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Author Topic: Auto tuner? Manual tuner?  (Read 2364 times)
KG7AIW
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« on: February 22, 2013, 08:02:22 PM »

Greetings,

I recently got my ham license, and now am acquiring equipment.  I just purchased an Icom 706mkIIg transceiver.  I suspect that the Icom AT-180 tuner might be the best, but I understand there are other cheaper auto tuners that would also perform well.  Not sure whether to go with an auto tuner or manual tuner.  Any recommendations would be appreciated.  I will probably operate on HF, VHF and UHF, 100W max.

Thank you, Art - KG7AIW
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K5LXP
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2013, 08:11:18 PM »

What do you plan on using for antennas?  That will determine which tuner would be "best".  Or, use antennas that don't need tuners and save yourself the expense and hassle.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AE5QB
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2013, 08:13:24 PM »

Depending on your antenna, either may work really well.  I have one of each.  I have an LDG autotuner that works pretty well if it is attached to a descent antenna. It is pretty quick to match once it learns the antenna.  It is really nice to just touch a button and have it matched instantly.  However, we have found a few antennas that the autotuner really struggles to match.  We had a G5RV JR in a flattop configuration that it just wouldn't match on.  And then when we we put a rather low end manual tuner on them, they matched 1:1 pretty quickly.  So there are some things going on inside the autotuners that I think make them a little less versatile than a manual tuner.  The manual tuner I have is the MFJ deluxe versa tuner II and I like it quite well.  The first time I attached it, it took a while for me to work through the bands and make a table of starting settings.  But now that I have the table, I can change bands, retune, tweak, and be on the air in no time at all.  So I would say, if you are looking at a permanent and fairly static installation with a pretty good antenna system, the auto units should serve you very well.  And if you are looking at a dynamic install or a portable antenna system, then  the manual tuner is the way I would go.
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KG7AIW
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2013, 08:27:24 PM »

Thank you, K5LXP & AE5QB -

Right now I have been encouraged to build (buy?) an optimized G5RV (ZS6BKW?), which will be pretty stationary at my house.  I don't foresee going portable, but I want to always keep that as an option, should the need arise.

I would just like to get on HF for now, and then will need to get another antenna for 2m and 440.  Haven't thought that far ahead.

About 25 years ago I operated on 80m, 40m, 15m, 20m from the Bolivian jungle (CP5QA).  Had a Kenwood 430, a dipole, a beam antenna at the top of a tree, and an MFJ manual tuner.

Which model LDG tuner do you have?

Art - KG7AIW
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AE5QB
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2013, 10:03:43 PM »

Thank you, K5LXP & AE5QB -

Which model LDG tuner do you have?

Art - KG7AIW

I have the AT 200 Pro and it seems to work pretty well.  Be prepared for some loud and shocking noise as the relays chatter to seek out the best SWR.  If you are not used to the noise, it can be quite discerning the first few times you activate it.  The thing sounds like it is going to blow apart any minute.
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W5LZ
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2013, 03:00:25 PM »

An 'auto' or manual tuner depends on if you mind twiddling knobs a little bit.  The biggest difference between the two types of tuners is cost.  I don't think twiddling a couple of knobs is that much of a problem, it's almost fun.  The other two characteristics that need attention are the impedance changing 'range', and it's power handling ability.  It's a very good idea to select a tuner that has at least twice the power handling ability that you will need.  The impedance handling 'range' depends on the electrical 'sizes' of the components used to build that tuner.  If the coil and capacitors aren't fairly 'large', it just won't have much range (that also holds true about the 'power' handling part, size determines how much voltage components can handle).  Very basically, the larger the size of the tuner the more it can do (terrible way to 'rate' tuners).
A 'G5RW' is a nice 20 meters antenna and it does 'work' on harmonically related bands with a tuner.  It doesn't do a 'good' job on those harmonically related bands, but it will certainly 'work'.  It also means that you have to erect the thing correctly.  The typical 'hardest' part about that is keeping the parallel feed line part away from things and sort of 'straight'.  The G5RW's characteristics start changing when it isn't erected correctly and it get's harder to tune on all bands.  It does work, but it's not a very good 'all-band' antenna really.
Have fun.
 - 'Doc
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AD6KA
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2013, 01:11:38 AM »

Quote
I just purchased an Icom 706mkIIg transceiver.  I suspect that the Icom AT-180 tuner might be the best, but I understand there are other cheaper auto tuners that would also perform well. 


Wow, I just looked at that tuner, $500 at Universal Radio,
rated to only 120 watts, and no meter.

You can get a perfectly good auto tuner (if that is the way you
want to go) from MFJ or LDG , with a meter, rated to
200 watts, and a built in balun for half that price.

And I highly doubt that it is "the best". You are only paying for
the Icom name, and Icom accessories are notoriously expensive.

(ALL factory accessories are expensive, but Icom is the worst).

Have fun building up your new ham shack!
73, Ken  AD6KA
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KG7AIW
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2013, 06:23:49 AM »

Good morning, Doc (W5LZ) and Ken (AD6KA):

I really appreciate being able to benefit from your perspectives and insights.  Even though I've had some experience with an MFJ manual tuner. it's been a long time, and much as changed in what is now available.  I realize I have some gaps in my understanding of my options.  As I recall from Bolivia, there was very little choice, if someone had a setup for sale, you simply bought it and learned to use whatever you now owned.  Here in the U.S. as I scan websites, I find my head spinning with all the choices, which makes me aware of my need to become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of the different types / models.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, it's very helpful - Art (KG7AIW - Reno, NV)
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2013, 08:45:57 AM »

You'll feel at home with a new manual MFJ tuner -- two capacitors and a coil (or set of coils and a switch).
The "T-tuner" design has been very stable.

Besides speed, an advantage of an auto tuner (some of them!) is that you can mount it close to the antenna, and reduce power losses in the coax between the rig and the tuner.   That's only significant if the antenna is far from resonant, or has an impedance far from 50 ohms.

I think the size of your budget may make the choice for you.  I've been happy with a manual MFJ-901B, and now with an automatic LDG Z-11 Pro (lives in my attic, batteries last for a year).   The MFJ has a wider matching range -- but you shouldn't be using a 40m antenna to work 80m CW !

Either one will work fine for most people, most of the time.


.            Charles
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NA0AA
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2013, 04:36:12 PM »

I have gone both ways.  When I had a barefoot station, I used a series of LDG tuners and was very satisfied, once they learn your antennas, the retune is super fast.

When I added the amp, I went to large manual tuners, but I tune them with an MFJ analyzer so that I can avoid as much QRM as possible.

I tried the big LDG auto tuner but found that I did not get used to all the steps, plus it seemed like I kept generating QRM when tuning.

I went back to the manual tuners.
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W9KDX
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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2013, 09:12:30 AM »

One thing I might suggest is to consider whether or not you will ever add higher power.  If so, you might want to consider a tuner that will handle the additional capacity.  It will save a lot later when you figure out that adding a linear also means upgrading more than half the station.

I have a manual tuner and I am constantly switching between 10-20-40-15-12-17 meters.  Although an auto tuner would be quicker, I don't find it a problem to snap to the numbers I know will be close and save the fine tuning for when I actually transmit. 
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Sam
W9KDX
M6GOM
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Posts: 1014




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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2013, 02:49:30 PM »

Please don't buy an ATU if you intend to try and match anything more than 3 or 4:1. Buy an antenna coupler which is at the antenna end and will reduce coax losses due to high SWR.

Remember that using an ATU at the shack, the high SWR is still present on the coax between the tuner and the antenna regardless of what the radio sees.
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2013, 03:03:25 PM »

Quote from: M6GOM

Please don't buy an ATU if you intend to try and match anything more than 3 or 4:1. Buy an antenna coupler which is at the antenna end and will reduce coax losses due to high SWR.




That assumes, of course, that the antenna is being fed through a lossy
enough length of coax to be significant.  There certainly are situations where
the SWR may be much higher but an ATU is still a good choice, such as a
doublet fed with ladder line.
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KG7AIW
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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2013, 12:50:04 PM »

I want express my appreciation to each one that has taken the time to contribute to my knowledge bank.  I will take the time to carefully review each response again.

Once again, thanks so much, Art - KG7AIW (Reno, NV)
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