I’ve just learned that my buddy Mark (N6MTS) at Halibut Electronics has just kitted up a new batch of his CMCC Test Rigs and is now accepting orders. I know that some of the experimenters in our community might appreciate this brilliant bit of gear that Mark originally designed as a piece of test gear for his own workbench.
I asked Mark to shed a little light on this kit and exactly what it does:
A Common Mode Current Choke, aka a 1:1 Current Balun, is a common (pardon the pun) device in a ham shack. They can be used: at the Antenna feed point to prevent dangerous unbalanced return currents on the outside of the feedline, at the Radio’s antenna port to minimize RF noise picked up on the feedline, on DC or AC power cables and other interconnect cables to minimize RF pick-up in the shack, etc.
Most RF test equipment, such as a (Nano)VNA, measures the Differential Mode of a system, that is, the balanced currents that flow on the INSIDE of a coax cable. This is great for measuring things like: the frequency response of a filter, the complex impedance (or SWR) of an antenna, or the loss of a length of coax.
It cannot measure the Common Mode of a system, that is, the unbalanced current that flows on the OUTSIDE of a coax cable. This means it cannot (directly) measure a Common Mode Current Choke.
The Halibut Electronics Common Mode Current Choke Test Rig converts the Differential Mode signal generated by the VNA into a Common Mode signal, and places it on the outside of the shield of a coax system. This allows the VNA to directly measure how effective the choke is at choking common mode RF currents. Once you can directly measure a device, you can measure the real world effect of changes you make, and optimize the device for your specific use case. As opposed to relying on calculations and predictions of ideal conditions in free space.
The Common Mode Current Choke Test Rig is a kit that requires some assembly, using a soldering iron and Philips head screw driver.
I have not tried this new paddle yet, but I did know it was in the works. I’m so glad it’s now being offered because I’m a huge fan of both N0SA and CW Morse (disclaimer: CW Morse is a proud sponsor and affiliate of QRPer.com).
The price for the new key is $82.95 without a base or $109.95 with base.
Turns out, if you go to Canada for nearly two months, when you return home you’re going to have about two months worth of catch up.
It’s all explained in one of Einstein’s theories. If memory serves, Einstein stated:
“One cannot simply ignore stuff for two months and expect no repercussions. Time lost must be accounted for due to the principles of the conservation of energy. Plus…what in creation were you thinking?”
When we returned from Canada in early August I had some pretty big plans about the parks and (especially) summits I would hit here in North Carolina. But after returning, I quickly realized I had so much work to do around the house and a number of DIY jobs I’d postponed at our investment property. They all immediately took priority.
Indeed, in the one month span after returning from Canada, I only performed three park and no summit activations. There was a three week period of time without activations of any sort. I simply didn’t have the time to fit anymore in my schedule. This all gave me a serious case of activation withdrawal.
If you’ve been following my field reports, you’ve no doubt noticed that I never do multi-hour activations at one site unless I happen to be camping at a POTA park.
I’m asked about this fairly regularly (why I don’t do longer activations to achieve Kilo awards, etc.) but the truth is I make POTA/SOTA fit in my busy family schedule. This often equates to short (30-60 minute) activation windows.
Then quite often, I’m on the road or doing errands in town and realize I have a short opening for an activation, so I squeeze it into the day. This is why I always have a fully self-contained field radio kit in my car. At a moment’s notice, I can set up a station, and play radio.
In a way, I find this style of quick activation fun, too. “Can I seriously validate a park during this short window of time–?”
These activations remind me of that scene in A Christmas Story where the father gets a small thrill out of timing himself as he changes a flat tire on the side of the road. I totally get that.
Except with me it’s deploying antennas instead of managing lug nuts.
Friday, September 2, 2022 was a big day for me. On the way back from visiting my folks that morning, I spent a couple of hours at the Shelby Hamfest.
The Shelby Hamfest typically has the largest outdoor tailgate market in all of North Carolina and likely one of the larger ones in the southeast US. I had no items on my wish list, I just wanted to see what was there.
This was the first hamfest I’d attended in a little over a year. It was a lot of fun and I got to meet a number of friends and readers/subscribers.
Driving home after the Shelby Hamfest that early afternoon, I realized I was passing dangerously close to the Clear Creek access of South Mountains State Park.
I had a couple of errands to run back home before the post office closed at 17:00 that day, but in my head I believe I had just enough time for a quick activation. The total amount of detour driving would only be about 15 minutes; I’d just need to keep the activation (including most set up and pack up) under 45 minutes or so.
At the last minute, I took a right turn and headed to the park!
Fortunately, the one lonely picnic table at the Clear Creek access was unoccupied.
I grabbed my IC-705 kit and a new antenna!
The MM0OPX QRP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW)
A few weeks prior, Colin (MM0OPX) reached out to me and asked if I would consider testing a new high-quality, highly-efficient QRP EFHW he’d designed.
Of course, there’s nothing new about an EFHW–it’s one of the most popular field antenna designs on the planet–but Colin’s goal was to make one with the lowest insertion loss possible in a compact, lightweight (50g), and durable format.
I say he succeeded.
In fact, this activation was actually the second one where I used Colin’s QRP EFHW. The previous day, I paired it with a then very Beta version of the Penntek TR-45L at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861).
In short, the antenna made for a wildly successful QRP activation. Here’s the QSO Map (you’ll need to click and enlarge to see the number of contacts):
The Penntek TR-45L was still quite new at the time and even though I got John’s (WA3RNC) blessing, I didn’t post the activation video and mini overview on YouTube. Keep in mind the TR-45L was still in Beta so not all features had been finalized.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve now invested in a Pro account with Vimeo that allows me to post completely ad-free videos that my Patreon supporters can enjoy and even download. I recently discovered that YouTube unfortunately inserts ads even though I have monetization turned off. I pay for Vimeo’s bandwidth and server space, so I also can control the ad experience completely (basically eliminating any possibility of ads!).
My Patreon supporters are the ones making it possible for me to pay the annual $420 fee to Vimeo and I am incredibly grateful, so I pass along the benefit to them.
The FX-4CR can push 15-20 watts on most bands according to John, which is most impressive for a one pound radio that fits in the palm of your hand! It covers 80 – 6 meters, sports a color screen with a 48 kHz wide waterfall display, an internal sound card for digital modes, built-in speaker and microphone, 9 – 18 VDC input range, and even sports Bluetooth!
That’s an impressive array of features for $550 US (on pre-order).
I pre-ordered the FX-4L and am told by Yu that it should ship by end of October or early November 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s an optimistic projection.
The FX-4L is essentially a more basic QRP version of the FX-4CR; it’s maximum output power is around 5 watts.
It’s very similar to the FX-4CR in many respects: it has the same display from what I can tell, covers 80 – 6 meters, has a wide voltage range 9 – 18 VDC, sports an internal sound card, and is super compact and lightweight.
The FX-4L doesn’t appear to have Bluetooth. Lu doesn’t mention a built-in speaker or microphone, but there’s an obvious speaker grill and even a small hole that might be a microphone. I’ll try to confirm this. Yu does note that there’s room in the chassis for the user to add a battery or ATU.
I’ve been more interested in the FX-4L because, as you likely know, it’s very rare for me top operate over 5 watts of power.
That said, I certainly see the appeal of a 15W+ radio like the FX-4CR.
(Many thanks to Yu for sharing all of the FX-4L photos above.)
I’m really looking forward to checking out the FX-4L and also reading AE5X’s assessment of the FX-4CR.
I’m curious if anyone else has pre-ordered one of these radios. Also, if you’re an FX-4C owner, I’d love to hear your comments!
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!
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.
YAESU is excited to announce a new HF/50MHz 100W SDR Transceiver – FT-710 AESS.
The new FT-710 AESS is a compact design yet provides 100W output, utilizing the advanced digital RF technology introduced in the FTDX101 and FTDX10 series.
A few of the remarkable features of the new FT-710 AESS are:
YAESU Unmatched SDR technology emphasizes the Receiving Performance
Band Pass Filters dedicated for the amateur bands to eliminate out-of-band unwanted signals
RF Front-End design with the 250MHz HRDDS (High Resolution Direct Digital Synthesizer) enables phenomenal Multi-Signal Receiving Characteristics
QRM rejection by the dual core 32-bit high speed floating decimal point DSP for SHIFT/ WIDTH/ NOTCH/CONTOUR/ APF (Audio Peak Filter)/ DNR (Digital Noise Reduction)/ NB (Noise Blanker) and 3-Stage Parametric Equalizer
High Resolution 4.3-inch TFT Color Touch Panel Display
3DSS (3-Dimensional Spectrum Stream)
VMI LED (VFO Mode Indicator) placed around the VFO dial shows the current operating mode (VFO-A, VFOB, Memory Mode and Clarifier/Split Operation)
“PRESET” Mode Function most suitable for FT8 Operation
AESS: Acoustic Enhanced Speaker System with SP-40 creates the high-fidelity audio output#
External Display Connection Terminal (DVI-D)
Built-in High Speed Automatic Antenna Tuner with 100 channel memory
Support the FC-40 Auto Antenna Tuner
SD Memory Card can be used to save the communication record, transceiver setting, the memory contents, screen capture images, and to update the firmware
Two (2) USB Ports (Type-A and Type-B)
Other essential features such as CW ZIN and SPOT, IPO (Intercept Point Optimization), and Remote Operation with Network Remote Control System to name a few
I have no inside information from Yaesu about the FT-710, so I take this news with a grain of salt. That said, the information being shared here doesn’t look unreasonable and the prototype illustration looks legit.
I suppose the FT-710 would be a direct competitor to the venerable Icom IC-7300. I’m guessing this model’s price point will be somewhere between the FT-891 and the FT-DX10. It certainly appears to be more compact (weight is 4.5kg/9.2lbs).
If you’re like me, though, you’d love to see Yaesu release is a new QRP field radio! One to replace the insanely successful FT-817/818 series.
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 Tufteln 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 Tufteln 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!