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Armada Technologies
Pro48 Solenoid Activator / Chatterbox
Pro210 Tone Probe
Pro48K Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox Kit

 

Armada Pro48 Solenoid Activator / Chatterbox

The Armada Technologies Pro48 Solenoid Activator / Chatterbox is a simple to use, portable, irrigation system tester. It performs the following functions:

Note: Armada Technologies was formerly known as Pro-Tech Equipment. The Pro-Tech branded units tested for this review are similar, but not identical, to the newer Armada branded products.


The Armada Pro48 Solenoid Activator / Chatterbox (on left) and Pro210 Tone Probe (right)

 

Get it here:

The Armada Pro48 is small enough to carry around easily, but big enough to not be easily left behind. It is constructed of heavy yellow plastic and powered by two 9-volt alkaline batteries. The unit has two heavy-duty wire leads with multifunction wire connectors on the end of each wire. The connectors allow it to attach to screw heads, metal tabs, wires, and even has a barb to pierce through wire insulation. A toggle switch enclosed in a protective sheath on top of the unit sets the function. A slide-switch on the side of the Pro48 switches between the solenoid activation and chatter modes. The Pro48 has a limited one-year warranty. The average homeowner doesn't need anything fancier than the Pro48 and this would be my recommendation for a homeowner looking for a top-quality troubleshooting tool.

There is a limitation to the length of wire that can be tested with the Pro-48. The limitations are based on wire gauge (size) and are:
 #12 AWG wire = 3000-13000 feet
 #14 AWG wire = 2000-8500 feet
 #18 AWG wire = 500-3000 feet
Note- under good conditions and with brand-new batteries the longer wire lengths can be tested, the shorter lengths are the worst-case scenario with weak batteries. Most home irrigation systems use #18 AWG wire and typically this wire is color coded.

The Pro48 is sold as a stand-alone unit or as part of a kit (Pro48K Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox Kit) that includes the Pro210 Tone Probe. In order to use the tone function to identify wires you need to have both the Pro48 and the Pro210 Tone Probe.

Pro210 Tone Probe / Pro220K Tone and Probe Kit

The Armada Technologies Pro210 Tone Probe is used to trace and identify a single wire within a group of wires or in a multi-wire cable. The unit has a volume control and a monitor jack for use with a headset. The Pro210 uses a single 9-volt alkaline battery. A momentary-type push-button switch turns the unit on and off, so you don't have to worry about leaving it on. The unit is constructed of heavy yellow plastic measuring 1" x 9" x 1" in size. The Pro210 is also sold as the Pro220K Tone and Probe Kit which includes a small tone sender/generator, along with the Pro210 Probe, as well as a carrying case for both. Because the wire used for small residential irrigation systems is typically color-coded cable, homeowners seldom need to trace wires. The Tone Probe is primarily a tool for contractors who install larger irrigation systems where there are multiple individual wires of the same color. I think most homeowners would find this over-kill for their use.

Pro48K Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox Kit w/ Probe

This is a combination kit that includes all the items reviewed on this page. The kit includes a Armada Pro48 Solenoid Activator / Chatterbox, a Pro210 Tone Probe, and a carrying case for both the units. (The Pro48K Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox Kit is what I use in my work and would recommend for pro installers.)

What Can You Use These Tools For, and How Do They Work?

If you're not an irrigation professional you're probably asking what do you do with these tools and how do you do it? Good questions! Here's what you can do with them:

Testing the Units:

In my tests both the Armada (formerly Pro-Tech) Pro48 and the Pro210 Tone Probe performed well when used with fresh, alkaline batteries. I did notice a distinct drop in performance when using an older set of batteries. The chatter and valve actuation features use up batteries quickly, so be sure to have some extra batteries on hand. Florescent lights and other electrical equipment nearby can create some interference when using the Pro210 Tone Probe. While annoying to listen to (sounds like loud static on a radio), this doesn't impact the operation of the device. The wire connectors on the Pro48 include a wire insulation piercing barb so you don't have to strip the wire to attach the tester, which is very handy. However I recommend that you do not use this feature for outdoor wire or wire that will be buried, unless you seal the hole created in the insulation after you're done. Test equipment tends to see a hard life, so I tested these tools with a 2 foot drop onto a concrete floor (about hand level when carrying them). The Pro210 Tone Probe survived the drop onto the concrete floor with no damage. The Armada Pro48 did not do as well, the battery compartment door broke when dropped (the latching tab that holds the door in place broke off). The damage was to the case only, the Pro48 continue to operate correctly after it was dropped.

Conclusion:

I found the Armada Pro48 and the Pro210 Tone Probe both functioned well. I actually use the Pro48 when I am testing valves and controllers for my reviews as well as in my normal work on irrigation systems. So these are products I personally use and recommend. (I always cringe a little when doing an intentional drop test on a piece of equipment that I like and use myself. I was a bit disappointed that the battery door on the Pro48 case broke when it was dropped. I have it taped back on. I suggest you take care not to drop yours!)

Armada's webpages for these products are at:
Pro48K Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox Kit
Pro48 Solenoid Activator/Chatterbox
Pro220K Tone and Probe Kit


Tips on Using the Armada Pro48 Tone Generator with the Pro210 Tone Probe

Let's say you have a bundle of 10 wires leading from the irrigation controller to a location 100 feet away where you want to install your valves. All the wires are identical; same size, same color. How do you tell one wire from the other? You can use the tone sender/generator feature of the Armada Technologies Pro48 with the Armada Technologies Pro210 Tone Probe for this.

  1. The black lead of the Pro48 is connected to an earth ground, such as a water pipe, electrical ground, or even a screwdriver stuck in the ground will often work. You may need a length of spare wire to reach a suitable ground, especially inside a building. (Be careful if you use the ground wire on an electrical circuit or outlet; don't connect the tester to a standard or high voltage wire by accident! Check for voltage on the wire first.)
  2. The red lead of the Pro48 is connected to one end of the wire you wish to identify.
  3. Switch the top toggle switch on the Pro48 to the "send tone" position. The tone generator will send a tone signal on the wire you connected the red lead to.
  4. Test the connection by placing the Pro210 Tone Probe's antenna tip next to the wire you are identifying. Press the button on the probe and adjust the volume dial until you hear a siren tone emitted from the Amplifier Probe. The siren should fade out as you move the tip away from the wire. The siren should not go off or be noticeably quieter when you touch the probe tip to any other wires. Continue to adjust the volume until you get the siren at a level where you can easily tell the difference in volume between the wire connected to the red lead and the other wires. (If you are not able to get a noticeable difference in volume between the wires, see the work-around instructions below.)
  5. Now go to the other end of your group of wires. Separate the wires a few inches from each other and use the Amplifier Probe to identify the wire with the tone. While pressing the trigger on the Amplifier Probe touch the antenna tip of the probe to each wire and listen for the siren. The wire with the tone will sound the loudest. You may need to adjust the volume on the Amplifier Probe to be able to clearly tell which one is louder. Another trick that sometimes works is to hold the Amplifier Probe in one hand and touched the wires with your other hand. It takes a bit of practice.
  6. Don't forget to turn off the Pro-48 when you are finished!

Testing for a tone on wires that are installed very close to each other can be very difficult. This is a common problem with #18 wires, twisted-wire cables, multi-wire cables, and any low-voltage wire with thin insulation. This is caused by the tone signal leaking between the wires. In many cases it is just about impossible to tell which wire the tone is attached to. There is a work-around solution that you can try, however.

Work-Around Instructions for Difficult Situations-

  1. Attach the red lead of the Pro48 to the wire you wish to identify. Place a small piece of masking tape on this wire to identify it.
  2. Attach the black lead of the Pro48 to another one of the wires in the group, do not attach it to an earth ground.
  3. Switch the top toggle switch on the Pro48 to the "send tone" position.
  4. Now go to the other end of your group of wires. Separate the wires a few inches from each other and use the Amplifier Probe to identify the wires with the tone. When touched with the probe the two wires you connected the Pro48 to should give a much louder siren sound than the other wires. Place a small piece of masking tape on each of those two wires.
  5. Go back to the other end of the wire group where the Pro48 is connected. Disconnect the black lead of the Pro48 from the wire it was attached to and reconnect it to a different wire in the group.
  6. Return to the other end of the wires and retest them using the Amplifier Probe. One of the wires you put masking tape on will still give a loud siren tone. The other should not. Remove the masking tape from the one that no longer has a loud siren tone.
  7. The wire you wanted to identify now has masking tape on both ends of it.
  8. Don't forget to turn off the Pro-48 when you are finished!

 


 

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