Since my childhood, I felt a strange attraction towards radio devices. Walkie-talkies, Ham radios, or even commercial units all seemed fascinating to me. And when I finally got my own ham radio as a gift for Christmas, it became a passion for me.
But the most annoying thing for me with a ham radio was tuning it. Finding a channel in your ham radio can be a nuisance, especially if you are an amateur. However, with the best SWR meter for ham radio, this frustrating task can become almost effortless.
But since an SWR meter is an expensive gadget, you want to be careful about which unit you want to buy. You need proper knowledge and information about the best units before you even consider buying one for yourself. And that is where you will find this article helpful.
Top 6 Best SWR Meter for Ham Radio
Here is a list of some of the top SWR meter reviews for ham radio that you can buy from the market to get an excellent tuning experience.
1. MFJ 0.53-230Mhz SWR Antenna Analyzer
Let us kick things off with a fast and functional Antenna Analyzer by the brand MFJ. The MFJ-259C model is an excellent little unit that eliminates a lot of the nuisance of tuning antennas in your ham radio. It is priced a bit high, which might put you off if you are on a budget, but the functionality it offers is worth the cost.
The best part about this unit is its high-speed performance. In fact, you do not need to hook it up to a radio at all to find the correct frequencies. It can work independently and can scan across the VHF spectrum efficiently. With this unit, you will be able to work on 10- and 11-meter antennas without any issues.
The unit comes with a two-line LCD display that lets you instantly view the SWR. Not only does it work well with ham radio, but you can also use it with CB, two-way, or any other variants effortlessly. In addition, it can cover a wide range of frequencies ranging from .100 to 230Mhz.
Because of the user-friendly design of the unit, even an amateur radio enthusiast can get full use out of it. You can use any basic NiMi AA batteries with the device. It also has a battery saver mode, smooth reduction drive tuning, and low battery warning for when you need to change the batteries.
- No calibration needed.
- Capable of reading UH and capacitance.
- Works on ten regular or NiMi AA batteries.
- Built-in frequency counter.
2. MFJ 1.8-525Mhz RF Power & SWR Meter 200W
For people who are into quality gadgets, this advanced SWR meter by the brand MFJ might be worth a look. Understandably it is priced a bit higher, but if you want to get a unit that can deliver quality performance without any complaints, you cannot go wrong with this one.
One of the best things about this device is its versatility. It not only works perfectly with ham radio but can also give you excellent results if you want to hook it up with a CB two-way or commercial radio. In fact, many professionals tend to go with this unit because of its amazing functions.
It has three different power ranges, which are 5W, 20W, and 200W. You also get excellent coverage of frequency ranging from 1.8 to 525Mhz. In addition, you can test HF, VH, and UHF bands of frequency without facing any issues. Despite so many different options, the panel is quite intuitive and easy to use.
When it comes to building quality, you have nothing to worry about. It features metal construction, and the black paint coating on top protects it from humidity. The device also comes with rubber feet to keep it planted in the spot.
Its large screen also has a light that you can turn on if you are working in a low-light environment.
- Extremely versatile design.
- Works on three different bands.
- Wide range of frequency.
- Three different power mode.
3. Comet CAA-500 MARK V II Standing SWR/Wave Analyzer
Coming up next is a unit that is suitable for amateurs and professionals alike, the CAA-500 MARK II by the brand Comet Antennas. If you do not want to go through the hassle of trying out different SWR meters and want to go with one unit that does it all perfectly, then this should be your choice.
This unit features two different screens with both needle-dial and numerical displays. Because of this option, there will be no errors in your reading. However, this also results in the unit being a bit larger, which might be off-putting for people who prefer a compact form-factor.
When it comes to frequency range, this unit does not disappoint, covering a range of 1.8 to 500Mhz. It allows for quick SWR adjustments and also lets you measure the impedance quickly, which means you will be able to make antenna adjustments without any trouble.
The unit is powered by six AA alkaline batteries and gives you around 10 hours of continuous operation. It uses high-end connectors to ensure you will not get any inaccuracy in your readings. If you want a truly premium device for your ham radio, this one is worth strong consideration.
- Excellent build quality.
- Analog and digital display.
- Long battery life.
- It covers a wide range of frequency.
4. Mcbazel Surecom SW-102 VHF/UHF Antenna Power Meter
If you are a fan of retro looks or had a Gameboy at some point in your childhood, you would surely love the aesthetics of the Surecom SW-102 by the brand McBazel. To top it off, the price of the unit is also quite reasonable, making it an excellent choice if you are on a budget.
An excellent feature of this unit is that it can measure VSWR. This term stands for Voltage Standing Wave Ratio, and rather than showing you a normal calibration, you can view it as a digital readout. As a result, there is no chance of misreading the number, even if you are a complete amateur.
The unit has a static power range of around 120W with a 50 Ohm impedance. But its massive frequency range makes it a highly versatile option. With a frequency range of 100 to 520Mhz, you should have no trouble using it with your ham radio regardless of its design.
The unit comes with a 3.7V lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and you also get a charger cable to charge it whenever you need it. You also get a ground plate with your purchase to eliminate any chance of electric shock or interference. All in all, this is an excellent choice for any radio enthusiast.
- Excellent frequency range.
- Works on rechargeable batteries.
- It comes with a ground plate.
- 120W operating power.
5. Signstek Professional UV Dual Band Wave Meter
For our next product, we will be looking at a high-end Dual Band SWR meter by the brand Signstek. It is a neat little unit with a compact yet durable structure. Although the unit is a bit more sensitive compared to other units, construction-wise, it is built like a tank.
The first thing that pops up when you look at this unit is its simplicity. It has a very limited number of buttons, knobs, and switches, but you can handle everything with it efficiently. Besides, its compact and lightweight construction appeals to people looking for a portable unit.
It can operate at three different power to reach different frequencies. First, you have the high-power mode operating at 200W, followed by a medium 60W mode and a low 15W mode. The frequency ranges from 140 to 150Mhz and 430 to 450Mhz. In terms of accuracy, it is no slouch either featuring a range of ±5 to 10%.
Overall, it is a solidly built unit with strong and sturdy construction. It might be a bit more expensive than other options, but its performance and function make it well worth the price. However, the high-sensitivity of the equipment means you should not use it in high humidity, temperature, or magnetic environments.
- Excellent build quality.
- Three different operating powers.
- Versatile frequency range.
- Easy to use and compact design.
6. Gam3Gear SW-33 Mark II Two-Way Radio Handheld Power & SWR Meter
The last product that we will review is aimed at people who want to get a lightweight and portable SWR meter. Despite its smaller size, it offers an excellent level of functionality that is useful for any amateur radio enthusiast or professionals. The price of the unit, however, is a bit steep.
Instead of a traditional screen design, the unit features a digital number display that they call “Clock.” It shows the exact value of your measurement, and instead of having to read a dial, you will be able to view the number on the screen. This design eliminates the chance of any reading error.
An impressive feature of the unit for its size is its input power of 100W. It works on a frequency range of 125 to 525Mhz, making it usable for almost any ham radio you might have. However, if you want to use it with a DMR digital radio, you are out of luck.
This unit runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and thankfully, the charge lasts quite long. Since the battery is rechargeable, you will not have any additional expense to worry about. You even get a USB charger cable included with your purchase.
- Clock digital number display.
- Works on VHF, UF, and SWR bands.
- Wide frequency range.
- Compact and lightweight design.
Ham Radio SWR Meter Buying Guide
With the SWR wattmeter reviews out of the way, we can head on to some of the details about this device. If you want to get the most out of your investment, there are some aspects of the unit that you cannot ignore. Unless you are careful about these features, you might not get the full benefit from the unit.
Here are a few aspects that you want to consider when buying the best SWR meter for ham radio.
The first thing on your list of considerations when choosing an SWR meter should be its frequency range. These devices cover different ranges of frequency and unless it will not work with a ham radio if the frequency range is incompatible. This is a common mistake that most beginners make.
Getting an incompatible SWR meter means you are simply throwing away your money for a unit that does not work. Thankfully, the frequency range of a specific SWR meter is almost always printed on the product specifications. So before committing to a specific unit, make sure you check if the frequency ranges match that of the ham radio.
The sole purpose of an SWR meter is to measure the transmission signal. Unless it gives accurate readings, you will not be able to get much use out of it. Sadly, testing a device before buying it is not possible all the time, especially if you are buying it online.
In that case, you want to check reviews or consult with people who have firsthand experience with the unit. If you have a friend who is an expert in dealing with these devices, he might be able to help you out. In any case, you want a unit that gives you high levels of accuracy in its measurement.
The sensitivity of the SWR meter is an important factor to consider as it is directly related to the quality and longevity of the unit. A unit with high sensitivity means it is more susceptible to damage or interference. So you want to get a unit that has moderate to low sensitivity.
All the products we mentioned in our list of reviews have lower sensitivity and will not be damaged easily. If you want a unit that gives you a lasting performance, then this is a factor you should not ignore. Again, it is best if a friend can help you out in determining the sensitivity of a specific SWR meter.
SWR meters need to be connected to your ham radio using a connector. You also want to hook up an antenna with the meter for the best signal strength. But if the connecters in the unit are of poor quality, you will not get a proper signal even if you do everything right.
The best SWR meters for ham radio come with high-end connectors that boost the signal and accuracy of measurements. Thankfully, you can check for this aspect yourself before buying the unit. Pay attention to the quality and looks of the connector before investing in a unit.
Ease of Viewing
Although some might consider it to be an unnecessary luxury, we believe a high-quality SWR meter should also come with a crystal-clear display. That way, you will be able to read the measurements clearly. This enhances your overall experience with the unit tenfold.
You should go for a unit that comes with a large display. If you want to use it in a low-light environment, you can find a unit with a backlit display. These models allow better viewing in the darkness; however, these units can be a bit more expensive and might require a 12V DC power supply.
Portability is not a factor that is essential for everyone. But if you want to be able to move around with your SWR meter, you can find many lightweight and compact models out there. In fact, we have covered some great ones on our list that will give you excellent readings.
However, if you have a stationary radio table, you might not need a portable SWR meter. Portable units typically have reduced functions compared to larger models. So before investing in a unit, you need to ask yourself if mobility is a requirement for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need an SWR meter for my ham radio?
To some, the SWR meter is considered an unnecessary luxury. However, if you are a radio enthusiast and want a better experience while tuning, it is a must-have piece of equipment.
Does an SWR meter require a lot of maintenance?
Not really. As long as you handle the unit with care, you should not have any issue with the device. Make sure you do not use it in places where there is high humidity or magnetic interference, though, as it might cause issues with your readings and damage your unit.
Are SWR meters expensive?
Typically, yes. There are affordable SWR meters out there that deliver excellent accuracy. However, those are limited in function and might only serve well for specific purposes.
For any radio enthusiast, an SWR meter is a good investment. With this equipment, you will be saving yourself from a lot of unnecessary hassles.
We hope our article on the best SWR meter for ham radio could help you identify which unit is worth your money.