It was a “test flight” of sorts since I’d only had the (tr)uSDX for a few days and had not taken it to the field.
I wrote up an assessment from that initial POTA activation mainly to give other potential (tr)uSDX owners an idea of how well one of these super-affordable radios might perform.
Difficult to critique
It’s difficult to critique a 5 band HF radio that you can purchase as a kit for less than $100 and fully-assembled and tested for less than $150…shipped!
On the one hand, I think it’s one of the most amazing portable HF radio innovations of the past decade. It simply blows my mind that the developers (DL2MAN and PE1NNZ) could make this modest radio hardware do so very much. It’s truly a triumph of engineering and a fun little radio.
On the other hand, this isn’t a high-end radio, so we can’t expect performance like we’d see in an Elecraft, Icom, or Yaesu field radio, for example. I never expected this, in fact, but was very curious if the performance would be “good enough” for POTA or SOTA. So many had asked me about buying a (tr)uSDX as their dedicated POTA radio.
I found using the (tr)uSDX for POTA was actually quite fun, and I certainly achieved my goal of activating a POTA park with it.
So yes, it’s good enough!
That said, I haven’t reached for the (tr)uSDX to do POTA or SOTA since last March because I prefer the performance characteristics of my other radios.
My biggest complaint, frankly, is that the audio fidelity is pretty poor. The noise floor of the (tr)uSDX is higher than most HF radios and audio amplification is very basic. I notice a lot of electronic noises (pulsing, etc.) in my unit. I find it a bit fatiguing to listen to for long sessions with my headphones. The internal speaker isn’t really a viable speaker for doing an activation–it’s more akin to an emergency speaker, if anything.
When plugged into an external amplified speaker, the audio is much improved. The pops and internal noises are still there, but it has better overall fidelity and the volume can be raised enough to hear weak signals (this can’t be easily done via the internal speaker).
It struck me that a DSP device might clean up the (tr)uSDX’s audio and noise floor a bit.
Enter the bhi Dual In-Line DSP filter
Sometime during the beginning of the pandemic, I reached out to bhi Noise Cancelling Products and asked if I could test one of their DSP units as a loaner. I’ve always felt that bhi manufactured the best DSP products in the amateur radio market.
At the time, I wanted one of my friends and contributors on the SWLing Post blog to test the bhi unit and see if it might help out a QRM situation that popped up at his QTH. I thought it would make for a great evaluation since I have little to no QRM at my home.
Graham, at bhi, kindly sent me a unit–the Dual In-Line Noise Eliminating Module–and as I prepared to forward it to my friend, his noise was no longer an issue. I can’t remember the details now, but there was no need to send it to him.
I notified Graham that I would like to test it myself, but that my plate was so full it would take time. What ended up happening, though, was I completely forgot about it due to a busy family life at the time.
I re-discovered the unit this year and spoke (apologized) to Graham at the 2023 Hamvention. Of course, he had no issue at all and was very forgiving. He’s a great fellow.
I thought pairing this bhi DSP unit to the (tr)uSDX would be a great way to, perhaps, cut down on the listening fatigue.
Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)
I arrived on site, deployed my MM0OPX 40 meter End-Fed Half-Wave, and then set up the gear.
In the activation video, I show how I connect the audio out rom the (tr)uSDX to the DSP unit, then connect my Anker Soundcore Mini speaker to the bhi unit.
- (tr)uSDX transceiver
- Anker Soundcore Mini Speaker
- ABR Industries 25’ RG-316 cable assembly with three in-line ferrites (Part# 23316-BM-25-3FERRITE)
- MM0OPX QRP EFHW (Contact Colin for Availability)
- Elecraft T1
- Icom IC-705 (used for one contact)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Weaver arborist throw line/weight and Folding Arborist Throw Line Cube
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook
- Camera: original OSMO Action Camera (the OSMO 3 is the current version) with Sensyne Phone Tripod
On The Air
After hooking up the (tr)uSDX to the bhi unit, then testing and adjusting the audio, I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters.
Not only did no one respond, but the Reverse Beacon Network also did not pick me up.
What–? Very strange.
Keep in mind, I’m not terribly familiar with the (tr)uSDX and was monitoring the power meter which seemed to be moving with my keying.
After a while, I simply gave up, assuming something must be wrong with the (tr)uSDX, so I reached for the IC-705 which I also brought along.
As I started to disconnect everything from the (tr)uSDX, I realized that I had forgotten to connect the antenna–!!!
I reconnected the (tr)uSDX with the antenna and *boom* the HF bands had activity!
I left all of this in the activation video, of course, because I firmly believe that everyone–even reasonably seasoned POTA activators–can still make ridiculous mistakes!
In truth: had this been, say, my IC-705 I would have known via the audio that the antenna wasn’t connected. It would have been more conspicuous because there would have been no band noise. The (tr)uSDX, on the other hand, has a high noise floor so, to my ear, I was hearing the band.
That said, it was a pretty silly oversight not to hook up the antenna!
On The Air (For Real This Time)
In nine minutes, I logged the ten stations needed to validate the activation. I continued calling CQ POTA for another seven minutes and worked seven more stations.
Seventeen stations in sixteen minutes made me quite happy!
No doubt, the (tr)uSDX can easily take you through a POTA activation–it’s just a bit noisy.
P2P: Trying to work Teri (KO4WFP/VE1)
While I was on the air, I got a Ham Alert that my friend Teri (KO4WFP) was on the air, activating a park in Nova Scotia.
Teri has posted a brilliant series of field reports from her summer trip to Nova Scotia. I had tried hunting her from the QTH, but on those days, propagation simply wasn’t there.
Teri was on 17 meters, a band that the (tr)uSDX doesn’t cover, so I grabbed the IC-705. Of course, the 40 meter EFHW isn’t resonant on 17 meters, so I also needed to add my Elecraft T1 antenna tuner as well.
I could hear Teri on the 17 meter band, but barely. I called for her quite a few times, but she couldn’t hear me. Little did I know at the time, but she was doing this activation from her car in the rain! You can read her field report by clicking here.
After trying to hunt her for a few minutes, I ran out of time and started to pack up the IC-705. Then one more Ham Alert came through indicating she’d moved to the 20 meter band.
I re-connected the antenna and hopped on 20 meters where she was *much *louder and more stable than she was on 17 meters. It only took one call to work her Park-to-Park. Woo hoo!
Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
Note that my contact with Teri does not show below because the QSO Map couldn’t map her point in Nova Scotia with a /VE1 call.
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.
Did the bhi Dual In-Line DSP Help?
As you’ll hear in the video, the DSP–which I actually kept at a pretty low level–definitely helped the overall noise profile of the audio. I will use this unit next time I take the (tr)uSDX to the field.
Of course, you could still hear some of the pulsing noises that the (tr)uSDX produces, but the overall noise floor was much lower.
As I mentioned earlier, I feel like bhi DSP units are the best in the world of amateur radio. They’re specifically tailored for this application.
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
I hope I don’t try to operate without an antenna again. 🙂 If I do, I’ll certainly include it in the report and video. It’s important to know that we all make mistakes from time-to-time.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
As I mentioned each time, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a brilliant week!
Cheers & 72,