This Automated House
The XTBM is a signal analyzer that allows for tracking of PLC strength and noise producers which can cause faulty X10 operation on the building's wiring.  It's a wonderful trouble shooting device.

Three of us each decided to review this one. 

Here's Brian's Review:

Ordering, Payment and Shipping of the unit was a breeze and fast.  Jeff has a really good site.

Assembly is about the same as any other kit from Ramsey or Velleman or Heath.  A seasoned veteran of these kits can put one together in about an hour and a half if using a multimeter to determine component values and not the color coding or notation.  High resolution pics are included on the JVDE.US website to make assembly easier.

While I was assembling the unit, I realized that the XTBM is way underpriced for the thought that went into the unit.  It's a very nice kit with a clearly marked PCB.

Support is great.  I had already received an updated firmware IC before I started assembly.  Jeff really takes the time to care about his products. 

The XTBM really proves useful in applications where X10 PLC propagation is marginal.  It's great to know where your problems are before any X10 installation begins. 

Let me say it again,  this unit should sell for twice what Jeff Volp wants for it.

This unit will no doubt allow for effective placements of filters, phase couplers and repeaters and should be in every X10 installer's "bag of tricks".



Here's Dave's Review:



I must admit I was a bit excited the package arrived from Ohio Domotics [Brian Vance]. I expected its arrival was anxiously waiting for it. Brian had assembled the XTBM Volpmeter [soldering and knowledge of electronic kit assemblage required] and mailed it to me for to test and review.


Right from the beginning the XTBM (http://jvde.us/xtb_index.htm) exceed my expectations. It felt good.. solid.. even hefty. It has a nice factory look also. It looked good.


I was a little surprised about the size of the LCD screen. Just a two line strip. It made me wonder what information it could display. I plugged the unit it... and got a flash of a start-up screen.. then a line of nearly nothing. I went to Jeff's Web Site skimmed through the directions. I dug a PalmPad from my drawer and turned on a light. Now.. all made perfectly good sense.


I immediately went to another plug, then another. Then realized I needed to record this information so it would make better sense. I got out my partly completed circuit map. A circuit map is a drawing of a home with all the plugs and lights shown and numbered as to how they appear on the electrical panel. Its a good 1st step in resolving and X10 PLC problems. Particularly ones that may have to deal with phase issues. I recorded the signal strength and noise level at each plug.


In the process I found a noise source I wasn't aware of. CFL's in ceiling can light fixtures. Easy enough to resolve.. with regular incandescent bulbs for now. But sooner or later I will need to have my own meter to test the noise levels of the new bulbs.


Another surprise was, I also found areas of weak signal strength. Because the Home Automation computer was setup in my office (because the wife allows me to do pretty much whatever I wish in there) the CM15A is also located there. The signal has to find it's way from the CM15A to the breaker box (electrical panel), then to the dryer phase coupler (passive), then back to the panel and to even the ends of the longest wire runs.


Whereas I could benefit from a noise filter or two restricting the noise of my computers. I likely would be better severed by re-locating my CM15A closer to the breaker box. Or with that being a bit difficult a repeater/amplifier might be in my automation future. But for now.. my setup is very stable.


But I digress... maybe. Not only was the XTBM easy to use, it was actually fun to record and chart the results. I actually learned a few things about my HA setup that I was clueless to before the XTBM arrived. The XTBM is an excellent diagnostic tool for anyone using X10.

 
TAH Review 1(poor) to 5 (great)
Price -------------------------------- 5
Ease of use------------------------- 5
Ease of Assembly ---------------- 4
Usefulness around the house- 5
Over all Quality-------------------- 5

Of course, you can always find more info on this great tool at Jeff Volp's site.