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Reviews Categories | Antenna Analyzers | Palstar ZM30 Antenna Analyzer Help

Reviews Summary for Palstar ZM30 Antenna Analyzer
Palstar ZM30 Antenna Analyzer Reviews: 58 Average rating: 4.2/5 MSRP: $329.00
Description: The Zm30 is an automated micro-controlled SWR antenna analyzer with a 8 bit micro-controller with a precision low power DDS signal generator. It also includes a self-calibrating reflectometer and displays SWR at selectable frequencies from 1 Mhz to 30 Mhz. It measures: SWR,impedance,reactance, and inductors and capacitors, transmission lines,stubs, and Q and resonant frequency. There is a serial port for field upgradable software. Battery operated.
Product is not in production.
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KF4EUZ Rating: 0/5 Feb 18, 2011 02:25 Send this review to a friend
Terrible- brick solid but brain dead  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'm a portable instrument designer and my belief is that a good portable instrument should be every bit as good as a lab instrument for its intended and perhaps limited use.

Ham type instruments aren't generally of this quality- this is acceptable if the price and marketing are in line with this intended use.

An instrument marketed as an Antenna Analyzer should provide more information than a simple SWR meter. In the case of the Palstar ZM-30, though it's mechanical design is solid(though dated), it's basic architecture, electronics and software are mediocre at best and make for an inferior instrument.

Indicative of the poor thought that went into this design is the choice of a DDS signal source that trades off very poor signal purity in all forms for frequency resolution- the least important requirement and a power hungry choice for a low power instrument- non sense.

I won't dwell on the design issues too much in this negative review. I've owned a ZM-30 for over a year. I was excited to see it and it's postivie reviews in QST and to finally hold it's substantial form in my hand. Though substantial, any time that I compare the ZM-30 to any reasonable instrument, I'm very dissapointed with it's coarseness and poor accuracy. Its SWR readings usually make sense but any complex impedance values displayed are pure fantasy.

The fundamental problem is that it uses a poorly matched resistive bridge with poor directivity combined with 8 bit data acquistion (built into a cheap microcontoller). This is an amateurishly thought out instrument marketed falsely as a high quality instrument.

A rudimentary analysis of the bridge design, tolerancing, the 8 bit data converter and the subsequent calculations would shows the weaknesses of the approach early in the design process. What is so frustrating is that this could have a been a nice instrument with only slightly more thought and little cost put into the electronic and software design.

This is a poor instrument- the MFJ-259 while not nearly as "high tech", actually provides greater utility in the real world.

If you're an owner in doubt- place a fixed load on the ZM-30 and make small changes in frequency, the coarseness and jumps that you'll see in the final output are alarming. This is not a useable instrument in the real world.
K6LO Rating: 5/5 Dec 15, 2010 12:05 Send this review to a friend
Well executed.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I design electronic equipment for a living, and am impressed with the quality of materials, and build of the ZM-30. The firmware makes the ZM-30 easy and intuitive to use. Great display. It is a really well executed design. Nice job Palstar.
NX8P Rating: 5/5 Dec 12, 2010 09:38 Send this review to a friend
UPDATE!!!!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I wrote a review for the ZM-30 a few weeks ago. During the holiday season when I had some extra time off from work I was able to play with the Palstar ZM-30 more extensively. More specifically, I experimented with connecting the unit to my laptop computer that does not have a DB-9 connector and I also experimented with the data plotting of the ZM-30 in Excel.

Even though the instructions that come with the ZM-30 say that "USB-to-Serial converters are not supported . . ." mine worked just fine. I'm using a Prolific based USB-to-Serial Adapter with drivers installed in Windows XP.

Once I installed the TeraTerm program and set it up for my open com port so it matched my com port for my USB-to-Serial adapter it recognized my adapter as a serial port. You can change your com port for your adapter through Control Panel, System, Hardware, USB, right click on your adapter and chose an open com port. If you have Windows XP just use the lastest version of TeraTerm. I used TeraTerm for Windows NT and all worked just fine.

I did set the line delay for 50ms/line instead of the 40ms it states in the instructions to allow a little more time between the USB-to-Serial adapter. You do this by going into the TeraTerm software, click on setup in the menu bar then click on serial port. I left the msec/char at zero.

Once I confirmed that everything was working I downloaded the newest firmware for the ZM-30. I followed the instructions for updating the software in the manual and re-calibrated my unit after I confirmed the new software version V6g was installed in the unit. You can confirm the software version when you power up the unit.

Everything worked without a glitch!

Since I was able to use my USB-to-Serial adapter to upgrade the software in the unit I then tried the ZMPlot software. At first I didn't have the ZM-30 set up for "send data during scan" (you do this through the setup on the ZM-30), but after I easily corrected my oversight the data flowed over just fine!!! I now have SWR, reactance, etc. plots of my G5RV over several frequency ranges! NICE!

So, now I am changing my rating from a 4 to a 5. This unit does an awesome job! All works great! I thought I would be working on this for hours, but I had everything going in about 30 minutes. Now I have been playing with the unit for hours because I am thrilled with what this tool does!

NX8P Rating: 4/5 Nov 27, 2010 13:34 Send this review to a friend
Very Nice Quality and Function  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I've owned the ZM-30 for about six months. I purchased it directly from Palstar at the 2010 Dayton Hamvention. It knocks the socks off my RF Analyst. The ZM-30 is rock solid and has virtually no drift at all unlike my old RF Analyst. I used my ZM-30 to tune my tuner with a G5RV, among other antennas in the HF range, to avoid causing any QRM to fellow Hams. When I purchased the ZM-30 I also considered the MFJ analysts, but Palstar seems to be a better built product. The only reason I am giving the ZM-30 a 4 instead of a 5 is that it requires an actual DB9 connection to my computer and does not allow for a Serial to USB converter to be used when updating the firmware. What computers still come with a DB9??? The ZM-30 also only goes as high as 30 Mhz. It would be a nice addition if it covered 2 meters and awesome if it covered 70 cm. Unfortunately it doesn't. Other than that I very much like the ZM-30. You can even use it to measure the wavelength of feeders, measures inductance and also capacitance. Nice product. I plan on purchasing a Palstar AT2K next. Don't skimp on quality when buying amateur gear or you will be buying the same equipment again after a few years (e.g. MFJ products). I think I will be using this Palstar for the rest of my life and it will probably be passed down to another ham after that. Good stuff Palstar!!!!
KH6DC Rating: 2/5 Aug 15, 2010 01:52 Send this review to a friend
Returned to HRO  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Well after problems after problems, first "No DDS Signal" error messages wouldn't go away until I downloaded and reinstalled firmware then SWR on my favorite freq shows 7:1. My MFJ 259B, the SWR meter on the rig and on the Palstar AT-AUTO tuner shows 1.5:1. After repeated emails to Palstar Tech Support going unanswered for a month I decided to return it to HRO for exchange/refund. The MFJ 259B will stay as my analyzer until it dies going on 8 years now.
KH6DC Rating: 3/5 Jul 2, 2010 14:41 Send this review to a friend
OK  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
After several head scratching events, I have to say Palstar dropped this one. They usually have excellent products but the ZM30 is not one of them. I tried to read the SWR off my vertical and dipole and found the SWR kept showing >10:1 on the vertical. Using the Palstar AT Auto tuner, it read 1.5:1. The same with my trusty old MFJ 259B. The manual does not mention anything about calibrations if strange readings show up so I calibrated using WWHF. I hit the scan button and after calibration and scan was done, turned it off. When powered back on, SWR now reads 1.5:1. I was going to sell the MFJ to a friend who keeps borrowing it but now I may need to keep it as a backup reference or I may return to ZM30 altogether back to HRO New Hampshire (Excellent customer service BTW).
KG1F Rating: 2/5 Feb 25, 2010 18:50 Send this review to a friend
Clarification on earlier review  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Please allow me to add a little more detail to my earlier review. (Have all these reviews been written by friends & family?)

I returned the ZM30 to HRO today. As always they were very accommodating. A couple of things I failed to mention in my earlier post:
- One of the reasons I kept trying to contact Palstar (unsuccessfully) was to get an explanation on a couple of confusing items in the ZM30 menu. According to the web site and the manual the unit does not support 6M, but the "Band Selection" menu contains a 6M menu choice, which if selected would not take effect. Another confusing menu item was the choice to save scan data to either the PC or to memory. There was no documentation on how the memory function worked, and after 2 emails and my 6th phone calls to Palstar about this the friendly woman who would not let me talk to Paul, the only person there who could answer technical questions, told me that after waiting 12 minutes to talk to him that "Oh - he had to leave, but he said to tell you there is no memory."

I just cannot reconcile my experience to all the other positive reviews on this forum. Either I got them on a bad week, or all the prior reviews were written by friends and family members.

In either case I am moving ahead with purchasing the RigExpert AA-230Pro. It is more expensive, but it looks like a great unit with a nice display for real-tme graphing of output, real memory, a USB interface, and Array Solutions (, one of their two US distributors, seems to offer great service and reasonable pricing.
WA6NUT Rating: 5/5 Feb 23, 2010 18:39 Send this review to a friend
High res display of SWR data on PC screen  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my ZM30 several years ago, and have used it to tune antennas and I've also used the DDS as a VFO for a homebrew SDR transceiver. The ability to display the SWR, and resistive and reactive components of impedance on the PC's screen makes it especially useful. Several software packages are available -- one for Windows, another for use with Excel, and even one for MS-DOS (using GWBASIC)! All provide high-resolution display of the antenna data.

There is a Yahoo! group for users at:

moderated by Hans, PA3HGT. Members of the group can provide tips and assistance for other users of the ZM30 (the group has 101 members).

I would recommend the ZM30 as a useful tool for your ham shack -- definitely worth a 5/5!

73, Rick, WA6NUT
AB1AW Rating: 5/5 Feb 19, 2010 08:20 Send this review to a friend
Thumbs Up!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought the Palstar ZM-30 analyzer a few weeks ago specifically for the purpose of using it as an aide for constructing HF antennas.

I was considering both the MFJ 269 and the ZM-30. Based on reviews in QST (2005) and your reviews on this website, both appeared to be reasonable choices. However, the ZM-30 had some features that put it ahead of the MFJ unit.

Certainly, the ability of the ZM-30 to tune and scan continuously from 1 MHz thru 30 MHz was a big plus. The scan feature alone is very helpful, as all I need to do is select a frequency range, press a button, and in a few seconds I know the resonant frequency along with feed-point impedance and any inductive or capacitive reactance.

The ZM-30 also allows me to capture the scan data and upload to a PC for plotting/graphing or other analysis.

The ZM-30 is a commercial version of the Micro908 Antenna Analyzer that is described on the Americam QRP Club website ( It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Micro908, but it is a well constructed analyzer and a fine performer; a welcome addition to any ham shack.
WB0BBO Rating: 5/5 Jun 11, 2009 07:44 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding Service !!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased my ZM-30 in late Dec 2007 and have used this fine instrument many times and it has become my most valued piece of test equipment. Unfortunately something happened to it one weekend this past January, so I emailed Palstar explaining the problem and the fact that it was a month out of warranty. My reply came from the CEO himself, and this was Paul Hrivnak's reply: "Send in your unit and we will mod and repair/test".

I did not send it in until May 4th due to a knee replacement and recovery time. On June 4th I called to check the status and the employee explained that boards they needed to repair my unit plus another one, as well as build 30+ new units were on back order and had just arrived that day.

Yesterday, June 10th, my ZM-30 was delivered fully repaired and calibrated with the latest Ver.6.0 firmware and even a new owners manual matching the new firmware. This was only 6 days from the day I called, telling me they put my repair ahead of building new units, and they returned it to me without any cost even covering the return shipping, knowing the unit was out of warranty and the problem might have been my fault.

This type of customer service is nearly impossible to find; so Paul, you and your employees at Palstar have earned my business for life.

TNX and 73's, Bill
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