Category Archives: Kits

Field Report: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35

My most recent field report and video featured the Penntek TR-35 but it was not my first activation with this fantastic little QRP rig!

I pushed the last field report and activation video to the front of the line so that I could show how CW message memory keying worked in the TR-35’s updated firmware. It was, in my opinion, a major upgrade!

What follows is my field report from April 1, 2022: my first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35. This video was made a week or so before I learned that WA3RNC was working on the new firmware.

Side note: If you’d like to read my full review of the TR-35, check out the May 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Although I’d used the TR-35 in the shack for more than a month I was eager to find an opportunity to take it to the field. April 1, 2022 was that day and I made a little detour to one of my favorite local POTA sites to break in the TR-35… Continue reading Field Report: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-35

Video: Taking the new (tr)uSDX QRP transceiver on a CW POTA activation!

As I mentioned in a post published three days ago, I’m now the proud owner of a (tr)uSDX QRP transceiver.

The (tr)uSDX has been a much-anticipated QRP transceiver for those of us who love playing radio in the field.

What’s not to love? It sports:

  • Up to 5 watts output power
  • CW, SSB, FM, and AM modes
  • A built-in microphone
  • Five bands: 80, 60, 40, 30, and 20 meters
  • A super compact and lightweight form factor
  • An open-source hardware and software design
  • Super low current consumption in receive
  • A super low price of roughly $89 US in kit form and $143 US factory assembled (via AliExpress, but there are numerous other group buys and retailers)

Frankly speaking, this sort of feature set in such an affordable package is truly a game-changer. Back when I was first licensed in 1997, I could have never imagined a day when a general coverage QRP transceiver could be purchased for under $150 US. The price is almost unbelievable.

My initial impressions

On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, I took the (tr)uSDX to the field to attempt a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation. I had only taken delivery of the (tr)uSDX about 15 hours beforehand and had only had it powered up for a total of 30 minutes the previous day. Most of that time, in fact, was checking the power output at various voltage settings into a dummy load. I did make one totally random SSB POTA contact shortly after hooking the radio up to my QTH antenna.

I knew that taking the (tr)uSDX to the field and making an activation video might not be the best idea having had so little time to play with the radio and get to know it in advance, but then again, I was simply too eager to see how it might perform.  That and I always believe there’s value in sharing first experiences with a radio. Continue reading Video: Taking the new (tr)uSDX QRP transceiver on a CW POTA activation!

Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who recently reached out after watching my livestream with Josh at HRCC on the topic of QRP/CW portable. 

Leo shared some photos of a complete radio kit he built around the QCX-mini along with a ZM-4 ATU kit he also recently built. Leo has kindly agreed to share these on QRPer.com.

Leo notes:

Attached is a photo of my ultra light kit.

It consists of a QCX-Mini 20m version (self-built), K6ARK EFHW, Palm Radio Pico Paddle, Eremit 2Ah LiFePo battery, headphones and a few cables.

I usually also carry a small arborist kit and if there is still room also the 6m mast from Sotabeams, depending on what I think will work best.

I chose a hard case and went for the Peli 1060 Micro. It has room for everything I need and it could easily hold a bit of RG316 coax in addition (even more if I chose to shorten the 30m arborist line).

The main benefit for me is that I really don’t have to worry at all about what’s inside – compared to a soft pouch. So I can just shove it into my backpack or glove box and forget about it since this configuration is a lot more rugged and water proof – while being slightly heavier. Continue reading Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

Check out John’s review of the Penntek TR-35

If you haven’t already, hop over to John’s (AE5X) blog and read his review of the Penntek TR-35 transceiver kit.

John reviews both the build and performance. He even put the TR-35 on his workbench and measured a number of parameters.

In short, the little TR-35 does exactly what it sets out to do and packs a surprising amount of performance.

John and I actually had a TR-35 to TR-35 exchange a few days ago (if not mistaken, the photo above was taken after that exchange). I was lucky enough to catch him as he activated a POTA site in Texas. From this end, his TR-35 sounded fantastic.

Click here to read John’s report.

I’m putting together a review of the TR-35 which will likely appear in the May or June issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.  I’ll eventually send this little TR-35 back to WA3RNC (it was very kindly sent to me on loan) but I do plan to purchase his TR-45 Lite kit when it hits the market later this year. Why? Because I don’t have enough QRP radios, that’s why.

Brent builds the Penntek TR-35 transceiver kit

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Good morning Thomas, from wintry southwestern Ontario.

I thought I would send you a quick message to share my experiences, so far, with the little TR-35.

Yesterday, around 3pm, I took the above unassembled kit off the shelf and began to melt solder. The smoke test was successfully performed the next morning at 1:30am, after non-stop building (with the exception of a few hours for eating and catching up on a little tv). I measure twice and solder once hihi.

I ordered the kit a few weeks back from John Dillon, WA3RNC, and it arrived quickly by courier and all in one piece. John has super customer service and knows how to pack for delivery. Continue reading Brent builds the Penntek TR-35 transceiver kit

(tr)uSDX kit: Just pulled the trigger

In January, I missed out on the initial pre-orders of the (tr)uSDX kit being managed by Rowaves in Romania.

I had my calendar marked for February 15 to check the site again for the 3rd batch as I thought that was the day they planned to issue another pre-order.

My buddy Eric (WD8RIF), who is the President of the Athens County Amateur Radio Club (ACARA), contacted me yesterday asking if I knew of any QRP kits designed with phone/SSB operation in mind. One of ACARA’s members was searching for one.

He was already aware of the

The only other kit I could think of was the new (tr)uSDX. When Eric asked for a link to the product, I went to the Rowaves site and discovered that they were taking pre-orders for the third wave of kits. Like, right then and there!

Without hesitation, I added one to my shopping cart and checked out.

I thought perhaps Rowaves caught up and no longer had a waiting list. This morning, when I checked the site again however, it appears they’ve sold out of the third batch.

Without Eric’s prompting, I would have never thought to check the Rowaves site yesterday.

Side note: There are various (tr)uSDX group buys out there. I don’t completely understand how they work, but perhaps someone with more experience can comment. DL2MAN has information and links on his webpage.

Intimidated

(tr)uSDX board “sandwich”

If I’m being brutally honest, the (tr)uSDX kit is a bit intimidating for me. I recently referred to myself as a “gross motor skills” kit builder. I think that’s a pretty accurate description.  I’m fine with through holes, simple toroids, and very clear, illustrated instructions. Truth is, I absolutely love building kits. But I’m not an electronics engineer, so when instructions are vague, I can get lost quite easily.

The (tr)uSDX toroids don’t look terribly complicated and all of the surface mount components are pre-installed. Still: it’s a wee kit and I’ve yet to check out the build instructions.

It might be a challenge for me, but I’m really looking forward to it. Besides: knowing that John (AE5X) will build his kit before I do, I’ll simply bug him if I have questions! [Sinister laugh slowly fades…]

More SSB Kits?

While on the topic of kits, can anyone point Eric to other SSB kits that are currently available on the market?  If so, please comment with a link and thank you in advance!

The new “Woodpecker” QRPp Transceiver Kit From Breadboard Radio

Many thanks to Bill (W4FSV) of Breadboard Radio who shares the following announcement:


40 METER “Woodpecker” QRPp Transceiver Kit From Breadboard Radio

Breadboard Radio has just released the 40 Woodpecker, a 40 meter low power CW transceiver for the 40 meter band. The Woodpecker features a crystal controlled transmitter with a 500 milliwatt output. 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 kit is supplied with crystals for 7030 and 7056 kilohertz. Other frequency crystals may be user supplied.

The designer, W4FSV has made multiple contacts using a 40 meter dipole 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 30 meter version may be available soon. A 60 meter version is also available.

More information is available at www.breadboardradio.com.

The new WA3RNC TR-35 4-Band 5-Watt CW Transceiver Kit

Many thanks to Jim (N9EET) who notes that WA3RNC will soon be shipping his latest QRP transceiver kit: the TR-35.

According to the WA3RNC website, factory wired/assembled kits are available now for $379 US. The regular kits (with pre-wound toroids!) will be available for purchase January 24, 2022 for $279 US. If you’d like the pre-assembled version, simply click the checkbox that adds $100 for assembly in the WA3RNC store.

Here are a few TR-35 specs from the WA3RNC website:

    • Size 5 ½ X 3 ¼ X 1 ½ less protrusions, weight 10.6 Oz
    • 5 watts output on all bands at 12vdc input
    • Full coverage of 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters with extended RCVR  tuning above and below
    • RCVR modes for CW narrow and CW wideband, and for SSB reception
    • Optimized for operation from 3 series-connected 18650 Lithium cells
    • RIT tunes + and – 5KHz
    • Blue OLED display reads frequency to 10 Hz and RIT offset
    • Built in Iambic keyer is adjustable 5 to 45 WPM with front panel control
    • Separate jacks for straight key and paddles; Always ready for SKCC contacts
    • Operates on 9.5 to 14 volts, < 100 ma receive, about 1 Amp Xmitt at 10 volts
    • Selectable tuning resolution steps of 10, 100, and 1000Hz
    • Low battery indicator with internal adjustment 9.5 to 11.5 volts 
    • Front panel adjustable RF gain control
    • Front panel TX power control; Adjustable from 0 to full output
    • Rugged TO-220 FET RF amp has delivered 5 Watts key down for 5 minutes
    • Signal quality blue LED, RIT warning orange LED, Low battery red LED
    • Excellent receiver sensitivity with MDS of -125dBm
    • Very effective receive AGC prevents ear damage with strong signals
    • Transmitter harmonics and spurs -52dB, meets FCC specs
    • CW sidetone is the actual transmitter signal as heard by receiver
    • Match the received signal tone to the sidetone for perfect zero beating
    • Sharp IF filter; Better than 350 Hz at the -6dB point, plus 700 Hz audio filter
    • Over 250 machine placed SMT parts, and about 55 user installed parts
    • All critical circuits are factory pre-aligned and calibrated
    • No endless “back menus”; There is a control or switch for every function
    • Factory wired and tested option available
    • All torroids are factory wound and prepared

Resources

I love the simplicity of WA3RNC’s designs! I’m sure this will be a popular little kit!

Xiegu X6100: Two effective ways of mitigating broadcast band interference and overloading

As I’ve previously mentioned, the Xiegu X6100–at least at time of posting (January 17, 2022)–has overloading issues. If you listened to the activation video I posted yesterday, you can hear a local AM broadcaster punching through the 40 meter band, especially noticeable before/after operating SSB.

Several subscribers asked if I tried using the attenuator and RF gain to mitigate the level of overloading.  Attenuators and RF gain can be an effective means of mitigating noise levels, but they essentially affect everything on the band–all signals somewhat equally.

A better approach is to use a BCI Filter.

BCI Filters

BCI filters reduce or notch out AM broadcast band signals so that they don’t overload your receiver.

BCI Filters are placed between the radio and the antenna. They can have a dramatically positive effect if you live near a broadcast station and/or if you have a radio that’s prone to overloading.

I see them as a more “surgical” approach to solving broadcast band interference.

BCI filters are simple, inexpensive, and effective. Here are two options shared by QRPer readers: Continue reading Xiegu X6100: Two effective ways of mitigating broadcast band interference and overloading

The new (tr)uSDX QRP transceiver kit by DL2MAN & PE1NNZ!

Oh my giddy aunt!

I just learned–via AE5X’s excellent blog–that Manuel DL2MAN and Guido’s PE1NNZ fork of the uSDX series of transceivers is now for sale in both kit form and fully assembled (projected in March/April) via the Romanian retailer/manufacturer roWaves.

Of course, it hit the web and everything is already sold out. John snagged a second production run one, though!

As John makes clear, this is not the Chinese uSDX version (that I recently sent back to the retailer due to its numerous issues). It’s a complete kit version of the uSDX sandwich transceiver.

I would encourage you to check out AE5X’s post for more details.

My oh my, we live in exciting times! I have been hoping that someone out there would kit up the original uSDX sandwich for all to enjoy!