Author Topic: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575  (Read 439 times)

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Offline Jan Catrysse

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What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« on: August 17, 2019, 10:38:12 am »
Hello,

I was looking for a frequency counter to measure some 1.5Ghz stuff, but I'm new to this and I am quite clueless about the ins and outs of such test equipment.

I am looking at a HP 5386A or EIP 575 at roughly the same pricepoint.

Any advice if those units are worth while and what would be the better of the two? I don't know if I will ever need something more that 3GHz...

Regards
 

Offline Stray Electron

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2019, 12:30:27 pm »
   If I were in your place the first thing that I would do would be to see what service manuals are available. Do either of the counters have any options installed?  EIP builds good solid counters, so does HP.  HP probably has the advantage that there's lot of them out there and there is large base of users that can supply help when you need it.  Dave did a tear down of the HP 5486 and it included some discussion of how to add the optional high stability time base https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/hp-5386a-frequency-counter-teardown/
 

Offline Grandchuck

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2019, 01:33:09 pm »
   If I were in your place the first thing that I would do would be to see what service manuals are available. Do either of the counters have any options installed?  EIP builds good solid counters, so does HP.  HP probably has the advantage that there's lot of them out there and there is large base of users that can supply help when you need it.  Dave did a tear down of the HP 5486 and it included some discussion of how to add the optional high stability time base https://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/hp-5386a-frequency-counter-teardown/

Also, check https://gerrysweeney.com/category/electronics/
The second there article is about a high stability time base for that counter.  I have one and it works very well.
 

Offline wn1fju

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2019, 02:17:27 pm »
The EIP 575 is also a "source locking" counter, meaning that you can use it to feed a VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) and have the VCO lock to a desired
frequency that is set on the counter.  If you don't understand what I mean, then you probably don't need that feature!

I would also look at the HP 5342A and HP 5350B.  I find the HP units a little easier to work on than the EIP in case you ever need to fix something.
 

Offline Jan Catrysse

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2019, 03:51:50 pm »
Thank you.

Would one counter be (much) more accurate than the other or is this  not an issue on these devices?

I noticed the EIP has a huge frequency range up to 18GHz… would that be a reason to go for that (older) device?

Regards
« Last Edit: August 18, 2019, 06:47:19 am by Jan Catrysse »
 

Offline wn1fju

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2019, 04:33:27 pm »
To a first approximation, the accuracy of a counter is really a function of the timebase circuitry.  That's why you should ideally look for a counter with an
ovenized oscillator.  Almost all counter manufacturers either include the ovenized oscillator, or offer it as an option.  Having said that, there were (and are)
many different schemes used for the actual counting - the cheaper counters simply count the number of timebase clocks; the better counters use some
sort of interpolation.  There are lots of descriptions of the various techniques on the web - several of the older HP Journals describe them.

As far as frequency coverage goes, obviously the higher the frequency, the more potential usefulness the counter has.  But sometimes, too high a frequency
range can be a missed blessing.  For instance, you can't reliably use BNC cables/connectors up at 18 GHz.  So unless your lab already has a lot of microwave
capable equipment and accessories, I wouldn't necessarily place a premium on the upper frequency limit of the counter.
 

Offline Stray Electron

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2019, 04:38:56 pm »
  The accuracy of the counters is almost entirely determined by the accuracy of the time base that they use.  The standard time bases in both of these counters have very similar specs so I expect the accuracy of both counters to be very similar. But either of the ones that you're looking at has (or if you can add) the High Stability Time Base then it will be more accurate than the other one.  But keep in mind that there are other factors that you may or may not care about. The HP counter is slightly more sensitive (at least according to the specs), OTOH the EIP has better overload protection.  I suspect that the EIP counter will be much easier to troubleshoot and parts will be easier to find than the HP model which probably uses mostly custom parts.  OTOH the HP counter is about half the size and probably half the weight of the EIP.  I also like the bright red display of the EIP better than the LCD display used on the HP.

   Did you look at Youtube?  There are several videos about the EIP 575 counter. Troubleshooting and repair seems so be very straightforward. In fact, the ones that I've seen that had trouble all turned out to be due to bad solder joints and other easy repairs.

   As wnifju pointed out; there may be other features that may be useful to you in the future.

   Personally,  if you can don't mind the size and weight of the EIP that would be my choice and the ability to add a HS time base would be a plus, but both companies make excellent counters.
 

Offline wn1fju

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2019, 05:19:14 pm »
Well, I have the EIP 578 (slightly better version of the 575) and I found it to be a bit of a pain in the ass to work on.  They run a lot of cables to the various
boards which are problematic if you need to put a board on an extender.  Plus, although they seemingly do not use custom ICs, the whole microwave section
has several modules that might be hard to get.  My EIP 578 luckily only suffered from tantalum capacitor disease - 15 of the 27 10uF caps were burned to
a crisp.

I also have the HP 5342A counter and I like it a lot.  Although these are famous for power supply problems and mine was no exception.

But once everything is working, the EIP is very nice.  For some reason, EIP counters do not seem well known to the community and therefore some of
the prices they command are a real bargain.
 

Offline Stray Electron

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2019, 03:02:50 am »
  OP,  One of the members of this forum worked on EIP counters for 20+ years and is very helpful when people have questions or need help.

   Regarding caps; bad caps are a plague in modern electronics but both HP and EIP seem to use better than normal grade parts rarely have problems with them.   I recently rescued 8 old EIP 545 counters from an E-salvage yard and all of them worked.   I'm impressed to say the least!  Their weight also made an impression on me!  :o
 

Offline Jan Catrysse

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2019, 06:54:38 am »
Thank you for the help and clear information!

Not that it makes the choice more easy haha, but it sure is now a much more thoughtful choice.

I think I'll go for the EIP for its input protection, clear display, high range and serviceability. I found some repair video's and manuals... In due time I could add a better oscillator.

Let's see if it is still available ;-)
 

Offline Jan Catrysse

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Re: What counter to buy? (newby question) HP 5386A or EIP 575
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2019, 03:53:54 pm »
After some more research I ordered an Agilent 53132A with the 012 high accuracy ocxo and an aftermarket 3gHz option. I also added a Trimble Thunderbird GPSDO… from ebay…

Hope it be worth while…  waiting for the delivery now… fingers crossed.

Your help was very useful.
 


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