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Reviews Categories | Antenna Tuners | JOHNSON MATCHBOX "LITE" 300 WATT Help

Reviews Summary for JOHNSON MATCHBOX "LITE" 300 WATT
JOHNSON MATCHBOX  Reviews: 29 Average rating: 4.6/5 MSRP: $(missing—add MSRP)
Description: 275 watt Plate Input Power rated, 80-10 Meter tuner
Product is not in production.
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You can write your own review of the JOHNSON MATCHBOX "LITE" 300 WATT.

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W3DBB Rating: 4/5 Jan 28, 2007 20:05 Send this review to a friend
I like 'em  Time owned: more than 12 months
I must; I own three of them. One is 'collector quality' and I've owned it for 25 years. I use it in conjunction with a Heathkit DX-35 transmitter and a Collins R-388 receiver. Superb. Antenna is a 130' doublet up 50'. I feed it in the center with the 'crappy brown stuff', i.e. 450 Ohm window line (14 ga. stranded conductor 'heavy duty' version). The 12 Watt Heathkit transmitter gets out like a 100 Watt rig with this tuner. The built in antenna changeover relay is the bees knees.

The other two Matchboxes were freebees. They both had the stupid 'line flattener' modification done. I undone it! In one, the antenna changeover relay was missing (boo-hoo) and in the other it had been bypassed. That mudification was also removed.

What do I like about the Johnson Matchbox? NO BALUN AND NO ROLLER INDUCTOR. Also, healthy-sized components for a '275 Watt' tuner.

One of the reviewers remarked about the lack of matching capability compared to some of the newer tuners. He is correct and the ARRL lab corroborated his statement when they compared recent tuners to the venerable Matchbox. A tuner like the Matchbox forces the station builder to pay attention to length of the balanced feedline.

I have a Palstar AT1500C, which I feel is an excellent, modern-day antenna tuner. But in many ways I prefer the old E.F. Johnson tuners. The AT1500C has a 4:1 balun on the output. For my purposes, heating of the balun and the resulting power losses are always a concern. Although the small Matchbox is rated for *only* 275 Watts, they mean 275 Watts of plate-modulated, full carrier, double sideband AM. The small Matchbox will handle a kiloWatt of slopbucket!

If you find one for less than $100 grab it, you'll like it!


W1BKZ Rating: 5/5 Jan 28, 2007 17:34 Send this review to a friend
Only the best there is.....  Time owned: more than 12 months
OK, so I'm prejudiced. E.F.Johnson stuff, in general, is very well designed and implemented. No cheap parts here. Sure, there are better tuners out there, but the prices are upwards of $600 or more. I payed $75 for my Matchbox (used), and spent the better part of an hour cleaning it up!! What a pleasure to match my Zepp on all bands except 160. No strain, no pain, just fine results!! And, it goes well with my Viking II.
KW4N Rating: 2/5 Oct 28, 2006 06:48 Send this review to a friend
Limited Range  Time owned: more than 12 months
This tuner will NOT tune balanced line on all bands on a multiband antenna because it lacks the range. Doublet feedpoint impedance varies from very low to very high; this tuner can't handle it. Many operators get around this by varying the length of their feed line for each band by cutting in the appropriate length with knife switches. Typically, the various lengths are mounted and switched inside the shack. Now, do you really want various lengths of open wire line stretched around your shack? Bet your wife doesn't!
The only truly balanced tuner that I'm aware of that can handle the wide impedance range is the Palstar 1500BL for about $700. A good tuner is a lifelong investement, so buy the best. If you can't afford it now, wait until you can.
73's Dave
N2OLP Rating: 5/5 Jun 18, 2006 18:34 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Tuner  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have always loved these tuners and have two of the small ones. They are great. I don't miss using a balun. My only complaint is that there are so many screws you have to remove to take the thing apart! Of course, the only time I have had to do this is when I looked to see if there was any damage done by a previous owner. And, not once did I see any damaged internal components. I can't understand why no one is building a link coupled tuner anymore.
AC0DV Rating: 5/5 Feb 27, 2006 20:39 Send this review to a friend
GREAT Tuner.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just replaced an MFJ-949E with the Nye-Viking version of the matchbox. (Model 250-25)

I had a problem tuning the top of the 80M band with my 280' horizontal loop... I think the impedance is too low for those frequencies.

I tried changing the length of the ladder line for a day... I started at about 70' and kept cutting 1-2' lengths off until it got to about 43'... but still couldn't match the 80M band.

So I put in two 680pF (6kV) caps across the output variable capacitor.(If interested go READ the PDF file "New Life for the Johnson Matchbox".)

I did the "mod" in a completely reversible manner. Of course I'm attaching the caps at the rear of the unit... so it takes a few seconds to switch to 80M from any other band. (Hooking up and unhooking the caps.) Perhaps I need to get a relay and a switch... but I needed to make sure the caps worked first. (I wouldn't mind having everything inside the grounded case.)

I used 680pF 6kV caps since I could buy them locally for $4.00 each... 500pF 15kV caps were available for $20.00 each... but I figured I'd try the cheaper caps first. They work well... so I see no reason to spend the additional money.

Now it tunes everything with no problems. (Haven't tried 160M since the antenna won't work well on that band anyway... at least not without massive losses.)

This tuner feels a lot more "solid" on the tune than the MFJ did... and it's MUCH easier to find a repeatable setting than the MFJ was.

It's nice to be able to get rid of the balun.

As a BONUS this unit says it will handle 500 watts.. and I've read it will do 1000 PEP with no problem. (The 500 watt label on the back of the unit is generally for AM carrier.)

All in all... I would highly recommend a matchbox to anyone using balanced line. (But keep in mind you may need to add some caps for 80M and definately if you plan on using 160M.)

Keith -- AC0DV
W9ECJ Rating: 5/5 Jan 17, 2006 18:48 Send this review to a friend
Great Original  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought it 60 years ago. Old Reliable. Mine came with the Directional Coupler, the cylinder that enables the SWR feature. The Directonal Coupler is a second and separate piece from the tuner. The tuner also has the built-in relay to work with old tube gear--switches between the receiver and the transmitter, so when you transmit, the receiver B+ is automatically disabled and the receiver antenna terminal is automatically grounded.
To use with solid state transceiver. I energize the relay with 117 volts so that the tranceiver path for transmitting and receiving is the same. The caviat in the manual cautions is to keep the coax between the coupler and the transmitter short, about 3 inches. I find that it works fine even with a 3 foot coax at that spot. My antenna is a short dipole for 40 meters with loading coils, so antenna is 38 ft. long. My antenna is twin 450 leadin from the antenna all the way to the tuner. No balun, so SWR is about 3:1. I can switch between antenna tuners and rigs. Though I get a perfect 1.0 SWR with my MFJ, there appears to be no difference in reported signal strength between the MFJ and the Johnson Matchbox. The old tube stuff is not sensitive to an imperfect SWR. You can see the setup at my web site
KC8HXO Rating: 5/5 Oct 15, 2005 15:33 Send this review to a friend
Superb  Time owned: more than 12 months
Excellent matching capabilities, and WELL constructed. Put this along side MOST tuners made today, and it will make you laugh at what the new fellows call a "300 Watt" tuner! Of course this was made back when the power was rated at INPUT watts, so it was probably rated for around 200W OUT. But of course that was AM carrier, and that would put the PEP power OUTPUT rating at around 800 Watts. Mine has been handling legal limit with no qualms at all, matching my W7FG Doublet (BUY ONE!!!) on all bands 10-80M. Works like a champ.
N4OGW Rating: 5/5 Sep 4, 2003 10:44 Send this review to a friend
favorite tuner  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've used one of these for a while (~15 years), and really like it for matching open-wire antennas. At several QTH's I've used this tuner with a ~100' dipole on all bands 80-10m. The tuner I have has the relay circuit ripped out, no need to keep it with a transceiver.

It is really not a "low-power" tuner either...I've used mine with
1.5KW on some bands!
N8UOO Rating: 5/5 Oct 14, 2002 08:48 Send this review to a friend
Best Available  Time owned: more than 12 months
I run a Zepp to handbook length with open wire feeders on 80 through 10 and the matchbox has never failed me. I tried a "modern" matching device and it corrected the SWR but its iron core ran hot on some bands. I deduced that the heat was robbed from my output power and my reports were not up to par so back to the matchbox. I have not tried the box on bands for which it was not designed but would change my antenna and feedline dimentions if I wanted it to work well on alternate bands. Is the Nye Viking the same design? Does anyone know?
W2XS Rating: 5/5 Aug 1, 2002 11:17 Send this review to a friend
Eliminated TVI  Time owned: more than 12 months
I used to use a Drake MN75 with the 4:1 balun on the output. I played with the feedline length to get it to match a 132-foot ladder-line fed CF antenna on all bands. But I had some TVI on some bands when the kids were watching TV in the next room. This TVI disappeared with the Johnson Matchbox in line, perhaps due to the better balance. I also think that the matching range of the Johnson is a little better than the Drake, but there are probably wider-range antenna tuners out there besides these two. As they say - your mileage may vary.

I also bypassed the T/R relay since today's transceivers take care of that function nicely.


John W2XS
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