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Reviews For: AEA CIA-HF

Category: Antenna Analyzers

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Review Summary For : AEA CIA-HF
Reviews: 22MSRP: 399.
Lightweight, portable, professional quality SWR analyzer .
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
W1JPP Rating: 2018-06-11
Quality control issues Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought my cia-hf quite a few years ago. Maybe back in 2004 or so, new. I’ve probably used it less than 20 times over the years. Always stored in the house, and always delicately handled outside, never in rain etc. just personal use.

In terms of information it has been invaluable and time saving. Especially tuning antennas, measuring other variables. In this respect is has been great.

That said, on my keypad, first my “5” stop working. That was years ago but it was out of warranty so I worked around it. But a pain. Of all the keys to stop working. Then about 6 months ago I pulled it out to use and with batteries in, i was not able to turn it off. It would turn off but come right back on. And the auto off stopped working. With 8 batteries accessible by removing screws it was a bit of a pain but again, I worked around this, taking out one battery or all when I was done.

Then last week I was using it and it started beeping non stop as tho the buttons are being pressed non stop

Tech support is responsive but the net is there is a cost to repair it. I think they said they get $105/hour. Not sure for this latest what the fix is, but now it’s useless. Before I could work around the other issues now it looks like I must pay something to get these issues repaired.

Overall it looks like very good reviews. For me without these issues it’d be a 5 Star product. Just seems like one of those cars where things keep failing. I just think at this price, especially how I’ve always baby’d It it would not experience these type failures.

K6USN Rating: 2007-07-10
4 years and still great! Time Owned: more than 12 months.

Second review.

Four years with this antenna analyzer, and I'd not trade it for anything else!

Battery life is outstanding as well.

One good solid piece of test equipment.


Earlier 5-star review posted by K6USN on 2003-03-04

I have used an MFJ Analyzer for 4 years and never trusted it much. Great concept but less than stellar workmanship. Trade off of quality for pricing. Can't really blame MFJ to read the ham market (price conscious)and adjust accordingly.

I purchased an AEA CIA-HF analyzer recently and
have to say that it is a very sophisticated and professional grade antenna measurement tool.

Well built, very accurate, and with a host of sophisticated measurement options that I feel compelled to build new antennas just to exercise its capabilities.

This is a 'high end' antenna tool but one that you can TRUST.

Improvements? Only thing I can suggest would be slightly bigger printing on the readouts for my over-40 eyes.

This is a 'keeper' in my shack.

W9AC Rating: 2006-01-30
Excellent Results Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've had this analyzer for about seven years and it tracks remarkably well with a Bird 43 and ArraySolutions PowerMaster. The brighness issue if a function of display contrast. When set properly, the display is incredibly sharp in direct sunlight. In fact, the brighter the sun, the better the readings are displayed. I've been very happy with mine.
DL3LED Rating: 2005-02-10
Wouldn't recommend it Time Owned: more than 12 months.
When I decided to purchase a VSWR analyzer I thought the AEA was superiour to the models made by MFJ, so I got the CIA-HF.

The first one failed after about half a year - from one day to another it couldn't be turned on any more - and had to be returned to the dealer who exchanged it free of charge. This one still works fine - more or less, as described below.

The functions provided by this analyzer are amazing. Nearly all data is displayed graphically, as a result of a frequency sweep covering selectable ranges. Center frequency and sweep range width are selectable using the keyboard (frequency either up/down or numerically, width up/down only). There is a separate screens for everything: SWR, Z (magnitude and phase), R, X, and a single summary page listing all values at once, but for the center frequency only.
Certain values (selectable with the "data" button, e. g. "MIN SWR at") can be displayed on all screens in a single line at the bottom. There is no analog meter.

What first looked so impressing turned out to be most annoying over the years:

- The display is very hard to read. There is no backlight. Characters/digits displayed on the summary screen can hardly be read, sometimes you have to guess. Sometimes digits are left over from previous displays (which makes it even harder to guess the values).

- Display update (as caused by sweep time) is VERY VERY SLOW! After pressing width or frequency UP/DOWN or entering a new center frequency it takes 4-5 seconds to see a result (probably finding out that you have to press another button, again 5 seconds wait time...). It is, however, possible to press the buttons several times after another without having to wait for the display to update.

- There are too many screens and there is too few information (just a single sweep and very few data values that are hardly readable) on a single screen. Since each screen or data selection causes a 5 second delay, aquiring all information takes a lot of time.

- Finding the minimum SWR is easy (it can be displayed in the data line), but finding any other minimum value (e. g. X) can only be done using a painfully slow iteration of frequency and/or width steps, guessing from the graphical display where the minimum might be, trying a new center frequency, and so on.

Other issues:
- Sometimes display contrast and other settings get lost (have to re-enter everything in menu mode).
- Certain measurements are very inaccurate (beyond what would be expected from a non-professional unit), e. g. battery voltage display (off be several volts), frequency display (off by more than 5 kHz), ...
- SWR/R/X measurements are not very accurate either, but ok for hobby use (checked with a professional R&S analyzer)
- According to what my dealer told me it is IMPOSSIBLE to adjust anything in this analyzer!!!
- Nearly the whole unit is made of SMD parts, there is nothing you can repair or adjust, no circuit diagrams, nothing!
- The analyzer is very expensive (here in Europe)
- It uses very low power for measurement (about 5 dBm = 3 mW compared to about 13 dBm = 20 mW as used by MFJ), which makes it more vulnerable to "strong signal interference" by broadcasting stations.
- Of course, it eats up batteries quite fast if you don't pay attention and don't turn it off while not in use (MFJ does so as well). It turns of automatically after not having been used for some minutes (even when powered externally).

Recently I had the opportunity to use an MFJ 259B. I felt so jealous! Changing and narrowing in a frequency can be done in "real-time" using a simple knob (instead of having to wait for another update of the whole graphical display), feedback is immediate using several analog meters, and most information I'm interested in is displayed at the same time on a small LCD that can be read without requiring a magnifying glass! And if something is broken it can be fixed and re-adjusted, even without having to send it to the factory.

There is one good point about the AEA: there is a serial interface builtin, commands are well-documented and there is optional software available (unfortunately being a little bit expensive, so I don't have it) that makes it possible to use this analyzer as a "poor man's remote controlled network analyzer" from your PC. I was told the software is quite useful and even includes a smith chart display.

- I wouldn't buy an AEA CIA-HF analyzer again!
- I heard recent models (VIA-HF, ...) are faster, more accurate and have a different display layout. I don't know it they are already fast enough to be used when you crawl up to your mast top and try to find a dip there, and these models are even more expensive...
- I'm probably going to buy an MFJ 259B (which even covers 2m)
ALEX_NS6Y Rating: 2005-02-04
Great Graphical Analyzer Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I got one, used, in like-new condition from Burghardt, and I'm impressed! As soon as I opened the package I had to try it out, so quickly soldered up a jig to try out different resistances, for instance 50 ohms showed what it should, etc. Then I tried some weird stuff like a loop of wire and put it next to things, etc and watched the curve change at different freq ranges. This is a really cool toy! I got it to use in designing antennas, and expect it to be very useful. The batteries are a little bit hard to install, but at least they have their own sub-compartment. I may get the software from AEA too, which will generate Smith Charts, that way I'll be forced to learn to understand the Smith Chart!
AL1Z Rating: 2004-02-20
A Wonderful Tool Time Owned: more than 12 months.
This was my first analyzer, and I have to say that I've been thoroughly pleased with it.

So far I have only used it for basic antenna SWR tuning, but I'm looking forward to exploring all of its other extensive capabilities. It's very sturdily built, and has an optional carrying case with swivel hook that allows you to clip the whole unit (in the case) to your belt, or anything else, while working outside. I especially like the graphical plot of SWR readings, and the ability to quickly display ranges of 1.5-1/2.0-1/3.0-1 SWR bandwidth?s.

I also have the optional VIA Director software, but have not had a chance to tinker with that yet.

Although the unit is pricey, and I'm not yet utilizing all of its features, I can say that I like the idea of eventually being able to use the CIA-HF as a learning tool to understand many of the advanced concepts of designing, tuning, and debugging antenna's.

The only negative I have with the CIA-HF (and it's a very slight one) is that the display can sometimes be difficult to read, in certain lighting situations. However, I imagine that any improvements thereof would come at the expense of additional battery consumption, so it's a fair tradeoff. It still gets a 5-rating in my book.

All-in-all, I'm very pleased.

N4OGW Rating: 2003-10-27
nice Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I put up a lot of wire antennas and wire arrays, and I have found the CIA-HF very helpful.

When I bought it, I didn't think I would ever use the RS-232 interface feature, but this has turned out to be a feature I use quite often. By using a ~80 foot long RS-232 cable (only 3 conductors are needed), I hoist the CIA-HF into the air at the feedpoint of an antenna, and measure the actual resonant frequency of elements for wire beams, at the actual height above ground!

As others have noted, the display update is somewhat slow, but there is a function that tells you the frequency of lowest SWR. Makes tuning an antenna easy.
K9YC Rating: 2003-09-11
A great tool and a real bargain! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
This analyzer is a poo man's GR 1606A in a far more compact package, and without the bother of separate generator and detector. The sacrifice is a moderate reduction in accuracy. The bonus is a graphic display of the plot of SWR, R, X, Z, and the phase angle of the impedance vs. frequency. The bandwidth of the plot is selectable over a wide range.

Limitations: The sign of the impedance is sometimes indeterminate, but the CIA-HF tells you it is indeterminate -- if the analyzer thinks it knows, it prefixes the angle with + or -; if it doesn't, there's no sign.

This, like most RF test gear, computes SWR on the basis of 50 ohms (a significant source of error if you're using 75 ohm line). Dipoles match more closely to 75 ohm line, which is what I use. To get currect SWR values, you'll have to drag out a Smith chart and plug the R and X values into it.

To evaluate this analyzer, I borrowed one owned by K9IKZ's rental business and used it to analyze three disparate antennas at K9YC, then used it to find optimized settings of my Drake MN7 tuner for each band and each antenna that would allow me to QSY up and down the band and remain matched.

An excellent review of the more expensive AEA VIA Bravo compares it to the CIA-HF and GR 1606A. See the link below.

BTW, the CIA-HF I tested is an older version that AEA Wireless says is obsolete and not upgradable, but N2MP tells me that the software he wrote for CIA analyzers will work this this older model (v 1.4).

As a former broadcast engineer (more than 30 years ago), I've used the GR 1606. While the GR bridge is the accepted standard for accuracy, the CIA-HF gets you most of the way there with a lot greater operational and practical convenience.

Jim Brown K9YC (ex-W9NEC)

ON4CCP Rating: 2003-08-26
Love it ! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Great tool. Once connected to a computer, this equipment delivers the answers on every question you have about your antenna.
For european buyers : be carefull, there is a big price difference between the dealers (due to country tax rates, etc...) .
N8LP Rating: 2002-07-27
Great tool - Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I was a bit apprehensive about getting this tool as it is a bit pricey, but it is a unique piece of gear that can't be duplicated anywhere at the price.

I don't use it for all my antenna related has limited ability to measure L & C, doesn't show the sign of reactance, is a little slow to refresh and has marginal battery life. But it is an awesome tool for seeing the full bandpass characteristics of an antenna...especially when using the included software.