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Reviews Categories | Antenna Tuners | MFJ-986 Help

Reviews Summary for MFJ-986
MFJ-986 Reviews: 74 Average rating: 3.6/5 MSRP: $330
Description: Covers 1.8-30 MHz
Product is in production.
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W3MIL Rating: 5/5 May 18, 2011 14:54 Send this review to a friend
GREAT TUNER  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This tuner is a great tuner i have used this tuner with a number of antennas and i have to say it is a very good peace of a equipment its a work horse i'v run full leagle power through it with a number of dipoles/antennas and it tunes great every time not one problem NOT ONE for me no regrets , as for those who cant seem to get there SWR to zero well maybe you need to be looking at you antenna or dipole sounds to me like somthing is not 100% there just some humble advice from a HAM .
AC8DE Rating: 3/5 Apr 25, 2011 08:40 Send this review to a friend
Tunes about anything, Good Value  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I really gave this a 3 instead of a 4 for one reason; Power Handling Claims from MFJ.

I bought mine used from a local club member on the cheap. This one still has the pea bulb in the meter. - S/N 22982. I pulled it apart to check it out as he said he had it in storage for “some time”. It was practically new inside with no wear marks on the inductor. The feel of the roller inductor’s adjustment knob is much smoother than the new ones I have tried on the shelf at R & L. I got no jumping of SWR as I tuned it under power, so indeed the roller inductor is in great shape with no perceptible wear on my used unit.

The differential capacitor is simpler to use compared to the traditional separate input/output capacitors. My old tuner used separate capacitors. I found the differential capacitor nice for a daily use basis and made tuning much quicker. Of course, it doesn’t allow you play with minimizing capacitance like you can on a traditional tuner, so just a bit of flexibility is sacrificed. This isn’t that important to most, but worth mentioning. Note I do not have an antenna requiring a balance feed line, so I did not test it in its balanced feed line configuration.

Tuning: It tuned all bands from 10M to 160M easily. I can get all bands down below 1.02:1, as measured with a calibrated Telepost LP-100A. I noted it will tune anything I have, including my narrow banded 160M antenna, which is horribly reactive anywhere away from resonance. It took 83% (133 of 160 turns) of the inductor and a setting of 7 on the capacitor to tune 160 at a reactive part of the antenna. Pretty good. The only nitpick for tuning is that the capacitor has a relatively small knob (1-1/8” dia.) and had good friction to hold position, so making small adjustments takes some getting used to. A larger knob of perhaps 1-1/2” would help by reducing torque and require more travel and still not cover the numbers up on the faceplate. But even with this nitpick, I’ll give it a 5 in the tuning category.

Power Handling: First let me say that I was never under any delusion that this was a 3000 watt tuner, not should anyone be. Physics are physics. A 3KW tuner must be BIG due to the size and spacing in the air capacitors. I have a 1KW PEP amplifier. This tuner handled a full 1KW PEP power CW tune across all but the 160M bands. I found that on 160M on a CW tune, I could make the capacitor arc at about 400 watts PEP. On two-tone, it took 500-600 watts PEP. I measured the variable air cap and found the spacing to be .119”, which is typical for such a tuner and just slightly smaller than the spacing on the equivalent Palstar unit, which is .125”. If you bother to read the “Understanding Power Ratings” on page 1 of the MFJ manual, they do give a disclaimer saying, “Most typical 1500 watt tuners remain able to safely handle 400-600 watts CW, and 600-900 watts PEP SSB.” Earlier in that part of the document, they say that the MFJ-986 is a 1500 watt OUTPUT tuner and 3000 watt input. (You figure that statement out, as it makes no sense to me.) This prompted me to call them and discuss power rating with their technical support who confirmed that “perhaps” 600-700 watts on the lower bands (160M & 80M) is about as much as one could expect. This is a good honest answer. This all makes sense considering the reactive nature of most 160M antennas and many 80M antennas. Since they call it a 3 KW tuner on its front plate, I’ll give it a 2 here as this is misleading at best, although I don’t think any but the newest ham would ever believe this rating on the faceplate.

Meter: The cross-needle meter is of good size and with a white background. I had to calibrate the meter, but again, mine is not a new unit. After careful calibration, I found that the meter is not perfectly linear when below 50% of range. Nor can it be calibrated correctly across all bands, but this is typical of analog meters even in well known high dollar units. It varies by well more than 10% in power readings, especially when I got above 15M. I calibrated it for a trade off so it read about 5% high on 160 and 80, but about 10-12% low on 12M and 10M. The meter is not as good as a high quality stand alone SWR meter, but it is acceptable. The readings are plenty good enough to keep you out of trouble if this is your only SWR meter. I’ll give it a 3 in this category, as its performance here is typical.

Construction: Compared to a Palstar which I consider the benchmark in construction quality today amongst tuners, it is of considerably lighter weight construction. It doesn’t have the same fit and finish as a Palstar. Internal components are not nearly the same quality caliber either. But we have to keep in mind the price point of this tuner for a new one, which is $220 less than a Palstar AT2KD (43% less), which would be the right tuner to compare it to feature for feature. It has a nice compact size front panel, compared to the Palstar, but it is far deeper at nearly 16” due to its rather long capacitor and inductor, which could be a problem if you have a shallow shelf. And since I’m making the Palstar comparison, it is important to note the Palstar will handle 6 meters as well and the MFJ will not. This tuner will handle a balanced feed line output, where the Palstar will not, as the Palstar requires an external balun. The turn counter is connected to inductor/handle assembly via pulleys and an o-ring belt, so it drifts slowly out of calibration. Every now and then you have to turn the inductor all the way down and hit the reset next to the meter every now and then to keep it calibrated. Not a big deal for most, although the o-ring will need replaced every now and then. The capacitor’s plates feel stamped like most as you can feel sharp edges on the plates which didn’t get any work before assembly. Sharp edges reduce the voltage capability of an air capacitor at power. It may help to improve the low band voltage capability if I disassemble the air cap and debur the plates carefully with fine steel wool, but that is a time intensive job. And I might not gain a thing doing this. I’ll give the MFJ a 3 in the construction category.

Value: As always, this is where the MFJ gets a leg up on most other products. Keep in mind that this tuner sells new for about $290 retail. I have to give it a 5 for that, taking everything else into account as it is a high value.

Support: Compared to Palstar, you will find it quite difficult to get through to MFJ at times. But considering the wide variety and sheer number of MFJ components out in the field and hence the number of people calling in, this is not surprising. One has to hit redial on the phone repeatedly for several minutes to get through on most days. Once you are through your wait on hold is usually not too long. They are very helpful and fully support their equipment. I’ll give it a 2 in the support department due to lack of phone lines, as this is a known ongoing frustration with MFJ.

Modifications for older units: These mods apply to my older unit only and were fixed on the currently shipped units. First modification - I replaced the stock pea bulb with a LED replacement. These are available from MFJ for $4, plus shipping and are made to fit the meter. Current versions come with the LED lighted meter standard. Second modification and WARNING – This older version tuner has a small female power jack, requiring a male plug. These can be shorted out VERY easily by accident. I replaced this before putting it into service with the more typical female power jack with male pin as found on most of my other gear. These cost about $1.50 each. This is to prevent accidental shorting out if the plug if it is pulled out with the power supply running. MFJ figured this problem out some time ago, therefore the current version DOES USE the now more common female connector with male pin. So this problem will only apply if you buy a used older version tuner, which is a simple modification.

Overall: I’ll give this tuner a 3 overall, a 4 on performance and a 5 on ability to tune a load. The ridiculous marketing claim of it being a 3 KW tuner hurts the overall rating. If I put the power claim out of the equation, I can give it a 4 overall. It should be called a 1.5 KW tuner to be more accurate. From a daily use standpoint, I think most hams with a 1 KW amp or even a full 1.5 KW will be happy with this tuner, unless you are a big 160 meter fan or have a highly reactive 80M antenna and want to run legal limit.
W5VK Rating: 4/5 Jan 24, 2011 10:32 Send this review to a friend
OK FOR ME  Time owned: more than 12 months
I read the comments...... bought a used one anyway. The ham I bought it from said it worked OK. I did clean inductor roller and contacts on antenna switch, put lubricant on switch points.. just maintenance. It's always worked fine and tunes quickly. I ran around 500 watts thru it. Most of the problems I've had w/ MFJ tuners (I've used many different models) I caused by not following directions (usually dumping RF into circuit before tuning at low pwr).
FORMER_K0PD Rating: 5/5 Dec 14, 2010 11:01 Send this review to a friend
Works Good for me!!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this tuner new from a friend i've bought from before Albert Mercado N3YV who i knew from a previous buy could be trusted. I have a early model Pal Star 1500AT from when they first started up and it work's great but have always wanted to try out the MFJ986 tuner.Don't expect a technical opinion from me but i will give you my experience with equipment and this is no different.
To sum it up as far as advertised mine definitely lives up to MFJ's claims.It tunes fast and works as good as my Pal star . Here are some things i've noticed. First off the counter is not centered as the numbers are usually slightly elevated.Every thing moves very stiff but after all it is new and do seem to be getting easier to move with use. It could stand to have the front leg's taller as the roller inducter is set to close to the base of the tuner so for easier access i've elevated the front of the tuner.Now these things mentioned are not as important as whether the Tuner performs as advertised, and like i stated earlier it definitely does that. So from my experience i would certainly suggest if your seeking a tuner that is easy to use and works great buy it.And yes mine is the newest model...
PA7KK Rating: 1/5 Oct 21, 2010 10:53 Send this review to a friend
Disappointing  Time owned: more than 12 months
With the MFJ-986 I could not tune to zero on 20 meters. I assume HF went to places inside my house where it should not be as my central heating, which has a CPU, crashed every time I was on the air. I had to reset the CPU time and again.

MFJ (More Frustrating Junk) delivers poor quality as my friend also cannot tune to zero with the same model. He also complains about the paint that is falling of the tuner. You cannot simply paint aluminum like steel. They ought to know that.

The inductor coil it seems has a silver coating. Silver not like gold, corrodes. After a while the small roller on the coil does not make contact anymore on some places, as the corrosion layer insulates. But it can be cleaned. I did it with contact spray and an old towel. You can expect strange meter readouts after a while when you don't clean the inductor. I had the old inductor coil.

The soldering is bad, not done properly.

Sometimes the meter fluctuates. At first I thought my antenna caused this, but a SWR meter of Daiwa showed no fluctuations. To me it was clear, the MFJ-986 was fooling me.

I wished they had used regular bolts and nuts to fasten.

The power readout was not correct. I think the model left the plant without calibrating.

Instead I bought a Palstar AT2K and went from hell to heaven. What a relief to experience the quality, design and finish of this product.

K8TAH Rating: 2/5 Oct 7, 2010 10:17 Send this review to a friend
Not much tuning range  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I purchased one of these on eBay and hooked it up to my G5RV antenna. I have loaded this antenna with my MFJ-949E for many years with no problem. When I tried the MFJ-986, I could match fine on 10, 12,15,and 17 meter bands. The roller inductor was at the end limit and could not go any lower in frequency that 18 Mhz without running out of inductance.
The quality of construction was fine, but I guess I need a regular two capacitor tuner on this antenna. Sold it to a chap in VK land who is happy with it.
W6AG Rating: 5/5 Jun 20, 2010 13:36 Send this review to a friend
Great Tuner byr Beware!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This tuner worked flawlessly for me for months; but then I decided to go for a Dentron to feed a new open line antenna. Anyway I sold it on Ebay to some guy named: 'fasteddie.'
That name should have scared me off, but he won the auction, and paid, so I sent him the Perfect tuner. His first day he fed a KW amp into it and forgot to hook on some sort of load, so the selector switch was fried, and maybe other parts as well.
He then had the nerve to claim it was defective when he got it, and Ebay forced me to refund his money and he sent it back. I have a picture of the (removed) switch, and I wish I could upload it here; but I will put it on my website here:
WV6Z Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2010 08:09 Send this review to a friend
FINALLY I have found one that's a gem!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have managed to sweet talk a friend into selling me an 'old style' 986 that is from the estate of Harold - K4OZ.

After seeing many hours of service under right at legal limit operations by fellow reviewer here (KG4ZMC, Dale, who is now K4RXI), I knew that as soon as Harold's would be offered for sale by his dear friend Rod - W4WOZ, I would have quickly jump on it.

The former K4OZ 986 is as it was when he first opened the box and took it out to put it in service many years ago. Not a scratch, not a bump and nothing but pure pristine cleanliness under the covers. The only thing I had to do to this tuner was replace the dead meter lamp with an LED and put it in line.

My results were precisely as expected and that is flawless, smooth operations and quick tuning.

As has been said here and elsewhere countless times, if you can find an older model that has not been abused, buy it, if it's a newer model, well, you pretty much get what you pay for.

Operations on all bands coupled to my 110v mains driven Heathkit SB-200 is a walk in the park. I must also agree though that particularly with regard to operations on 10m, where the tuner is really stretched out to it's limits quite literally, I would very likely not pump 1.5kw into this big black box of magic, but at about 600w+, this tuner is capable of some long term and long winded contest operations.

I take all reviews that are initial opinions of brand new stuff straight out of the box with a grain of salt, but after seeing Dale's tuner and Harold's do their designed task for many years, I know this gem will not let me down.

Finally, a remark on 'the cost of quality'..... I ask myself not less than once a day why a manufacturer would ever skimp on their costs to try to effect their bottom line. Unfortunately, this model is a prime example of 'older is better' to the point where I would have to recommend that if you cannot find an older model in fine condition, that you need to avoid the 'newer' model like the plague.
KB4MB Rating: 4/5 May 1, 2010 05:08 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic Tuner  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
It isn't a Palstar, but for my needs (and for most people), it does a fantastic job. I use an 80m horizontal loop here, and for most of my tuning, I don't even need to touch the capacitor, just the inductor! This means I can tune in less than 2 seconds! I prefer the beefy parts of this big boy, and am glad I decided to buy this tuner over an LGD or something like that.

Balun is pretty good, and construction is pretty good as well. I only use 100 watts into it, so my one complaint is that the SWR meter can't read very low power, so when I tune up with 10 watts, I need an additional SWR meter so I can tune properly - if there was another setting for QRP in addition to the 200/2000 watt scale, it would be perfect.

One thing to note though, there is a gadget on the roller inductor that shunts part of it to ground - though nice in theory, it made tuning on 80 meters very difficult and I would get radical results when I was near it. Just took it out, and no issues since.
KY6M Rating: 5/5 Feb 6, 2010 10:58 Send this review to a friend
Works Flawlessly  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just bought a used MFJ-986. I am using it to fine tune my homebrew multi-band dipole. It tunes fast and is very broadbanded. If you write down your settings for different bands you will be set. It's nice that it only has 2 knobs to tune. The previous owner was pumping 600 watts through it into a G5RV with no problem also.

What more can I say?
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