Jonathan reviews the EGV+ QRP CW transceiver kit

Many thanks to Jonathan (KN6LFB) who shares the following guest review:


A review of the EGV+ QRP Transceiver Kit

by Jonathan (KN6LFB)

Introduction

The EGV+ is a QRP CW-only transceiver that covers the 40-, 30-, and 20-meter HAM bands.  Designed by Javier Solans, EA3GCY, it is sold in kit form from his website, qrphamradiokits.com.

Javier designed the EGV+ in honor of his friend and co-founder of the EA-QRP Club, Miguel Montilla, EA3EGV.  The first page of the instruction manual dedicates the radio to Miguel with this tribute:

This EGV+ transceiver is probably the kit that I have produced with more care and illusion in my life.  It is a great honor to name this kit “EGV”, the callsign suffix of the late Miguel Montilla, EA3EGV (SK). With no doubt, this is the kind of kit he liked most.  It was my privilege to establish and share with him the first years of the EA-QRP Club. He has always been a referent in my life; when I remember those wonderful years his humbleness, work capacity and generosity are the virtues which shine his image.

How lucky I was to be able to share the path with you, Miguel. Thanks! 

Javier Solans, ea3gcy 

Specifications

  • Frequency Coverage: 40m, 30m, 20m
  • Modes: CW
  • Power Requirements: 12–14VDC, 1–2A transmit, 0.14–0.25A receive. 

Transmitter:

  • RF Output: 5W @ 13.8V
  • Harmonics Output: -45dBc or better below fundamental
  • Other Spurious Signals: -50dBc or better
  • T/R Switching: Relays

Receiver:

  • Type: Superheterodyne.  Balanced mixers.
  • Sensitivity: 0.2uV minimum discernable signal.
  • Selectivity: 3-pole crystal ladder filter, 700Hz nominal bandwidth
  • IF: 4.915MHz
  • AGC: acts on the receive path according to the received audio.
  • Audio Output: 250mW, 4-8 ohms.

Ordering

I purchased my EGV+ kit with the optional enclosure from qrphamradiokits.com.  Javier requests that US customers email him using the contact form on his website for the current pricing in USD prior to ordering.  At the time of my order (February 2022), the cost with the optional enclosure was $203.37.

Assembly

The EGV+ is a single large (180x140mm) PCB, with separate modules for the OLED display, processor, and Si-5351 frequency generator.  All components are through-hole and placed on the top of the PCB.  The kit arrived well packaged and well organized.  There were no missing or mislabeled parts in my kit, which is impressive considering the high number of components.  There are 53 100nF capacitors alone!

The manual contains detailed lists of the components by value/quantity and individually.  One of my favorite features of the manual, and something I wish was more common, is a grid-based layout map of the entire PCB [see above], with the grid position called out in the list of individual components.  This greatly speeds assembly and diagnosis as you can find component positions more easily.

I experienced no issues building the kit.  There are a lot of components, and eleven toroids to wind.  Being in no hurry, I spread the build out over several days.  Jumper wires are used to connect the band-pass filter tuning knob, LPF control, and electronic keyer submodule (a component that is also shared with the DB4020).  I always like to use a little bit of heatshrink tubing when soldering to pin headers to act as strain relief.

I did make one modification during my build.  Both the EGV+ and DB4020 have a toggle switch on the rear to select between separate physical output jacks for headphones or external speaker.  The primary difference between these two outputs is that the headphone jack contains a voltage divider circuit to attenuate the output signal.  I usually use a set of cheap, low-impedance dollar store earbuds when operating portable and found the output of the headphone jack to be much too high for my taste.  Changing R61 from 22 ohm to 2.2 ohm reduced the audio output level to the headphone jack and made the range of adjustment from the volume knob more usable.

 

The enclosure consists of a steel base, aluminum lid and printed-PCB front and rear panels.  The metal parts and rear panel are shared with the DB4020 kit and contain some holes that are not used with the EGV+.  The PCB mounts to the steel base with metal standoffs.  The front and rear panels are screwed to the steel base, and the front panel is further supported by the OLED module and potentiometers soldered to the PCB.  The lid is secured to the steel base using four screws on its sides.

Operation

The front panel of the EGV+ houses an OLED display and four knobs.  The large VFO knob is clickable—a short press changes the tuning increment, and a long click enters the menu.  The volume knob also serves as the power switch, and the RF gain knob allows you to reduce receiver sensitivity.

The radio features a tunable bandpass filter, which is adjustable with a dedicated knob.  The bandpass filter is narrow enough, and has sharp enough skirts, that it can behave as a variable preselector to null out interfering signals.

Changing between the supported bands is accomplished using the menu.  After changing bands it is necessary to adjust the bandpass filter; approximate band locations are accurately depicted on the front panel label.  Once on frequency, you can adjust the bandpass filter for maximum noise/signal strength.

The menu also allows the operator to switch between CWU/CWL and provides access to the RIT feature.  Switching between upper-sideband CW and lower-sideband CW can be useful for avoiding nearby signals.  My operating style rarely necessitates RIT, so I have not used it in the field, but it is intuitive.  After tuning to your desired transmit frequency, enter the menu, and enable RIT.  The VFO knob then allows you to adjust your receive frequency.  RIT is easily turned off by returning to the menu.

The EGV+ has a feature-rich electronic keyer complete with memory keying and a beacon mode.  The keyer is configured by a long press of the command button on the rear of the radio, then interacting with the keyer chip using morse code.  The keyer supports Iambic A and B modes, speeds from 1 to 50 WPM, and has four separate memories.  Any single recorded memory may be configured to repeat, and the interval between repetitions is configurable.

The method used to record memories is somewhat unconventional, compared to radios such as the KX2 or external keyers such as the Ultra PicoKeyer.  Rather than recording the entire message at once, you enter a single letter and await an acknowledgement “E” response before sending the next.  Spaces are added by waiting longer until the keyer sends an “S”.  I found this a little off-putting at first, but after using it I’ve discovered that it has two advantages:

  1. There is never any doubt about whether you have waited long enough for the keyer to record a space between words.  I sometimes find my recorded messages running together on other radios because I left insufficient spacing.
  2. I have found the keyer to be very accommodating of keying errors.  For example, if I release the paddle slightly early and send a “D” instead of a “B”, but quickly add one additional dit, even though the timing is not perfect, the keyer seems to pick up my correction reliably.

In the field

The EGV+ fits quite easily into a backpack for field use.  Only the knobs and BNC connector extend past the edges of the enclosure, and I have found both to be robust.  In comparison to other radios, it is closest in size and form factor to my FT-818ND with Portable Zero rails [see above].

Like many radios that use the same OLED panel, the display on the EGV+ can be washed out in direct sunlight.  Living in hot, sunny Southern California, I have found that keeping my equipment out of direct sunlight is a good idea in general to avoid overheating.  With any sort of shade, the screen is adequately readable.  The operating display features an RX/TX indicator, S-meter, and battery voltage meter.

The S-meter does need to be calibrated by the builder, and I found that it is somewhat non-linear.  To be fair, the manual does state that “The displayed signal level is for guidance only. They are not precise levels. It is not a calibrated circuit.”  I adjusted my S-meter to accurately reflect an S9 signal and in use I have found it to be adequate and helpful.

Using the EGV+ in the field, my first impression was how quiet and selective the receiver is.  I believe this is at least in part due to its excellent filtering.  The specifications in the manual state that the IF filter is “700Hz nominal”, but mine seems significantly narrower than that—possibly more like 250Hz.  During a recent POTA activation I had another POTA station begin transmitting 500Hz below me without hearing him or any of his hunters.  Had I not seen his spot I would never have known he was there.

Another immediate impression from field use is how pleasant the audio output is, both for received signals and the transmit sidetone.  I have used some radios with very harsh/rough sidetones, and I’m always surprised at how fatiguing it can be.  The EGV+ does exceptionally well in this regard.

Additionally, the AGC is very effective.  Many other kit radios I have used have either no AGC or relatively ineffective AGC, a lack that can be painfully felt when encountering a strong signal using earbuds.  The AGC circuit in the EGV+ seems somewhat unique in that it monitors the output audio level but acts on the RF gain portion of the receiver, rather than simply attenuating the output audio.  Whatever the cause, its performance is closer to what I’ve seen from commercial radios than other kits.

Finally, I have found the EGV+ to be extremely power efficient.  My example puts out slightly more than the rated power, approximately 6.5 watts, and simply sips battery power.  Calling CQ on a 10 second interval for almost an hour barely made a dent in my 6Ah LiFEPo battery.

Summary

I am extremely satisfied with the EGV+.  I found it to be an enjoyable kit to build, with enough complexity to keep me interested combined with good documentation to ensure my success.  Moreso, I’ve found it to be an effective and pleasing radio to use in the field.

Click here to check out the EGV+ Transceiver at QRPHamRadioKits.com.

5 thoughts on “Jonathan reviews the EGV+ QRP CW transceiver kit”

  1. Good article , I may have to give the kit a try. I do have a question though about the image showing the radio / key / and an non-enclosed board. What is the board? Thanks. Al

  2. Hola, parece que ese tablero es un medidor de potencia-swr.
    Yo fui de los primeros en montar este maravilloso equipo. He hecho muchos contactos con él y lo llevo al campo siempre que puedo. Es un buen trabajo de Xavier Solans.
    Diego “Dido”. EA1CN

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