Are you passionate about ham radios? Then you need to buy the best SWR meter for ham radio, and you won’t ever face any issues with matching the impedance of your device.
Ham radios are popular all over the world, and they represent the subject of a beautiful hobby that brings communities together.
If you own one yourself, all the information presented in this article will be of great use for maintaining it at maximum performance.
Give it a quick read and see which products suit your needs the best, how to pick a good SWR meter, plus many details that will be helpful for successfully using your ham radio. Enjoy your read!
- A Comparison Table of Best SWR Meter For Ham & CB Radios (New Updated 2021)
- Top 10 Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio/CB Radios
- 01. MFJ SWR & RF Power Meter – Best SWR Meter For CB Radios & Ham Radios
- 02. Astatic SWR Meter (302-01637 version) – A good option with 10-100 watt switch
- 03. Astatic SWR Meter (302-01768 version) – A robust option for any ham radio lover
- 04. TENQ RS-70 SWR Meter – An amazing two-way meter that is nothing like the others on the market
- 05. Astatic SWR Meter (302-PDC2 version) – Great price-quality ratio
- 06. TENQ SWR Meter Model Rs40 – Inspired choice for dual-band necessities
- 07. SWR Meter from Workman Model SWR2T – Choose this one if you want a classic measurement device
- 08. Signstek SWR Radio Meter – A device that any ham radio hobbyist should consider
- 09. Mcbazel SWR Meter (Model SW-102) – Comes with the ground plate in support of the frequency range
- 10. Pro Trucker SWR Meter – Driver’s Product – Interesting option for lower SWR readings
- Buying Considerations of The Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio/CB Radios
- Common FAQs Regarding The Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio & CB Radios
A Comparison Table of Best SWR Meter For Ham & CB Radios (New Updated 2021)
|Astatic 302-01768 PDC7|
|Tenq RS-70 Digital SWR|
|Tenq Rs40 Professional|
|Workman SWR Meter|
What is the best SWR meter for ham radio?
It’s hard to choose only one single product, but one of the best SWR meter on the market is for sure the MFJ-874 one.
It has all the feature you’d want from such a product and the price-quality ratio is ideal. You won’t have to worry about your ham radio’s performance any longer.
MFJ produces great tools for telecommunications and you have the guarantee of the brand.
Why MFJ-874 is the best brand for ham radio SWR meter?
There are plenty of reasons why this one made it to the top.
First of all, it’s appropriate for both the personal uses of ham radios and professional ones.
Regardless of your ham radio’s type or purpose, you can use this power meter to get it ready for flawless usage.
Plus, it supports a wide frequency range and can read high SWR values.
Top 10 Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio/CB Radios
01. MFJ SWR & RF Power Meter – Best SWR Meter For CB Radios & Ham Radios
- Appropriate for amateur, commercial, marine, AIR & CB radios
- Can read SWR of up to 200W
- Supports a frequency range of 1.8-525 MHz
- It comes with connectors for input
A product that has all features you might require for your ham radio, this SWR meter from MFJ makes an amazing purchase.
It comes with a large meter that is also illuminated when wiring it up. The scale is very easy to read, with wide-angle viewing and red-black writing.
The device makes reading SWR, both forward and reflected, very facile.
The front panel layout is extremely straightforward and intuitive, letting users select the power range, band, and frequency.
The meter displays the 3:1 range exactly in the middle for precise scaling and reading.
It covers HF, VHF, and UHF between 1.8 and 525 MHz, as well as 5, 20, and 200 power ranges.
This is one of the best SWR meters for ham radio on the market, having gold-plated center pins for the connectors.
- Has a lamp included (if connected to 13.8 VDC)
- Supports a broad power range (5, 20, 200 Watt)
- Power pigtail included
- It can be jumpy when measuring certain ranges
- Overlap of frequencies was encountered by other users
02. Astatic SWR Meter (302-01637 version) – A good option with 10-100 watt switch
- Comes with 3 functions
- Indicates antenna status
- Tests the SWR and relative power
- Has switches for different wattage and forward/reverse SWR
Astatic produce great SWR meters and this one is no exception.
It is a very compact device, with an easy-to-connect system, making it fail-proof in terms of connection to your ham radio.
The ANT and TRANS connectors are clearly highlighted for an easy setup.
This product comes with switches included, which is very convenient – you can switch between 10 and 100 watts, and forward/reverse SWR measuring.
There will be some work in finding the best SWR meter for ham radio, but this one from Astatic represents serious competition.
It is highly important not to use it on high SWR devices though, as it might suffer damage.
Also, keep a close eye on how you use it for transmitting 100W.
As long as the device is used correctly since it has a limited measuring range, it makes a great SWR meter.
- It is very easy to connect to the ham radio
- It is a sturdy unit, guaranteed to resist in time if used correctly
- Has all functions within reach
- Doesn’t come with jumper cables
- The switchers are quite flimsy – they break easily
03. Astatic SWR Meter (302-01768 version) – A robust option for any ham radio lover
- Universal fit for all ham radios
- Can also test field strength and RF power besides SWR
- Works for both base and mobile operations
- 3 functions included
Within the wide array of products from Astatic, you can also find the PDC7 model.
It’s in the same family as its predecessor PDC1 and it mostly brings the same features to the table.
What’s interesting about this device is that it also lets you measure with precision the RF power and the field strength.
This is convenient if you want to get the best out of your ham radio. It’s also a compact device, which means you can use it safely on the go.
It has all the functions you’d need for figuring out whether your ham radio has an impedance mismatch or not.
The only downside of this device is that, if you leave it connected to the ham radio, the meter won’t return to 0 as expected.
Instead, the needle will remain stuck at the latest shown value. To get it back to zero, simply disconnect it from your radio and it’s good to go.
- Compact size – ensures convenient mobility
- Calibrated to work with 50 Ω
- Will operate between 26 and 30 MHz
- The meter won’t return to 0 unless it is disconnected from the ham radio
- Dial is very sensitive – a specific point might be difficult to set
04. TENQ RS-70 SWR Meter – An amazing two-way meter that is nothing like the others on the market
- One button for all modes (forward, reflected)
- Backlit display to support easy reading
- Only requires two AAA batteries
- It has a very low insertion loss
- Has a very straightforward control panel
This is a truly impressive SWR meter because of its interesting design and small size.
Compared to other products on the market, this meter is rather modern-looking.
It has a digital backlit display, making it extremely easy to read the SWR. It has a simple layout, with only two buttons.
The press of a button will lead to the device displaying the forward and reflected SWR ratio.
Given its size, the backlit display can be powered with only two AAA batteries or through a USB port.
This product can be left connected to the ham radio, as it has one of the lowest insertion losses on the market – around 0.3 dB.
It clearly deserves a spot in the best SWR meter for ham radio top.
- Very compact size for easy transportation and mobile use
- Easy to connect to any ham radio
- Measures might not be 100% accurate
- The package doesn’t include other accessories
05. Astatic SWR Meter (302-PDC2 version) – Great price-quality ratio
- Has 3 different functions – measuring SWR, RF power, field strength
- Can test 50 Ω antennas for CB operation
- Professional-like, exact readings
- 10-100 watts switches and forward/reverse switches
- Supports CB antenna tuning
If you want a professional SWR meter, this is the one for you. It has all the functions you would need from such a device, only displaying very accurate values.
Joining its other siblings, PDC1 and PDC7, this is one of the best products in terms of what it offers for the price.
Like most devices of its kind, it has three different functions: one for testing the SWR, one for testing the RF power, and one for the field strength.
It can also check the status of 50 Ω antennas when speaking about the CB operation.
What’s very appreciated about this product is that it comes with the mounting bracket and all other hardware necessary for this process included.
- Mounting bracket included
- Using instructions are very clear
- Can be used for tuning the antenna
- Requires disconnection to turn to 0
- The maximum FWD deflection has to be reset after each use
06. TENQ SWR Meter Model Rs40 – Inspired choice for dual-band necessities
- Has a great measurement accuracy (between 5% and 10%)
- Broad frequency range – 140-150 MHz and 430-450 MHz
- Low insertion loss (<0.3 dB)
- Can read SWR without further calibration
- Can be connected permanently to the ham radio
This meter from TENQ is super simple to use. It is one of the most straightforward, helpful, and secure meters on the market.
The product has a highly reviewed measurement accuracy, promising a 5-10% PEP.
The frequency range it brings to the table is broad enough to fit the needs of a ham radio owner, with it going from 140-150 MHz to 430-450 MHz.
What’s even greater about TENQ’s product is it’s easy to use connectors – UHF type. The impedance it supports goes up to 50 Ω and the power range is 15, 60, and 200 W respectively.
Overall, it’s an amazingly convenient product with compact sizes and a complete package to get you going.
- Compact size – can be used for mobile measuring
- Two measurement precision inputs (one of 5W and the other 20-200W)
- Power range of 15, 60, 200 W
- Doesn’t have a very sturdy structure
- Not recommended to use on high
07. SWR Meter from Workman Model SWR2T – Choose this one if you want a classic measurement device
- Classic test meter for CB
- The fixed frequency range of 27 MHz
- Can test SWR of up to 3:1
- Comes with a heavy-duty metal case for extra safety
- Supports an impedance of 52 Ω
Workman came up with a classic product, one of the best SWR meter for ham radio that you’ll find in this sense.
Why? Because it ticks all the boxes on the list. It’s sturdy, it’s compact so that you can use it on the go, it does its jobs just the way it’s expected.
This SWR meter doesn’t have a very broad frequency range, but it can test an impedance of up to 52 Ω.
Of course, you should keep it away from heavy-duty jobs and use it for an SWR of up to 3:1 only.
Anything above that can be potentially dangerous for the device itself and for your ham radio.
Another aspect you might want to keep in mind is that this meter doesn’t come with jumper cables in the package, so make sure to buy those separately.
- It is very simple to use the product (classic SWR meter)
- You can set the antenna in an optimum manner to get the best reception
- You can leave it connected for low SWR
- Doesn’t come with jumper cables included
- For higher SWR, the accuracy tends to decrease (excessive needle movement)
08. Signstek SWR Radio Meter – A device that any ham radio hobbyist should consider
- Consistent frequency range – 140-150 MHz and 430-450 MHz respectively
- High measurement accuracy (+- 5-10%)
- Low insertion loss (lower than 0.3 dB)
- Measurable power range of up to 200W
- Sturdy components
Signstek released this well-balanced SWR meter with functions that will allow anyone who has a ham radio as a hobby to match the impedance and get the best quality out of their investment.
This product is not necessarily a professional one, but rather an easy to use one, with basic functionalities.
It can support the most used frequency ranges, 140-150 MHz and 430-450 MHz. Its measurement accuracy is high enough to get a satisfactory result out of it, and it also has a low insertion loss.
The measurable power range goes up to 200W, but the instructions specify that it’s best to keep the device below 60W for accurate usage.
Anything above may be farer from the true result. It’s not an appropriate device for measuring a high SWR.
- Easy usage – function key switchers
- Doesn’t fit CB radios of 26-27 MHz
- Great precision
- Doesn’t perform well with high SWR
- For safe usage, power shouldn’t exceed 60W
09. Mcbazel SWR Meter (Model SW-102) – Comes with the ground plate in support of the frequency range
- Can measure both forward and reflected power
- Can measure up to 120W
- Has a low insertion loss (less than 0.3 dB)
- N-J interface for an easy read
- The broad frequency range of 125-525 MHz
If you want a device that does the job just right without having to spend a small fortune on it, this SWR meter from Mcbazel is what you’re looking for.
It’s one of the simplest meters you can find on the market, and it has everything it needs to measure SWR safely and correctly.
Compared to other products on the market, it comes with a ground plate which can be really beneficial for the measuring process.
It supports a frequency range of 125-525 MHz, so you won’t have to worry about this aspect.
Plus, it has a low insertion loss of less than 0.3 dB, which means you can keep it connected to your ham radio.
These features transform it into one of the best SWR meter for ham radio, especially for hobbyists that prefer mobility and easy to read interfaces.
- Comes with SO239 adapters
- The internal batteries can be charged by USB
- Intuitive, minimal panel layout
- It’s not compatible with any kind of digital radio
- Item calibration might not be accurate
10. Pro Trucker SWR Meter – Driver’s Product – Interesting option for lower SWR readings
- Compatible with radios that feature a standard SO239 connection
- Works with handheld radio models
- Can measure SWR of up to 3:1
- Has a heavy-duty metal case – sturdy body
- Works on CB frequency (27 MHz)
This device is perfect for drivers who want to tune in their ham radio antennas to avoid burning the radio up.
It takes less than 10 minutes to perfectly tune in the antenna, and you also get to measure the SWR and check if everything is within limits.
The device comes with a heavy-duty metal case and a small size, so it can be easily carried around in your vehicle.
It works perfectly on CB frequency, so it’s compatible with radios that use the 27 MHz one.
It would be advised to keep the SWR meter below the 3:1 range so any damage is avoided.
Overall, it’s a convenient product that does its job just right, especially for lower SWR ranges.
- Includes the jumper cables
- Supports an impedance of up to 52 Ω
- Compact size
- Can produce damage with SWR higher than 3:1
- Doesn’t have a long lifespan expectancy
Buying Considerations of The Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio/CB Radios
This topic is not easy to understand if you don’t have some background information about how antennas, impedance, and other technical aspects work in this domain.
To make a wise decision and buy the best SWR meter for ham radio, it’s important to dive into all details that might influence its performance.
Below, we explained most of the information you should comprehend about this topic.
These explanations should help you browse through product options easier and with more confidence, so read them thoroughly.
Understand what SWR is
SWR stands for Standing Wave Ratio, and it is a concept used in the field of radio engineering.
It is closely related to impedance, a term that you will encounter in the field of telecommunications.
SWR is actually how impedance matching is measured, hence all the ranges you’ll hear about when searching for a meter.
Naturally, an SWR meter measures the voltage ranges of a transmission line. It is important to use such a meter for ham radios to ensure they function properly.
To explain this further, think of the ham as a transmission line that carries an RF signal.
Ham radios have antennas through which messages are received and transmitted.
SWR measures the impedance matching, which means that the impedance of the source & load should be 0.
Whenever there is a mismatch in this sense, the ham radio will behave incorrectly, leading to standing waves.
SWR measures these potential mismatches, allowing you to correct them and bring the ham radio back to proper functioning.
How do SWR meters work?
SWR meters, also known as VSWR (V from voltage) meters, are devices that measure the SWR (the concept explained above).
This way, you check your ham radio’s transmission line to make sure that everything is aligned to the correct ranges.
This ensures the correct performance of your radio and lets you adjust the transmitter to the antenna or feedline.
After making the adjustments based on what the SWR meter detected, the impedance of the transmission should be fully matched.
Using such a meter saves you a lot of work in terms of adjustments.
But how do they work, to be precise? Well, SWR meters use the SWR calculation method after measuring the voltages in your device.
The formula first puts together the reflection coefficient that is calculated based on the voltages in the FWD and REV terminals (forward and reverse).
Once the reflection coefficient was calculated, the final SWR is obtained on a non-linear scale.
Some SWR meters contain modern PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) with three traces.
Inform yourself about ranges
To put it bluntly, SWR is the exact mirroring of your antenna’s efficiency.
Since you’re searching for the best SWR meter for ham radio, you’ll have to gather some information about the impedance matching ranges that work best for your device.
Let’s start with a simple example. If your radio is a 50 Ω one and has an impedance of 75 Ω, you’ll get an SWR range of 1.5:1.
This is not a great case, because it would be best to strive for a reading of 1.01:1.
Anything that stands below the aforementioned 1.5:1 is satisfactory, with 1.2:1 being the most common reading people get for ham radios.
Now, to understand what’s happening, you must know what each case means.
When the SWR is high, it means that your antenna setup is not proper, as it doesn’t transmit all the power properly.
An SWR within the ranges mentioned before is satisfactory because most of the signal is used, with little return loss.
The rather dangerous situation is whenever most of the power is not used, leading to overheating and device damage.
You could also encounter EMC issues and serious interference, which will alter the overall experience with your ham radio.
Learn about impedance matching
Impedance matching is a practice used in the field of electronics and telecommunications.
It refers to matching the input with the output impedance so that the power transfer is linear.
If mismatches appear, power is lost, leading to various issues for the device.
In the case of ham radio, you need to design the antenna’s input impedance in such a manner to correspond to the output impedance of the RF.
SWR meters allow you to figure out if there’s an impedance mismatch in your ham radio’s circuit.
The SWR will also alter the quality of the sound your device produces.
To correct a high SWR, you’ll have to make adjustments to your antenna system.
You will want to either lengthen or shorten the antenna system based on the result that your SWR meter generated.
A higher SWR is rather difficult to adjust because you might want to dig deeper into the settings to troubleshoot the situation.
Methods to improve your antenna setup
You can use various types of wire antennas for your ham radio.
You can opt for homemade antennas like wire ones, but the safest choice is using commercial antennas.
Some producers sell antennas specially purposed for ham radios.
Some of the most popular types include log periodic, traveling wave antennas, microwave antennas, reflector antennas, and more.
Based on what you’re building your ham radio for, the antenna setup will differ accordingly.
Each has a unique set of properties, but ideally, your setup should respect these conditions:
- Reduce the transmitting power to the value of your antenna’s receiving capabilities
- Use high-performance antennas, preferably separate
- Choose an antenna that is durable and performant (avoid home-brewed antennas)
Common FAQs Regarding The Best SWR Meter For Ham Radio & CB Radios
What is an SWR meter?
An SWR meter is a device that measures, as the name says, the Standing Wave Ratio.
This can be measured by following the power signal that is emitted from the radio to the antenna system.
For ham radios, you want to match the input and output impedances so that you obtain the perfect range.
Once the impedances match on the feedline, you know exactly that no power is wasted along the way.
The SWR meter will let you know if this mismatch is present and – if yes – it will let you know what change you need to make to your antenna setup.
How can I use an SWR meter?
Before putting your SWR meter to work, you should closely analyze your whole setup and understand which connector goes where.
One connector of the meter will go to the antenna and the other will go to the transmitter.
It is recommended to locate the SWR meter to the transmitter’s end of the feeder.
This way, you can monitor the correct voltage.
You’ll simply need to connect the antenna plug (normally labeled ANT) and use a lead to connect the transmitter socket (normally labeled TX).
Depending on the type of your ham radio, an antenna tuning unit might be required.
Once connected, you need to do the following for measuring performance:
- Choose a frequency
- Reduce the output power
- Choose a mode (AM/FM etc.)
- Start the meter (FORWARD) and adjust the forward reading
- Set the meter to REVERSE and adjust the reverse reading
- Stop the transmission
- Repeat on other frequencies
How do I make sure my SWR meter works?
You need to respect some rules whenever you use your SWR meter to guarantee that you keep your device safe in the process and that you measure any impedance mismatch correctly.
First of all, double-check your connector placement. If you mess up the connectors, the meter won’t function properly and everything will act in reverse.
ANT should go to your antenna and TX should go to the transmitter.
A second tip would be to always operate into a lower SWR.
If you operate into high SWR, you might damage your transmitter because of the high power. Even the feeder can suffer damage in high SWR situations.
Finally, check twice whether the meter functions in the appropriate frequency range.
As you may already know, depending on what product you decide to buy, the frequency range they support may vary tremendously.
If you use them outside this range, they might outperform or even damage your device.
What does a bad SWR mean?
There’s no such thing as a bad SWR, as some devices might require a higher SWR than the one normally used for ham radios.
SWR is measured in ranges, and these ranges differ from devices that have one purpose or another.
A range below 1.5:1 would be satisfactory, but calibration of a maximum 2:1 is accepted.
In the latter case, the damage is more likely to happen compared to an ideal 1:1 for no reflected power.
Even though limits vary, it’s normally based to stay within the lower SWR ranges.
Can I use an SWR bridge?
You can use SWR bridges for measuring the SWR. It works for all impedance bridge circuits and it only balances out when the impedance matches.
If there’s a mismatch, the bridge won’t calibrate.
SWR bridges are rather useful when you want to double-check whether the mismatch has been fixed or not, in a master manner than using an SWR meter.
Otherwise, using an SWR meter is faster for determining the exact range of SWR for your ham radio.
Can I keep the SWR meter connected at all times?
You can leave the SWR connected as long as you don’t work with high range SWR.
For instance, if you go with an SWR range of 3:1 and above, you shouldn’t keep your meter connected for long (or at all), since it may burn out parts of your device.
It’s safest to keep it connected if you also tune in your antenna.
Will a high SWR damage my device?
If you have an SWR of above 3:1, you might encounter performance issues, as well as radio damage when using the device extensively.
Normally, you shouldn’t transmit at such a high SWR range, as it demonstrates an installation problem.
In such a situation, you might want to re-check the state of your antenna.
Keep in mind that an oddly high SWR range result might be a cause of not connecting the SWR meter properly.
What should I look for when buying an SWR meter?
You need to check whether the SWR meter you’re buying is easy to connect if it comes with all the components you need for a straightforward measurement if it works with a higher SWR.
Another detail you might want to keep in mind when buying an SWR radio is that not all come with clear instructions.
It would be recommended to have some background knowledge on how impedance mismatches work and be aware of what factors could ultimately affect your ham radio’s functioning.
Keep in mind that the meter itself can be damaged when connected to a ham radio with a high SWR range (above 3:1).
Now that you learned more about the best SWR meter for ham radio and how SWR works, it should be much easier to make a purchase.
You know all aspects which might influence your ham radio’s efficiency, together with essential information about antenna setups, improved SWR, or impedance matching.
The reviews are also comprehensive enough to give you an overlook of what would be best for your situation. Happy shopping!