The Elektor TAPIR Gives You Electromagnetic Ears (Review)

    • by Clemens Valens
    • Reading time: 3 min

    The Elektor TAPIR is an E-smog detector that can sniff out sources of electromagnetic radiation. It is not a precision instrument, but a handy tool to find out if something is radiating or not. Both cases are interesting. For instance, if a laptop power supply is not radiating anything, then it is probably not switched on, or it is dead, which explains why your computer’s battery doesn’t charge anymore. On the other hand, if you are experiencing interference where you don’t want any, you can use the TAPIR to find the culprit to switch it off or move away from it.

    Discover the fascinating capabilities of the Elektor TAPIR E-smog Detector, an essential tool designed for enthusiasts and professionals alike to identify and analyze sources of electromagnetic radiation. While it is not engineered as a high-precision device, the TAPIR excels at determining whether electronic devices are active or inactive, crucial for troubleshooting and ensuring operational efficiency.

    Assemble Your Own TAPIR: A Comprehensive Soldering Challenge

    The TAPIR kit not only offers the functionality of an electromagnetic field detector but also provides a hands-on soldering project that enhances your technical skills. This kit includes all components necessary to assemble a fully functional, pocket-sized detector. Note, however, that a 1.5 V AAA battery is required but not included. The assembly process itself is an engaging 3D soldering task involving multiple PCBs that come together to form the device’s housing. The assembly process is well-documented in the provided Construction Manual, which features detailed photographic instructions that guide you through each step.

    Tapir kit
    The TAPIR kit arrives with a comprehensive set of SMD parts for assembly.

    Detailed Circuit Design

    The TAPIR's packaging is as thoughtful as its design. Enclosed in a sleek black box with white detailing, each component is neatly arranged with the circuit’s schematic and a detailed parts list displayed on the underside of the box. The circuit itself is a straightforward three-stage low-frequency amplifier that inadvertently amplifies high frequencies as well. This feature allows high-frequency signals to be 'down-converted' by the non-linear response of the transistors, making them audible. These sounds, ranging from high-pitched tones to bizarre noises, can be monitored through the included earphones, providing a unique auditory insight into the electromagnetic properties of nearby objects.

    Customizable Dual Antenna Setup

    The kit includes two DIY antennas tailored for distinct electromagnetic field detections: the H-field antenna is designed for picking up magnetic fields from devices like transformers and loop antennas, while the E-field antenna is optimized for detecting electric fields emitted by sources such as high-voltage lines and electronic displays. An intriguing aspect of using the TAPIR is that your body becomes part of the detection system when you hold the device, potentially amplifying the detection signals and contributing to the overall sensitivity of the tool.

    elektor tapir with circuit
    Experience real-time electromagnetic field detection with the TAPIR.

    An Essential Debugging Tool

    Beyond its primary use as an E-smog detector, the TAPIR serves as an invaluable debugging tool. Particularly with the H-field antenna, it can be employed to locate and diagnose various activities within a circuit, from identifying operational inductors to detecting the silent operations of a crystal oscillator. Such capabilities are crucial for pinpointing malfunctions or verifying system operations without needing direct electrical contact, making it a preferred choice for electronic repair and maintenance tasks.

    Enhanced Sensitivity of the E-Field Antenna

    The E-field antenna’s design makes it incredibly sensitive to touch, which can be advantageous or problematic depending on the situation. Direct contact or proximity to a source can amplify the signal detection, helping to distinguish between different types of interference and potentially identifying their origins. To maximize the effectiveness of this antenna, it is advisable to minimize background electromagnetic noise by turning off unnecessary devices and avoiding reflective surfaces that could misdirect the detection process.

    Adventures in Electromagnetic Exploration

    The TAPIR not only serves as a practical tool for electronic debugging and E-smog detection but also offers a unique educational experience. Navigating through different environments, from the calm of a garden to the buzzing activity of a kitchen with active appliances, allows users to 'listen' to the electromagnetic signatures of the world around them. With practice, these sounds become a language through which the electronic landscape can be understood, making the TAPIR a magical and insightful addition to any tech enthusiast’s toolkit.



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