Robert talks uBITX and navigating the world of used radio gear

Robert’s uBITX QRP transceiver kit with fire red chassis.

Many thanks to my buddyRobert Gulley (AK3Q), who shares the following announcement from his blog All Things Radio:

I have posted two new articles in the Reviews and How-Tos section. These were both previously published in The Spectrum Monitor magazine earlier this year.

The first article deals with buying used and new equipment, while the other article is a review of the uBITX QRP transceiver. Thanks go to Ken Reitz for graciously allowing these to be posted after their initial publication!

And thank you, Robert!

Readers, I highly recommend both of these articles.  In his used equipment guide, Robert makes practical suggestions for navigating the world of pre-owned radio gear and shares some important tips. His uBITX QRP Transceiver article is essential reading for anyone who has considered building this incredibly affordable kit.

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The 2019 Lightbulb QSO Party

Many thanks to buddy, David Day (N1DAY), who shares the following announcement from his website:

Announcing the 2019 Lightbulb QSO contest, March 9th 20:00 UTC through March 10th 20:00 UTC.

We’ve all heard the stories…..Joe Elmer was so good at antenna matching that he made a 100 mile 20M QSO on an ordinary 100 watt household lightbulb.  So here is your chance to try it out.  Go traditional and compete with just a lightbulb dummy load.  Or, get creative and invent an antenna design that uses the lightbulb as a key component that makes your antenna work. Five categories of competition give you different paths to gaining bragging rights as TOP BULB in the 2019 Lightbulb QSO contest.  Categories of competition are:

1.  Household – an antenna constructed of any lightbulb available for purchase in normal home use applications.

2.  Commercial/Industrial – an antenna constructed of any lightbulb available for purchase  in commercial and/or industrial applications.

3.  Homebrew – an antenna constructed of any home made light bulb that radiates visible light when power is applied.

4.  Dummy Load – any lightbulb  that normally serves as a dummy load (see miscellaneous rules).  Please note that the administrators do not recommend this category of operation because it puts both the operator and RF sensitive equipment in close proximity to the load.  However, several, lightbulb purists wanted the category so here it is for entry at your own risk.

5. Freestyle – ?anything goes. Get creative and string all of your Christmas lights together, what ever you want and as many lightbulbs as you want.  Bring down the power grid if you must.. we just don’t care, but certainly want to reward extreme creativity.

For additional information on how a lightbulb antenna works, click  this link:  https://hamsignal.com/blog/light-bulb-antenna-basics-and-faq

Objective: 

The Objective of the Lightbulb QSO contest is to build and use an antenna constructed in a manner so that the lightbulb is a key component of the antenna and to promote understanding and practical application of antenna matching concepts that allow a lightbulb to be used as a radiator in two way radio communications.

Dates:

Saturday, March 9th, 2019 20:00 UTC through  Sunday, March 10th, 2019 20:00 UTC.

Bands of Operation:

160M, 80M, 40M, 20M, 15M, 10M, 6M

As you might notice, this isn’t the typical QSO Party.

I love the idea–it reminds me of a QSO party I did once which challenged you to use unconventional antennas (I logged a number of contacts using a pair of trampolines!).

I also appreciate the opportunity to build something new and participate in a contest that (obviously) doesn’t take itself too seriously. What fun!

David has spent several months building a variety of lightbulb antennas.  Here are a few of his creations:

If a Lightbulb QSO Party sounds like fun to you, start planning your antenna now!

David passed along the following links for guidance:

  1. https://hamsignal.com where all the research, observations, schematics, downloads etc. are located.
  2. https://hamsignal.com/blog/the-lightbulb-qso-party the page for the QSO party – rules date, times, etc.

Thanks for putting this contest together, David!

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Four State QRP Group announce the Hilltopper 40

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who notes that the Four State QRP Group is now shipping the Hilltopper 40 transceiver.

Here are details from the Four State QRP Group website:

Dave Benson K1SWL, founder of the renown Small Wonder Labs, listened to you and has designed a 40 meter version of his winning Hilltopper design. Four State QRP Group is honored to have been selected to kit the new transceiver. The Hilltopper is a high performance CW transceiver for the 40M meter band. It is the perfect solution to your portable operation needs – small, lightweight, wide 40 meter frequency coverage and low current drain, extending the life of your portable power source. The receiver is adapted from K1SWL’s SW+ Series with minor modifications. The front-end circuitry was revised to replace the now-vanished 10.7 MHz IF transformers. The receiver output is suitable for headphone use.

The transmitter strip is a proven design using three BS170 transistors for the PA. The frequency source for both transmitting and receiving is a DDS VFO employing a Si5351 PLL module. Control for the rig is provided by an Atmel ATmega328P. This runs both the frequency control and the full-featured CW keyer.

A custom silk-screened PCB enclosure is included with the kit. No drilling or cutting required!

There are two pre-installed SMT ICs on the board, but the remainder are ALL THROUGH HOLE parts, and all jacks and connectors are board mounted, the combination making this kit very easy to assemble with no external wiring needed.

Click here to check out the Hilltopper 40.

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The HobbyPCB IQ-32: A general coverage portable QRP transceiver with color touch screen now shipping

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares the following information regarding HobbyPCB’s much-anticipated portable transceiver which is now shipping.  The price is a competitive $529.00.

The following information comes from the HobbyPCB website:

The IQ32 is 5W output, 80-10M Amateur Radio transceiver with powerful 32 bit processing providing high-end features at an entry level price. The IQ32’s 3.2″ color LCD touch-screen display and dual control knobs provide an enjoyable operating experience in a robust package.

Available for immediate delivery!

Introducing the HobbyPCB IQ32 HF transceiver, based on the high performance RS-HFIQ RF system, the receiver in the IQ32 consists of 5 band-pass filters to reject out-of-band signals, an LNA with frequency dependent gain and a conventional quadrature down-converter. The transmitter features a Class A, 5W power amplifier with individual low-pass filters for each band to exceed FCC requirements for spectral purity.

The IQ32 features a large, color, touch-screen display providing an enhanced user interface and informative spectrum and waterfall displays found on radios costing much more. With a powerful STM-32 DSP processor, the IQ32 transceiver has variable filtering, multi-mode AGC, memory functions, built-in PSK encode/decode with keyboard support.

5W not enough power? Add a HARDROCK-50 to your station to boost up to 50W. The IQ32 and HARDROCK-50 seamlessly integrate together for a powerful mobile/base station!

Simple upgradeable firmware, no connection to a computer required, no drivers, no cables. Simply insert a thumb-drive with the appropriate file and the IQ32 updates its own firmware.

Specifications

  • Frequency Range: 3-30MHz (performance guaranteed on 80/60/40/30/20/17/15/12/10M ham bands)
  • Sensitivity: MDS < -128 dBm on 80M dropping to < -135 on 10M
  • Noise Figure: < 8 dB
  • TX Power: 5W typical, 4W minimum
  • LO Feed-thru: < -50 dBc @ 5W output
  • Spurious and Harmonics: < -50 dBc typical
  • DC Power: 13.8VDC, 2 amp max
  • Size: 172mm x 105mm X 75mm
  • Weight: < 700 grams
  • Display: 3.2″ Color LCD Touchscreen
  • Modes: USB, LSB, CW, PSK 31
  • DSP Processor: STM-32, 32 Bit

Click here to download the manual.

Pete also notes:

If one already has the RS-HFIQ board fear not an upgrade kit is available:

https://hobbypcb.com/products/hf-radio/iq32-upgrade

Thank you for sharing this, Pete!

I may see about grabbing an IQ-32 to evaluate. I’m very curious how its receiver might stack up to the Elecraft KX2, the CommRadio CTX-10 and the LnR Precision LD-11. (Please note that these links lead to my other radio site, the SWLing Post.)

It doesn’t appear that the IQ-32 has an AM mode, but I would still like to see how it might handle broadcast listening on the shortwave meter bands using ECSS.

Video

Check out WA2EUJ’s IQ-32 presentation at the 2018 Hamvention on YouTube:

Click here to check out the IQ-32 product page at HobbyPCB.

Have any readers purchased the IQ-32?  Please comment!

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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.

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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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