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!
Many thanks to QRPer.com reader, Charles, who recently sent me the following question:
Thomas, I’ve watched a number of your videos and read your activation reports. I’m studying for both my Technician and General class license right now and hope to pass both in one session later this month. I’m also learning CW.
I consider myself an audiophile and appreciate good audio fidelity. I know that amateur radio modes are narrow and by their very nature have less audio fidelity than commercial broadcast modes.
I’ve already obtained a Kenwood TS-590G for the shack. It was practically given to me by a friend. I’m very pleased with its audio fidelity especially when I connect it to an external speaker.
Next year, I plan to buy a dedicated QRP field radio. Out of the radios you’ve owned, what are your favorites in terms of audio fidelity. Also, what are your least favorites?
What a great question, Charles!
Being an audiophile, I’m sure you understand that this is a very subjective area: one person’s idea of good audio might not match that of someone else’s.
I can only speak to how I evaluate a transceiver’s audio.
What makes for good audio?
A lot goes into what I would call “good audio” in an amateur radio transceiver.
To me, “good audio” means the radio
produces clear accurate sound,
has stable AGC (Auto Gain Control),
has audio properties that benefit amateur radio modes like CW and SSB,
has enough audio amplification to be heard in noisy field conditions,
and has little to no internally-generated noises leaking into the audio amplification chain. (In other words, a low noise floor.)
In contrast, radios with poor audio
have a high noise floor or produce audio hash making it difficult to hear weak signals,
have speakers that become distorted at higher volume levels,
have poor AGC characteristics which lead to pumping,
and are simply fatiguing to listen to during extended on-air sessions (like long activations or contests).
I would add that a good receiver front end is an important part of audio because it keeps imaging and overloading at bay, thus producing a less cluttered and noisy audio experience.
My field audio favorites
I’ll keep this discussion limited to QRP field portable radios. There are numerous 100 watt desktop radios with excellent audio because those models aren’t trying to limit their current consumption like field radios typically do. They can use more amperage to benefit audio amplification and push a much larger speaker.
In addition, I’ll limit the scope to field radios with built-in speakers. There are some great CW-only radios out there that lack an internal speaker but have great audio (thinking of the Penntek TR-35 and the Elecraft KX1, for example); choice of earphones or headphones can have a dramatic effect on audio. That’s a different discussion altogether!
Best audio: My top three picks
The following are three of my favorite portable field radios in terms of audio quality. I limited myself to three simply because all of the radios I use regularly in the field have what I would consider good and acceptable audio.
The following are simply stand-outs, in my opinion:
When I got back to the States, I was eager to do a POTA activations with my other radios–many of you know I like to rotate them–but there was one, in particular, I was eager to put back on the air…
The Mountain Topper MTR-4B.
This MTR-4B V2 is on loan to me from a very generous reader/subscriber. In fact, get this: he ordered the MTR-4B early this year and had it drop-shipped to me directly from LnR Precision. He knew I’d be in Canada for the summer, so has been incredibly flexible with the loan period (basically leaving it open ended).
My review of the MTR-4B will be published in the November or December (2022) issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. Then I’ll be sending the MTR-4B to its rightful owner!
In the meantime, I built an ultra- compact field radio kit around the MTR-4B and in my Tom Bihn HLT2 EDC pouch.
It contains the radio, a battery, an antenna (although I used a different one during this activation), fused power cord, paddles, earphones, RF choke, RG-316, logbook, pencil, and even a full throw line and weight. I’ve listed all of the components with links below.
It’s hard to believe it all fits in such a compact kit and it works so well. It’s nice to know that with the kit it in my backpack, I’ve got everything I need to play SOTA or POTA at the drop of a hat.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
On August 8, 2022, I drove to my hometown to check in on my parents. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to fit in a quick activation with the MTR-4B along the way.
One of the easiest parks for me to hit en route is the South Mountains State Park Clear Creek Access–it’s maybe a 10-15 minute detour off of Interstate 40.
The weather was amazing that day, although I’ll admit I had to get used to the heat and humidity after spending so much time in Canada this summer!
This access point of South Mountains only has one picnic table. I’m always prepared with a folding chair if that table is occupied, but so far it’s always been available. I’m sure the reason is because this particular South Mountains access point is way less popular than the main entrances. Most of the visitors here come to fish at the reservoir.
The great thing about having your whole station in a pouch is that setup is quick and easy.
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.
The TR-45L 50-unit pilot run construction is now underway! These first units will be factory wired, tested, and aligned. These units will be available for shipment over the next several weeks. The plan is to have kits available in about 6 to 8 weeks. The kit price is expected to be $430.00. Please understand that this will not be a kit for beginners…
Pricing has been set at $580.00 for wired and tested pilot run units, with an additional charge of $22.00 for USPS Priority Mail shipping. There are two available options: The first is an internal 5200 MAH Li-Ion battery pack and charger with a price of $80.00, and the second is an internal Z-Match antenna tuner for easy matching in the field to simple wire antennas. The Z-Match tuner option is priced at $60.00. Note that the Z-Match ATU can be added later but will require that you drill some rather precise holes in the back case housing and a do a bit of soldering. [Continue reading…]
This radio is pricier than the TR-35, of course, but I would argue it’s very well worth the money: the receiver and audio are superb. The radio has a fun factor that’s hard to describe.
I’ve just updated the radio with the latest firmware and will be taking it on an activation this morning (Monday, Sep 26, 2022). Check the POTA spots page for me.
I’ll make a video including a full tour of the radio, then perform the activation. If the hotspot bandwidth gods are on my side, I may have this posted later today or early tomorrow.
Note that John (AE5X) has also been testing the TR-45L and will also have updates and videos.
If the TR-45L looks like the sort of radio you’d enjoy taking to the field, just go ahead and get one. I think it’s brilliant.
I suspect his first production run will sell out in very short order.
It’s a simple radio with simple–almost Apollo era inspired–controls. The audio is gorgeous and I’m pleased with the filtering options. The internal battery option will power it for ages and the Z-match tuner options works beautifully.
Again, if you want to hear it on the air, check the POTA spots for me sometime between 16:00-18:00 today!
Many thanks to Jonathan (KN6LFB) who shares the following guest review:
A review of the EGV+ QRP Transceiver Kit
by Jonathan (KN6LFB)
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
Frequency Coverage: 40m, 30m, 20m
Power Requirements: 12–14VDC, 1–2A transmit, 0.14–0.25A receive.
RF Output: 5W @ 13.8V
Harmonics Output: -45dBc or better below fundamental
AGC: acts on the receive path according to the received audio.
Audio Output: 250mW, 4-8 ohms.
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.
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.
A couple weeks ago, I was browsing the classifieds at QTH.com and saw a WTB (Want To Buy) ad for the Xiegu X6100. Without giving it a lot of through, I contacted the ham who posted the note and gave him a fair deal on my X6100.
As I mentioned in my last field report with the X6100, this unit was actually very new. The first X6100 I used was a loaner from Radiodity, the second I purchased and discovered it had a little mechanical issue with the encoder–it was returned–and the third was this unit which I received in April 2022. It had only been on one activation.
Why did I sell the X6100?
I had some fun with the X6100 on a few very successful activations in the field and made numerous contacts with the X6100 at home. Why would I sell it?
The biggest reason is since I already own the Xiegu X5105–and personally preferred it over the X6100–I simply wasn’t using the X6100 a lot.
The X5105 will run about 2 to 3 times longer than the X6100 on a fully-charged internal battery.
The take-away is that it’s really not a great radio, but it is very cheap. In fact, Mike was very vocal about how much he disliked the first G106 unit he received.
After seeing Mike and Josh’s reviews, I contacted Radioddity and told them to skip me in the review process. Frankly, reviews and field tests take time, and I don’t have a lot of that particular resource to waste.
Radioddity encouraged me to reconsider because new firmware promised to fix many of the issues noted in previous reviews. Indeed, they told me that the first thing I’ll need to do to the unit I receive is update the firmware.
I decided that what I’ll do is take the G106 to the field and do a couple of real-time, real-life activations with it. We’ll explore its performance together and see if it’s worth the $320 price.
Being completely transparent here, I’m biased towards paying more to get a better quality radio. I’m not so sure how well the G106 and I will get along, but I’ll give it a good ole college try.
Of course, I’ll give the G106 a heavy workout in CW mode. Maybe I’ll eat my words, but I’ve no intention of adding the G106 to my radio collection; I do want to give it a fair shake-out in the field though. Very curious if it’ll have any issues with front-end overloading.
My club president sent me a text on Sunday before our Monday club meeting. He wanted to know if I was interested in a Vintage 80s QRP Radio. He knows I have an affinity for QRP. Honestly, I think he is still amazed at how I managed to get through piles ups on his hexbeam during summer field day with my TX-500. Boy was that fun.
The deal was a Ten-Tec 509 with the microphone and CW filter, the matching 251 power supply with meter, and the 504 matching 50W amplifier. He sent me a photo, I had to look it up. I have heard of Ten-Tec, thanks to Thomas K4SWL, but certainly was not familiar with their Argonaut 509. I was intrigued. I don’t have a single vintage piece of equipment. I have only been a Ham for less than 3 years.
We had some equipment from a club member SK donated for auction to raise funds for some club repeater upgrades. This was a good excuse to purchase an old piece of equipment that I likely would not have purchased otherwise. After looking over the 509 and accessories, all of which were in great condition, I brought them home. Of course I couldn’t help but hook everything up and turn on power. Everything powered up but no movement of the frequency indicator, not a great sign, and no audible hint of changing reception frequency. After further inspection it seemed the dial tuning mechanism was seized up. Looks like another project.
The next morning, as I had a few minutes to spare I started taking things apart. I have never pulled apart an old transmitter before so I took my time as I studied all the components and marveled at the simplistic yet complex circuitry found under the covers. Once I was down to the tuning mechanism, a few desoldered wires later, it was removed and ready for cleaning. I don’t know if the grease was original, but it sure was hard. After carefully cleaning, greasing, and reassembling all the components, soldering a couple wires back, and reassembling the housing, I was ready to power it back up. I don’t want to understate the work involved, it can be quite tricky, but I really enjoy this type of thing.
After tuning around a bit and working with the controls on the Radio, I found a POTA operator to zero beat. I needed something to reference in order to adjust my knob indicator so I would know what frequency the radio is on. I actually received the manual for the radio and each of the components. Reading through a few key points the night before really helped out when I was ready to start tuning in and transmitting.
I had the amplifier on, I set the DRIVE to about half way guessing that was okay and called back to the Activator. First call, he called me back with a 59! WOW, I was excited. I let him know I was on an old Ten-Tec that I had just repaired and he came back and said the audio and signal were great. How exciting! So, naturally, I hunted a few more stations and then listened to a few rag chews as I got familiar with the Radio.
Not only was I excited to have repaired my first radio, I am also amazed at the capability of this Radio originally released in 1973. I am not a long time SWL or radio operator but there is certainly something very appealing to me about the audio this Rig produces. I wasn’t certain what I was getting into with this rig, but I sure am happy how it worked out! I may just be on the hunt for another Ten-Tec. I even plan to take this to my local park and do at least one activation with it.
Here is a quick excerpt from the introduction in the operating manual.
“The Argonaut opens a whole new world of excitement and fun in Amateur Radio. We think you will find QRP a welcome change. Five watts are only 2-1/2 S-units below 150 watts for the same conditions. When skip is favorable and QRM light, you will not be conscious of using low power.”
This morning, I was browsing the drafts folder of QRPer.com–the place where I store ideas, images, notes, and future posts.
I discovered a draft post with the following inquiry from Motters (M7TRS) dating back several months. I suspect Motters may still be contemplating this decision so perhaps we can chime in with some suggestions and advice [apologies, OM, for the delay!].
I want to get into QRP SOTA portable voice HF.
My dream station would the flagship IC-705 due to the vhf, uhf and HF plus the waterfall. I am on a shoe sting budget so have to choose wisely for my radio as this will probably be a one time hit for a long time.
The radios in the list are IC-705, FT-818ND, Xiegu G90 and the Xiegu X6100.
The antenna would probably be a linked dipole. Which radio would you choose?
Question open to anyone
Great question, Motters. The radios you’ve chosen range anywhere from $450 – 1400US (of course you know the prices in GBP) so much, of course, depends on your budget.
Knowing SSB is your mode of choice, I would likely focus on radios that could deliver 10 watts or more of power output. You’re in the UK and plan to do SOTA ops there, so 5 watts will work perfectly fine, but I’ve always felt like 10 watts SSB is a proper QRP “full gallon.” Many QRP contests consider 10 watts proper QRP in SSB mode. The difference between 5 watts and 10 watts is about 3dB of gain.
The most expensive option–the Icom IC-705–would be a superb choice in so many respects. It would cover all HF/VHF/UHF frequencies, it has a rechargeable battery pack, it’s fairly lightweight, and has excellent features for an SSB operator. With an external battery attached, it’ll yield 10 watts. It also sports superb performance. Since you’ll be using a resonant antenna, you won’t notice the lack of an internal ATU.
You can’t go wrong with the IC-705, but I think you know that already since you describe it as your dream radio.
On the opposite end of the price spectrum is the Xiegu G90 and I believe that radio might serve you very well. It’s not as compact as the IC-705, has no internal battery, only covers HF, and has no SSB message memories. That said, it can output up to 20 watts and has a superb built-in ATU should you ever need one (my experience is that in SOTA, you will!). It’s a solid radio and well-loved by many in the world of field radio.
I sold my Elecraft K2/100 to fund the purchase of my Elecraft KXPA100. I don’t regret purchasing the KXPA100 in the slightest (even though I so rarely use it), but I do regret selling not one, but two K2s over the years! I’ll snap one up if I find a good deal.
I also sold my Elecraft K1 to help fund the purchase of my Elecraft KX3 in 2013.
At the time, the seller’s remorse wasn’t immediate because the KX3 was such a revolutionary portable radio in almost every respect. The K1 seemed so limited in comparison.
Still, since I started doing CW POTA and SOTA activations, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good deal on another 4 band/ATU Elecraft K1.
Why does the K1 have appeal when I have so many “superior” radios at my disposal–?
Good question! I reckon I just like it.
The K1 feels more like an analog radio rather than a digital one; no doubt, this is due to its VFO’s limited range. It’s more akin to an analog radio with a digital frequency display.
The K1 is also super compact for a radio with a traditional tabletop form factor. The menus and features take a bit of time to learn–they’re cleverly implemented, but you definitely need an owner’s manual or cheat sheet to master them.
The K1 is not general coverage; it can only be configured to operate on a maximum of four CW bands. It does have an internal ATU option, but I don’t think it’s on par with the KX-series internal ATUs in terms of matching range. It works well with a variety of field antennas, though!
The K1 does have a very low noise floor and wonderful audio. Those are perhaps the two things I love most about it.
The separation/distance from Eric’s Tri-Bander antenna worked a charm: there was very little interference between our two stations.
I started the activation by calling CQ POTA on 20 meters. Funny: I actually thought I was on 40 meters; the K1 display (much like that of the KX1) only shows the last three digits of the frequency display; when I saw “61.1” I assumed “7061.1” but of course it was actually 14061.1. I realized this as I later changed meter bands.
Although the propagation forecast was pretty dismal, the EFHW performed very well.
Within 18 minutes, I logged 16 hunters (including WD8RIF some 20 feet away).
I then moved to the 40 meter band (so Eric could move to 20) and worked an additional six stations in six minutes!
The final contact was both an HF and eyeball QSO with WD8RIF. I got that on video–very much a fun first for me!
Here’s what my five watts into an end-fed half-wave looked like on a QSO Map:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation with WD8RIF. I include a bit about Eric’s station and also his QRPguys Tri-Bander antenna after I go QRT. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any of the activation:
Make sure to check out Eric’s field report which includes details about his KX3 set-up that you’ll see in the video above.
Thank you for joining me (and Eric, Miles, & Theo) on this POTA activation.
Although detailed field reports take a few hours to write-up and publish (along with activation videos), I truly enjoy the process. It gives me a chance to re-live an activation and share the whole experience with kindred spirits. This was such a fun activation.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
Oh, and if you have a four band Elecraft K1 with ATU you’d like to part with? Get in touch with me! 🙂