–I was not familiar with it. It would be a great additon to pretty much any field kit. I see you also have the N6ARA paddles–I think they’re great!

It also sounds like you, too, have a QRP radio addiction. I hope you realize there’s no cure, so don’t fight it! 🙂

Thanks again for sharing this, Richard. 

Brent’s updated review of the CQHam TB Box

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hi Thomas, hope you’re well.

Just a short message to bring you up to date on the performance of the new equipment.

In a nutshell, it’s brought me back to my old faithful friend, the FT-817. I bought my FT-817 20 years ago and it’s served me flawlessly all these years. It’s not the best at everything but it’s a perfect QRP shack-in-the-box.

The TB Box makes the little Yaesu a pleasure to use. The tuner tunes my 43’ vertical and K6ARK end fed random wire from 80-10 for the vertical and 40-10 for the ef random wire.

The battery tray slips out to reveal 6 Panasonic 18650 cells. The battery life is exceptional even with the 817 set on 5 watts. I’m just now in the process of topping the batteries up.

Attached are a couple pics of my operating situation today….it was such a nice day out on the driveway. I have a telescopic pole attached to the RV and strung the 41’ of wire up. Also, a closeup of the battery tray and one of the cells.

I can whole heartedly recommend this piece of gear to supplement an FT-817/FT-817ND/FT-818ND.

Loving it!

72/73,
Brent VA3YG

Very cool! Thank you for sharing the update, Brent! I’ll admit that I like the “old school” simplicity of this power and trans match system.

Click here to check out the CQHam TB Box on eBay. (partner link)

Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who recently reached out after watching my livestream with Josh at HRCC on the topic of QRP/CW portable. 

Leo shared some photos of a complete radio kit he built around the QCX-mini along with a ZM-4 ATU kit he also recently built. Leo has kindly agreed to share these on QRPer.com.

Leo notes:

Attached is a photo of my ultra light kit.

It consists of a QCX-Mini 20m version (self-built), K6ARK EFHW, Palm Radio Pico Paddle, Eremit 2Ah LiFePo battery, headphones and a few cables.

I usually also carry a small arborist kit and if there is still room also the 6m mast from Sotabeams, depending on what I think will work best.

I chose a hard case and went for the Peli 1060 Micro. It has room for everything I need and it could easily hold a bit of RG316 coax in addition (even more if I chose to shorten the 30m arborist line).

The main benefit for me is that I really don’t have to worry at all about what’s inside – compared to a soft pouch. So I can just shove it into my backpack or glove box and forget about it since this configuration is a lot more rugged and water proof – while being slightly heavier. Continue reading Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

Brent’s initial impressions of the CQHAM TB-BOX

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

The Fedex courier just left my driveway. I ordered the CQHam TB box on Feb 29 and paid the $39 US for Expedited International shipping vs the Free Speedpack shipping from Hong Kong that promised it by June 1.  I really don’t like waiting for a parcel to arrive! Lol

I know there was some interest on your site about this product, so I thought I would write and give you some brief, first impressions.  Sadly,  I don’t have any more time to play with it until next week as I’m about to leave now to visit friends.

It arrived in 10 calendar days, well packed and everything inside survived the Fedex journey from Hong Kong to Southampton ON via Anchorage AK and Memphis TN.

No one would ever mistaken this equipment for gear made by Elecraft or Icom but it appears to work just fine. The variable capacitors are not smooth and the fit and finish is okay at best but I think, if you’re careful with it, and do your adjusting carefully, it should last you some time.

The “faux” leather case is actually quite nice and reminds me of the Yaesu FT-817 case.  As a bonus, a telescopic whip was included.

The batteries came charged and the rig showed 11.3vdc. I didn’t remove the battery tray as it didn’t want to slide out willingly and I didn’t want to force it. I’ll try that later when I have more time….

I connected my 43’ ZeroFive vertical with 30 radials to it and was able to tune from 80m right up to 10 meters with no problem.

I made a nice contact (my first phone contact in about 8 yrs) on 17 meters with a station in Biloxi.

It should be fun and it’ll give me an excuse to work the 817 again.

73 fer nw,
de Brent VA3YG

Thank you for sharing your initial impressions and the inside shots of the matching unit, Brent. We look forward to any updates you might provide as you spend more time with this field kit!

Any experience using the FT-818/817 CQHAM TB-BOX?

Many thanks to Motters (M7TRS) who writes:

For some strange reason I stumbled across something on eBay for the FT-817/818 as I am still looking for my first HF setup.

Anyway, it’s a tuner and battery pack for a 817/818 and when I saw it I wondered if you knew about it.

https://ebay.us/vSiNwc (partner link)

YouTube video demonstration:

[Update] And this video:

Thanks for the tip, Motters. I was not at all familiar with this pack. I do like the simplicity of the setup. 

The price is certainly right at $179 US.

There are so many FT-817/818 owners out there, I’m very curious if anyone has any experience with this particular pack and if you can report on the overall quality. Please comment!

“What battery, antenna, and ATU should I pair with the Discovery TX-500?”

Many thanks to Vitor Morais who asked the following question in the comments section of my YouTube video:

Hi,

Greetings from UK.
I recently learned that POTA [is now in the] UK so I am really looking forward to it.

I also recently put an order for [the Discovery TX-500] so I am really excited as well.

I would like to create a very compact setup pouch for field use to pair with this radio; one that I could take to summits or parks and also travel abroad.

What battery and antenna would recommend?

Would you recommend an ATU?

Or would you compromise to fewer bands or pack a secondary antenna?

I love to know your opinion.
Thanks

Great questions, Vitor! In truth, these sorts of questions are easy to ask but quite complicated to answer due of the insane number of options and possibilities available. It’s impossible to cover them all so I’ll try to give you some suggestions based on what I tend to use in the field. Continue reading “What battery, antenna, and ATU should I pair with the Discovery TX-500?”

John seeks advice pairing a mAT-40 ATU with homebrew QRP transceivers

Many thanks to John (G1AWJ) who writes:

Firstly, I must say that I really do enjoy reading the postings on your website!

I wonder if you or any of you colleagues can help me with the connections for the mAT-40 ATU?

It comes with connecting control cables for Yaesu, ICOM, etc but I want to control it manually, remotely, with home built QRP transmitters. I want to make a small control box similar to that with the CG-3000 auto ATU ( the great advantage of the mAT-40 is that it will tune with less than 1 watt input)

Many thanks in anticipation
73
John G1AWJ

Readers, if you have any advice for John, please comment! Unfortunately, I’ve no experience with the mAT-40. Click here to comment!