RF test cables need more respect

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New for May 2024:  Test cables are important for getting accurate RF measurements.  How can you ensure that your cables are going to give you good data?  Stop abusing them by bending them!

How many cell phone charging cords have you thrown away because one or more of the contacts broke loose right at the connector when you dropped the phone off your night table? You end up buying new charging cable for $15, no big deal.  What if that cable cost $1500, wouldn't you treat it a little better? 

In this video the Unknown Editor discusses the notion that RF test cables can be bent and flexed with abandon.  Cables can cost thousands of dollars, so they should be able to handle them like a ten-dollar garden hose, right?  Wrong!  Achieving measurements to high accuracy (better than 0.1 dB) is only possible if you respect your cables and avoid bending them unnecessarily, no matter what the manufacturer’s rep told you in the lobby. Once a cable has been abused, your network analyzer calibrations are forever inaccurate when you use that cable.  Sure, you can use damaged cable to supply LO power to an up/down converter, which will operate over a wide range of input power, but if you are trying to judge low-loss filter designs, forget about it.

Stop bending cables by the Unknown Editor of Microwaves101

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When buying cables, look for some serious stress relief where the RF connectors are attached:  there should be enough heat-shrink tubing to prevent extreme bending at this critical stress point. 

Test engineers and techs, stop the madness, learn how to care for your test gear and spread the word. Manufacturer’s reps, you are on notice to stop bragging about how much punishment your cables can take.  It’s one thing to tie a cable in knots in the lobby, but quite another to bring your broke-ass product into the lab so we can see just how “great” it is.