Category Archives: Announcements

The FX-4L QRP SDR HF transceiver is on order!

This year, I’ve had a couple of readers very kindly offer to loan me their FX-4C transceivers to take to the field and review.

Those offers have been very temping because I’ve only heard positive comments from owners of this wee feature-packed SDR transceiver designed by Yu (BG2FX).

Earlier this year, I learned that Yu was retiring the FX-4C and would be introducing two new radios, so I decided to hold off on an FX-4C review for this reason.

My buddy, Don, informed me that the new radios were now available for pre-order, so I checked out the option on Yu’s website, and placed an order.

Details (features and specs) are still a little sparse because BG2FX is still finalizing the design and lining up production, but here’s a snapshot of the two models based on Yu’s preliminary info:

The FX-4CR

I was very pleased to read that my buddy John (AE5X) has one of these on order.

The FX-4CR can push 15-20 watts on most bands according to John, which is most impressive for a one pound radio that fits in the palm of your hand! It covers 80 – 6 meters, sports a color screen with a 48 kHz wide waterfall display, an internal sound card for digital modes, built-in speaker and microphone, 9 – 18 VDC input range, and even sports Bluetooth!

That’s an impressive array of features for $550 US (on pre-order).

The FX-4L

I pre-ordered the FX-4L and am told by Yu that it should ship by end of October or early November 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s an optimistic projection.

The FX-4L is essentially a more basic QRP version of the FX-4CR; it’s maximum output power is around 5 watts.

It’s very similar to the FX-4CR in many respects: it has the same display from what I can tell, covers 80 – 6 meters, has a wide voltage range 9 – 18 VDC, sports an internal sound card, and is super compact and lightweight.

The FX-4L doesn’t appear to have Bluetooth. Lu doesn’t mention a built-in speaker or microphone, but there’s an obvious speaker grill and even a small hole that might be a microphone. I’ll try to confirm this. Yu does note that there’s room in the chassis for the user to add a battery or ATU.

I’ve been more interested in the FX-4L because, as you likely know, it’s very rare for me top operate over 5 watts of power.

That said, I certainly see the appeal of a 15W+ radio like the FX-4CR.

(Many thanks to Yu for sharing all of the FX-4L photos above.)

Stay tuned!

I’m really looking forward to checking out the FX-4L and also reading AE5X’s assessment of the FX-4CR.

I’m curious if anyone else has pre-ordered one of these radios. Also, if you’re an FX-4C owner, I’d love to hear your comments!

Introducing the new Penntek TR-45L

If you’re a fan of the Penntek TR-35 or its predecessor, the TR-25, I’ve got some good news for you.

John (WA3RNC) announced this morning that he is now taking orders for his latest design: the long-awaited TR-45 Lite (TR-45L).

I’ve been helping John Beta test this radio since mid-August. I’ve activated a number of parks with it and have used it almost exclusively from home.

In short? I really love it.

Here’s the announcement John (WA3RNC) has posted on his website along with a form to fill out if you’re interested in purchasing from the first run. John notes:

The TR-45L 50-unit pilot run construction is now underway! These first units will be factory wired, tested, and aligned. These units will be available for shipment over the next several weeks. The plan is to have kits available in about 6 to 8 weeks. The kit price is expected to be $430.00. Please understand that this will not be a kit for beginners…

Pricing has been set at $580.00 for wired and tested pilot run units, with an additional charge of $22.00 for USPS Priority Mail shipping. There are two available options: The first is an internal 5200 MAH Li-Ion battery pack and charger with a price of $80.00, and the second is an internal Z-Match antenna tuner for easy matching in the field to simple wire antennas. The Z-Match tuner option is priced at $60.00. Note that the Z-Match ATU can be added later but will require that you drill some rather precise holes in the back case housing and a do a bit of soldering. [Continue reading…]

This radio is pricier than the TR-35, of course, but I would argue it’s very well worth the money: the receiver and audio are superb. The radio has a fun factor that’s hard to describe.

I’ve just updated the radio with the latest firmware and will be taking it on an activation this morning (Monday, Sep 26, 2022). Check the POTA spots page for me.

I’ll make a video including a full tour of the radio, then perform the activation.  If the hotspot bandwidth gods are on my side, I may have this posted later today or early tomorrow.

Note that John (AE5X) has also been testing the TR-45L and will also have updates and videos.

The upshot?

If the TR-45L looks like the sort of radio you’d enjoy taking to the field, just go ahead and get one.  I think it’s brilliant.

I suspect his first production run will sell out in very short order.

It’s a simple radio with simple–almost Apollo era inspired–controls. The audio is gorgeous and I’m pleased with the filtering options. The internal battery option will power it for ages and the Z-match tuner options works beautifully.

Again, if you want to hear it on the air, check the POTA spots for me sometime between 16:00-18:00 today!

Stay tuned!

Welcome News: POTA now has a manual log entry form on their website! Here’s how it works.

If you’ve watched any of my activation videos, you’ll note that I tend to log both on paper and on an app like HAMRS (iOS, Android) or ACLog (Windows Tablet).

Some have asked me why I still log to paper when I have a means to do it electronically in the field and that’s a valid question. There are a few reasons, actually:

  1. I don’t like the idea of my tablet or phone having issues mid-activation and losing all of the contacts that I’ve logged.
  2. I simply enjoy keeping paper logs. They’re easier to manage in the field, are easier to correct if I miss a letter in a call and paper gives me a space to scratch notes and extra callsigns I hear in a pileup.
  3. Plus, again, my paper logs can’t crash or freeze up.

It’s true that my phone and tablet rarely fail in the field, but I’m still a bit paranoid about it. I know it’s way more likely that the electronic logs could fail than my paper logs. That and I’ve been to the field recently and discovered my phone’s battery was very low because it wasn’t charging properly in the car en route to my activation.

If I’m being honest, I really dislike logging both to paper and to my phone simultaneously. It makes for a lot of busywork as I manage contacts rolling in on the bands–especially during pileups–plus I find typing callsigns on a phone with my fat fingers quite frustrating.

So why do I continue logging to an app in the field? The simple answer is that it saves me so much time later. POTA requires that all log entries be uploaded electronically (obviously) and my logging applications are not designed for transcription later; they’re designed for live-logging.

For example, if I transcribe my logs to ACLog the day after my activation, I have to manually correct the date and time of each log entry because ACLog defaults to the current date and time. It’s a bit tedious. Sometimes I try to use find/replace strings in a text editor after creating the log to make that process go a little more quickly, but I still have to correct the time of day manually for each entry.

I can set up ACLog to be more POTA-friendly, with only a minimum of fields, but I have to keep that customized ACLog installation separate from the main one I use in the shack.

Now, however, there’s a much better option should I choose to only log on paper in the field…

New Manual Log Entry on the POTA Website (Public BETA)

Only a couple months after introducing self-uploads, the POTA development team have introduced a web-based log entry form (currently as a public Beta) and it works brilliantly.

Continue reading Welcome News: POTA now has a manual log entry form on their website! Here’s how it works.

The Big E exposition: Radio club seeks scheduled contacts with POTA and SOTA activators

Many thanks to Mark (K8LSB) who shares the following announcement:

Sharing POTA/SOTA with the Public

Greetings POTA/SOTA activators,

This year the Big E (exposition)—a “combined” state fair for the six New England states (CT MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)—will run for 17 days: from September 16 to October 2. In the past, 1.5 million people have attended the Big E, the fifth largest fair in the nation.

Hampden County Radio Association (HCRA) will be running a special events station (N1E) and have a booth at the event where we hope to acquaint the general public with the many facets of amateur radio. For example, we have made arrangements to have a live ARISS space station contact, emergency communications display, POTA/SOTA contacts (hopefully), etc. One of our key goals is to identify those who might be interested in getting their ham license and connecting them with license training classes held by radio clubs across New England.

I am seeking your help in two ways. First, I would like to schedule some contacts with people activating POTA/SOTA sites during the Big E period. To make this interesting for visitors, I’d like to limit this primarily to phone operation, and would love it the activators could talk for a minute or two about where they are and what they enjoy about POTA/SOTA operation; not just the typical “you’re 58 in Massachusetts.” Many of the folks who attend the Big E are people who enjoy outdoor activities like RVing, hiking, camping, biking, etc. and may be attracted to adding the adventure of portable ham radio operation to their recreational routine.

The second way you can help is, for those of you who live in New England, to consider helping staff our booth at the Modern Living building. We hope to have at least four active hams at the booth from 10 am through 10 pm. Our operating shifts are from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and 3:30 to 10 pm. As you can imagine, we need a lot of hams to help out! We have contacted all the radio clubs in New England to solicit volunteers, but we could still use some more hams on specific days. This is a volunteer activity, but we have funds to offset the price of admission ($15) and parking ($10), and can provide free overnight accommodations with local ham families if this makes the logistics easier.

If you’d like to volunteer to be one of our “activator” contacts, please contact me via [email protected] 

If you’re interested in learning more about our Big E plans or would like to volunteer, go to:  https://nediv.arrl.org/project-big-e/  and scroll down to the “How Can I Help” and click the link for volunteering. It will show the specific dates and times that are open.

73, Marc K8LSB

Yaesu FT-710: Video update from Yaesu USA

Many thanks to Frank (K4FMH) who shares the following video update from Yaesu USA:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Starting today, you’ll be able to upload your own POTA logs!

The Parks On The Air website has the following message displayed on their home page:

After 12:00 Zulu (9AM Eastern Time USA) Friday, July 1 [2022], and once you have logged into the http://pota.app site, you will notice “My Log Uploads” as an option in our menu. Immense thanks WR5B and N0AW!

Those of us who have been POTA’ing for a few years will find this a very welcome feature!

Up to this point, POTA has been using regional volunteer coordinators to upload logs and they’ve done an amazing job. As POTA has grown–by orders of magnitude over the past few years–the amount of time needed to do uploads is truly significant for those coordinators. In at least one case I know a coordinator’s work load actually cut into their own POTA activating and hunting time.

I’ve always been so appreciative of our coordinators, but always felt hesitant to bug them when I’d discover an error in my logs that required deleting a log entry and re-uploading. I’ve never had a coordinator complain, but I hated to get them involved over a transcription error on my part.

I’m so happy to see that the beta testing has gone so well and the system will be online within an hour (at time of posting Friday morning).

I understand Mike (K8MRD) will soon publish a video here explaining how the new self uploads work.

Many thanks to all of those involved with making POTA what it is today and I’m so pleased to see self uploads being brought online. I would suggest we all be patient if we experience any problems as I suspect the new functionality is going to get a proper workout starting today!

The QRPer Board: A new discussion board for QRPer.com

Friends, I’d like to share some good news with you!

The short version:

I’ve created a QRPer discussion board that anyone can join, free of charge, at QRPer.net.

My hope is that this will be a spot for community members to get quick answers to questions and connect with other like-minded operators.

Everyone is welcome and this board is already populated with a number of moderators who will make sure that all questions–no matter how simple–are welcome. Trolls and rude people will be weeded out.

I would encourage you to create an account and check it out: http://qrper.net

The long version:

In the past, I’ve mentioned in posts that email from readers and subscribers (of both QRPer.com and the SWLing Post) has increased to a point that I can no longer keep up with them. It became very evident when I went camping in West Virginia last month and came back home to find no less than 60 messages in my inbox. These 60 messages were all ones needing some sort of reply or acknowledgement–they didn’t include notifications and SPAM.

I take pride in replying to each and every message I receive, but sadly I can no longer keep up with the volume. Sadly, I don’t have enough time especially with my busy family life.

In fact, I realized recently that replying to emails is actually taking a large bite out of the time I have to do content creation. I can’t let that happen, because that could quickly lead to burn-out. Both of my sites are pure labors of love and I enjoy them immensely. Continue reading The QRPer Board: A new discussion board for QRPer.com

Icom drops hints about the SHF-P1 controller prototype/concept

Yesterday, Icom posted the following teaser and image above on Twitter in advance of the 2022 Hamvention:

Are you ready for Dayton Hamvention 2022? Something new and exciting is on the horizon, visit us in building 2 from Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22.

At first, I was scratching my head because the product image (at the top of the page) looks like an IC-705, but the frequency displayed is 5.780 GHz.  Then I remembered mention of Icom’s SHF (Super High Frequency) Band Challenge some months ago.

I looked up the SHF Project page on Icom Japan’s website and found the details.

Basically, Icom seems to be repurposing the IC-705 platform to be used as a controller for the SHF transceiver. Why not? The IC-705 has fantastic ergonomics and a brilliant spectrum display.

In order to mitigate line losses, the SHF transceiver/RF module is designed to be mounted directly on a tower at the antenna and controlled remotely via a LAN cable. Here’s a simple diagram from Icom’s news release:

Here’s what the SHF RF module looks like:

Icom will have the new SHF-P1 controller prototype on display at the 2022 Hamvention:

I think it’s pretty cool that Icom’s working on a 2.4 GHz/5.6 GHz project even during these challenging times for manufacturers. I’ve never even tinkered in these frequency ranges, but I think it would be a lot of fun to explore.

For more information about this project and links to all previous news releases, check out the SHF project page on Icom’s website.

New Penntek TR-35 firmware adds CW message memory keying

John (WA3RNC) has just announced a new firmware (V.0.24) upgrade for the Penntek TR-35 that will start shipping in all TR-35 orders starting Sunday April 23, 2022.

The new processor adds two new features:

  • The ability to record and playback two CW message memories
  • A function to toggle the display from black with blue characters to solid blue with black characters

Of course, the big upgrade–in my world–is the addition of CW message memory keying and I can confirm that it works very well. More on that below…

Obtaining the upgrade

As John (WA3RNC) states in his announcement:

The good news is that any TR-35 can be upgraded with a simple replacement of a properly programmed plug-in microprocessor, or with the reprogramming of the original microprocessor. No other hardware changes are required.

But…there is bad news. The availability of the Atmega328P-PU microprocessor has gone from “buy it anywhere for $1.95″ in mid-2021″ to “virtually unavailable anywhere at any price” today. Delivery dates are quoted as May of 2023 for orders that I placed last year. 

[…]Because of this critical chip shortage, I do not have a sufficient inventory of the Atmega part to be able to send out programmed microprocessors for upgrades. What parts I do have are destined for production of TR-35 and TR-45L transceivers.

Therefore, a TR-35 firmware upgrade will require that the transceiver be sent to me freight prepaid for reprogramming, along with funds for return shipping and insurance of $15.00.

Understand that there is no charge for the actual upgrade reprogramming, only for the cost of returning your unit to you.

I think is excellent customer service, actually, and a clever way to get around the chip shortage: use the chip you already have.

Again, if you’re buying a new TR-35, it’ll ship with the latest firmware.

If CW message memory keying or inverting the OLED screen colors aren’t important to you, it’s not necessarily worth upgrading because the new firmware only includes the new features.

Testing message memories

Recently, John sent me an upgraded chip with an early Beta version of the new firmware to thoroughly test in the field. I replaced the TR-35 chip myself.

I tested the new functionality in the shack and on a dummy load.

As with most built-in CW message recorders, you’ll need to set the CW speed to a comfortable setting before recording. During the recording process, you need to send accurately spaced characters, else, for example, the software might interpret the “AN” in your callsign as a “P.”

The first time I set memory 1 to “CQ POTA DE K4SWL” it took three tries to get it right. When I set the second memory to “BK TU 73 DE K4SWL” I recorded it in one go.

Recording message memories on the TR-35 is at least as easy as directly recording a message on my KX2 or KX3. I’m pleased.

In the field

Last week, I took the upgraded TR-35 to the field and used the message memory keying during my activation.

It worked beautifully.

John sorted out a clever way to initiate playback without having to make any hardware additions to the radio:

  • To play a message memory, simply tap the AUX switch down and then hit the left side of your paddle to send message #1 or the right side to send message #2.
  • Recording messages works the same way, but instead of a short press of the AUX switch, you initiate a long press.

Even this early version of the upgrade worked well.

Field report and video coming soon!

I’m going to push the field report from last week to the front of the line because I know many of you will be curious to see how it plays in the field. Hopefully, I can post this by Monday (April 25).

My Penntek TR-35 Review

FYI: My full review of the TR-35 will be in the May 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

New Beta Elecraft KX2 and KX3 Firmware

Many thanks to Tony (AE0KW) and Eric (WD8RIF) who note that Elecraft has released new a Beta firmware for the KX3 and KX3 that extends the time before the radio drops to 5W in CW mode:

  • The KX2 release extends CW operating time at 10 W by allowing the supply or battery voltage to go as long as 9.0 V before dropping to 5 W.
  • The KX3 release has the same CW power improvement, as well as a fix to the TX inhibit function of the ACC2 jack.

Details: https://elecraft-kx.groups.io/g/main/message/71950