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Reviews For: Rigol DSA815 Spectrum Analyser

Category: Tools & Test Equipment for the amateur radio work bench

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Review Summary For : Rigol DSA815 Spectrum Analyser
Reviews: 5MSRP: 1295
9 KHz to 1.5 GHz Spectrum Analyser, additional (at extra cost) options include: carry case, tracking generator, VSWR measuring and advance measuring kit.
Product is in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
AF5QR Rating: 2018-11-10
Its ok, but Siglent is much, much better Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Let me begin by saying this is a good (not great) value for the money. And generally I am a big fan of Rigol. They make quality test equipment at an amazingly low price. In light of fact, I have a 4-channel Rigol scope, 3 channel Rigol programmable power supply, Rigol bench multimeter (6-1/2 digit), and a Rigol arbitrary waveform generator. I really love them all. But that being said, this spectrum analyzer just isnt a favorite of mine. Yes, you can sweep an antenna with it (very nice, if you get the tracking generator option which is a mandatory option IMHO!) and you can easily see what mischief is coming out of your transceiver/amp in realtime, but the basic design of this unit is simply a bit flawed. The equivalent Siglent product is between 12 and 18 db more sensitive, has a radically better noise floor, and only costs about $250 more.

I reluctantly returned this unit after playing with it for several days. This decision did not come lightly. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to perform well. But once the “wow” factor wore off, and after a friend brought his Siglent SA over for some back to back testing, I realized what a REAL spectrum analyzer could do. So back it went, because the reality of the test numbers are not subject to opinion.

Please understand that I absolutely dont hate Rigol. They make some really good stuff and I own a bunch of it! But the Siglent spectrum analyzer wins hands down as to performance. Do the research and I think you will agree. In this case Rigol is good, but Siglent is much better.
KU3X Rating: 2017-01-21
You get a lot for your money Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I’ve only owned the Rigol DSA815-TG for a little over three weeks and I think it’s really great.
You can’t go wrong with the price and quality of this unit. The adds says RBW goes down to 100 hz. There must have been a firmware update since mine goes down to 10 hz RBW.
After watching numerous YouTube videos about the DSA815, I was ready to use mine as soon as it arrived. Learning from the videos, I would never get this unit without the tracking generator. I am so glad I watched the videos first so I knew what I was getting into.
I’ve tested my home brew amps, LPF’s, coax cables, antenna switches and so many other items laying around the shack.
I am very pleased with the unit and would buy it again in a heartbeat if I had it to do over.
The one downside is the manual. I do not think it’s user friendly at all.
Barry, KU3X
N4UE Rating: 2016-11-26
VERY useful Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
As a previous reviewer stated, not absolutely necessary, but it's a very, very useful tool.
I just completed building 2 legal limit amps and the 815 (with the Tracking Generator (TG)) really helped me design the input matching circuits.
I feel the TG is a must. It adds little cost to the SA. One can purchase the Rigol SWR accessory, but the TG option and an external, inexpensive Return Loss Bridge can do all that's necessary.
Although I have the Comet MKII analyzer, the Rigol is just superior.
Life's short, enjoy yourself.

K1PMA Rating: 2015-01-30
Not a must-have, but great fun! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
First let me state I had zero experience with a spectrum analyzer (SA). I got the TG model as I often heard that the tracking generator option is well worth the extra cost, and I must agree. It adds tons of extra applications. First off let me say that you must be extremely careful in what/how you connect something...anything to this device. It can be damaged very is NOT like a scope! 100mW (+20dbm) is the max you can feed into the input. So you MUST get a set of attenuators (called pads) to go with this. They must be of the DC-1500mhz (or higher) variety. 1-2W will be ok for most passive measurements, but if you want to hook up any transceiver you better do your math well. You will also need an assortment of N adapters, patch cables, T connectors, etc.

So much for the basic important info. Now for the fun part. The first thing I did was use this as the world's most expensive FM Just attach any short antenna to the input jack, turn on the DEMOD (FM) function, plug in earbuds/headset and set the frequency range to about 90-120 mhz.

Next I measured the loss of all of my patch cables and connectors. Found one BNC T-connector that was flakey within minutes.

The coming week will start off with antenna testing, the main reason I got the SA for. For this you will need something called a directional coupler (I can recommend the Mini Circuits 15542 ZFDC-20-5 BNC Directional Coupler) with 20dbm attenuation. Took me a bit to figure out how to connect this to the SA. I will save you a ton of frustration: the OUT connector on the coupler goes to the TG output. The CPL connector on the coupler goes to the input of the SA and the IN on the coupler hooks up to the antenna. Some guys put a 6 or 10dbm pad on the input of the SA for extra protection, but probably not needed unless you have a strong signal source nearby. Watching how an antenna responds to mods in real time is a total eye opener! Every little extra piece of wire/connector/etc can make a difference as does holding it one way or another. Makes my MFJ269 analyzer look like a crude tool in comparison.

So if you can afford around $1,600 for the 815TG plus extras you will ask yourself how you did without it for so long.
G4AON Rating: 2014-01-22
Great value Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
At a similar price to a 10 year old, or more, analyser by the US and EU manufacturers, you can have a brand new DSA815 analyser with a 3 year warranty. It is outstanding value for money.

I have the DSA815-TG version which includes a tracking generator. The TG version is far more useful to most amateur constructors as it enables relatively easy filter measurement, both loss/frequency plots and also matching... The latter requires an easy and cheap to build return loss bridge, look up VK3DIP who has designs for these on the web.

The analyser is relatively easy to use, starts quickly and returns to the previous settings on power up. In addition programming the front panel green "Preset" button is easy and will return your analyser to a favourite setting in moments.

During the first half hour of use the analyser self calibrates every 10 minutes or so, this will reset any "normalise" settings (used with the tracking generator), in addition it will clear the screen of any trace you are trying to store to a USB memory stick. However, this is only a minor irritation.

There is some cooling fan noise, but not loud enough to be an issue.

Overall, the analyser is delightful to use and hasn't had any software glitches, or other issues, during several hours of use.

Some of the options are very expensive, for example the VSWR kit at $459 does nothing you can't do for $20 with a home made bridge. The VSWR measuring software is enabled for a trial period and doesn't even plot SWR on a graph, you can easily convert return loss plots to SWR yourself for nothing.

In my opinion, the supplied software on CD doesn't add any value, not even the trial version of Ultraspectrum (the full version costs $260).

You can easily find a carry case in the $15 - $20 range, I use a cool bag from a fishing tackle shop. No need to buy the Rigol one for $125.