UPDATE: My review of the mAT-705 ATU below is accurate as of its original posting. Since this review, however, I’ve discovered some design issues that prevent me from continuing to recommend it. Click here for details.
UPDATE 2: Mat-Tuner released the latest updated and upgraded version of the mAT-705 in December 2020. It’s called the mAT-705Plus. Click here to read my initial review of the mAT-705Plus. Note that the following article pertains to the original mAT-705 which is no no longer being produced, but still available for sale (at time of posting) both new and used.
Last week, Vibroplex sent me their new Mat-Tuner mAT-705 external ATU on loan to evaluate with my recently acquired Icom IC-705.
The new mAT-705 antenna tuner is designed specifically for use with the new Icom IC-705 QRP transceiver. Connect the mAT-705 directly to the TUNER jack on the IC-705 with the included cable and control the antenna tuner directly from the front panel of the radio or use RF-sensing to actuate the tuner when changing bands. 1.8-54 MHz, 5-1500 ohms matching range, 16000 user memories recalling previous used settings internal to the tuner when returning to an earlier used frequency.
The tuner is powered by an internal standard 9 volt alkaline battery. Power saving technology inside the tuner allows the use of the unit for months without replacement. No battery power is consumed by the unit when powered off.
Yesterday, I stopped by South Mountains State Game Land (K-6952) to give the mAT-705 some field time. Up to this point, I had not used the tuner other than tuning to the 80 and 40 meter bands from home (mainly to make sure it worked before hitting the field).
To really give the mAT-705 a workout, I deployed my CHA Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna. The Emcomm III is the only field antenna in my arsenal that covers 160 meters – 6 meters–an exceptionally wide frequency range.
What I like about this particular POTA site is the open parking area which allows me to configure the Emcomm III a number of ways.
The Emcomm III, being a wire antenna, is incredibly stealthy. Since you can’t see it in the photo above, I’ve marked up the configuration below (click to enlarge):
I’m guessing the apex of the antenna was easily 45′ high.
I started my activation on the 80 meter band.
After working a few stations on 80 meters, I decided to test the mAT-Tuner over a fairly wide frequency range before calling CQ on the 40 meter band.
Here’s a short video:
POTA Hunters: look for me on the 160 meter band this fall and winter! I’m so impressed how well it matched the Emcomm III on 160.
Indeed, I am very pleased with how quickly and efficiently the mAT-705 found matches on every band I tested.
In terms of form factor, the mAT-705 is quite compact, but a little longer in length than I had anticipated. Honestly, though, there’s nothing here to complain about.
The enclosure/chassis is incredibly strong. I’m willing to bet you could accidentally drive over it with your car and it would survive in tact.
The mAT is powered by an alkaline 9V battery. Vibroplex expects that this battery will last for months under normal use.
Note that there is a specific procedure for replacing the battery in order to protect the LED “illuminators” that are press-fit to the board.:
Remove the case by removing the 4 rear 2mm allen screws.
Turn the tuner upside down and shake it a little to get the PCB to slide out of the case enough to grab.
Carefully grasp the PCB sides and slide the board out slowly.
Update: I’ve followed the procedure above and still had an issue with the illuminators falling out. They really need to be secured better. I was able to re-insert them and close the ATU, but when you open the mAT-705 to change the battery, be in a space where you can capture both of them if they fall out.
Any mAT-705 negatives?
Not really, but I do feel the price is a little steep at $219.95–but then again the mAT-705 seems to do the job and do it well. I have to assume the TBA Icom AH-705 ATU will cost at least as much. I’m okay with paying at the top end of the market if I’m getting a quality product and this certainly seems like one.
I like the fact that the mAT-705 integrates perfectly with the IC-705 via the control cable and that I don’t have to worry about protecting it at all in my backpack. It’ll also take the IC-705 through the entire HF spectrum and even up to 6 meters.
I plan to continue using the mAT-705 for a while and even test it on severely non-resonant antennas just to see how far I can push it for a match.
Stay tuned! (See what I did there–?)
Many thanks to Vibroplex, again, for lending me this mAT-705 for review and evaluation.
Note: the following post originally appeared on our sister site, the SWLing Post.
In July, I purchased a tiny QRP transceiver I’ve always wanted: the LnR Precision MTR-3B. It’s a genius, purpose-built little radio and a lot of fun to operate in the field.
It’s also rather bare-bones, only including a specific feature set built around ultra-portable CW operation.
While the MTR-3B has features like CW memory keying, a wide operating voltage (6-12 VDC), extremely low operating current (20 ma in receive), real-time 24 hour clock, and a full compliment of keying adjustments, it lacks other features like a volume control, SWR meter, speaker, and built-in antenna tuner.
Some of those may seem like big omissions but SOTA and POTA activators who like extremely lightweight/portable gear love the MTR-3B for being so purpose-built.
The MTR-3B (and its predecessors) operate on three bands: 40, 30, and 20 meters. These are, without a doubt, my favorite bands when operating portable since antenna lengths are reasonable.
Since the MTR-3B doesn’t have an internal ATU, you need to pack an external tuner or, better yet, a resonant antenna–ideally, one that can be used on all three bands.
Although many of my portable transceivers have built-in ATUs, I rarely use them because I primarily operate with resonant antennas. Resonant antennas are more efficient–giving you the maximum mileage per watt. In addition, they’re also more simple: connect them to the rig and hop on the air. No tuner or tuning required.
I was very pleased with this decision as I’m guessing LnR Precision wanted to hand off antenna production so they could focus on the very popular Mountain Topper transceiver line.
Vibroplex is owned by my buddy, Scott Robbins (W4PA), who is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also an award-winning contester and DXer. I’ve known Scott for years and knew he’d not only be a great steward of the Par product line, but also push new innovations.
I emailed Scott asking if Vibroplex had a field-portable antenna that would be resonant on 40, 30, and 20 meters. Turns out, there’s a Par antenna designed specifically to pair with the MTR-3 series transceivers: the Par EndFedz EFT-MTR.
The new EndFedz ® EFT-MTR is a 40m/30m/20m tri-band QRP antenna rated up to 25 watts. The “MTR” name was selected as LNR Precision developed this antenna to be the perfect companion to the wildly popular 40/30/20m Mountain Topper QRP transceiver. The EFT-MTR’s total length is 65′ of 22 AWG polystealth wire and weighs less than 4 ounces! It is built with the same high level of workmanship and quality that you have come to expect with all EndFedz ® antennas.
A particular innovation on this antenna: This EndFedz is a little different than previous designs. The user has the option to remove an SMA connector at the end of the 30M resonator to enable just 30 meters, or keep the SMA installed for 40 and 20 meters. Because of the broad bandwidth of the antenna, it is unlikely that it will require tuning in the vast majority of deployments. This is particularly true of 30 meters where the band is very narrow. As our tagline states, “They Just Work!”
Included with the EFT-MTR is the EndFedz Antenna Winder. Conveniently allowing winding up the antenna line to not have a tangled mess at the end. The winder will hold both the antenna and 25 feet of RG-174U coaxial cable (optional accessory).
Scott offered to send me an EFT-MTR to evaluate in the field (disclaimer: at no cost to me) and I accepted without hesitation, of course!
An EFT-MTR field review
I’ve taken the EFT-MTR antenna to three park activations at this point and have formed some opinions about it.
First of all, I couldn’t be more pleased with the size as it fits perfectly in my MTR-3B field kit built around my Red Oxx Booty Boss pack.
I really like the built-in antenna winder: it’s larger than that of the EFT Trail-Friendly, but also much easier to wind up and manage post-activation.
I’ll admit, the length of the EFT-MTR was a bit surprising the first time I deployed it: 65 feet. Keep in mind, though, I had been used to a much shorter 41 foot radiator on the EFT Trail-friendly. Occasionally, I operate in spots where I simply don’t have the room to deploy a long antenna. I also worried that the EFT-MTR resonance might be negatively affected by winding its way through trees and over a branches. The MTR-3B transceiver does not like high SWR values and has no built-in SWR meter to monitor it. Last thing I wanted to do was harm the MTR finals.
Fortunately, winding its way through trees doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on SWR.
Each time I’ve taken the EFT-MTR to the field, I’ve also taken my KX2 which I’ve used to read the antenna’s SWR value. So far, the difference has only been negligible and SWR well within the tolerances of the MTR-3B. Score!
To be resonant on 40, 20 and 30 meters, the EFT-MTR requires a field modification. On the coil about 2/3 the way up the antenna, there’s an SMA connector with a small screw on cap (see above). When the cap is on (thus completing the connection) the antenna is resonant on 40 and 20 meters. You must remove the cap for it to be resonant on 30 meters.
Since I’ve been using the EFT-MTR, I start an activation on 40 meters (which is typically my most productive band), then move to 20 meters (typically, my least productive). If I have the time, or need the extra contacts to confirm a valid activation, I lower the antenna, unscrew the SMA cap, and raise the antenna again.
I thought at first this would be a major pain, but it hasn’t. Now that I’m using an arborist throw line, it’s super easy to lower and raise antennas. But even when I’ve used fishing line, it really hasn’t been an issue.
The only issue I see is I’m afraid I’m going to lose that little SMA cap in the field. To prevent this, I’ve made it a routine to immediately put it in the internal zippered compartment of the Booty Boss pack. I might find a source for those caps, though, just in case I still lose this one.
I’ve been very pleased with the EFT-MTR’s performance. I’m guessing it’s actually higher gain than my beloved EFT Trail-Friendly antenna. On my last activation with the EFT-MTR, I knocked out eight 40 meter contacts in about eight minutes during a period of poor propagation. Note that the MTR-3B was only pushing 3 or 4 watts of power.
I then moved to 20 meters where, frankly, propagation was so crappy I didn’t hang out there long. Instead, I lowered the antenna, removed the SMA cap, and started calling on 30 meters. Within a few minutes, I racked up the rest of my contacts.
I was very pleased with how quickly the Reverse Beacon Network picked up my CQs and was thus auto-spotted on the POTA website.
If you own a Mountain Topper MTR-3 series transceiver, I highly recommend the EFT-MTR antenna. As with my EFT Trail-friendly and Par sloper, the quality is top-shelf. I expect the EFT-MTR will last even longer than the EFT Trail-friendly since the winder is so accommodating and the in-line coil is designed so that it doesn’t snag on branches as easily.
I’m looking forward to much more field fun with the MTR-3B and EFT-MTR combo!
Bencher, Inc. of Antioch Illinois announced the sale today of the Bencher Amateur Radio product lines to Vibroplex, LLC of Knoxville, Tennessee. This sale ends Bencher’s presence in the amateur radio field, thus allowing the principals, Jere Benedict, President, and Bob Locher, (W9KNI) to move towards retirement.
The product lines sold include the Bencher BY series of Iambic Paddles, (the world’s best selling iambic paddle, with over 150,000 sold) as well as the ST series of single lever paddles, the Bencher Hex Paddle, the N2DAN Mercury Paddle, and the Bencher RJ series Hand Keys. Also included in the sale are the HK-1 Universal Hook-up kit and the YA-1 Low Pass Filter.
Vibroplex has agreed to honor the manufacturer’s warranties of all covered products, and to offer parts and support for these products as well.
Vibroplex will continue to offer the Bencher products through existing marketing channels.
Vibroplex may be contacted at http://www.vibroplex.com, or at (865) 309-5073.
Jere Benedict and Bob Locher wish to express their gratitude to the amateur radio community for its interest and support since the sale of the first Bencher amateur radio products in the early 1970’s.
I’ve just received word that Vibroplex is partnering with the European manufacturer SSB-Electronic to offer products like the Zeus ZS-1 SDR and Ecoflex cable to customers in the USA and Canada.
Vibroplex has stated that they are “offering introductory pricing for all SSB-Electronic products from now through the Dayton Hamvention will be posted [on the Vibroplex website] in the near future. The complete SSB-Electronic product line will be available for shipment approximately April 21st.”
Read full details about this in the Vibroplex press release below:
VIBROPLEX LLC TO DISTRIBUTE SSB-ELECTRONIC PRODUCTS IN UNITED STATES AND CANADA
Top-of-the-line Ecoflex™ coaxial cable, the Zeus ZS-1 SDR transceiver and a revamped line of VHF preamps and accessory equipment are now available for delivery.
KNOXVILLE, TN. April 8, 2014 – SSB-Electronic GmbH and Vibroplex LLC are pleased to announce an exclusive agreement for Vibroplex to distribute the SSB-Electronic product line in the United States and Canada.
Already #1 for coaxial cable sales in the European Amateur Radio market, SSB’s EcoFlex™ cable features the lowest loss characteristics of any commercially available non-hardline cable and for price vs. loss characteristics tops many available small hardlines. EcoFlex™ is available in 6 different versions to meet any RF need through 6-8 GHz dependent on cable version. Need maximum signal delivered from the amp to the antenna? This will meet your needs.
SSB is well-known for their range of VHF high performance products including both standard and auto-switchable receive preamps, sequencers and switches. A completely revamped product line has been released for 2014.
The new Zeus ZS-1 SDR transceiver features outstanding specifications and an easy-to-use graphical user interface. This exciting new product will have a feature presentation at the upcoming Dayton Hamvention™.
Vibroplex is the oldest continuously operating business in Amateur Radio, in their 109th year. In addition to manufacturing a line of Morse Code keys for the hobby, they also currently distribute products for German radio companies Spiderbeam GmbH and Folding Antennas on an exclusive basis in the United States and Canada.