The CommRadio CTX-10 has landed

[Note: This is a cross post from my other radio blog, the SWLing Post.]

Yesterday, UPS delivered a much-anticipated package: the CTX-10 QRP transceiver from CommRadio.

CommRadio dispatched this loaner CTX-10 for evaluation and I’m excited to get my hands on it since it’s not everyday I get to evaluate a transceiver designed around field portability (my favorite category of gear).

Yesterday, I took a few shots of the CTX-10 as I unpacked it:

I’ll need to build a fused power cable with the supplied pigtail and also sort out an 8 conductor (Yaesu compatible) modular plug microphone. Of course, I’ll give this radio a thorough review testing it on SSB, CW and digital modes (especially FT8).

Since the CTX-10 is built on the CommRadio CR-1 and CR-1A I anticipate a capable receiver section (in other words, expectations are high). Of course, I’ll test the CTX-10’s ability as a broadcast receiver as well.

Follow my progress by following the tag: CTX-10

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LnR Precision’s new Sideswiper produced for the Straight Key Century Club

Those of you who are fans of single lever paddles will be pleased to learn that LnR Precision has announced the latest key in their product line: the SKCC Sideswiper.

Here’s the description from the product page:

The SKCC Sideswiper is patterned after the Kungsimport key produced in Kunsbacka, Sweden in the 1980’s by Hakan Scard (professional operator at Gothenburg Radio, SAG) and Ben Jomkert. It is a classic very traditional Sideswiper produced for the Straight Key Century Club.

The light weight Oak fingerpiece allows for a close gap setting making it a very fast key with little chance of chattering. The heavy 2.8 pound base makes it a very stable device on your desk. No chasing this key around the desk or needing two hands to operate.

Key Features:

  • The SKCC Sideswiper base has a 4″x 3.25″ powdercoated cold rolled steel base with SKCC logo
  • The blade is highcarbon spring steel and features a Lightweight Oak Fingerpiece
  • Upper hardware is anodized aluminum with matte finish.
  • Weight is 2.8 lbs

I think this is a beautiful key–I love the simple design, heavy base and the fact they’re made by a quality key manufacturer.

The price will be $94.95 US.
Thanks for the tip, WD8RIF!

Click here to learn more about the SKCC Sideswiper at LnR Precision.

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The Elecraft KX3 still impresses

Note: this post was originally publish on my other radio blog, The SWLing Post.


I’ve owned my Elecraft KX3 for five years, and this little rig continues to amaze me.

In 2013, I gave the KX3 one of the most favorable reviews I’ve ever published–and it continues to hold its own. That’s why last year I recommended the KX3 to my buddy and newly minted ham radio operator, Sébastien (VA2SLW), who had already been eyeing the KX3 as his first HF transceiver.

A few weeks ago, Sébastien bit the bullet and is now the proud owner of a KX3 with built-in ATU. He purchased the KX3 with plans to do a lot of field operations including SOTA (Summits On The Air) and also use the KX3 at home.

Wednesday, I popped by Sébastien’s flat to help sort through some low-profile antenna options. I had suggested that he not invest in a factory made antenna just yet, but instead explore what he’s able to do with a simple wire antenna directly connected to the KX3 with a BNC Male to Stackable Binding Posts adapter. I’ve had excellent luck using this simple arrangement this in the past with the KX3, KX2 and even the KX1.

I did a quick QRM/RFI survey of his flat and balcony with my CC Skywave SSB. While there were the typical radio noises indoors, his balcony was pleasantly RFI quiet. At 14:00 local, I was able to receive the Voice of Greece (9,420 kHz), Radio Guinée (9,650 kHz) and WWV (both 10,000 and 15,000 kHz) with little difficulty. His building has incredibly thick concrete walls–I assume this does a fine job of keeping the RFI indoors. Lucky guy!

We popped by a wonderfully-stocked electronics shop in Québec City (Électromike–which I highly recommend) picked up some banana plugs and about 100′ of jacketed wire. We took these items back to the flat and cut a 35′ length of wire for the radiator and about 28′ for the ground. We added the banana plugs to the ends of each wire.

Sébastien temporarily attached one end of the antenna wire to the top of the fire escape and we simply deployed the ground wire off the side of the balcony. Neither of these wires interfere with his neighbors and neither are close to electric lines.

I had planned to cut both the radiator and ground until we found the “sweet spot”: where the ATU could find matches on 40, 30, 20 and 17 meters (at least).

Much to my amazement, the KX3 ATU got 1:1 matches on all of those bands save 80M where it still could achieve a 2.8:1 ratio.  I couldn’t believe it!

Frankly, Elecraft ATUs are nothing short of amazing.

Even the ATU in my little KX2 once tuned a 20 meter hex beam to 40 meters and found a 1:1 match to boot. In contrast, the Icom IC-7300 sitting next to the KX2 wasn’t able to match that hex beam even though we performed a persistent ATU search. Not surprising as I wouldn’t expect a 40 meter match on a 20 meter antenna, but the Elecraft ATU did it with relative ease.

Sébastian did a quick scan of the ham radio bands where we heard a number of EU stations. I also took the opportunity to point out how well the KX3 operates as a broadcast receiver with the AM filter wide open and using headphones in the “delay” audio effects mode. The Voice of Greece sounded like a local station–absolutely gorgeous signal.

It was getting late in the day, so I couldn’t hang around to call CQ with Séb, but I left knowing that he is going to have a blast playing radio at home and, especially, in the field. Next, he plans to build a simple mag loop antenna, get a BioEnno LiFePo battery and eventually add other Elecraft accessories to his station. I’d say he’s off to a great start!

Want more info? Click here to read my review of the Elecraft KX3 and here to read my review of the Elecraft KX2.

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N6QW introduces the Sudden QRP SSB Transceiver

Many thanks to Pete Eaton (WB9FLW) who writes:

From the fertile mind of QRP Hall Of Fame Pete N6QW comes a new Radio Project, the Sudden QRP SSB Transceiver. If you have never Scratch Built such a Rig and would like to N6QW’s latest offering deserves close inspection.

Using only readily available (and cheap) components (and few of them) one can build a Full Blown SSB Transceiver for either 40 or 20 meters. The Radio’s Design will be featured in 2 installments of GQRP’s Sprat Magazine. The 1st being in the Fall issue (Receiver/LO) and the second part with come in the Spring 2019 issue (Transmitter).

http://n6qw.blogspot.com/2018/09/2018-year-of-ssb-transceivers_14.html

Pete is also providing extensive documentation on his Website:

http://www.n6qw.com/Sudden.html

One use for the Rig is on the Digital Modes, to that end he has design a simple Digital Adapter (which is also described on n6qw.com). One possibility is for a dedicated FT8 Transceiver!

Even if you do not intend to build the Rig take a moment to check out his Web Page. There you will find a wealth of information on designing and building such Transceivers.

Pete WB9FLW

(not to be confused with Pete N6QW 🙂

Thanks for the tip, Pete! How exciting! This looks like an innovative little rig and I love the concept of only using accessible components–in the end, that will give this little rig some longevity.

Posted in News, Product Announcements, QRP, QRP Radios | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

QRP Labs Announces The QSX Transceiver

The QSX Transceiver

Many thanks to Pete Eaton (WB9FLW) who writes:

QRP Labs has just announced the QSX an All-Band All-Mode Transceiver Kit that should be available later this year. The Target price for the 10 Band Model is $150, also available will be a 40 Meter version for $75.00.

Details from QRP Labs:

QSX (QRP Labs SSB Xcvr) is a 40m SSB transceiver with 10-band (160m-10m) and enclosure options. The kit inherits all the functionality of the famous QCX single-band CW transceiver kit but adds SSB, AM, FM, PSK31 and RTTY. This will be the lowest cost all-HF radio available but also high performance and packed with features. These are the planned features of QSX:

  • Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology with standalone Digital Signal Processing (DSP), no PC required
  • Very high performance 24-bit Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) and 24-bit Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
  • 40m (single band) or 160-10m (10-band, including 60m) versions available
  • Modes: SSB, CW, AM, FM, PSK31, RTTY, WSPR beacon
  • Power output: 10W from 13.8V supply (power output is adjustable by the firmware)
  • Single power supply needed, 12V to 14V
  • USB host interface and connector, for USB keyboard to allow PC-less operation on PSK31 and RTTY
  • USB device interface and connector, for PC CAT Control
  • QSX can appear to a PC as a high performance 24-bit USB sound card and radio – for digital modes from a PC e.g. FT8, either demodulated or as I-Q for PC SDR programs
  • Built-in CW IAMBIC keyer (or straight keying also possible) with raised-cosine key-envelope shaping
  • DSP features (selectable sharp filters, AGC, Speech Compression, Noise Reduction etc.)
  • Dual microphone inputs (mobile phone headset with VOX, or RJ45 connector for Kenwood/Yaesu mics)
  • Dual VFO (A/B/Split), frequency and message memories
  • Through-hole assembly only
  • Built-in test equipment features for alignment, debugging and general purpose use
  • Detailed assembly manual
  • Macro facility for user defined sequences of operations, or redefinition of controls
  • Front panel: 16 x 2 LCD (yellow/green backlight), 2 rotary encoders, 4 buttons, mic/earphones socket
  • Soft-power on/off switch, the radio saves its state automatically on switch off, so that it starts up in the same state next time
  • Free firmware updates for life, very simple firmware update procedure via a USB memory stic

QSX is still in development! The above list is subject to change. The following is a FAQ with information about QSX.

More Info on QRP Labs Web Page:

https://www.qrp-labs.com/qsx.html

Check out the following video from YOTA 2018:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Fantastic! Many thanks for sharing this, Pete! This looks like a brilliant little kit for any skill level of patient kit builder.

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Bill’s 1 Watt Wood Box QRP Beacon

Many thanks to Bill (AA0RQ) who writes:

I’m running an attended beacon on 7041.8 kHz–the ID is VVV de AA0RQ/B AA0RQ/B AA0RQ/B 1 watt…

Often after running the beacon I plug the beacon crystal into the little 6L6 single tube transmitter.

Been having a number of QSOs with the bread boarded radio…

Below is the 40 meter 6L6 transmitter:

Thanks for sharing, Bill–I love the wooden box enclosure as it reminds me of early 1900s wooden box homebrew radios.

We’ll be listening for you on 7041.8 kHz!

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Black Cat Systems’ 22 Meter Band Part 15 CW Beacon Kit

Many thanks to Robert Gulley (AK3Q) who notes that Black Cat Systems has developed a simple 22 meter beacon kit. The price is $20 shipped! A few details:

The kit includes the PCB and components, including a custom programmed microcontroller that will continuously transmit the ID / callsign of your choice, up to 8 characters, at about 13 wpm.

Small size – just 2 7/8 by 1 1/2 inches. Easy to build, just a few components, all through hole, no surface mount.

When ordering you note your callsign/ID to send and it will be pre-programmed.

Black Cat Systems has all kit details including full instructions on their website (click here to read).

If you like the idea of building a beacon, you must also check out the beacon Dave (AA7EE) built recently–a true work of art!

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The uBITX Transceiver: Pricing and more details

Many thanks to Pete Eaton (WB9FLW) who shares pricing and additional information about the uBITX general coverage QRP transceiver:

Here are the details, if purchased before Christmas $109 delivered!

http://www.hfsignals.com/

From uBITX creator, Ashhar Farhan:

1. The ubitx is now available for sale, for $109 dollars (includes the shipping), but only until Christmas. *After Christmas, the price will increase to $129 dollars. for this initial batch, a few ham volunteers and I pitched in to sort the crystals, test the coils, tune-up and box these initial kits, we won’t be able to do that any more. we will have to hire more people (which is not a bad thing) and get them to do it.

2. The ubitx is on sale at hfsignals.com, not hfsigs.com. it is easier to remember. we will soon point hfsigs.com to the new website as well. The new site is in wordpress, that means that we can have volunteers writing and updating it rather than waiting for me to hand code the content in html and vi editor.

3. We need help with proof reading the web content.* If you find any typos, please mail me on farhanbox@gmail.com address (not the bitx20 list),

These apart, the early buyers must be aware that they are beta users of sorts, the firmware will sure get updated. i hope there won’t be any revisions of the PCB.

Pete adds:

Just as an aside the original price of the Heathkit HW-8 was $139.95 (in 1970 dollars) and it became a QRP Classic. The uBITX may become  one as well and like the HW-8 there will be (and already are) all sorts of mods/additions one will be able to do. The uBITX is 10 dollars cheaper (after 12/25) works 80-10 M, does SSB in addition to CW, and is a Superhet to boot!

Farhan your hit this one out of the Ballpark!

Very cool, Pete!  I am very tempted to purchase the uBITX transceiver before Christmas and have it delivered via DHL service.  The only thing holding me back is simply the amount of projects I have on my table at the moment! $109 is an incredibly low price for a full-fledged QRP transceiver!

I’m absolutely amazed that it is also has a general coverage receiver.  Perhaps the uBITX could serve the SWL as well as the ham radio operator?  I suppose we shall soon find out!

Click here to read our other posts regarding the uBITX transceiver.

Click here to order the uBITX transceiver kit.

Please comment if you plan to or have purchased the uBITX. We’d love your feedback!

Posted in Announcements, Kits, News, Product Announcements, QRP, QRP Radios | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

CommRadio CTX-10 price posted

Many thanks to Pete Eaton who notes that the new CommRadio CTX-10 pricing has been posted on Universal Radio’s website. It appears Universal is already taking orders. The price is $999.99 US:

Posted in Announcements, News, Product Announcements | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The uBITX Transceiver: An Update

Many thanks to Pete Eaton (WB9FLW) who shares the following post:

Last March Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE the designer of the very popular BITX20 and BITX40 series of mono-band HF Transceivers announced a new low cost Rig called the uBITX (micro BITX) a full blown 80-10m 10 Watt SSB/CW Transceiver. Now comes word that after many months of very hard development work by Ashhar this much anticipated Rig will soon be available.

For those not familiar with the Project this is *not* a kit, rather like its sibling (the BITX40) it consists of two assembled and tested Circuit Boards. The RF board measures 5.5 x 6 inches and a second small plug in daughter card that takes care of the digital portion of the design including the 2X16 LCD, Arduino Nano, and Si5351 which are used in the VFO. Add a Cabinet, Knobs, and Connectors and you have a full blown HF Rig. An added plus is that except for the Gerber PCB files everything else (including the firmware) is Open Sourced!

The original description can be found here:

http://www.phonestack.com/farhan/ubitx/ubitx.html

Farhan has just released the Firmware, Schematics, and Wiring Diagram for the production version on GitHub

Arduino Sketch:

https://github.com/afarhan/ubitx

RF Board Schematic:

https://github.com/afarhan/ubitx/blob/e481ea2a2457fc4e7be7a6a4bc9a0fba12bf2cde/ubitxv3.pdf

Digital (Raduino) Board Schematic:

http://www.phonestack.com/farhan/ubitx/raduino.pdf

Wiring Diagram:

https://github.com/afarhan/ubitx/blob/e481ea2a2457fc4e7be7a6a4bc9a0fba12bf2cde/ubitx_wiring.png

Farhan has a social conscience as well giving several local Ladies much needed employment for final assembly and checkout of the Rigs.

There are still a few final tweaks being done to the design so pricing is still to be determined. But if it’s offered at a similar price point as his earlier Transceivers it should sell like Hotcakes!

For the latest info check out the BITX User Group at:

https://groups.io/g/BITX20

Wow!  Amazing project!  Thanks for the tip and updates, Pete!

Posted in News, Portable, QRP Radios | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments