Mark’s first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L

Many thanks to Mark (W8EWH) who shares the following field report:

An Afternoon POTA Activation with the PENNTEK TL-45L

by Mark (W8EWH)

I have a hard time resisting new QRP radios, and I have an equally hard time resisting getting outdoors when late October brings 70F (21C) temps to Michigan.  Days like these are especially sweet given we saw the first snow here last week (no accumulation – but still…). For me there was no better way to enjoy this unexpected weather gift than with an early afternoon POTA activation with my newest QRP radio, the PENNTEK TL-45L.

The TL-45L is the latest radio from WA3RNC, joining the TR-35 and TR-25 in his online store.  It’s a 5-band, 5-watt CW transceiver covering the 80, 40-, 30-, 20- and 17-meter bands.  That in and of itself is not particularly noteworthy.  But when you look at this radio, you’ll immediately see what makes it different.

The retro look for me is unlike anything I have seen in a modern QRP radio.  It frankly looks like it was removed from an Apollo Command Module.  From the front meter to every knob and switch, this radio just begs to be fiddled with.  And each knob and switch serve a function that means no longer needing to dig through menu after menu to find where the narrow filter is switched in because of nearby QRM, or so I can slow down when my CQ POTA is responded to by a slower CW call.

The speaker is located on the (left) side of the radio, a feature many smaller QRP radios don’t have, though headphones can be used via a front mounted jack.  The radio sounds great – I think the radio’s case provides a nice sound chamber.

The TR-45L comes with a couple of options, neither of which I chose to add to my order.  One is a built-in rechargeable battery (5200 mAh), and the other an antenna tuner.  I have plenty of batteries, and normally use resonant antennas.

With the Monday late morning temperature approaching 70 I packed the car with radio gear, and my wife, and we headed out to Island Lake State Recreation Area (POTA K-3315) to activate this park with the TR-45L for the first time.  My wife is not a ham but often comes with me to POTA activations.  While I set up, activate, and then pack up, she enjoys the outdoors with a magazine and crossword puzzle, and sometimes, like today, a light lunch.  Usually, once the activation is complete, we’ll go for a hike on park trails.

Island Lake is about a 20-minute drive from my house.  Its 4000 acres is a mix of open fields and hardwood forests surrounding Kent Lake and the Huron River.  Today it was warm enough that someone was using a paddle board on the lake.

I have found a set of picnic shelters on elevated ground overlooking Kent Lake as a great place from which to activate.  I worked North Pole Alaska from this location on 20M CW using my IC-705 with 10W into an EFHW last May.

Once at the shelter I set up my EFHW (KM4ACK kit) in a sloped configuration using a conveniently located mature tree and my throw line.  It was roughly in an East/West orientation. Over the preceding weekend, I added PowerPole connectors to the provided power cord, and programed both internal CW keyer memory slots.  These are activated using either dit or dah paddle when I toggle Play using the provided switch.   Of course, I did a little POTA hunting using the home antenna to familiarize myself with the TR-45L’s operation.  The learning curve is short with nothing hidden deep behind any menus.

With the radio and antenna ready to go, I set up HAMRS on my iPad, spotted myself on the POTA website, and started calling CQ POTA on 14.0615.  Over the course of the next 35 minutes, I worked a total of 30 stations on 20M and 40M (most on 20M) at which point I basically ran out of hunters.  Not bad for a weekday afternoon.  I packed up and went on a couple mile hike with my wife.

The TR-45L is an absolute joy to use.

I forgot to put it in CW Narrow mode at first, and when nearby QRM popped up, I was able to add this in with the throw if one switch. QRM gone.  (Note, this setting – wide vs. narrow filtering – must not be retained after the power is shut off or the battery is disconnected.)

It sounds wonderful.  I used the side speaker the whole time as my wife doesn’t seem to mind, although the random guy who wandered in with a laptop to get some work done on a warm fall day decided to find somewhere else to work.  There are front mounted jacks for headphones, paddles and a straight key.  Even a rear mounted jack for an external speaker.  The built-in speaker can be turned off and on via a toggle switch.  The two CW memory slots are easy to fill using your paddle.  The front meter can show power output or SWR based on toggle switch position, and you are alerted to high SWR via a front mounted red LED.

I waited a while to get this radio.  Recent supply chain issues caused unexpected delays, but it’s available for order now in factory-built form and most definitely worth the wait.  Kits will eventually be available.  Check out all the TR-45L details here.

Mark Yergin


14 thoughts on “Mark’s first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L”

    1. Subsequent use of the radio confirms what you say John. It does start up in CWN. Now I’m not sure what happened at the start of the activation – why it was in CWW.


  1. Not a big CW guy at all (though I did just get some paddles for my 705, so soon … soon) but as I’ve said before, I just LOVE looking at the TR-45L! It’s looks like a radio should!


    1. The radio does look great! Sounds fun to use too.

      I’m in the same boat, have paddles and need to get learning.


  2. Just received my TR-45L couple weeks ago. Took her outside for a little hunting and most certainly echo the excellent look and function of this rig. It just screams “retro cool” sitting on a picnic table! I’m working up the nerve to attempt my FIRST CW activation and will target a weekday afternoon hoping for very patient hunters to be gentle on an old guy! 73, KD9JTU

      1. Hello Mark,

        Unknowingly we worked TR-45L to TR-45L on the 24th. If I hadn’t scanned your included map here I’d have missed that fact. I find it’s a great radio with the hotest receiver. One question for you, do you use and find the Audio Filter to be helpful with weak signals? I am really enjoying this gem!
        Pete WK8S

        1. Nice! Regarding the audio filter I have not really experimented with that yet. As recall I had it on during this activation. There were certainly some weaker signals and I was able to pull them out using the built-in speaker, so that is saying something as I usually use headphones. Will have to give that feature some more time. What have you noticed when using it, vs. not using it?


          1. Mark,
            I have found the audio filter very effective with strong signals but not at all helpful with very weak ones due to inherent attenuation in such circuits. But I realize adding gain there might be detrimental.
            However, in the Zombie Shuffle I discovered the Tr-45L Notch filter can be used to isolate and enhance a weak signal in tough conditions.
            The more I use this radio the more I learn what a great design it is.
            Pete WK8S

    1. I built one many years ago, but have not used it in a long time. Only availability is via the second hand market these days.

      1. My apologies, I couldn’t find an ‘EDIT COMMENT” feature; was supposed to read ” Is it still a viable choice today? (I own one with the filter board, by the way.)

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