Today we are discussing the differences in battery performance, between the Icom AH-705, and MAT-705 antenna tuners, for the Icom IC-705.
I’ve been testing the MAT-705+ for 2 months now. It is powered by two internal lithium batteries, and charged with its USB-C port. It is designed to sit next to, or near by the IC-705. So far its been used with a variety of Chameleon antennas and 9:1 random wire endfeds. There are no complaints to speak of in regards to its tuning performance. It is fast, well integrated with the IC-705, and quite small.
Spoiler, It’s battery life is actually horrific! We can measure the battery life in hours rather than days, weeks or months as with LDG or Elecraft tuners. If you use the MAT-705+ at home, it needs to be constantly plugged in with its built-in USB charging port. This because the MAT-705+ only lasts 6 to 8 hours on a charge. The reason for this is the darn thing never goes to sleep. For example, LDG, Elecraft tuner will go into a “sleep mode” once they find a match. The MAT-705+ stops tuning, but never goes into a sleep mode. I am not sure of the type of relays used in the MAT-705+ tuner, but they seem to draw lots of current while actually doing nothing. It will keep the match even if the batteries die, which is a good thing.
Using it at home.
We can definately use the MAT-705+ as a home tuner for the Icom IC-705. The only problem with home deployment of the MAT-705+ tuner, is the noise from its USB charging port. Charging the MAT-705+ creates extreme hash on HF. Otherwise it is not a bad tuner for periodic home use. Just use it on internal power, then charge it up while the rig is not in use.
In the field
We can use the MAT-705+ tuner for an hour or two at a time on its own internal battery power. Some examples could be SOTA, POTA, HFPack, … For these type of rapid deployment ops with short operating window, it’s perfectly “okay”. Just remember not to plug it in, if you’re planning on doing any weak signal work. I imagine other YouTubers/bloggers fail to mention this charging hash, because they normally operate with a high noise floor.
The MAT-705+ is technically “off grid friendly”. Unfortunately it comes at the cost of RF Hash.
The AH-705 is powered by two internal and removable AA batteries. It can tune any type of antenna or wire, can be installed at the feed point. Naturally coming from Icom, it is extremely well integrated with the IC-705. The AH-705 is also extremely quiet if not silent on HF. No RF hash coming into your radio from the tuner while tuning or in standby/sleep mode.
Oddly (and in great contrast to the MAT-705+) the AH-705 has ridiculously long battery life for a system with two AA batteries. Battery life is measured in weeks or months. The AH-705 uses latching relays and a clever sleep mode, to bring down the current draw to about 1ma, when it is not actively tuning. When the IC-705 is powered down, the AH-705 also “powers down”. I’ve only had the AH-705 for a few days at the time of this writing. With that said, the two AA batteries have already outlasted the MAT-705+ batteries by 5 full days, and are still doing a great job powering the AH-705. If it isn’t clear, the AH-705 has been in constant use since its arrival.
The AH-705 can be used at home with its internal batteries, or by being plugged in to our power supplies. No worry of RF hash ruining our weak signal work. Use the AH-705 in whatever way you like.
In the field
The AH-705 is kind of big for field work, but I suspect it has some tricks up its sleeves. Being able to tune a wire (any wire) from 160-6 meters, coupled with battery life approaching weeks or months might mean we only need to carry the AH-705 and a wire to the field. Perhaps a telescopic pole, … I don’t want to give the copycats their next video ideas, so we will leave this aspect for a future episode/blog post.
The AH-705 is definitely Off Grid Friendly. Icom obviously used engineering experience from its previous AH offerings, applying that legendary performance to the AH-705. Although nothing to complain about in regards to battery life, I would have liked to have seen the AH-705 with all ports on one end of the tuner body. This would have made it easier to place a dry bag over top, when deploying in 65˚ North type WX.
Bottom line. Both of these tuners have a place in our QRP Go Kits. Most of the operators reading this blog or watching the channel are interested in the off grid capabilities of the gear we use, so that it how we judge them. Battery life, low current consumption, and our ability to easily charge gear are the three main criteria for “off grid friendly”. It doesn’t matter what type of tech we are actually talking about. Anything extending our operating time off grid, is a good thing. We also expect tech not create more problems than it solves. The RF hash while charging the MAT-705+ is a deal breaker for data modes. If we are working kilowatt stations with big yagi antennas on SSB, the operator probably won’t care. If the operator is trying to dig a JS8Call or FT8 station out of the mud at -21 snr, the operator is going to get frustrated pretty quick from the RF Hash. Equally frustrating is trying to send or receive email with winlink Vara HF, ARDOP, … only to be shutdown by noise from our own tuner. That (for me) is a real deal breaker. The AH-705 wins this battle.
Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. There are other tuners on the market which are and are not well integrated with the IC-705. The Elecraft T1 could easily replace the MAT-705+ if the T1 had the same level of integration. Unfortunately, there is no reasonable or practical interface cable available, for a marriage between the T1 and IC-705. The other option is the LDG z100+. If you don’t mind it’s size, it offers many of the same benefits and integration with the IC-705, as the MAT-705+.
Food for thought.