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Author Topic: Test Equipment Old Vs. New  (Read 14116 times)
N9MXY
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Posts: 237




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« on: December 23, 2010, 05:10:37 PM »

I'm thinking about taking the plunge and setting up a simple test bench again, Freq counter, Sig gen and Scope.  Nothing fancy just enough to do a bench check on some vintage HF equip.  Looking at Ebay and test equipment retailers. I can get a 20yr old 60-100Mhz scope for the same price as a new Chinese special with similiar specs. I've had mixed results with the stuff from China but knowing how tech has moved on  and what cost $2000 to build 20yrs ago can be done now with the same features for $500.  Just looking for opinions, insight or experiences y'all have had with either choice.

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W8AAZ
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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2010, 05:46:42 PM »

Seems to me that the trend is towards using your PC in as much test setups as possible.  Sig gens from sound cards. Audio analysers from sound cards.  Interface cards for PC scope type displays, etc. Some bargains there.  Lot of current stuff is computer based, with computers inside.  So the idea is you have the computer, add the interfaces and the software.  I for one, have not gone that route, having lots of test gear from the 70s to about the 21st century era.  Some digital but still old school concept stuff I guess, without alot of computer fancies.  Hamfests and online auction sites for alot of it.  Actually hamfests were a virtual playground of great surplus back when they were dumping alot of government stuff in the 90s and on.  Now that has dried up quite alot. Still some bargains to be had. Took me a long time to accumulate it all.   My latest piece is a later Rubidium standard portable unit.  Works fine and cost me 85$ with transit case and manual on ebay.  Just luck on that one.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2010, 05:48:34 PM by Tom Sherwood » Logged
N9MXY
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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2010, 06:11:40 PM »

Yea, I looked at the Computer interface & S/W route last year. I'm afraid I'd spend more time dinking with it to get it functional and figuring it out than I would use it to test equipment.  I can get a new Chinese 10 Hz to 1 gig freq counter for $100 or a 20yr old HP. Same with scopes. A new 20mhz Chinese for $100 or a 25+ yr old scope for about the same.  The all in one computer test equipment packages run just a little more than that but they are not plug and play for sure!
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N8CMQ
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2011, 07:59:08 PM »

Yea, I looked at the Computer interface & S/W route last year. I'm afraid I'd spend more time dinking with it to get it functional and figuring it out than I would use it to test equipment.  I can get a new Chinese 10 Hz to 1 gig freq counter for $100 or a 20yr old HP. Same with scopes. A new 20mhz Chinese for $100 or a 25+ yr old scope for about the same.  The all in one computer test equipment packages run just a little more than that but they are not plug and play for sure!

I have tried some of the PC based scopes, but I was not impressed.
The audio board generators and analysers are ok, but limited on frequency.
It all depends on the age and capability  of the old equipment, but I trust it for the most part.
And the older equipment becoming available has a lot to offer you on your bench.
It beats my tube type, 20 mhz scope, VTVM, signal tracer and signal generator, I started out with a few years (decades??) ago...
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2011, 02:32:35 PM »

YMMV but I will never buy chinese test equipment. You think it's hard getting parts for a 20 yr old HP, try a 6 month old chinese 'scope. For me, Tektronix makes 'scopes, Bird for wattmeters, and HP makes everything else. I don't know what you are trying to set up a bench for but for 2-way stuff look for a used HP 8921A Service Monitor. It's a shop in a box for a ham. Add a Tek 100 mHz 'scope and a good DMM (I have HP and Fluke both) and you are set up. Total outlay $1000-1500. The service monitor (8921A has a high stab osc built-in) gives you a spectrum analyzer, tracking generator, freq counter to 1G, signal and audio gen, etc etc etc... I've had an HP 8920A service monitor for over 15 years and am still finding out things to do with it, amazing. And it's on 8-10 hrs/day 5 days a week, never hiccuped.

Clif
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N9MXY
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2011, 04:53:22 PM »

Thanks Cliff! I just happend by tonite and caught your post.  So far I've done OK. Got a 20Mhz. Korean LG scope that was last calibrated in 2003 but is fully functional for $99 and a early 80's vintage HP 5316B that is rock solid and dead on for another $99. Next is a sig gen but I will take your all in 1 under advisement and see what I can come up with....
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2011, 11:21:03 PM »

YMMV but I will never buy chinese test equipment. You think it's hard getting parts for a 20 yr old HP, try a 6 month old chinese 'scope. For me, Tektronix makes 'scopes, Bird for wattmeters, and HP makes everything else. I don't know what you are trying to set up a bench for but for 2-way stuff look for a used HP 8921A Service Monitor. It's a shop in a box for a ham. Add a Tek 100 mHz 'scope and a good DMM (I have HP and Fluke both) and you are set up. Total outlay $1000-1500. The service monitor (8921A has a high stab osc built-in) gives you a spectrum analyzer, tracking generator, freq counter to 1G, signal and audio gen, etc etc etc... I've had an HP 8920A service monitor for over 15 years and am still finding out things to do with it, amazing. And it's on 8-10 hrs/day 5 days a week, never hiccuped.

Clif

Amen. Quality test gear lasts.

Pete
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2011, 04:21:45 PM »

How did you calibrate the freq counter?

I use a HP Z3801 Sat Receiver that has a 10 mHZ output to calibrate my service monitor and then use it as a reference for the sig gen and 2 freq counters. The 8920 has the Hi Stab option (standard in the 8921) and in 6 months it will change about .002 Hz at 10 mHZ (2 Hz @ 1 Gig). That's stable enough for me. Not NIST traceable but if I wanted to do the math it could be. Close enough for ham work anyway....

On the sig gen, I have an HP 8656B that I like and they show up all the time with a warranty for $4-500.

Clif

PS: Be careful the test equipment bug is bad. I would rather buy newer/better test equipment than radios...
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KB9JJA
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2011, 12:46:43 PM »

You can not beat a used HP 8640B signal generator. It covers up to 512 Mhz and is a tank. I use it all the time. The other signal generator I use is a little dds card called the DDS-60 I have one that I built and use the parallel port on my laptop to control it. It only goes to 60 Mhz, but is a great 2nd RF source in the shack.

The four most used pieces of gear on the bench are.

Circuit Specialist Soldering station
A Good Bench DVM
Scope
Signal Generator

The rest is all cream after you have them.

I am looking at getting a new DSO scope. Have been looking real hard at the Rigol 50 Mhz. At $400.00 it is a bargain.

73 de KB9JJA/Dale
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KB9JJA
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2011, 12:53:52 PM »

You can not beat a used HP 8640B signal generator. It covers up to 512 Mhz and is a tank. I use it all the time. The other signal generator I use is a little dds card called the DDS-60 I have one that I built and use the parallel port on my laptop to control it. It only goes to 60 Mhz, but is a great 2nd RF source in the shack.

The four most used pieces of gear on the bench are.

Circuit Specialist Soldering station
A Good Bench DVM
Scope
Signal Generator

The rest is all cream after you have them.

I am looking at getting a new DSO scope. Have been looking real hard at the Rigol 50 Mhz. At $400.00 it is a bargain.

73 de KB9JJA/Dale
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2011, 04:15:01 PM »

Several years ago I bought one of the Tek lunchbox 100 MHz digital scopes. Nice looking little scope and worked great for digital use. I never could get the hang of using it on RF and sold it and got another analog. It just wouldn't show what I wanted to see. Something about sampling doesn't mix well with a changing RF signal.

And it wasn't the 'scope, I bought it new and tried another thinking something was wrong with it.

Clif
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AD4U
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2011, 07:36:52 AM »

I have a rather extensive vintage "bench".  My stuff consists of :

HP 182 50 MHz scope
HP 275 MHz scope (don't remember the model - 1725 I think)
Motorola 1200 service monitor
HP 412 VTVM
HP 500 MHz counter with oven oscillator (don't remember the model - somethinglike 5328)
HP 141 spectum analyzer with tracking generator
FLUKE 87 digital vom
Bird 1KW dummy load and wattmeter

I bought every piece at hamfests from people who I know for pennies on the dollar.  They stand behind what they sell.  Everything but the FLUKE is 30-40 years old.  It all works well and the capabiliy of this boat anchor bench far exceeds my capability and knowledge.  When I repair something it is usually due to my persistence, not my knowledge.

Dick  AD4U
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 06:48:42 AM by AD4U » Logged
G3RZP
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2011, 03:25:23 PM »

I too have a  'vintage' test bench. HP 141 plus tracking generator to 110MHz plus 1200MHz SA plug in. 1 HPVector Voltmeter to 1GHz. 3 sig gens to 470MHz, 6 sig gens to 30MHz, 2 VTVMs with RF probes, 2 RF bridges ( 1 GI, 1 Wayne-Kerr), 1 Bird 43  with numerous slugs, 2 'scopes, one 20MHz, one 100MHz real time, 1 pulse gen, 1 function gen, 2 AF gen, 1 AF power meter, 2 adjustable lab PSU. 1 distortion factor meter, 1 frequency counter to 1GHz, 2 DVM, 2 analogue VOM, 3 dummy loads of various ratings and frequencies, various combiners and amplifiers, noise generator,  directional couplers, 40kV probe for DVM for work on PAs, and so on. I've spent more on test gear over the years than on receivers and transmitters....must be over the past 10 years all of of $1200 in total. But I am mean.....although the XYL approves of money spent on test gear. However, she is a ham and a professional electronics engineer, and she wants a 5 inch gauge steam railway round the garden.
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2011, 09:55:12 AM »

For those looking for a signal generator look up ad # 891220 on QTH.com. It is for an HP 8656B for $325. That is a steal for a synthesized generator with calibrated output. I have one and love it, just can't justify 2.
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W0BTU
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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2011, 11:34:04 PM »

I'd sure like to have a VNA (Vector Network Analyzer) on my test bench. But I don't have $40,000 laying around to buy one. :-)
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