Category Archives: New Products

The Elecraft T1 Protection Case by TufteIn

Long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators. Over the past few months, Joshua has sent me various prototypes for feedback and also to test in the field. You’ll see some of his antennas in upcoming field reports and activation videos. I’m very impressed with his designs.

If you’re an Elecraft T1 owner, you should be especially interested in his T1 Protection Case.

Joshua sent me an early version of this clip-on case several months ago and it immediately replaced the simple cover I printed from a Thingiverse file. (To be clear, the Thingiverse case served me well for a couple years, but I prefer this one since it doesn’t require a rubber band to hold it on the T1.)

The Elecraft T1 is a hearty little ATU and I don’t worry about damaging it while tucked away in my SOTA pack, but the little buttons on the front are prone to be pushed with any amount of applied pressure. This can result in unintentional operation which can accidentally place it in bypass mode or at least shorten the life of your 9V cell.

The Elecraft T1 is not an inexpensive station accessory and, at the moment, they’re about as rare as hen’s teeth. The lead time on new T1s is counted in months rather than weeks (at time of posting, this is due to vendor board issues).

The TufteIn Protection Case simply snaps on the Elecraft T1 and protects the BNC connectors, ground point, and the front panel buttons.

The case material is durable and adds very little to the bulk of the T1.

Of course, you can’t operate the T1 with the case around it because the BNC connectors are covered, but I have propped up my T1 on the case while using it on rough concrete picnic tables. I’d rather the case be scratched than my T1!

If you own an Elecraft T1 and don’t have a protective cover, I’d encourage you to either print one, or buy Joshua’s T1 case. For years, I simply removed or reversed the 9V battery to keep the T1 from engaging while packed, but that doesn’t protect the buttons and (frankly) it’s a pain to pop the battery out and flip it for each use (then to remember to flip it back when packing away).

The TufteIn case is a simple and affordable ($16.50) solution!

Thanks for sending this to me, Joshua. I dropped my T1 while setting up my TX-500 for Field Day and it protected my favorite little ATU!

Click here to check out the Elecraft T1 Protective Case on Etsy.

Xiegu G106 and D90: A few pre-production unit photos

I’ve a friend who works with a number of radio manufacturers including Xiegu. He recently took delivery of the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver and a Xiegu D90 USB-Radio Interface.

Based on the photo above, the G106 is even more compact than I originally assumed.

These are the accessories included in his G106 box:

Looks like the same cables and mic included in other Xiegu radio packages.

He also took delivery of the new Xiegu D90 expansion card:

Note that these units are very much early prototypes and don’t even have serial numbers. Nonetheless, he plans to take the G106 to Field Day today–I’m looking forward to hearing his report.

Xiegu G106 preliminary specifications and features

Xiegu distributor, Radioddity, has now publicly announced a product page for the new Xiegu G106.

No pricing/availability mentioned, but we do learn a few more details from their page.

Features:

  • The Xiegu G106 is a 5W SDR transceiver using 16bit-CODEC sampling
  • SSB, CW, AM modes are supported along with wide FM reception (for the FM broadcast band)
  • General coverage receiver
  • Three selectable CW bandwidths
  • Digital modes when connected to a computer with the Xiegu DE-19 interface

Specifications

  • Receiver frequency range: 0.55~30MHz and 88~108MHz (WFM)
  • Transmitting frequency:
    • 3.5~3.9MHz
    • 7.0~7.2MHz [I assume this is incorrect]
    • 10.1~10.15MHz
    • 14.0~14.35MHz
    • 18.068~18.168MHz
    • 21.0~21.45MHz
    • 24.89~24.99MHz
    • 28.0~29.7MHz
  • Receiver sensitivity:
    • CW: 0.25uV @10dB S/N
    • SSB: 0.5uV @10dB S/N
    • AM: 10uV @10dB S/N
  • Frequency stability: ±1.5ppm within 30min after power on @25°C: 1ppm/hour
  • Transmitting power: ≥5W @13.8V DC
  • Transmitting spurious suppression: ≥50dB
  • Audio output power: 0.3W
  • Operating voltage: 9~15V DC
  • Standby current: 0.37A @Max
  • Transmitting current: 2.8A @Max
  • Dimensions: 120*40*135 (mm)
  • Weight: about 720g (only host)

Radioddity notes: “The shoulder strap [above] is for display only. Final equipped accessories not decided yet.

My G106 takeaways?

Based on Xiegu’s previous offerings, I would have to assume the G106 could be in production within a few months (supply chains/C-19 pending). It’ll likely be released with basic firmware and updated with time. It’ll be price competitive for sure.

I would hope that perhaps they’ve worked on the audio characteristics and noise floor of the G106. Previous Xiegu products have mediocre audio characteristics and a higher noise floor than my other transceivers. Let’s also hope the front end is more robust than the X6100.

At 0.37 Amps, current drain in standby/receive is a tad on the high side for late model QRP portable radios. Still, quite respectable for a field radio.

It doesn’t appear the G106 has an internal tuner, nor an internal battery unless they’ve simply omitted this from the features list.

It also doesn’t mention CW and/or voice message memory keying which I consider to be so valuable for park and summit activators. If history is an indicator, I suppose they could add this later in firmware updates.

Also, the Radioddity announcement mentions that the G106 covers “[t]ransmission and reception of all amateur frequency bands within 3.8~29.7MHz.” Yet in the specifications, they fail to list the 60M band and the 40M band is noted as 7-7.2 MHz. I assume the 40M band range is simply a typo–I can’t imagine it would actually stop at 7.2 MHz. I also imagine they may have simply omitted the 60M band channels. RX seems to dip as low as 0.5 MHz, thus covering most of the mediumwave broadcast band.

Truth is, these are early days for the G106 and we may learn that it has more features than listed here on Radioddity’s page.

If it does indeed lack an internal ATU and/or internal battery, I assume the price point would be well below that of the X5105 and X6100; my (complete and total) guess would be somewhere between $300-400 US.

I’ll post more info about the G106 as we learn more. I’ll also try to update and correct this post if I learned some of these details are incorrect.

Click here to check out the G106 at Radioddity.

Update: A few more details about the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the new Xiegu G106 transceiver.

Since then, I’ve been getting a few updates from my friend as, I assume, Xiegu releases preliminary info.

This is the latest illustration (click to enlarge):

You can see Xiegu is certainly eyeing the park and summit activators out there.

They’re also touting digital mode operation and I’ll have to assume this means the radio has an internal sound card which would certainly simplify a field-portable digi mode kit.

I was originally told that the G106 had six bands, but this image implies 80-10 meters including the WARC bands. We’ll have to verify this once the production marketing information is released. Since this is the 2022 Hamvention weekend, we could be learning more int he next couple of days.

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

Oh yeah, I do hope there are some fold-out feet or a bail hiding under that G106 chassis!

Photos of a new Xiegu G106 HF transceiver [updated]

A friend who works in the amateur radio industry has shared the following photos and given me permission to post them.

These are images of the Xiegu G106 HF transceiver (click to enlarge):

As a field operator, one thing I noticed immediately are the protrusions around the faceplate that protect the encoder and what I assume in a multi-function knob. The form-factor seems to be roughly that of the Xiegu G90 (even smaller) with a backlit LCD display that resembles the Xiegu X5105 (only, again, much smaller).

I’m assured this isn’t vaporware, and I have to assume we’ll learn a lot more about the G106 soon.

The front panel is incredibly simple, so I must assume it’ll reply on menus for filter control, etc.

I have no other details at this point. When I learn more about the Xiegu G106, I’ll post updates here on QRPer.com.

Xiegu G1M replacement

Update (17 May 2022): I’ve just learned that the Xiegu G106 is the replacement for the Xiegu G1M . It’s sports 6 bands [actually, it might be more according to this update] has 5 watts of output power, and, of course, is SDR based like other Xiegu products. I’ve also learned it can receive wide band FM (hence the FM broadcast band image above).

An additional photo:

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

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.

My first POTA activation with the Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2

As you might have noticed from past field reports, I’m a big fan of the LnR Precision Mountain Topper MTR-3B. It’s a wee CW-only transceiver that is almost perfectly designed for summit and park activating. It’s so lightweight and compact, you barely notice it in your backpack.

Thing is, the MTR-3B is no longer produced and I’m not sure if it ever will be again, but Steve Weber (KD1JB) hasn’t stopped making iterative improvements to the Mountain Topper design and LnR hasn’t stopped producing them.

In late 2020, LnR introduced the new MTR-4B which replaced the MTR-3B and added a few extra features that many of us had been asking for including:

  • Easy access to sidetone volume control (with a dielectric screwdriver)
  • A built-in SWR meter
  • A wider voltage range and higher output power (up to 5 watts)
  • And the 80 meter band in addition to 40, 30, and 20 meters

The MTR-4B also has an attractive red gloss chassis.

And the right and left sides of the chassis even protrude a bit to better protect the front panel buttons and switches when the unit is flipped over on its face. Nice touch!

Generosity

One of the great things about being me is I am often at the receiving end of incredibly generous people who like supporting what I do.

QRPer.com is a pure labor of love and I’d do what I do without any compensation, but it’s an honor when anyone goes out of their way to thank or support me.

Seriously: the kindness I feel here restores my faith in humanity.

In January, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) approached me with a deal I simply couldn’t refuse. He is a very seasoned and accomplished field operator but has only recently been upping his CW game. I believe as a reward to himself for starting CW activations later this year, he told me he wished to order a new MTR-4B.

What he proposed was to purchase the radio from LnR and have it drop-shipped to me. He wanted me to have the opportunity to review this little radio and log field time with it as well. He told me I could use it for months before shipping it to him and not to worry about it getting scratched or showing other signs of field use.

Wow.

I loved this idea because, as a reviewer, it isn’t financially viable to buy each and every radio I would like to review. I do like asking manufacturers for loaner radios, but LnR is a small manufacturer and make these units to order. I know them quite well and they simply don’t have extra loaner units lying around the shop–much like new automobiles these day, each one produced is already spoken for.

I accepted his offer with gratitude. I looked forward to getting my hands on the MTR-4B!

But that wasn’t all: this kind reader has actually been sending me coffee fund contributions that will add up to half the price of a new MTR-4B should I decide to purchase and add one to my own field radio arsenal! I tried, but I couldn’t talk him out of it.

So there you go. I’m so incredibly grateful.

Delivery

As LnR Precision states on their website, there’s roughly a 6-8 week lead time on the MTR-4B. I took delivery of this unit in early March.

As with all LnR Precision products, it was packed amazingly well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of size, but the MTR-3B is only slightly bulkier than the MTR-3B (indeed, in my activation video below, I compare the two).

I love the hotrod red paint job!

This unit arrived during what turned out to be a crazy time for me–one where there was nearly a four week period with no field activations. That’s how crazy!

I did play with the MTR-4B in the shack, however, during that time and logged numerous POTA, WWFF, and SOTA activators. I even had a couple of 80 meter rag chews.

Many field ops were surprised that the MTR-4B didn’t use the forth band position for 17 or 15 meters and I tend to agree. In the field, efficient 80 meter antennas are a bit bulky for the likes of a summit activator. Then again, when in the shack or for extended camping trips? I find 80 meters a brilliant band for evening rag chews and late night DXing.

Not sure how much I’ll use 80M in the field, but I do appreciate this additional band!

Of course, the MTR-4B is built for playing radio outdoors and that’s exactly what I had in store for it on April 13, 2022. Continue reading My first POTA activation with the Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2

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

Field Report: Testing the new Penntek TR-35 firmware during a POTA activation!

Since I have a busy family life, I always look for opportunities to fit a little field radio time into my schedule.

My policy is to always keep a radio field kit in my car or truck so I can take advantage of any last minute opportunities.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 20, 2022, I was scheduled to take my car in for warranty/recall servicing at the dealership.  I decided in advance that if the service could be completed in two hours or less, I’d relax in their waiting room with my MacBook, drink a cup or two coffee, and attempt to make a dent in my email backlog.

If the service was going to take longer than 2 hours, I decided that I’d use one of their loaner/courtesy cars and activate a nearby park.

The dealership is about 45 minutes from my QTH and I’ve activated most of the parks nearby it, save one: Holmes Educational State Forest.  I’ve been wanting to activate this park for ages, but my travels these days simply don’t take me in the direction of the park very often; it’s a good 75 minute drive from my QTH.

Uncertain how long the dealership would need my car, I grabbed my SOTA backpack that had a full field kit inside based on the Penntek TR-35 transceiver.

TR-35 Upgrades!

Why the TR-35? Because I was testing new firmware that added a huge upgrade: two CW message memories!

I won’t go into details about the new upgrade in this field report since I describe it both in my activation video (see below) and in this post which relays the announcement from WA3RNC.

Suffice it to say, I was itching to see how well the new message memories work during a proper activation.

Front of the line

Since this upgrade was just made public, I thought those of you who either own the TR-35 or are plotting to purchase the TR-35, might want to see it in action. For this reason, I pushed this video and field report ahead of all of the others in my pipeline.

The really weird part about publishing this video so quickly is that one of my next field reports and videos will actually feature the first time I took the TR-35 to the field about 3-4 weeks ago! Back then, CW message memory keying wasn’t even on the table.

Activation time

I arrived at the dealership around 9:00 AM (local) and the first thing I asked was, “So how long do you think this will take?” The representative looked at the work to be performed and said, “Three or four hours, likely. If you’re in a rush, maybe two hours.

I decided I wasn’t in a rush because I’d much rather be playing radio at a new-to-me park than sitting in a waiting room.

I asked if I could borrow one of their courtesy cars and he replied, “We assumed you might want one Mr. Witherspoon, so we already reserved one for you.”

Woo hoo!

Holmes Educational State Forest (K-4856)

The drive to Holmes Educational State Forest from the dealership took perhaps 30 minutes or so–it was a gorgeous day and a beautiful journey. Continue reading Field Report: Testing the new Penntek TR-35 firmware during a POTA activation!

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!