Recommendations for Measuring Radio Frequency (RF) Fields
What Are Radio Frequency Fields?
Radio frequency fields (or “RF” fields) – including microwaves and 5G – refers to the high frequency EMFs emitted by cell towers, cell phones, smart meters, Wi-Fi routers, wireless computers, iPads, baby monitors, TV and radio broadcast towers, microwave ovens, and many other wireless sources, including 5G.
RF Test Meters
For detecting RF fields, it is important to use a meter which can detect a wide range of frequencies. For example, the 5.8 GHz cordless phone frequency is not detected by many lower cost RF meters (especially the older ones), and even some of the more professional higher cost meters (such as some the Gigahertz Solutions meters). We generally recommend using an RF meter that detects frequencies from at least 200 MHZ up to 8 GHz.
Single-Axis Antenna is Okay
And although it is very helpful to use a triple-axis antenna type of RF meter (contains three internal antenna directions), these meters are relatively rare and much more expensive. For most RF testing, a triple-axis antenna is not critical, especially if you know how to use a single-axis RF meter (only one antenna direction) by twisting it around into various orientations and looking for the strongest reading.
Our Recommendation for Most People
For most people, we recommend the Safe and Sound Pro II meter. The Acoustimeter AM-10 and AM11 meters also have a similar price and performance to the Safe and Sound Pro II. And they all have a similar frequency range, detecting RF fields from 200 MHZ up to 8 GHz. They are all very good meters for detecting modern digital wireless signals.
Lower Cost Alternatives
If you are looking for a good small simple meter, with sufficient accuracy, and at a lower cost — we recommend the Acousticom-2 meter. The Safe and Sound Classic is similar, with a slightly lower price but less helpful LEDs. Again, both of these meters detect frequencies form 200 MHz up to 8 GHz.
Lowest Cost Alternative
Although we don’t usually recommend it for RF testing (it is more useful for magnetic field testing), the TriField TF2 meter can offer some useful RF measurements – as long as you are not trying to measure very low level (weaker) signals. For example, if you are committed to finding a very “clean” RF environment, the TriField TF2 may lead you to believe that there are no significant RF signals in a particular location while a higher quality meter might detect a certain amount. Even for stronger RF signals its performance is limited, but it is still a great value considering its price, and for all that it does (roughly measures 3 different kinds of EMFs).
Meters to Avoid
While the quality of meters varies greatly, most RF test meters under $200 – especially the combination meters that measure more than one type EMF in the same instrument – often have serious accuracy and quality issues. Therefore we generally don’t recommend them.
We do not recommend the TriField 100XE (older model) for measuring RF signals, due to a variety of concerns, including not having been designed for digital signals.
And although it still has some very valuable features, we no longer recommend the TES 593 meter due to recent quality and manufacturing concerns, and an outdated design (difficulty with some modern digital signals).
For more information on the meters, please refer to the individual links above for each meter.