Category Archives: Announcements

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.

QRP Labs new QCX+ QRP CW/WSPR transceiver kit

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

QRP Labs has just announced the QCX+ which as the name implies is an upgraded version of the very popular QCX line of transceivers

To date almost 10,000 kits have been sold, here’s a brief overview of the the differences and new features made to this popular Transceiver.

The QCX+ is the almost same circuit as the QCX, with two very minor changes. QCX+ runs the same firmware as QCX, and has identical operational and performance characteristics. QCX/QCX+ firmware will always be compatible with both the QCX and QCX+. The evolution of QCX to QCX+ provides several improved features in physical layout, as follows:

1) Physical layout of controls and connectors

2) Optional enclosure

3) Additional and changed connectors

4) More spacious PCB, more than double the board area, with less densely packed components, and more test/modification points

5) Improved heatsinking

6) Three minor circuit changes

7) No microswitch key

Price has gone up slightly to $55, still no other QRP Transceiver on the market today comes close to the features offered by the QCX+ at this price point.

More Info:

https://qrp-labs.com/qcxp.html

Thank you so much Pete! You’re an enabler! Since I’m not at Hamvention right now, those radio bucks are burning a hole in my pocket. The QCX+ looks like a fun transceiver to build! Thanks for the tip.

FCC is crystal clear: Remote ham radio licensing exams are absolutely permitted

Note: This post was first published on our sister site, the SWLing Post.

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, amateur radio VECs in the US have been experimenting with remote testing sessions–meaning, administering ham radio license exams via real-time teleconference apps like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet.

Amateur radio operators in support of remote testing have been contacting the FCC asking for formal approval of remote exams and the ARRL has also been exploring and experimenting with the process.

Today, the FCC posted a public notice, making it clear that FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests:

We make clear here that nothing in the FCC’s rules prohibits remote testing, and prior FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests.  The Commission provides flexibility to volunteer examiners and coordinators who wish to develop remote testing methods or to increase remote testing programs already in place.”

I’ve pasted the text from the body of the public notice below (click here to download the full PDF doc):


DA 20-467 Released: April 30, 2020

WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS BUREAU CONFIRMS THAT AMATEUR RADIO SERVICE OPERATOR LICENSE EXAMINATIONS MAY BE HELD REMOTELY

The Amateur Radio Service provides opportunities for self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. To operate an Amateur Radio Service station, an operator must have an FCC license. The Commission issues three classes of operator licenses, each authorizing a different level of privilege. 1 The class for which each licensee is qualified is determined during an examination by the level of skill and knowledge in operating a station that the licensee demonstrates to volunteer examiners, who conduct this testing on behalf of FCC-certified volunteer examiner coordinators.

Many potential amateur radio test takers and volunteer examiners have contacted the Chairman and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to request that the Commission allow remote testing in light of current public health guidelines regarding social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We make clear here that nothing in the FCC’s rules prohibits remote testing, and prior FCC approval is not required to conduct remote tests. 2 The Commission provides flexibility to volunteer examiners and coordinators who wish to develop remote testing methods or to increase remote testing programs already in place.3

We recognize that some volunteer examiner coordinators may not have the immediate capacity for widespread remote testing. We expect those volunteer examiner coordinators with limited remote testing capacity to work closely with those requesting such testing to prioritize any available remote testing slots.

– FCC –


Icom IC-705 demo and pricing

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who shares the following sneak peek video of the new IC-705 transceiver from Amateur Logic TV with guest Ray Novak from Icom America:

Pete also notes that Ham Radio Outlet’s price has been announced a the 2020 Orlando Hamcation. According to two members of the group, the pre-order price at Hamcation is $1,175 US–the price will increase $100 after Hamcation.

Availability is still unknown: retailers and Icom have not committed to firm delivery date yet other than noting it will be sometime in 2020.

Thanks, again, Pete for the tip!

uBITX v6 QRP transceiver now available for $150/$199 US

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who notes that Ashhar Farhan (VU2ESE) has recently announced the availability of the uBITX v 6.0–as Pete notes, “just in time for the Holidays!

Pete shared the following message from Farhan:

Here is what [the uBITx v 6.0] looks like :

And of course, you can buy it on hfsignals.com. The shipping will happen from Tuesday onwards. We have a limited supply of the first 200 boards. The rest is for after Christmas.

The most important thing about this revision is that the Radio circuitry is almost unchanged. We have incorporated the connectors on the PCBs. So, this kit needs none of the confusing soldering. You snap in the TFT Raduino onto the main board, plug the power and antenna from the back, snap on headphones, plug in the mic (supplied with the kit) and off you go!

It is offered in two kits now : The basic kit (150 USD) is without the box (like old times) but with a microphone and two acrylic templates for the front and back panels.

The Full kit (199 USD) has the box with speaker, mounting hardware etc. Both are described on the website.

Now, about the TFT display:

For those who are using the 16×2 display and you would like to upgrade, you will have to do three things:

Add a heatsink to the 7805 of the raduino

Buy [here] and hook it up as per [this article].

Grab the new Arduino sketch from https://github.com/afarhan/ubitxv6

Background:

I have been hacking away at adding a TFT display for the Arduino for sometime. Finally, I managed to do this with a really inexpensive 2.8 inch TFT display that uses a controller called the ILI9341. The display update is slow but, clever guy that I am, the display very usable. it uses the same pins that earlier connected to the 16×2 LCD display. This display is available everywhere for a few dollars.

Many thanks, Pete, for sharing this announcement. The price was simply too attractive to me, so I just purchased the full kit for $199 US. (Thanks for being the good enabler you are, Pete!)

I’ll post an update when I receive the transceiver and assemble it. I do hope this is a workable little radio–it would be pretty amazing for newcomers to the hobby to be able to get on the HF bands for a mere $200 US. I also love the fact that this is all based on open-source, hackable technologies.

Dave Benson’s new Phaser Digital Mode Transceiver kit

Many thanks to QRPer, Pete (WB9FLW), who writes:

Just in time for Christmas, Dave Benson is back with a great new line of Monoband Digital Mode Transceivers! 40 & 80 Meters is available now 30 & 20 Meter Rigs to follow shortly.

Time for me to contact Santa Claus and update my Christmas Wish List 🙂

These are Single Signal Phasing Rigs not DSB.

Pete WB9FLW,

http://www.midnightdesignsolutions.com/phaser/

http://www.midnightdesignsolutions.com/phaser/Phaser-40%20Instructions%20(Rev%20A).pdf

WOW! Thanks for the tip, Pete! I think I might give Santa a hint! This looks like a fun kit!