Category Archives: Announcements

Operations Group Fort Irwin: Winning QRPX 2021 with Chameleon antennas

I just received an email announcement from Chameleon Antenna, and I thought I’d share it here.

I’ve often referred to Chameleon antennas as “military-grade” because I’ve seen numerous military portable antenna systems over the years and Chameleon antennas are engineered to that standard. The quality is simply uncompromising.

Chameleon antennas are at the top of the amateur radio price bracket for portable antennas, but affordable compared to other military field antenna systems.

Their recent email announcement showcased a real-world example of how their antennas are used in military communications exercises. From Chameleon:

For QRPX 2021, the NTC Operations Group, Fort Irwin, CA station had the opportunity to deploy several Chameleon Antenna systems to use in the competition. This article is a summary of how each system performed during the contest, and how each could serve a military operator best.

Every year in mid-March, Army NETCOM hosts an annual HF Low Power Competition where stations across the globe try their best to establish HF communications with each other over a variety of modes, including USB Voice, ALE, 3rd Generation ALE, and Tactical Chat messaging application.

Participants include:

    • Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard elements of the US Army
    • The three Army MARS HF Hubs in Ft. Detrick, MD; Ft. Huachuca, AZ; and Ft. Shafter, HI
    • Any other military branches including Air Force, Marines, Navy, Space Force, and Coast Guard
    • Canadian military teams
    • Army MARS Auxiliarists

As a Signal Coach out here at The National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, CA, I found out about this competition, and competed the last two years. In the 2020 QRPX, I operated my station alone using only an L3Harris AN/PRC-150 with its accompanying antenna, the L3Harris RF-1944 dipole kit. I operated as I was able to, not expecting much, only to find out that my station placed third with 48 points and was only a few contacts shy of the winning score of 53 set by a fully stacked team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I was absolutely hooked from there.

Click here to download the full PDF report.

I’d recommend you download and read the detailed report.

If you can’t tell, I’m proud to have Chameleon Antenna as a sponsor of QRPer. They’re a brilliant company that designs and builds all of their gear here in the USA. Their gear is built for the long haul. They’ve never heard of the marketing concept “planned obsolescence.” I’m guessing Chameleon’s idea is to impress you enough with their product quality that you buy more and more of their systems.

By the way, if you think I’m supportive of amateur radio manufacturers that build quality products, don’t even get me started about my obsession with US-made backpacks and camping gear. Seriously. Just slowly back away while you can… 🙂

Craig’s free solar/propagation apps for the iPhone and iWatch

 

Many thanks to Craig (VK3NCR) who writes:

Hi Tom

I have upload two apps to the apple App Store recently
https://apps.apple.com/au/app/ham-solar-watch/id1558970244

and

https://apps.apple.com/au/app/ham-solar/id1557970640

Hope you enjoy my simple apps!

Cheers

Craig
VK3NCR

Thank you for designing these apps and sharing them, Craig. I love the simple design–I’m loading this on my iPhone. It’ll make for an easy check before I head to the field for a summit or park activation.

In the case of the iWatch app, I see this being a very “handy” tool! (See what I did there–? Yeah, sorry for that.)

Thanks again, Craig!

SOTA/POTA activation plans today (March 8, 2021)

The weather is gorgeous here in the mountains of western North Carolina so I’m plotting a SOTA activation of Elk Knob (W4C/EM-005) and Elk Knob State Park (K-2728) or WWFF (KFF-2728).

Propagation isn’t looking that fabulous despite the amazing weather.

I hope to be on the air sometime between 17:00-18:00 UTC and have announced the following frequencies: 7063, 7197, 14040, and 14313. Of course, all of this is subject to change depending on travel time to the site and how quickly I manage the hike to the summit.

I’m planning to take the KX2 and I’ve yet to decide which antenna. Likely will take a vertical because I’m uncertain if there will be trees on the summit.

I plan to make a video to accompany my future field report (again, if all goes well).

If you happen to be near a radio, I’d love to put you in the logs!

Look for me to appear on the Reverse Beacon Network as I’ll start with CW–click here to search. Also, check out the spots on SOTA, POTA, and WWFF.

Really looking forward to a good hike and good weather!

Ozarkcon 2021: Free registration now open!

(Source: Tim McDonough via the Four State QRP Group)

OZARKCON 2021 REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!

Good Morning
I am pleased to announce the Opening of Ozarkcon Virtual 2021 registration.

Due to your exceptional support of our kit sales efforts for the last year, the 4SQRP Board of Directors has decided that the Conference will be Free of charge.

The event will take place on April 10th at 8:30 am CDT.
We will be broadcasting via Zoom and are limited to 500 participants, so please sign up early.

You can register in several ways, from the main website Ozarkcon Radio button, or direct at www.ozarkcon.com.

The conference will be an open meeting platform so you can come and go as you like. The closing date for registration will be March 26th or until all seats are filled. We have a great lineup of speakers with a variety of topics.
Some of the highlights are:

  • Special event station K0N will be on the air all week beginning April 4 th.
  • The Wackey Key and Homebrew contests will take place prior to the conference.
  • Prize Drawings will be held throughout the day of the conference with the results being posted on the Ozarkcon web page.

Details for all of these events and how to register for them will be announced at a later date. Updates to the conference will be posted on the 4sqrp groups.io email reflector.

If you’re not a member, feel free to join at this link: https://4sqrp.groups.io/g/main

If you have any questions or need assistance with registration please drop us a note at this email: registration@ozarkCon.com

We are looking forward to you joining us for a Educational and satisfying day.
72
Johnny AC0BQ, President

60 Meter “Woodpecker” QRPp Transceiver Kit From Breadboard Radio

I’ve just received the following announcement from Breadboard Radio. Looks like a fun build and quite useful QRP radio for the 60 meter band!


60 METER “Woodpecker” QRPp Transceiver Kit From Breadboard Radio

Breadboard Radio has just released the “Woodpecker” a 60 meter low power CW transceiver for the 60 meter band. The Woodpecker features a crystal controlled transmitter with a 500 milliwatt output on 5332 kilohertz, sometimes referred to as channel 1. The transmitter provides sidetone, receiver muting and QSK with delay.
The Woodpecker’s direct conversion receiver has an adjustable bandpass filter, attenuator and an audio amplifier suitable for headphone level output plus a selectable low / high filter which helps with band noise and static crashes.

The designer, W4FSV has made multiple contacts using a 160 meter inverted L antenna including many from 500 to 1000 miles. The kit is complete with all parts including a cabinet and attractive front panel plastic decal. A two channel 40 meter version will be available soon.

More information is available at www.breadboardradio.com

The introductory price is $49.95 US.

Click here to read the full PDF manual (note this is a large file).

Icom publishes AH-705 antenna tuner details

Many thanks to Rob Sherwood (NC0B) who notes that Icom has published details regarding their new AH-705 antenna tuner which is designed to pair directly with the Icom IC-705 QRP transceiver.

Many Icom IC-705 owners have been waiting to learn more about the AH-705 before purchasing a dedicated portable ATU for their IC-705. Some of these details may help potential customers make a purchase decision.

Key specifications and features per Icom:

 

  • Covers the 1.8 MHz to 50 MHz bands

30 m, 98.4 ft or longer antenna: 1.8 – 54 MHz, 7 m, 23 ft or longer antenna: 3.5 – 54 MHz
* Depending on operating conditions or environments, the tuner may not be able to tune the antenna.

  • SO-239 antenna connector for 50 Ω antenna such as dipole or Yagi
  • “Terminal connector”, binding post socket adapter supplied for a long wire antenna

  • 2-way power sources using alkaline batteries (2 x AA cells) or external 13.8 V DC*
    * 13.8 V DC should be taken directly from an external power supply, not through the IC-705.
  • IP54 dust-protection and water resistance construction*
    * The connectors should be covered with an adhesive tape or a jack cover to prevent water seeping into the connection.
  • Full automatic tuning, just push the [TUNER] button on the IC-705
  • Latching relays used for saving power consumption
  • 190 × 105 × 40 mm; 7.5 × 4.1 × 1.6 in, 450 g; 15.8 oz* compact design
    * Battery cells are not included.
  • 45 tuner memories

Of course, I don’t have an AH-705 in hand to test yet, so there’s no way I can comment on performance.

Still, I can’t turn of the reviewer inside so I feel I can make some superficial comments assuming the specs don’t change.

Potential positives?

  • Complete integration with the IC-705
  • Could (potentially–?) be permanently mounted outdoors at the antenna feed point as a dedicated remote tuner
  • IP54 dust and water resistant
  • Power from internal batteries and an external DC source
  • It’s an Icom product, so I would expect excellent overall quality

Potential negatives?

  • Maximum wattage is only 10W, which I suppose is okay if you never put an amplifier between the IC-705 and the AH-705
  • Based on Icom specs, the AH-705 is larger than other portable ATUs at 7.5 × 4.1 × 1.6 inches. For example:
  • Some have noted pricing around $350 US price–that’s a premium for a portable ATU considering the Elecraft T1 is $180 assembled and many LDG models are less than $200. Of course, none of those ATUs have an IP54 rating, either.
  • Speculation here, but the AH-705 might only work with the IC-705 or Icom radios with similar ATU commands. One original pre-production prototype image of the AH-705 shows a power switch; the latest images do not. Like the mAT-705Plus, I’m not sure if the AH-705 can be turned on in order to tune only via RF sensing without essentially modifying a control cable to trick the ATU into powering up.

I was a little surprised to see that the AH-705 “only” has 45 tuner memories. In truth, I never really pay attention to this spec because I’m primarily a field operator. My radio sessions are only an hour or two long and I routinely pair my transceivers with a wide variety of antennas, so a portable ATU never has a chance to develop a complex tuner memory map for any given antenna. But as a reviewer, I try to step in other operators’ shoes so I see where this could be a slight negative for those who plan to use the AH-705 at home and connected to only one antenna. As a point of comparison, the mAT-705Plus has 16,000 tuner memories. Still, memories only help shave off a bit of the auto-tuning time. This would never have an impact on my purchase decision.

Biggest positive for me? IP54 rating

Since the AH-705 is designed to be dust and weather resistant,  it could be mounted at the antenna feed point. At home, perhaps it could act like an externally-mounted, remotely-controlled antenna tuner. I’m not sure what the maximum length of the control cable could be, but Icom Japan even lists a 16 foot control cable as an accessory. Of course, you would still need to follow Icom’s guidance about protecting the antenna, transmitter and control cable connection points.

Biggest negative for me? The size.

If the AH-705 specs are correct, it’s a little surprising Icom designed a portable ATU that’s this large. As you can see in the image above, it easily fits in the LC-192, but frankly since I’ve been an Elecraft T1 tuner user, I’ll notice that the AH-705 is 3.1″ longer, 1.6″ wider, and .7″ taller than the T1. It will certainly take up more backpack space.

Of course, unless I build an IC-705 control interface for the Elecraft T1, I can’t directly pair it with the IC-705 like I could with the AH-705. That said? I personally prefer pressing a tune button on the T1 and sending “QRL?” instead of hitting the PTT or CW key and allowing the IC-705 to kick in a continuous tune cycle for a few seconds. You might have noticed in some of my videos that when I tune to a new CW frequency, I’ll listen for activity, then tap the TUNE button on the T1 and send “QRL?” or “QRL de K4SWL”. By the time I’ve sent that string, the T1 has typically already found a match.

How will it perform?

I’ve got to assume the AH-705 will perform well. Icom tends to give their products thorough QC before shipping them to customers. I don’t anticipate any issues with the AH-705 as I did with the original maT-705, for example.

I’ll plan to test the AH-705 after it’s available.

For more information about the AH-705, check out the product page on Icom Japan’s website.

Testing the updated and upgraded Mat-Tuner mAT-705Plus portable IC-705 antenna tuner

On Wednesday (December 16, 2020) I took delivery of the new Mat-Tuner mAT-705Plus ATU.

Mat-Tuner sent this updated and upgraded version of the mAT-705 ATU to me at no cost and asked that I give it a thorough evaluation in the field.

History of the mAT-705

If you’ve been following the story of this tuner, it was the first introduced in September 2020 and designed to pair directly with the Icom IC-705 transceiver. Note that Icom plans to introduce their own IC-705 antenna tuner (the AH-705) but it is not yet on the market at time of posting, so the mAT-705 has certainly had a market opening.

The original mAT-705 had a mechanical power switch on the front/faceplate.

I received the original mAT-705 ATU via Mat-Tuner US distributor, Vibroplex, around the same time I received my Icom IC-705 in early October. I took the original mAT-705 to the field and made a quick video demonstrating its ability to find matches from 160 to 6 meters. In short, it did a brilliant job.

A couple weeks later, however, I discovered that the original mAT-705 had some design shortcomings. I updated my review with this follow-up post.  In brief, the mAT-705 could deplete a 9V alkaline battery within a couple of days if you failed to turn off the tuner’s mechanical on/off switch.

Replacing the internal 9V battery was a complicated procedure requiring the user to carefully detach the front panel without losing the LED lenses that were prone to simply pop out. The 9V battery was mounted internally on the board with adhesive–obviously, not an ideal situation for an ATU that would require frequent battery replacement. Due to this, I simply could not recommend the original mAT-705–it was too pricey at $220 for an antenna tuner with so many design shortcomings. For full details, read this post.

Introducing the mAT-705Plus

Mat-Tuner was obviously listening to customer feedback, because within two months they introduced the upgraded and updated mAT-705Plus antenna tuner.

I love the USB-C charging port!

Here are the mAT-705 upgrades:

  • No mechanical on/off switch–power is internally managed
  • 9V battery replaced with 1000 mAh internal lithium cells
  • Batteries are internally charged via USB-C port
  • No longer necessary to open the enclosure/housing

Update: Using the mAT-705Plus with other transceivers

Since the new mAT-705Plus lacks a power switch to manually turn it on, I originally noted that I was unsure if it could be engaged via RF sensing when paired with other transceivers. I tried to no avail. Before posting this review, I sent an inquiry to Mat-Tuner about this. Here is their reply:

The power of the new version of the mAT-705Plus tuner is controlled by the KEY signal of the control cable. When KEY is high, the tuner is automatically turned on. The function of following the transmitter to automatically turn on and off is realized.

In addition, the mAT-705Plus tuner follows the ICOM tuner protocol. Like other ICOM tuners, you can manually start the tuning cycle by manually customizing the control cable, just like the AT-120 tuner.

After you solve the KEY signal to trigger the tuner to start and make a manual control cable, you can use it [the mAT-705Plus] for other non-ICOM brand transmitters.  But we do not recommend you to use it this way.

Because it is specially designed for the IC-705 transmitter, [it must be modified for use with] other transmitters, which many customers cannot do.

[Since] it uses a magnetic latching relay, after completing the tuning cycle, you can completely turn off the IC-705 transmitter power and connect the tuner to other transmitters.
The tuner will remain in the tuning state.

To clarify, I believe what the Mat-Tuner engineer meant is that if you tune an antenna with the IC-705, you can power the rig down, connect the mAT-705 to another transmitter and the mAT-705 will preserve the last tuner setting (the last match).

Let’s see the mAT-705Plus in action!

Yesterday, I took the mAT-705Plus to the field and paired it with my Chameleon Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna.

I made the following real-time no-edit video yesterday afternoon. Other than charging the mAT-705Plus batteries the night before, this video captures its first time being connected and used.

The Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna’s frequency range is 160-6 meters–the mAT-705Plus quickly found matches on every band.

Summary

At first blush, the mAT-705Plus looks like the ATU Mat-Tuner should have released on the first go: it’s portable, lightweight, fully automatic, rechargeable, and quickly finds matches across the HF spectrum.

Size comparison: mST-705Plus (left) Elecraft T1 (right)

 

We’ll see how well the power management works in real life. I plan to take it to the field over the next few months and carry a small USB battery pack to recharge the mAT-705Plus when the batteries are finally depleted. Hopefully, I won’t need to recharge it for a long time! The proof will be in the pudding!

Of course, I’ll also pair the mAT-705Plus with an assortment of antennas: random wires, verticals, delta loops, doublets, dipoles, and end-feds.

Stay tuned! [See what I did there? Rimshot anyone? Anyone–?] 🙂


Mat-Tuner authorized distributors:

The new Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2 by LnR Precision

The venerable Mountain Topper MTR-3B

I’ve just noticed that LnR Precision has announced their new Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2.

They’ve released a few details with the promise of photos soon. Looks like the MTR-4B will of course sport four bands (80, 40, 30, and 20 meters) but adds two valuable tools its predecessors lacked: an SWR and RF power meter.

A full 5 watts output power is attained with a 12V supply, but the voltage operating range is 5.5 to 13volts.  The MTR-3B’s (photo above) has an upper operating range of 12V.

I look forward to checking out the MTR-4B and we’ll post photos as soon as they are available.

Here are the details from the LnR Precision Website:


MTR-4B V2

Photos COMING SOON

“The Mountain Topper”

The LnR Precision MTR transceivers are designed to be efficient portable CW rigs. Whether climbing a mountain and operating SOTA or just out for an afternoon in the park, the MTR’s small size, light weight and meager battery requirements makes it a great choice for these activities.

Features:

  • Four bands – 80M, 40M, 30M and 20M
  • Very low receiver noise floor
  • Low current for maximum battery life
  • Wide operating voltage range – 5.5V to 13V
  • Full 5W “QRP” gallon with 12.0 Volt supply
  • 2 line, back lighted LCD display
  • SWR – RF Power display
  • Built in Real Time Clock
  • Internal Iambic B mode keyer, 5 to 31 WPM in 1 WMP increments.
  • Three Morse message memories with beacon mode.
  • Specifications: coming soon

Begali is making an Adventure Key stand and mounting bracket for the Icom IC-705

Many thanks to Ray Novak (N9JA) at Icom America who shares photos of the Begali-05 bracket prototype that is being developed for the Icom IC-705 transceiver.

Those who already own a Begali Adventure key will soon be able to mount it on the IC-705 with the Begali-05 bracket.

Ray notes that this is still an early prototype, so the finished product might look quite a bit different.

He also noted, “The plan is for the Begali-05 to be available at Authorized Icom Amateur Dealers.”

I’m a massive fan of Begali keys. Not only do they make some of the best, highest precision keys in the world, but the Begali family are proper ham radio ambassadors. I love supporting them!

Pietro Begali (I2RTF) winner of the 2019 Hamvention Technical Achievement Award.

I’ll attempt to acquire a Belagi-05 bracket and Adventure Key for review with my IC-705. In truth, though, I’m sure it’ll work beautifully. It’ll be a Begali!

CHA MPAS Lite: Chameleon designs a new QRP compact portable antenna system

Many thanks to, Don (W7SSB), who notes that Chameleon Antenna has just introduced the CHA MPAS Lite: a modular portable antennas system covering from 6M – 160 meters.

I know a number of participants in the Parks On The Air program who use the CHA MPAS antenna system–the MPAS Lite is the “little brother” of that antenna, according to Chameleon.

Although designed with the new Icom IC-705 and other QRP transceivers in mind, the CHA MPAS Lite can handle up to 100 watts in SSB or 50 watts in CW.

They plan to start shipping the antenna in early November 2020 and the price for the system is $340.00. That may sound like a lot of money for an antenna (it is, let’s face it!) but if you speak with pretty much anyone who owns a Chameleon antenna they’ll tell you it’s worth it. The quality is second to none. I’ve been testing their Emcomm III wire antenna recently and it must be one of the most robust portable wire antenna systems I’ve ever evaluated.

Also, all of their products are designed and manufactured in the USA.

Click here to check out the CHA MPAS Lite product page.

We recently added Chameleon Antenna to our list of sponsors here at QRPer.com. I’m very proud to include them because one of my personal missions is to promote mom-and-pop companies that push innovation here in our radio world! It’s humbling that they support us too.