Thank you for designing these apps and sharing them, Craig. I love the simple design–I’m loading this on my iPhone. It’ll make for an easy check before I head to the field for a summit or park activation.
In the case of the iWatch app, I see this being a very “handy” tool! (See what I did there–? Yeah, sorry for that.)
Chameleon Antenna has sent me a number of their antenna systems to evaluate in the field over the past few months at no cost to me. I appreciate not only the opportunity to test these antennas, but to provide the company with my frank feedback.
As I’ve mentioned previously, Chameleon antennas are military grade and build here in the US (check out Josh’s tour of their factory). You pay a premium price–compared to imported options–but their gear is built for performance, easy deployment, and longevity.
What has impressed me most about Chameleon gear is how flexible and modular it is. Their antenna systems are adaptable to almost any situation and always built around the idea of emergency communications.
Recently, Chameleon sent me their new CHA TDL or Tactical Delta Loop antenna. This vertical loop antenna has been designed to be portable, and tunable from 3.5 to 54.0 MHz (80-6M), but, as Chameleon points out, “is most effective on the bands from 10.1 to 54.0 MHz (30-6M). ”
If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect this antenna to look like–in terms of size–once deployed, so I set it up in the front yard prior to taking it to the field.
Set up couldn’t have been more simple: attach the 17′ telescoping whips to the stainless steel spike (with one whip attached to the Hybrid Micro), extend the whip sections, then attach the loop wire to connect the tips of both whips.
It might have taken me four minutes to set up the TDL on the first go.
This antenna needs a little space for sure: this isn’t one you could easily deploy in a dense forest, but it has a very flat profile vertically. I can’t think of a single park I’ve activated that couldn’t accommodate the CHA TDL.
I like to try to give gear a fair chance when I do evaluations and thought I’d wait until propagation was at least stable before taking the TDL to the field and making a real-time, real-life video (as I used it for the first time). But, frankly, I’m way to impatient to wait for the sun to play fair! Trial by fire…
Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)
On Monday (March 15, 2021) I packed up the CHA TDL and headed to Lake Norman; one of my favorite parks to play radio.
Propagation left much to be desired that afternoon, but the weather was perfect.
I decided to pair the CHA TDL with my Icom IC-705. Since the CHA TDL requires an ATU, I connected the mAT-705 Plus.
NVIS on the low bands
I had no idea what to expect from the CHA TDL in terms of performance, but Chameleon notes that it provides Near-Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) propagation on 40 and 80 meters. NVIS antennas are very popular for the military and for emergency communications since the propagation footprint is much closer to home than it might normally be.
NVIS is also a brilliant option for park and summit activators, especially if they’re activating in an area with a high density of park/summit chasers. For example, if you live and activate sites in the state of Maryland, employing a NVIS antenna might make your site more accessible to the DC metro area, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Delaware, and New Jersey–regions that might otherwise be in the skip zone of your 40 meter signal.
On the air
Operating five watts CW, I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and snagged four stations in about seven minutes.
I was very pleased to work a station in California and one in Montana with five watts. (Though I need to check, this might have been my first MT station logged from a park.)
Next, I moved to 40 meters and was very curious if the TDL would provide me with proper NVIS propagation.
It did! One litmus test for me is when I work stations in Tennessee on 40 meters. Typically, I only log TN stations when on 80 meters or when I’ve configured one of my wire antennas for NVIS coverage.
Here are my logs from this 28 minute activation:
Here’s a QSOmap of the activation–the delineation between my four 20 meter contacts and eight 40 meter contacts is pretty evident:
In a future video, I’ll show how I deploy the CHA TDL.
Unfortunately, I left my tripod at home, so apologies for the viewing angle as I operated the IC-705.
This first test of the CHA TDL really couldn’t have gone better.
I was able to easily deploy it on sloping ground, among trees, in a state park, and snag both locals and QRP DX within a brief window of time on the air. All this, while our local star tried its best to interfere.
In terms of construction, the TDL is what I would expect from Chameleon: military grade.
For park activators and Emcomm purposes, the CHA TDL makes for a convenient, portable NVIS antenna on 40 and 80 meters.
While I have lighter, smaller footprint antenna options for SOTA, I must admit I’m very curious how it might perform on 20 and 17 meters from the summit of a mountain. The idea of being able to rotate the antenna and change the propagation footprint is very appealing. I’ll save this experiment for a summit that doesn’t require hours of hiking, though, and one where I know I can jab the stainless steel spike in the ground (i.e. not on top of a rocky mountain).
Any negatives? When I first deployed the TDL at home, we were having 30+ MPH wind gusts. When the gusts shifted, it did move the antenna. This could be remedied pretty easily by using a bit of fishing line filament to tie off one side of the loop. With that said, I’m not sure I’d configure the TDL as a loop if I expected strong winds. Also, as I mentioned earlier, this might not be the best antenna to pack if you plan to include a multi-hour hike in your activation.
And herein lies the brilliant thing about Chameleon Antennas: If I packed in the CHA TDL and found that winds were strong on site, I would simply configure it as a vertical instead of a loop!
The CHA TDL can easily be configured as a CHA MPAS Lite portable vertical: all it’s missing is a counterpoise wire which you can buy separately from Chameleon or, better yet, just use some spare wire you have on hand!
Or, you could configure it as a random wire antenna by directly connecting a length of wire to the Hybrid Micro transformer.
That’s the thing about Chameleon HF Antennas: they can be configured so many different ways.
If you’re interested in the CHA TDL, I’d strongly encourage you to read though the user manual: it’s chock full of info and ideas. Click here to download as a PDF.
Next time I take the CHA TDL out, I think it’ll be to a summit where I’d like to see how it might perform on the higher bands with the ground sloping away from the antenna site.
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.
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
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.
I’m not quite sure how Hans Summers at QRP Labs has the time to innovate at the pace he does–especially during a global pandemic–but he believes he will have the new QCX-Mini CW QRP transceiver available for purchase in December 2020.
Quite a lot of people have been asking about QCX-mini.
QCX-mini manufacturing has slipped a couple of weeks longer than my estimated “4 weeks”. But all is going well now…
[…]Latest problem is apparently my 5-in-1 top PCB design… normally PCBs are panelized and SMD’d in a set of 6 (or more) like that, then separated later. But the top PCB design is such that the amount of cut away material is too much to be able to break apart the boards without damage. So the factory had to come up with a different method for manufacturing it. I tried to understand what they are doing but I gave up, anyway in reliably assured all is well.
The 1000 enclosures are all finished, cut, CNC’ed, drilled, laser etch printed, packed.
Current estimate is that the PCB assembly (SMD soldering) will be completed on 17-Nov-2020. It’s the last step in the manufacturing process, everything else is done… then the boards will ship to me.
So, still on track for 1,000 Christmas stocking goodies.
73 Hans G0UPL
Although I look at this kit and think, “yeah, like I need another portable QRP transceiver!” I’m nearly 100% certain I’ll buy it.
For one thing, I love building kits and am very happy to see that the surface mount components will be pre-populated.
I purchased the QCX+ and, indeed, plan to review the build and transceiver for RadCom. I’ve almost been “savoring” this build for a nice stretch of cold winter evenings.
Frankly I’ll buy and build the QCX-Mini because I love supporting mom and pop innovators here in our ham radio world.
Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares the following article by Bob (KD8CGH) regarding the uSDX transceiver kit.
I reached out to Bob who has kindly given me permission to share his article on QRPer:
An Introduction to the uSDX
by Bob Benedict (KD8CGH)
There is a new open source, home brew multi band, multi mode QRP transceiver that grew out of the QRP Labs QCX. Through some serious wizardry it retains an efficient class E RF amplifier for SSB and digital modes. It crams impressive SDR capabilities into an Arduino.
This has an interesting international development process conducted on https://groups.io/g/ucx/topics with contributions by many, including the usual gang of suspects: Hans Summers G0UPL, Guido Ten Dolle PE1NN, Barbaros Asuroglu WB2CBA , Manuel Klaerig DL2MAN, Kees Talen K5BCQ, Allison Parent KB1GMX, Jean-Marie T’Jaeckx ON7EN, Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE, and Miguel Angelo Bartie PY2OHH. I apologize to the many others whose names I didn’t list. A summary is in the WIKI https://groups.io/g/ucx/wiki.
The basic work uSDX appears to have been accomplished by Guido Ten Dolle PE1NNZ. It uses pulse width modulation of the PA supply voltage to transmit modes other than CW while retaining class E efficiency and uses a direct conversion SDR receiver.
The basic idea behind Class E nonlinear amplifiers is that transistors have little loss when they are switched fully on or off. The losses occur when devices are limiting power flow in linear amplifiers. The idea behind a Class E amplifier is to use transistors in a switching mode to generate a square wave to drive a resonant circuit to generate RF power.
This method is used in the popular QCX QRP CW transceiver kit line developed by Hans Summers and sold through QRP Labs https://qrp-labs.com/. More than 10,000 of these great transceiver kits have been sold (I built one). There is a good discussion of the circuit and particularly of the class E amplifier in the excellent QCX documentation https://www.qrp-labs.com/images/qcx/assembly_A4-Rev-5e.pdf.
The QCX was the base for the QCX-SSB which starts with a QCX and modified the circuit and software to add SSB capabilities. The wizardry that Guido accomplished uses pulse width modulation of the PA supply voltage to control the amplifier in an Envelope Elimination and Restoration (EER) technique https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/148657773.pdf. To generate SSB a DSP algorithm samples the audio input and performs a Hilbert transformation to determine the phase and amplitude of the complex signal. The phase changes are transformed into temporary frequency changes which are sent to the clock generator. This result in phase changes on the SSB carrier signal and delivers a SSB-signal with the opposite side-band components is attenuated.
On the receive side a direct conversion SDR receiver is used with the I and Q signal digitized and all further processing carrying out digitally. Attenuators are included to help not overload the ADC range. Documentation is at https://github.com/threeme3/QCX-SSB . In addition to a good description of the theory and hardware mod there is also a good description of the software command menu.
From there development took off in several directions. One is by Barbaros Asuroglu WB2CBA and Antrak that uses through hole components (mostly) and replaceable band boards that hold the low pass filter and band dependent class E amplifier components (an inductor and capacitor). Barb also includes boards designed to be a case top and bottom, battery pack and a PA.
I built the variant designed by Barbaros Asuroglu WB2CBA and I’m pleased with it’s performance. I ordered 10 main boards and 40 LP filter band boards PCBs from PCBWAY, but now you can also purchase single boards sets from https://shop.offline.systems/.
In an example of hams collaborating at its finest, Hans Summers announced on 9/11/2020 that his new QCX mini product, a QCX in a smaller package, will include a daughter board that can be used to give the QCX mini a uSDX like SSB capability. The QCX mini has the same circuit as the QCX but uses SMD components packaged it into a two board stack that is less than half the volume of the original QCX. The mod is unsupported by QRP-LABS but may be supported by the uSDX group.
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.
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 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.
The following is a machine translation of the announcement:
“Thank you very much for your patronage of ICOM products.
We have received reservations from a large number of customers about the IC-705, a 10W walkie-talkie with HF~430MHz all-mode, which was scheduled to be released in late March 2020. Some of the parts involved in the production of the product are delayed due to the new coronavirus issue, and production has been delayed due to this.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused to all of you who are looking forward to our products.
As for the delivery of the product, because it is a situation in which the arrival schedule of the part does not stand now, I will guide it separately as soon as it turns out.
We will take a while to deliver it, but we will do our best to deliver it as soon as possible, so please understand us.”
Thanks for sharing this, Paul. No doubt, delays are due to the affects of Covid-19 on both manufacturing in Japan and throughout the IC-705 supply chain.