What do you use for test equipment?

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NavyBOFH
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What do you use for test equipment?

Post by NavyBOFH » Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:38 pm

I thought we could share some information about what is on our benches/portable kits and so-forth. With so many options out there and so much used equipment coming out - it is nice to share those experiences.

For me - I use an IFR 2947 which was surplus from the Navy - great shape with all original accessories. Great for all service monitor needs for analog. I also have an Agilent 8563E Spectrum Analyzer for more precise needs, and we have some other equipment shared across my department as well - a couple Anritsu Site Masters and currently I am repairing a Rohde & Schwarz Network Analyzer that can check on all our comms, microwave, and TV/FM transmitters. Once it is operational again the fun will be making it "portable" - dang thing is huge! But luckily not as heavy as my Agilent.

I am looking at buying an LMR-specific service monitor for myself since I work on more LMR needs than anyone else here. I have access to a R2670A set if needed but the dang thing is so heavy I just keep it at one site and use it there. For "portable" use I am looking at either an Aeroflex 2975 used or an Anritsu "LMR Master" - both with P25 options. Anyone have any experience with those?
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petnrdx
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by petnrdx » Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:14 pm

I have owned many service monitors over the years.
Currently the R2600, 2001D, and a CT 2100 as a "loaner" for newbies. Its sort of disposable.
I also have the S412E, and use it for nearly everything.
While it has some limitations, with the options available, it is a REALLY NICE instrument.
Would be nice if the VNA generator was "cleaner" for tuning notch depth. More phase noise than I would like. But kinda expect that with a small battery powered instrument.
With DMR and P25 options, and the external high power adapter, it is a reasonable service monitor.
Mine has most of the desirable options.
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microwave mike
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by microwave mike » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:01 pm

This is a question I am asked about all the time. The short answer is what is your mission? What do you need to measure, adjust, or trouble shoot. How much accuracy do you need in each measurement? Is it radios, repeaters, antenna systems, or all the above. This will affect the test gear needed.
The first piece of gear I say anyone should get is a good four and one half digit, true RMS, multimeter. Get a set of good leads and a current probe. This takes care on AC and DC measurements. Next is a way to measure RF power, spectrum, demodulation products, and RF generation with complex modulation. The last is a way to measure antenna systems, antennas, coax, cavities, isolators, the list can go on.
These can be combined in one instrument with a cost.
I prefer to have a combined portable measurement solution and bench solutions that can go into the field. For radio systems measurement I have a HP 8921A. Old but good for analog measurements. I have a Tektronics nettek for portable antenna systems measurements. Since I do not deal with digital systems I don’t need gear for that.
For the bench I have a HP 8753C with the S parameter test set for most antenna systems measurements. I have extra gear for high power broadcast antenna measurements, 5-8 watts coming back down the coax. A little tough on test sets. This consists of High power directional couplers, pads cables, and a 50 watt wideband class A amp. I have a HP 8566B spectrum analyzer or a HP 8542E EMI analyzer, both have tuning to 1 Hz. I use a 8901B modulation analyzer, and Sound Tech audio analyzer and audio generator. A HP 8643A signal generator and a HP 8970B noise figure test set and noise sources. I use a HP 437 power meter with heads to 26Ghz. and power to 3 watts. Lots of power attenuators to go with them. The bench multimeter is a HP 34401A. HP 33120A arbitrary waveform generator, HP 53131A 3Ghz counter.
Agilent 500 MHz digital two channel scope with probes.
This is what I have for most of the measurements I need to make with accuracy. As newer gear come up at a GOOD PRICE, I replace my equipment. Calibration is easy for equipment. What I can’t do on the bench goes out for cal.
I use this for broadcasting measurements and for Ham radio measurements. I also use my gear for projects that I build.
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Project25
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Project25 » Sat Jan 21, 2017 5:29 pm

It depends on the task. At home I have a R2001B (shop was throwing it away, power cable was bad). At work I have a R8000B (when I was a GD rep I only had an R8000A). Those are what I use for most alignment, diagnostic issues.

For paired line issues, a Lineman is a must (though they don't make them anymore) for tone remote work. You can get away with a simple tone generator (like the ones used for IDing cat cabling), 4 digit AC meter, a butt set and knowledge of how decibels work.

VSWR bridges are nice for measuring return loss, tuning filters at higher power levels (above 1 mW) but a cheaper directional filter is an acceptable alternative.

Of course, quality test cables should be part of that kit. RG400 or RG176 are minimums and no LMR (PIM induced in LMR can throw everything off). I prefer cables with N and BNC (easiest to adapt IMO) but at work I have Unidapt female connectors on cables so I just use the connector I need from the unidapt kit.


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NavyBOFH
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by NavyBOFH » Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:14 am

zap, I like your idea for the cabling using the Uniadapt ends... would make life easier. I use RG-142 for my cables with N and BNC ends (two cables of each with assorted ends).

As for paired line work, I have been looking for some replacements but we have a few tone probe sets but might push for a Fluke model to do that kind of work. We have everything from phone lines to ethernet to our remote control systems on cabling like that.

For a DMM I use a Fluke 87 with the current clamp add-on - can't live without it!

The service monitors we have some 8920 and 8921 models which some techs still use and love, but I kept my IFR 2947 just because of familiarity and weight - the IFR comes in right around 22lb and is a feather compared to some others - and has up to 150w input ability on the RF port with power meter. It works for 90% of my work.

Our issue is that we are a TV and FM agency with almost 60 amateur radio repeaters throughout the state as part of a grant we pitched and received. With that, I only work on 1MHz-1GHz with my job. Our microwave techs have the fun of maintaining our 29-site Alcatel system which is around 6.8-7.4GHz but they have their own equipment for that. Our network guys also have their own T-BERD testers for the T3 circuit end.

So for me, I like to find a set that does all a Spectrum Analyzer, Network Analyzer, Power Meter, and Communications Monitor in one package - hence my looking at the Anritsu, older Aeroflex, or even an Agilent E7495 which is lacking in some areas but would work for UHF and above.
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Project25
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Project25 » Sun Jan 22, 2017 7:01 am

In practice though, I've found service cables configured as N male on either end and North male/BNC male to be the best solution since portable test adapter generally go to BNC or SMA. The problem, I've found with the Unidapt cables are when you put an SMA female on to service an XTS/APX you have to physically rotate the entire radio if the service cable is already connected to the monitor. Less awkward to use a SMA to BNC adapter and screw onto the radio (versus screwing the radio onto the adapter) and then one of those BNC to N for the service cable.

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MattSR
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by MattSR » Thu Feb 02, 2017 4:08 am

I've got an HP 8901B and a HP 8924C - both of which are far from portable but do a good job anyway. They're both great units and I can't really see a need for a "P25 capable" test set such as the R2670 etc when these old analog jobbies work just as well..

Cheers,
Matt
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jim202
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by jim202 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:01 pm

Service monitors and other test equipment has always been an interesting topic. Generally the first question to ask is "What are you going to be testing?" Will it be all analog or is there a possibility that you are going to have to test some digital radios? Next comes the question of what modes of digital will need to be tested?

You will need something for an RF watt meter to measure transmitter power out and reflected power coming back on an antenna system. The industry seems to have settled on the Bird company units, with the Bird 43 the most chosen. Along with the watt meter, you will need the individual "slugs" to match the power level and frequency you will be using. This can add up to a quantity of slugs that you will need to be able to protect and keep with you. There are several cases that you can use to protect the meter and still have a number of slugs in the case.

As has been mentioned, a good digital volt meter is a must. There are many on the market, but it seems the most chosen seems to come from Fluke. I would suggest that you have a spare set of test leads, as these seem to break at the most critical time.

You will need to have some form of current measuring ability. Most of the Fluke meters only go to about 10 amps or so. Anything above this will require some form of external device. This could be a clamp on adapter to go with the digital volt meter or even a separate device. Your work and needs will steer you to which selection is best for you.

I have always used a TIMS unit to look at audio levels on the copper remote control lines. Most of the phone companies are trying to get away from copper, but you will always need to be able to measure the audio levels going into and out of any fiber interface package. There are digital meters and even some analog meters that can do audio level measurements. Just remember that you might run into some applications of this measurement that may require the line being terminated, rather than used in the bridged mode. So check to see if the device you may be considering has a way of switching from bridged to terminated measurements. If you terminate a line rather than measuring it in the bridged mode, your settings will be about 3 db too high. There is a fast way to make this measurement and adjust a new console being added to the circuit. But that would be best for another discussion.

You might even consider obtaining a meter that can be hooked to the antenna coax cable ab be used to see just at what frequency the antenna is tuned to. This allows you to do a fast test on the antenna and not even generate a signal over the air that can be heard by everyone. There are a number of these available from several companies. They run in the order of about $250 or so, depending on frequency range. The hams have found these to be a great device for tuning a new HF or even a VHF or UHF antenna for the different ham bands.

Bottom line here is just how deep are your pockets, based on the amount of use your test equipment is going to be used. Service monitors are not cheep.

Hope this generalized feedback will help someone.

Jim
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Aes256pro
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Aes256pro » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:03 pm

Good article. I'm amazed how little I can find on testing modern radios on you tube.

How many brand name radios have testing software? I've seen Motorola and Hytera. Any others?
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NavyBOFH
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by NavyBOFH » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:07 am

jim, that was a great read. I always neglect to mention the Bird meter and Fluke DMM mostly because 1) I have at least those two things in my truck at all times, and 2) we keep a a good DMM and a Bird 43 with appropriate slugs at all transmitter sites as well. They're just one of those things we have bought so many over time that they just find a home at each site now.

By the way - Pomona DMM leads are just absolutely fantastic replacements or add-ons to any DMM kit. The ones I use have the ability for the tip length to be adjusted, is shielded except the tip, and has the fine needle tip to get to precise spots.

My DMM is a Fluke 87 with the amp clamp add-on which I use for 99% of my work. For anything that goes over that we have some high voltage/current DMM clamps and some 40kV DMM and O-scope probes for our TV and FM stations.

I also keep a Test-Um Cat5 cable tester/verifier, telephone test set, and a tone remote kit for random land-line issues. We only use land-line for the National Weather Service (the ROAMS line carries the actual audio to the transmitter and allows for remote control and status), and some alarms.

The rest of the equipment comes down to 1) what I have and 2) what I want to get as its replacement. The IFR 2947 and a Site Master take care of 99% of what I work on since it is all VHF and UHF analog. Any DMR work is still under warranty so we let Motorola work on that equipment if it breaks.

But - I am in to P25 and thus my original thread on merging all my equipment into a newer P25 capable unit. Eventually I will find one that satisfies my needs. I would like one with encryption testing as well but none are portable enough or coming down in price either.
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Aes256pro » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:13 am

Anyone using a gpsdo for a reference frequency? I picked up a used thunderbolt and anxious to give it a try.


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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Project25 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:50 pm

Aes256pro wrote:Anyone using a gpsdo for a reference frequency? I picked up a used thunderbolt and anxious to give it a try.


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I have not used one, but I do know of people using them to autonet their MTR2000 and Quantars. I have never been able to get the reference output on my R8000 to work properly so I generally end up just modulating a 10 MHz reference at 6 dBm.
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by NavyBOFH » Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:13 am

We don't use a GPSDO for test equipment but every one of my sites has one for our DS3 ATM switches on our microwave network and for "legal" things like ensuring correct timing and date for EAS messages, etc.

Every time I pass the racks I think about hooking up a spectrum analyzer to it and playing around a bit...
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by Aes256pro » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:54 am

Good info. Picked mine up on eBay. Gave it about 30 min and it was spot on 10 MHz. When I'm off vac, I'll get into the user settings and see what's all available.
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Re: What do you use for test equipment?

Post by NavyBOFH » Fri Feb 10, 2017 4:10 pm

Were you able to find one for a good price? Was it an eBay model or something off another site?

Reason I ask is I have seen a handful of GPSDOs coming off eBay for around $250 but have been hesitant to buy my own... but a portable one seems like a better fit for my work.

To me it's either that or I am down to some sort of Rubidium standard.
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