Author Topic: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters  (Read 55437 times)

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Offline joeqsmith

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CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« on: May 31, 2022, 11:23:03 pm »
There are a lot of videos of the CB and ham group talking about the old Bird Watt meters being the gold standard.   I knew UNI-T has a fan base but it's nothing compared with Bird. 
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
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Online vk6zgo

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2022, 02:52:48 am »
Ok, so Birds aren't the ultimate, but their accuracy is acceptable in many applications, they are rugged, the inserts (including those from Coaxial Dynamics) are interchangeable between different units, & their readings are pretty much repeatable over time,---the downside is, because they are used a lot in industry (often in fixed positions to facilitate a quick check of "forward & reverse power"), they are costly to buy.
 
When I used to travel around the State, doing routine checks & fault callouts on TV & Radio Tx sites, we used a HP410C, MODEL 1I036A AC PROBE,  a  MODEL 1I042A PROBE "T" CONNECTOR, & a known accurate test load, (I don't mean to yell, that is just as they appear in the 410C manual) to spec check the output power of the smaller Tx, up to around 2kW,------we wouldn't have used a Bird there!

Big Tx usually had a water, or sometimes oil, cooled load .
You read off the temperature change of the coolant, & calculated the power-----good old 19th Century technology!!

All the latter stuff isn't anything you would leave connected up, so simple, rugged devices like the Bird have a definite place.
For Amateur Radio fans, who over time, may have had several " ham" VSWR meters of varying accuracy, but all with limited life, the Bird is, indeed a revelation.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2022, 02:56:35 am by vk6zgo »
 

Offline bob91343

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2022, 04:45:52 am »
I never considered a Bird.  Way too expensive for making a measurement I don't need accurately.  What I used for a while was a Radio Schlock digital wattmeter until it failed.  It's on my project list.  What I use now is my HP410B connected to the transmission line.  Since my SWR is low, I can calculate power closely enough.
 

Offline antenna

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2022, 04:55:09 am »
I never understood why people care so much about the accuracy of a watt meter anyhow.  Not only are they incapable of differentiating between fundamental and harmonics, but it takes doubling the power twice to make 1 s-unit of difference on the other end ~ so who cares if its 22w or 29w?  Bird meters are just an ooh ahh factor for suckers searching youtube for the "best" cb repair shop.  One thing I've noticed is that the shops that show their fancy bird watt meters on video haven't got a spectrum analyzer in sight.
 
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Online vk6zgo

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2022, 05:36:15 am »
I never considered a Bird.  Way too expensive for making a measurement I don't need accurately.  What I used for a while was a Radio Schlock digital wattmeter until it failed.  It's on my project list.  What I use now is my HP410B connected to the transmission line.  Since my SWR is low, I can calculate power closely enough.

How do you connect to the transmission line?
Do you have a Model 1I042, or a homemade version, just a "hole" in the screen & the inner insulation to get at the centre conductor, or just a plain old "UHF" coaxial "T" connector?

I loved the convenience of the 1I042, but I guess you could get away with something a lot less sophisticated at HF.
 

Online vk6zgo

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2022, 05:44:13 am »
I never understood why people care so much about the accuracy of a watt meter anyhow.  Not only are they incapable of differentiating between fundamental and harmonics, but it takes doubling the power twice to make 1 s-unit of difference on the other end ~ so who cares if its 22w or 29w?  Bird meters are just an ooh ahh factor for suckers searching youtube for the "best" cb repair shop.  One thing I've noticed is that the shops that show their fancy bird watt meters on video haven't got a spectrum analyzer in sight.

Wel, you can measure SWR with them, knowing forward & Return power, so that could be useful.
I'd love to have an SA, but they are a bit too much for my budget!
As for rhe "CB" experts on Youtube, this my BS meter reaction to them. :bullshit: :bullshit: :bullshit:
 

Offline CJay

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2022, 06:51:52 am »
Generally safe to assume that anyone on youtube claiming to be a CB tech is full of shit.

Their worship of the mighty Bird and their 'expert knowledge' is just laughable, there's one who claims he has no need of a spectrum analyser because his Bird 0-30MHz slug can't measure anything over 30MHz so he *knows* all the power out of the back of his supertuned CBs has to be in the fundamental.

If you really want some  |O videos go check out the guys who use 'pills' to bodge together illegal CB RF amplifiers.
 
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Offline joeqsmith

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2022, 10:37:07 am »
The CBers with their "pills" are more entertaining than the hams.   One guy had four Bird meters strung together.   I learned there is a unit called "birds".   Example, "this amplifier puts out 1000 birds".    Reading their descriptions,  they must compete with one another and will typically block all comments.   

Quote
What I used for a while was a Radio Schlock digital wattmeter until it failed. 
I had no idea they even offered such a product. 
https://cbradiomagazine.com/radio-shack-mta-20-digital-swr-watt-meter-review/

A quick search, some of the newer meters are pretty fancy. 
https://www.microham.com/contents/en-us/d201_SMORF.html

I have a cheap 500mW digital meter.  It updates about once a second.  Faster than the calorimeter.   Accuracy is 15% maybe 20?   No peak detect mode or anything fancy.   I thought about making an analog meter from an old ARRL handbook for the fun of it.  Old time analog meters command a very high price.     
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
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Offline Wallace Gasiewicz

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2022, 11:17:17 am »
Bird Wattmeters are a cult. People are interested in getting the highest reading on their bird or other wattmeter. This is great, sell yours to a CBer and make some money!!
They are one of the most accurate easily available meters . Not Metrology grade.
The only one I have is a Termaline milliwatt meter, I could not resist the $5 price.
Adjusting for peak output is great for the repair guy who gets to charge for fixing the resulting damage.
Many (not necessarily CB radios) 10 M radios are adjusted mostly to reduce harmonics and other spurious signals getting into the finals. If you have a spectrum and actually read the service manuals, you would know this.
Tuning for max just makes bad signals get to the  final stages and overload them, then the finals or the big, frequently illegal, linear amp is terminally damaged. Or having a carrier AM signal so large that it heats up stuff and there is little room for power to the side bands.
Besides that, the Bird only reads the avg power output. In AM transmission and SSB, the peak output is a better indication of your signal. CBers don't use FSK but use AM so peak signal indicates their signal strength more accurately. Most peak reading meters are not extremely accurate but who cares? They work fine.
Our major task to help out people who actually use CB for work is to teach them how to use a SWR meter, like the cheap ones that Lafayette made. Folks like construction truckers frequently are in positions where their antenna systems are damaged by harsh conditions or hazards, like trees. The cheap hand held SWR meters will do a fine job of telling them if something is wrong.
Almost all of the CB tecks I see are Bozos.
 

Offline Stray Electron

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2022, 01:50:34 pm »
Bird Wattmeters are a cult.


   Truth!  Hams and CBers are a funny lot. They're absolutely fanatical about certain brands such as Bird and Astron (power supplies) even when there is much better equipment available for nearly the same costs.
 

Offline Mark19960

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2022, 12:01:29 am »
Most American CB techs are hilarious to me.

You have some that just don't get involved in the nonsense and you have the other extreme...
Then you have the outlier like Fine Tune CB.

He gets on the radio, Youtube, and Facebook and tells people that you have to connect your 100 watt radios directly to your spectrum analyser.
His assertion is if you don't do this you can't see all of the bad harmonics or spurs or anything. It's all "hidden" from view.
Oh, and you absolutely cannot use an attenuator between your radio and your spectrum analyser. Absolutely not. Doing so is heresy in his crowd.

Then he comes out against Bird meters while he points at one that he uses.
And these people that follow him are so deluded that they cheer this whole... connect your 100 watt radio directly to your spectrum analyser without an attenuator!
ALL YOU RF GUYS ARE DOING IT WRONG! ATTENUATOR BAD! YOUR HIDING STUFF BECAUSE YOU USE AN ATTENUATOR! ENGINEERS BAD!!!!! RAAAAAH!!!!
Oh, and he has a "faraday cage" in his caravan.... and you have to have a faraday cage.. or your doing it wrong.
And waving an expired "certificate of calibration" from a sticker shop saying that NIST gave it to him, and that NIST "tuned his bench".

Fortunately he has maybe a handful of people at best that pray to him or whatever they do.

The CB techs with the bank of bird meters ... I think its hilarious.
Then you have the guys with 5 or 10 bird meters, a handful of dosy meters, an MFJ or two.... and not all of them agree with each other!

Some of them are entertaining.
I love the banks of bird meters that all have different slugs so we can see a reading of 20 watts in 200 different ways in peak/average and with 1,2,3,4,5 or whatever times scales.
 

Offline xrunner

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2022, 12:43:34 am »
There are a lot of videos of the CB and ham group talking about the old Bird Watt meters being the gold standard.   I knew UNI-T has a fan base but it's nothing compared with Bird.

They have a few odd beliefs that seem to circulate for years. One of them I heard all the time was this -

"Don't use an RF coupler to extend your coax because it'll add 1 dB of attenuation!"

They didn't really care what band it was just a "feel-good" thing to say making the person seem like they knew what they were talking about, and I guess it seemed reasonable to them so no one ever questioned it. So one day, since I question things ... I did a little research and I think I connected about 6 RF adapters in series just to prove they were wrong. Considering HF (up to 30 MHz), 2 meters (144 to 148 MHz) and UHF (420 to 450 MHz), the only band that even started to approach 1 dB was UHF, and that was for six adapters in series LOL.

After I revealed my findings they actually stopped telling people that. My little contribution to reality.

On the other hand ... knowing the hams I know, if they did use an adapter it would probably be in such bad shape they might be right (my stuff isn't rusty and grungy).  :-DD
[hp] Hewlett . Packard
 
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Offline xmo

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2022, 03:22:43 pm »
Professionals have also long favored the Bird 43 because it is rugged, reliable, and reasonably accurate.

However, today with the need for accurate measurements of equipment using advanced modulations, many users have transitioned to modern instruments.

For example, the Motorola System Technologists that commission Astro25 public safety systems are equipped with R&S directional sensors.  These can work with a physical power meter instrument or be interfaced to a virtual power meter app on a PC.

 

Offline bd139

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2022, 03:27:48 pm »
Reason Birds are so popular is that either the people don’t understand the frequency domain, can’t afford a spectrum analyser, don’t know how to use a spectrum analyser or extending the latter, blew up the front end on the spectrum analyser they could afford because they didn’t know how to use it.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2022, 03:29:20 pm by bd139 »
 
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Offline TheMG

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2022, 07:06:57 pm »
Use the Birds at work all the time. Granted, we are not dealing with advanced modulation (mostly AM, FM, and SSB) and frequencies below 1GHz.

They are quick and easy to set up, rugged, and provide reasonably accurate and repeatable results, and can also measure forward and reverse power making it possible to calculate SWR.

Useful tool to quickly determine if a transmitter is outputting the power its supposed to be putting out, and the general health of the attached transmitting antenna system.

That being said, it's only one of many tools in the RF toolkit. Useless on pulsed/burst modulation schemes, and of course you always need a spectrum analyzer if you want to assess the quality of a transmitted signal.
 

Offline CaptDon

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2022, 08:29:43 pm »
I think part of the Bird following is that many hams worked in AM/FM/Television broadcasting in the 60's and 70's and beyond. In that timeframe Bird was the best thing going for setting up STL, RPU and so forth and Bird was nearly the only player in the market back then for near microwave equipment in the 900Mhz to 1Ghz studio transmitter links. It helped Bird become the go-to product because they built the hardline units for high power FM and Television. The brand was so common in commercial applications. The military also had a lot of Bird stuff that eventually ended up at hamfests and could be had somewhat cheap for the quality you were getting. The company I worked for laid off most of the R.F. engineers and outsourced the design work. My '43' and all the slugs were in a box in the dumpster since no one knew what it was or how to use it any more. Prior to that my hamshack SWR/Power meter was a Tempo RBF-1 which is still connected in-line with my lowband ham gear. I never really prayed to the Bird Gods, but I sure used one in nearly every broadcast station and electronics lab I ever worked in because surely there was one on a shelf somewhere along with a bunch of slugs and so forth. Tegam in Geneva Ohio must have about 6 of them in their lab, all in active use!!
Collector and repairer of vintage and not so vintage electronic gadgets and test equipment. What's the difference between a pizza and a musician? A pizza can feed a family of four!! Classically trained guitarist. Sound engineer.
 

Offline joeqsmith

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2022, 08:48:44 pm »
There not just for the old hams and CB operators.   They are coveted by the beginners too, much like the Fluke 87V.     

How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
Software, documentation and test reports for the low cost NanoVNA, V2+4 and LiteVNA may be found here:
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Offline El Rubio

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2022, 03:03:01 pm »
Use the Birds at work all the time. Granted, we are not dealing with advanced modulation (mostly AM, FM, and SSB) and frequencies below 1GHz.

They are quick and easy to set up, rugged, and provide reasonably accurate and repeatable results, and can also measure forward and reverse power making it possible to calculate SWR.

Useful tool to quickly determine if a transmitter is outputting the power its supposed to be putting out, and the general health of the attached transmitting antenna system.

That being said, it's only one of many tools in the RF toolkit. Useless on pulsed/burst modulation schemes, and of course you always need a spectrum analyzer if you want to assess the quality of a transmitted signal.

^^^This^^^
I have owned a Bird 43 for over 30 years. I can’t say that for very many tools, even hand tools. However, I cant recall the last time I used it. The CB knuckleheads on youtube do not represent the majority of professionals that use this meter.

There’s plenty of test equipment fanboys on this forum that fawn over gear that really isn’t very good. Bird meters do have a cult following, but so do others. I had a discussion once with a tech adjusting a 10MHz clock. Spec said it was to be +/- 1Hz. He was measuring with an HP frequency counter and it was off a little. He was about to turn screws and I asked him how did he know how accurate his freq counter was. He just replied “ well, it’s an HP”.
How many feel the same way about their Fluke MM? There are countless threads here comparing cheap multimeters to the trusted Flukes.
The list of manufacturers that can enjoy blind trust in their gear is short and any of them would like to have the reputation of Bird wattmeters.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2022, 03:24:50 pm »
There not just for the old hams and CB operators.   They are coveted by the beginners too, much like the Fluke 87V.     

Added to list of thinks to hawk at hamfests for ebay opportunities. The joy of arbitrage.
 

Offline xrunner

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2022, 04:11:38 pm »
There’s plenty of test equipment fanboys on this forum that fawn over gear that really isn’t very good. Bird meters do have a cult following, but so do others. I had a discussion once with a tech adjusting a 10MHz clock. Spec said it was to be +/- 1Hz. He was measuring with an HP frequency counter and it was off a little. He was about to turn screws and I asked him how did he know how accurate his freq counter was. He just replied “ well, it’s an HP”.

How do the Bird wattmeter owners know those are accurate?
[hp] Hewlett . Packard
 

Offline Wallace Gasiewicz

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2022, 04:15:49 pm »
Here is their theme song:

 

Offline joeqsmith

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2022, 04:53:05 pm »
Continuing to binge watch CB and ham videos. 

Watched a few from Mr BBI.  His channel shows a lot of home made CB amplifiers.    One video shows his 6 Bird meters.  He talked about having some off brand and then buying the first Bird, basically because it being consider the gold standard.  He explained the reason for adding each.   He has a lot of content and I could not find that video but you can see his collection here:



I really don't have a way to measure power accurately or repeatably.   I wonder how they calibrate and align them at the factory.   Maybe there's a factory tour video. 
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
Software, documentation and test reports for the low cost NanoVNA, V2+4 and LiteVNA may be found here:
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Offline joeqsmith

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2022, 05:02:59 pm »
Here is their theme song:

Reminded me of Ron Sweed, The Ghoul and Froggy who would frequently play it and of course, Mark Fidrych. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Sweed

Damn you, now that songs going to be running though my head all day... :-DD
How electrically robust is your meter?? https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsK99WXk9VhcghnAauTBsbg
Software, documentation and test reports for the low cost NanoVNA, V2+4 and LiteVNA may be found here:
https://github.com/joeqsmith
 

Offline xrunner

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #23 on: June 03, 2022, 05:05:01 pm »
Here is their theme song:

Reminded me of Ron Sweed, The Ghoul and Froggy who would frequently play it and of course, Mark Fidrych. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Sweed

Damn you, now that songs going to be running though my head all day... :-DD

Same here! Plus my cat got aggravated when I was playing it and left the room.  :-DD
[hp] Hewlett . Packard
 
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Offline Wallace Gasiewicz

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Re: CB and Ham Radio Techs Love Their Bird Wattmeters
« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2022, 07:38:14 pm »
Right on  Operday!!!!

Here is their theme song:

Reminded me of Ron Sweed, The Ghoul and Froggy who would frequently play it and of course, Mark Fidrych. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Sweed

Damn you, now that songs going to be running though my head all day... :-DD

Same here! Plus my cat got aggravated when I was playing it and left the room.  :-DD
 


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