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Reviews Categories | SWR & Wattmeters & Dummy Loads | Bird 43 Help

Reviews Summary for Bird 43
Bird 43 Reviews: 51 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $265.00
Description: RF power meter
Product is in production.
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G0HZU Rating: 3/5 Jan 25, 2013 15:29 Send this review to a friend
OK for hobby/field use  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Contrary to what some reviewers are claiming, the Bird 43 is definitely not any kind of industry benchmark for power measurement.

Measuring RF power accurately isn't easy as lots of things can mess up the accuracy even with expensive lab grade power meters. However, the Bird 43 isn't even a proper power meter because it just detects peak voltage on the FWD coupled output across most of the dial range. So it can only work well with a pure sinewave as it can't measure Vrms. It just measures Vpk.

Would you trust a cheap DVM that can't do true rms voltage on the AC range? No? Then why trust this meter to do the same at RF? It can't measure true Vrms!

So it suffers very poor uncertainty if you have harmonics present.

Also, the detector diode isn't temperature compensated so you can get different power readings on a cold day compared to a hot day.

I would agree with the more critical reviewers that this meter is probably good for +/-10% but don't be surprised if it hits +/-20% accuracy at times.

KK9H Rating: 5/5 Nov 20, 2012 12:11 Send this review to a friend
Reliable, time proven and accurate  Time owned: more than 12 months
There are two devices in my test equipment arsenal that I find myself using over and over thoughout the years. They are my trusty Simpson 260 and the Bird 43. In fact, I store them together, ready for use. I have owned my Bird 43 since the early 1980s and it has been used on many many radio projects over the years. I have several elements covering the frequencies and power levels that I need and I have tested its calibration many times with known standards over the years. It has always been right on the money. When used in the way it was designed, it is truly a reliable, proven and valuable piece of test equipment.
K7NG Rating: 4/5 Aug 18, 2011 15:09 Send this review to a friend
Has its place for testing  Time owned: more than 12 months
I fully agree with the critical comments regarding the Bird 43 accuracy. In fact they are, in my experience, spot on. However, as these meters and the various elements (slugs) can be purchased at ham-radio prices, the Bird has its place. I can make 'good enough' measurements of forward AND reflected power in a mobile or mountaintop repeater installation quickly, with a piece of equipment that is very portable and adequately rugged. As a ham I can't afford a service monitor and accessory kit that is portable enough to use anywhere, and additionally without need of any power. (I have and use one for my job, and though the test set is nominally portable, by the time you add couplers and/or return loss bridges, battery pack, dummy load, etc. 'portability' is still a matter of semantics.) If I think I have a problem with a radio or an antenna, once the Bird has given me a 'yes/no' result, I can use other equipment (or not, as required) to analyze and remedy the fault. For this reason I also have a similar product (Telewave 44A) in my work truck.
G8WRB Rating: 2/5 May 27, 2011 02:22 Send this review to a friend
Rarely as accurate as Bird claim  Time owned: more than 12 months
First note that the uncertainty of these meters is specified as 5% of full scale, so if you use them at half scale, you will get less accuracy, but that is only the start of your problems.

I was once in a fortunate position of working for a standards laboratory, where people measured RF power with very low uncertainty using water calorimeters.

One of the sections checked the calibration of Bird elements. Very rarely were Bird elements within 5% of FSD. In fact, to stop the constant "Do no use" stickers, some military users sent them with a note that +/- 10% of FSD was acceptable. Most, but by no means all elements, passed at +/- 10% of FSD.

After testing countless new elements, I know they are rarely +/- 5% of FSD over the full frequency range. I suspect roughly handling the elements will decrease their accuracy, but even new elements are not very accurate.

I owned a Bird 43 myself and bought a brand new element to cover the 70 cm amateur band from Aspen Electronics, who were the official distributor in the UK. I checked this in the laboratory and it was outside the +/-5% of FSD quoted. So I took it back to Aspen Electronics and told them. I pointed out I was only really interested in use at 432 MHz, so was not bothered about the calibration elsewhere. 5 minutes later the technician came back with the element, which he calibrated only at the frequency I was interested in. Again I took this into the standards lab. This time the element was within 5% of FSD at 432 MHz, which was all I cared about.

Someone else in the standards lab measured the S-parameters of my line with an element inserted. The loss is low and it presents a very good match to a 50 Ohm line.

As such, these meters are fine for tuning up a PA, but don't expect to measure to 5% of FSD. Most will be within 10% of FSD. Use them at half scale and you are probably making a measurement with an uncertainty of 20%.

In the event you really need to measure high power accurately (which is rarely the case for amateur use), then use either a calibrated attenuator or calibrated coupler with a calibrated HP, Agilent, Boonton or Marconi power sensor. But these are expensive and easy to destroy.

(If you use a high-power attenuator, connect it the right way around, otherwise you will blow it up. Most high power attenuators have an input and an output port, whereas this is not so for small attenuators.)

Birds are fine for tuning up amps and give a good 50 Ohm match, but don't believe anyone that tells you these are accurate to +/- 5% of FSD.

I would never try to calibrate any form of power meter (for example in a transceiver), by reference to a Bird.

For amateur use, you might as well use a reasonably good quality unit designed for amateur use. I suspect it will be even less accurate than a Bird, but why do you care? Hams need to be able to measure frequency accurately, but not high levels of RF power.

VK2CU Rating: 4/5 Oct 23, 2009 07:40 Send this review to a friend
Microwave Meter  Time owned: more than 12 months
Yes, they are overpriced for HF and VHF, but for 23cm and 13cm, what else are you going to use?? They work very well in these higher bands. Short of shelling out 5k for an Anritsu Sitemaster, they represent good value if you are interested in the microwave bands.
WX1F Rating: 1/5 Jun 18, 2009 08:30 Send this review to a friend
Overrated  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Compared to other rf metering equipment I've owned, the Bird is the most over-priced and over-rated dinosaur on the market. For the price of just a bird slug, I bought two used rf meters that work with "Bird accuracy" after calibration. Never ceases to amaze me how the price of these huge ugly bench space hogs have held our wallets hostage. And the guilty party's are the hamfest buyers who got one for cheap and the fools that will pay through the nose for them...just to be able to say "they own a Bird". Now...the new overpriced replacement Bird parts are made in China and are crappy as well as still expensive!!
N1JIN Rating: 0/5 Oct 16, 2008 16:55 Send this review to a friend
Bird parts now made in China  Time owned: more than 12 months
Recently I had need to replace the meter in my trusty old Bird 43 which I have owned for 15 years. My dealer told me that Bird has moved production to china.

The meter movement was considerably lighter and poorly finished Meter face silk screening was blurred so that fine print was barely readable the (r) after the THRULINE was simply a black dot. The replacement meter was a $25 meter with a $100 pricetag.

In the future for new equipment I will be purchasing Coaxial Dynamics for slugs and new meters.

This is unfortunate in that a once great company in the effort to save a couple of bucks has sacrificed the quality which made paying the premium price worthwhile - the quality is no longer there so I will be purchasing only Coaxial Dynamics products in the future as they are both made in the USA and are roughly 2/3 the price of the Bird product.

HB9DRX Rating: 5/5 Jul 31, 2008 13:17 Send this review to a friend
Still a Winner!  Time owned: more than 12 months
During my professional life as an RF-Engineer and during the past 30+ years as a HAM I have been using all kinds of Wattmeters. The BIRD 43 was the only one that always did produce repeatable & reliable results! The calibrated bandslugs are unbeatable, very user friendly and build to last a lifetime...My several BIRD's are a vital part of my Shack, hopefully for the next 30+ years..!
-> I can only strongly recommend it!

Nick / HB9DRX
K6AER Rating: 5/5 Jun 22, 2008 20:28 Send this review to a friend
Clasic Wattmeter  Time owned: more than 12 months
I own several Bird watt meters and they have all served me well over the last 35 years. It is a simple meter concept with each slug being calibrated for 50 uA output at full meter reading no mater what the wattage slug and frequency.

Lack of usage will cause the contacts to become tarnished but a gentle cleaning with a pencil eraser will keep the meter operating properly.

The contacts are directly connected to meter movement. A 9 volt battery and an 180,000 ohm resistor set the meter needle to the full meter position.

Calibration is typically 5% full scale. The meter is very rugged and the slugs will last a lifetime if they are not abused.

Most hams that have problems with the meters just need to do some preventive maintenance to the contacts for their meter to last a lifetime.
W4HH Rating: 2/5 Jun 22, 2008 14:29 Send this review to a friend
Not happy with my Bird 43  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased my Bird 43 along with three slugs in the mid-1990's. I used it only occasionally and that may be the problem -- I can't make my bird 43 work reliably.

The Bird 43 uses slugs that are inserted into the front of the meter; different slugs for different frequency and power ranges. The slug has a small contact on it that must make contact with a tiny spring-loaded "finger" inside the meter case. The meter comes with a dummy slug that is supposed to be inserted when the meter is not in use.

I use mine so infrequently that something is happening to the finger contact with the slug. Most of the time, my Bird 43 does not work. To make it work, I have to open it, fiddle around with the tension on the contact, put it back together, hope it works, if not, open it, fiddle around, close it up, try again.

I finally put my Bird 43 on the shelf and purchased a Daiwa cross-needle meter -- a real waste of a fine piece of equipment but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
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