Category Archives: Kits

The New Penntek TR-45L: A Video Tour/Overview, then a full POTA activation!

Yesterday, John (WA3RNC) opened orders for his long-awaited Penntek TR-45L 5 band, CW-only, QRP transceiver.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had the pleasure of helping John beta test this radio for the past month. In that time, I’ve gotten to know the radio from the inside out and have even taken it on a few POTA activations. In fact, with John’s permission, I just posted my first TR-45L activation video for Patreon supporters yesterday. The radio was using an early firmware version in that video.

TR-45L Video Tour and Overview

Yesterday, after an early morning appointment, my schedule opened up; a rarity in my world.

I then got the idea to take the TR-45L out to a park, do a full video overview of its features, then put it on the air in a POTA activation.

Hazel loved this idea too.

So I packed the TR-45L, a log book, my throw line, and two 28′ lengths of wire. Hazel jumped in the car before I could invite her.

I’ve used a wide variety of antennas on the TR-45L over the past weeks, but I hadn’t yet performed a park activation only using two lengths of wire and relying on the TR-45L’s optional Z-Match manual antenna tuner. This would make for a great real-life test!

Quick note about video timeline

Side note for those of you who follow my field reports and activation videos

I pushed this video to the front of the line since the TR-45L just hit the market. I wanted to give potential buyers an opportunity to see and hear this radio in real world conditions thinking it might help them with their purchase decision.

I’m currently about 7 weeks behind publishing my activation videos. Much of this has to do with my travel schedule, free time to write up the reports, and availability of bandwidth to do the video uploads (I’ve mentioned that the Internet service at the QTH is almost dial-up speed).

I was able to publish this video within one day using a new (limited bandwidth) 4G mobile hotspot.  Patreon supporters have made it possible for me to subscribe to this hotspot service and I am most grateful. Thank you!

So that I can publish this report quickly (this AM), I’m not going to produce a long-format article like I typically do. Instead, this is one of those rare times when the video will have much more information about the radio and the activation than my report.  I’ve linked to and embedded the video below.

Now back to the activation…

Continue reading The New Penntek TR-45L: A Video Tour/Overview, then a full POTA activation!

Jonathan reviews the EGV+ QRP CW transceiver kit

Many thanks to Jonathan (KN6LFB) who shares the following guest review:


A review of the EGV+ QRP Transceiver Kit

by Jonathan (KN6LFB)

Introduction

The EGV+ is a QRP CW-only transceiver that covers the 40-, 30-, and 20-meter HAM bands.  Designed by Javier Solans, EA3GCY, it is sold in kit form from his website, qrphamradiokits.com.

Javier designed the EGV+ in honor of his friend and co-founder of the EA-QRP Club, Miguel Montilla, EA3EGV.  The first page of the instruction manual dedicates the radio to Miguel with this tribute:

This EGV+ transceiver is probably the kit that I have produced with more care and illusion in my life.  It is a great honor to name this kit “EGV”, the callsign suffix of the late Miguel Montilla, EA3EGV (SK). With no doubt, this is the kind of kit he liked most.  It was my privilege to establish and share with him the first years of the EA-QRP Club. He has always been a referent in my life; when I remember those wonderful years his humbleness, work capacity and generosity are the virtues which shine his image.

How lucky I was to be able to share the path with you, Miguel. Thanks! 

Javier Solans, ea3gcy 

Specifications

  • Frequency Coverage: 40m, 30m, 20m
  • Modes: CW
  • Power Requirements: 12–14VDC, 1–2A transmit, 0.14–0.25A receive. 

Transmitter:

  • RF Output: 5W @ 13.8V
  • Harmonics Output: -45dBc or better below fundamental
  • Other Spurious Signals: -50dBc or better
  • T/R Switching: Relays

Receiver:

  • Type: Superheterodyne.  Balanced mixers.
  • Sensitivity: 0.2uV minimum discernable signal.
  • Selectivity: 3-pole crystal ladder filter, 700Hz nominal bandwidth
  • IF: 4.915MHz
  • AGC: acts on the receive path according to the received audio.
  • Audio Output: 250mW, 4-8 ohms.

Ordering

I purchased my EGV+ kit with the optional enclosure from qrphamradiokits.com.  Javier requests that US customers email him using the contact form on his website for the current pricing in USD prior to ordering.  At the time of my order (February 2022), the cost with the optional enclosure was $203.37.

Assembly

The EGV+ is a single large (180x140mm) PCB, with separate modules for the OLED display, processor, and Si-5351 frequency generator.  All components are through-hole and placed on the top of the PCB.  The kit arrived well packaged and well organized.  There were no missing or mislabeled parts in my kit, which is impressive considering the high number of components.  There are 53 100nF capacitors alone!

The manual contains detailed lists of the components by value/quantity and individually.  One of my favorite features of the manual, and something I wish was more common, is a grid-based layout map of the entire PCB [see above], with the grid position called out in the list of individual components.  This greatly speeds assembly and diagnosis as you can find component positions more easily.

Continue reading Jonathan reviews the EGV+ QRP CW transceiver kit

A comprehensive review of the Penntek TR-35 four band QRP transceiver

The following article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


“Look at this, Tom! Only the stuff I need and nothing more,” cheerfully noted my good friend and Elmer, Mike (K8RAT).  It was Field Day two decades ago, and Mike was gazing at his TEN-TEC Scout. I glanced over, and agreed. “So simple and so effective,” Mike added.

I’ve never forgotten Mike’s sage words. That Scout (Model 555) was about as simple as a then-modern HF transceiver could be:  it had a total of three knobs––one for AF gain and IF bandwidth, one for RIT and Mic gain, and an encoder. It also had three mechanical switches on the front: one for power, one for TUNE and NB, and one for CW speed and RIT. It also had an analog SWR/power meter. The Scout used plug-in band modules for each HF band and featured a large segmented bright green LED frequency display that was characteristic of so many TEN-TEC rigs of the day.

And Mike was right. For those of us who appreciate radios with a simple, uncluttered, and an almost utilitarian interface, the Scout was, in vintage parlance, “the bee’s knees.”  And that the Scout also performed beautifully was just icing on that cake.

When the Scout first appeared in 1994, embedded menu options and spectrum displays were not yet commonplace among amateur transceivers. Embedded menu items can open the door to near granular level control of your radio’s functionality and features. Then again, if those embedded menus aren’t well thought out, it can lead to awkward operation practices in the field, during a contest, or even during casual operation.

As a radio reviewer, I spend a great deal of time sorting out embedded menu functionality and design. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I so enjoyed reviewing a radio that bucks this trend and reminds me of a time that was simpler, not to mention, easier.

Enter the Penntek TR-35

The new Penntek TR-35 is a four-band CW-only QRP transceiver that is available both as a kit ($279) and as a factory assembled and tested unit ($379). Penntek transceivers are designed and manufactured by John Dillon (WA3RNC).

All of his transceiver kits are available at his website WA3RNC.com.

I was first drawn to the TR-35 after reading the opening paragraph of the product description:

“Compact but powerful 4-band, 5-watt CW transceiver kit that uses no tiny push buttons, and without those seemingly endless and hard-to-remember back menus. There is a knob or a switch for every function!”

Sold!

I considered buying and building the TR-35 kit, but I wanted my eventual review––this one!––to focus on the radio’s functionality and performance. So a factory-assembled and tested unit was right for this purpose, just so that any performance issues wouldn’t be a result of any shortcomings in my kit building skills.

I decided to reach out to WA3RNC and ask for a loaner. John very kindly sent a factory built TR-35 to me along with return postage and a very flexible loan period (thank you, John!). Continue reading A comprehensive review of the Penntek TR-35 four band QRP transceiver

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.