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Reviews For: Rigexpert AA-600 antenna analyzer

Category: Antenna Analyzers

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Review Summary For : Rigexpert AA-600 antenna analyzer
Reviews: 36MSRP: 600
Portable handheld analyzer will cover HF through 600Mhz, will integrate with computer and also do time-domain testing.
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
G8WRB Rating: 2016-04-17
Out of spec N connector can damage other N connectors. Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I purchased this for my amateur radio club, as members wanted it - personally it would not have been my choice.

My first impression was the battery compartment seemed hard to open. I was concerned I was going to break the unit as I tried to work out how to get the batteries in. I don't think it is flimsy as others have said, but it is certainly not easy to open. Anyone without strong hands might struggle.

After a brief look at the manual and a play with the menus, I decided to check the female N connector fitted onto this, BEFORE I tried to measure anything. I did this by measuring the depth of the female centre conductor using a "connector guage", which is a tool designed for this. A photo of the AA-600 with the connector guage attached can be seen here

For a close up view of the guage, see the picture here. Each minor division is 0.0001".

The connector guage shows that the centre conductor of this particular AA-600 is 0.00325" further FORWARD than permitted by the specification of the N connector. This might not sound a lot, but it means that the analyzer can damage a decent quality N plug that is screwed into the analyzer.

The manual says:

"Although the RigExpert AA-600. AA-1000 and AA-1400 are designed for high performance without any calibration, an open-short-load may be applied for better precision. The standards used for the calibration should be of high quality. This requirement is especially important for high frequencies (100 MHz and upper)".

I would not even consider putting my good quality open, short and load calibration standards on this piece of junk, as the AA-600 would ruin my standards!

Despite concluding that quality control of the RigExpert AA-600 is very poor, I did a quick comparison between the AA-600 and an HP 8753ES vector network analyzer. I just measured the SWR of a UHF antenna. I had to take steps to ensure I did not damage anything else. The AA-600 and 8753ES agreed pretty well on SWR. That is the limit of testing I have performed, and no not intend wasting any more time on it.

I do not expect results as good as an expensive laboratory instrument on a portable analyzer aimed at the amateur radio market. But it does not seem unreasonable that an analyzer is fitted with a connector that actually meets the specification of an N connector, rather than a connector that can damage male N plugs.

There are a lot of other antenna analyzers around. Personally I'd chose the VNWA, which is a 1.3 GHz two port vector network analyzer with tons more functionality for a little less money. The VNWA even works as a basic spectrum analyzer. The VNWA needs a PC to control it, but that could be a tablet. It would be fairly easy to put a VNWA in a box with a tablet computer and have a much more versatile tool,

If you must have a fully self-contained unit, then the SARK-110 antenna analyzer looks better, although it has an upper frequency limit of 230 MHz, so is no use for the 70 cm amateur band.

There are plenty of choices of analyzers aimed at the amateur market, but personally I would avoid a RigExpert.

Dr. David Kirkby G8WRB
KA3YAN Rating: 2015-08-24
Updated review after two years of service Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This is an update to my initial review of the AA-600 analyzer by RigExpert. Now that I've had a bit more time to evaluate the analyzer, I think I have a better feel for its strengths and weaknesses.

- Durability: One of my first impressions was that the device was not well protected in its rigid plastic case and flimsy battery compartment door. I still believe that a thin rubberized cover would be practical in absorbing shock and vibration, but I haven't experienced any failures due to the quality of the enclosure. I also haven't dropped it. My recommendation is to NOT drop it and be gentle with the battery compartment cover.

- Software: This is probably the best advice I can give. Only use the RigExpert AntScope software to capture the data. Any analysis should be done using AC6LA's fantastic Zplots application for Excel. All of your wishes and dreams will be fulfilled using this application. Forget asking the RigExpert folks for help because you'll never get it. Trust me, export your data using the Touchstone export function in AntScope and import it into Zplots.

- Data points: It's true that you can only capture a very finite number of data points when the AA-600 is stand-alone; however, when connected to your PC using AntScope, you can collect many more data points. I would highly recommend that if you plan on using the AA-600 as a lab instrument, you should connect it to your PC. If you plan on using it as a field instrument, don't expect lab instrument results.

- Customer service from RigExpert: This isn't an American company and you won't be getting it your way. Sorry, but that's how it is. They don't care what you think. They don't want your recommendations. They will hurt your feelings. Suck it up and move on.
KU3X Rating: 2015-07-15
A great hand held antenna analyzer Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I just purchase the AA-600 and love it. By reading previous reviews you can tell how great the unit is, hence the reason I purchased it. The software that goes along with the unit is fabulous.
I also own a SARK 110. I wanted a pocket size analyzer that gives me all of the needed information and the SARK 110 fit the bill.
Here is the issue I have with the AA-600. It can only sample 80 points as a stand alone unit. That’s great if you are just checking a single band, like checking a 40 meter beam. If you run the AA-600 via computer, you can increase the sampling rates. BUT.....I want a stand alone unit so this is not an option for me. You can change the sampling rate of the SARK 110 up to 10,000 points as a stand alone unit. It will take you over 15 minutes to make one sweep, but it will do it. The need for more than 80 sampling points comes into play when sweeping an off center fed antenna. To sweep from 3.500 MHz to 54 MHz, the unit will read in about 700 khz steps. So the first reading will be at 3.500 MHz and the next reading will be at 3.700 MHz. The next reading will be out of band.
I am pretty sure this can be addressed in the firmware. Since Rig Expert offers firmware updates, I wrote them an email suggesting they do the following:
Standard firmware update is version 412
Also offer version 412-A which would offer 200 sampling points
Another version 412-B would offer 500 sampling points.
This would let the end user pick which one would fit his needs. Numerous sampling rates would make this unit much more versatile. I sure hope they don’t round file my suggestion.

Two major features swayed me to purchase this unit. One was the software that goes along with the unit, it’s great ! The second was being able to cancel out the transmission line using OSL calibration. If you have not worked with OSL calibration, it lets you take your reading at the feed point of the antenna, which may be 100 feet in the air and you can do this while standing on the ground.
Even though I have an issue with the 80 point sampling rate, I still give this unit a 5 because I feel it is well worth it.
Barry, KU3X
G3GXG Rating: 2015-01-20
Expensive VSWR meter Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
When I first purchased the AA-600 I thought it was the best new addition to my test equipment. I liked the multiple VSWR displays and the ability to plot VSWR vs freq. I also liked the idea of finding faults on cables etc.

This was my first antenna analyser purchase so I had no reference to others. MFJ came up as a good option but I wanted plots and multiple values to compare against so I can understand what is going on. So I purchased a AA-600.

After a while, when I was starting to see issues in my antenna systems, I started to see feature cracks appear at the seams. I was able to read VSWR and basic plots etc. but even though the unit measures multiple values: Z R X C L etc. I could not plot these. Not even on the PC! So the analyser was telling me something, but was not in a format where I could really see at a glance what was going on.

I called up the customer care service team. I explained my dilemma and wondered when they would come up with a software/firmware upgrade that would suffice my requirements. But all I got was a blunt refusal to make the chance based on the fact that no one else does this and no one else is complaining of this etc., basically I was fobbed off.

This was a heavy blow to me as I had paid £600+ for something that was barely a executive VSWR unit. Thus way over priced.

I discussed my issue amongst a couple of hams and they suggested the MRs miniVNA Tiny. Ok so it did not have batteries, but frankly it had a whole load more for the money and it was only £350. Wow!! And it had two ports so I can see what the effect my BALUNs and filters are having in circuit.
Note: I have written separate comments on this

So now I use the AA-600 as a simple VSWR meter for setting up antennas in the antenna farm and use my MRs miniVNA Tiny for everything else.

I believe RigExpert need to make some changes to its firmware before the AA-600 is any serious contender. If it did and also changed the PC software as well. This could be a powerful piece of kit to measure reflections in-line transmissions.

I tried sharing my concerns on the RigExpert site but every time I did, my comments were removed. This is clearly a raw subject for them.

I suggest the following changes:
1. Allow the user to select what he wants to plot
2. Allow the user the compare a minimum of two plots on the AA-600 and multiple plots on a PC - Z vs SWR and/or dB loss is an absolute minimum
3. Add dB loss and phase (min) to what they already have
4. Two levels of accuracy modes - the number of sample points are low. This is great for quick checks not for in depth
5. The PC software should have the ability to save different formats to easily work with third party software

I have written my experiences with the AA-600. I am sure there are Hams out there that are perfectly happy with this product. But frankly, for what you get it is way over priced and it is a shame that RigExpert do not see that with relatively small changes, they could end up with a really good product.

WB6FLY Rating: 2014-12-18
A must-have instrument Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have had my AA-600 for a week, and I am impressed by its features and performance. HRO Burbank had it on sale for about $585, with free shipping. As others have noted, the operation of the AA-600 is less than intuitive, but I am learning quickly. The SWR2Air feature is quite useful, since it transmits a signal representing the SWR value to a handheld radio, allowing one person to make adjustments and know the results in real time (if this can be done safely!) I will replace the European power cord and the flimsy AC adapter with a common US cord and plug, at my first opportunity. I was surprised to discover that the unit is made in the Ukraine, not widely known for high-quality instruments!
K4MYR Rating: 2014-11-16
I'd like to give it more than 5 stars! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I really like this analyzer. I am new to ham radio but realize the need for an analyzer for many antenna applications. Before buying the AA-600, I considered the Comet and several of the MFJ models but the RigExpert had features the others lacked, in addition to being more user friendly. I particularly like the graphical VSWR scans over a range of frequencies. I was also very impressed with the customer support from the seller (Ham Radio Outlet) and the manufacturer (RigExpert). Both responded quickly and positively to an issue I had. (It turned out the problem was on my end and not with the analyzer.) If you are in the market for an analyzer, you should consider the AA-600. I don't hesitate to recommend it highly.
WD0E Rating: 2014-10-07
Good with some small issues Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I've had this unit about 6 months and used it both on my ham antennas and public safety systems I install and maintain. When I first got it I compared results with my HP8920 to verify its accuracy and found the results matched well. I also have an older MFJ unit. The 600 is a full step above the MFJ in what it will do and the quality of results.
Some issues with the 600 are listed below. Many of these have to do with the user interface.
- When using it without a computer attached you really have to work with it a bit to figure out what button to press to get it to do what you want. I found it not at all intuitive. And the manual is no help. But once you figure out the key sequence you can get to a measurement quickly.
- When used with a computer attached the functions in the various menus are not arranged in a way that was intuitive for me. You have to use three menus to set a frequency and range and get a scan started. Grouping the commonly used actions into one menu, and making a grouping of buttons in the tool bar for them, would greatly simplify use.
- When using it stand alone you have to press the check mark key to start a scan. When attached to the computer it starts scanning as soon as you make a change to a parameter – like frequency range. The indication that it is scanning is there but you have to look for it – in the bottom left corner of the screen.
- It’s not clear what the ‘add or subtract’ cable parameters function does. I guess it would factor out the cable parms after you have done a calibration to the end of a cable, but I’ve not seen any different in the measurements when I turn that on/off
- Adding some more common cable types to the list in the cable parameters set function would be nice – like various sizes of hardline.
- The screen scratches very easily. The first time I put it into the provided case then took it out again the clear window of the case scratched the screen. I’ve not used the case since.
- When you use it with a laptop the scans and analysis work much faster. I assume the processing work moves from the analyzer processor chip to the computer when attached. Without the computer the process takes time, especially a TDR, which is frustrating when making repeated measurements as you change / tune an antenna. I’ve taken to using a laptop all the time except when on a tower.
- This is not an instantaneous reading device (like the MFJ or the 8920). It takes several seconds to make and display measurements even when attached to a laptop. That’s fine as long as you expect it. It just takes a bit more time to make adjustments and repeated measurements.
- The portability is great as long as you are aware of the screen scratch issue. Certainly beats lugging around the 50 lb HP8920.
- There are still some things on the display I don’t understand, like vertical yellow bands on the SWR and return loss plots, and the manual is of no help at all. A more complete manual would be a real plus for this unit in many ways.
- It is pricy. Having said that I’m now kicking myself for getting the 600 when I’m now working on stuff up to 1,400 Mhz. In particular I think this unit would let me easily find problems with whips installed on fire trucks for the 700 – 860Mhz digital trunked system they all use. Using the 8920 a while back I found the mounts and cables in my own service vehicle were really really bad at 800 – the coax leaked and the loss in 18’ of cable was nearly 6dB. Additionally some of the departments have volunteers installing their mounts and I’ve found cable crimps and cuts and the like the RigExpert would easily locate.
- I would reinforce the point others have made about the batteries and charger. The bats are of poor quality and I’ve replaced them. Bats do not fit well in the charger and the US plug adapter falls off the European plug. Since the bats just barely stay in the charger slots and because of the plug problems we have ordered a new charger. But allowing the bats to be charged while in the unit would be a big plus in my view.
- Overall I would say it is a relatively usable device that produces accurate results. It’s slow when used without a computer, suffers from a very poor manual and some user interface issues. And of course it’s overpriced. Having said that, last week we had a contractor put up 8 VHF public safety Yagi’s on a 200’ tower including cable. The 600 made the job of tuning the Yagi’s on the ground they sweeping cables and antennas after mounting as a final test pretty darn easy and fast. And we found (with a return loss plot) they had mounted one too close to an 800Mhz omni stick which was effecting the impedance of the Yagi. The interaction with that 800 antenna was obvious in the plots if you knew what to look for and when you compared it with the other Yagi’s. Saved them a trip back to fix it on another day. So the 600 probably paid for itself with just that one test.
AE7G Rating: 2014-08-27
Continues excellent after one year Time Owned: N.A.
I am now a year into ownership and I still think this is one of the best pieces of equipment I have owned. It continues to be very easy to use and continues to give me trustworthy results.

The unit comes with a convenient nylon carry bag that has a neck strap. Since the unit is compact and light, I have found the bag very convenient for transporting and field use.

I think it is no big deal that the batteries can't charge in the unit. Small battery chargers are everywhere and most of us have them. With this setup you don't have to keep track of a separate charger. Batteries last a long time and replacements can easily be found in an emergency.

The carry bag has convenient pockets for the computer cable and for connector adapter. You will need to carry an adapter for PL259 testing. About my only complaint is that the pocket for the adapter is not secure so there is a danger the adapter might get dropped during a project. I keep the adapter attached to the unit, which means I can't completely close the bag flap. This is of course really picky.

While perhaps the case itself might benefit from rubber padding, it does appear to be made of impact resistant materials. Even if the case were rubberized you still would not want to drop sensitive electronic equipment. I simply don't see this as a problem. I would much rather have the nylon carry bag than rubber padding for the case.
NW7T Rating: 2014-06-20
Fabulous! Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
Best $600 I've spent on test equipment in 30 years! Developed three 2m/70cm antennas with this rig. Beats my buddy's rackmount Network Analyzer. Developing my high-power selectable-ratio baluns for 160m-6m has been PURE JOY! Tuning my two homebrew HF loop antennas on my roof is TOO EASY! I've combined EZNEC and RigExpert's AntScope on my little Samsung NetBook so I can work out glitches while sitting on the roof. Beats running up and down the ladder! Checked TDR on a roll of RG-8 that sat outside to find and cut out the waterlogged sections. What else can I do with this jewel?
KM4ASH Rating: 2014-06-14
No Regrets Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
In aviation I have used many a type of test equipment designed for McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing products - this one, in effectiveness, design and function - rivals some of the more intuitively designed devices I have worked with.

The statements on poor nature of the battery door I do not find so. I do not find the battery door troublesome - it is of a different color than the body - so maybe it was re-designed.

I agree with wishing for a protective case/cover similar to a fluke meter style. The nylon, clear front case which comes with the device is poor of design and effectiveness.

The batteries seem good enough. The battery charger is ok except for the plug, as others stated, it is of european power standard, with a slide-on US adapter - this adapter did not lock in place and would literally drop off of the plug. Problem solved by cutting plug off and replacing with a standard US style available at any electrical supply.

Durability? Yes, could be improved. A Flukemeter style cover would go a good way towards such improvement.

Overall? Good design. Wise purchase.

Craig - KM4ASH