Tag Archives: Discovery TX-500

Brian’s Kilo at Cook Forest State Park is tied to family, memories, and his CW journey

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Field Report:  Reflections on a Kilo at Cook Forest State Park

by Brian (K3ES)

Contemplating my favorite antenna tower during the Kilo activation.

Cook Forest State Park in northwest Pennsylvania has always been a special place for me.  It abounds in trees (including some of the last virgin timber around), wildlife (deer, turkeys, song birds, squirrels, and the occasional bear), and also includes the scenic Clarion River.  When I found out about Parks on the Air (POTA) after getting licensed in 2020, I knew that I had to put POTA entity K-1345 on the air.

Our family cabin; which has been central to all of the phases of my life – including milestones, joys, sorrows, and unadulterated wonder – is located on a plot of land bordered on two sides by the park.  It just seemed natural and right for me to do my first-ever POTA activation under an ancient hemlock tree just a few steps over the line from the back corner of our property. That mostly-SSB activation happened in May 2021 with my TX-500 pushing 10 watts into a homebrew dipole suspended from a dead branch up 30 ft in the hemlock.

An early activation of K-1345 from beneath the ancient Eastern Hemlock Tree

Last weekend, I reached a meaningful personal goal by completing my 1000th activator contact from K-1345.  After the first activation I never again operated mostly-SSB, and I never increased radiated power.  Nearly all of my contacts since have used CW, and many were completed at 5 watts.  The added challenge of QRP CW undoubtedly made the Kilo more difficult, but it was also much more fulfilling.  It has taken me 28 successful activations, a lot of work to improve my CW skills, and a lot of patient support from the hunters who have shared this journey with me.

My activations at K-1345 tell the story of my journey as a CW operator.  I took my first steps on that journey in late 2020, months before I had a portable radio or a plan for my first activation.  I started with an Android app, V-Band, and listening to CW exchanges on webSDR.  Eventually that progressed to CW Academy basic, intermediate, and advanced classes.  The classes really upped my CW game, but what helped even more was using CW on the air.  I finally got my HF station on the air in March 2021 and started hunting parks, SSB at first, then increasingly CW.  During my first mostly-SSB activation I did manage to hunt down three park-to-park contacts using CW.  I started my second activation by calling CQ using CW, and I have not looked back.  Wow, those hunters were patient during that first first CW activation!  My skills have improved greatly since then, but I’m still not where I want to be.  The next goal for me is to gain confidence and proficiency in less-structured QSOs.

I want to thank Thomas – K4SWL, whose real time, real life activation videos challenged, motivated, and inspired me to learn and use CW.  I greatly appreciate the work of the CW Academy advisors who guided me through some of the hard work needed for improvement.  I also need to thank the hundreds of hunters who have patiently endured my developing CW skill set. Finally, my hat is off for the dedicated POTA volunteers, who continue to improve and expand this amazing activity to the benefit of radio amateurs around the world.

Completing the Kilo activation would have taken me longer if it were not for the tremendous encouragement provided by my gracious, intelligent, and beautiful XYL.  As I was contemplating indoor chores on a Friday morning, she pointed out the opportunity to go out and activate during the best weather of the weekend, and save the chores for a rainy day.  Who am I to argue with such impeccable logic?  Off to the woods we went!!!

I made a point of using the TX-500 with the homebrew dipole suspended in that ancient hemlock tree to complete the Kilo activation, going back toward the starting point, as it were.  Of course I did finish with CW mode and 5 watts to commemorate my personal growth during the journey, too.  I was set up to go by mid-afternoon.  Needing 57 contacts to complete the Kilo, I decided to get some contacts on 20m, then move to 40m a bit later.

Getting started on 20m.

After calling CQ for almost half an hour to get two contacts, I decided to move to 40m a bit sooner than planned…

With the antenna lowered, I am reconnecting the links for 40m.

40m was hot!  I completed the eight additional contacts needed for a successful activation in less than 15 minutes.  By the 2 hour mark, I had racked up a total of 69 contacts and finished the Kilo.

As a final note, I picked up 55 more contacts on Saturday, bringing my total CW mode contacts over 1000.  The rain started early Sunday morning, and I got my indoor chores finished after all.

Gear for the Final Activation:

Photos

An arborist throw line works great for setting up the antenna here!
Almost any weather is great when you are doing a POTA activation!
But sometimes cold fingers limit your endurance…
My starting kit for the TX-500.
Antennas and accessories for the TX-500 kit.  Home-brew linked dipole is on the right.
Arborist throw line for the TX-500 kit.
TX-500 kit packed for POTA!

Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy

At some point during my Canada travels this summer, I realized I had been using the Elecraft KX2 quite heavily. If you’ve been following my recent field reports, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of the KX2.

This was never intentional–it’s just how it played out.

Why the KX2 in heavy rotation?

For starters, I only brought two general coverage radios with me to Canada: the KX2 and the Discovery TX-500. I also tucked away my KX1 and MTR-3B (hidden under the floor of my boot/trunk space), but band conditions were so incredibly poor most days, I liked the option of a QRP “full gallon” (ie. 5 watts+) for activations. The KX2 and TX-500 can push up to 10 watts when needed.

The KX2 tends to be the radio I reach for when I don’t know what to expect at a park. Most parks I activated in Québec were firsts for me so I liked having my most versatile radio option on hand.

Since the KX2 has a built-in ATU, battery pack, and even an internal mic; it’s so self-contained, I pretty much take it everywhere.

Operating from my kneeboard at the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve (check out that activation)

The KX2 is also one of the most compact radios I own–so compact, in fact, it fits on a small folding knee board my friend Carolanne (N0RNM) made (see in photo above and read more about the design in her guest post). With this kneeboard, I’ve no need of a table: just strap the board to my leg, add radio & log book, and I’m good to go!

Whereas I feel like the KX2 is a Swiss Army Knife of a radio, the TX-500 feels more like a tactical radio–ready for any changing weather environment. The TX-500 is water resistant, weather/dust sealed, and insanely rugged. It’s also the most efficient general coverage QRP radio I own, needing only 100-110 mA in receive.

The TX-500 is super portable and I tend to reach for it when weather conditions are uncertain. In a way, I often don’t think about it when there’s good weather. Odd, but true!

It’s a wee bit too wide for my current knee board, but (hint) if you own a TX-500, hang tight. There may be a knee board in your future.

All that said, the big reason I didn’t take the TX-500 to the field a lot is because it served as my “home base” transceiver at our rental condo in Québec. I had it set up for hunting POTA and SOTA activators and making casual contacts. The TX-500 sat on a table next to the deck at the condo and was hooked up to the CHA MPAS Lite most of the time; the KX2 stayed packed away for POTA/SOTA.

TX-500 field time!

On July 18, 2022, I grabbed the TX-500 from the table and packed it in my field radio backpack.

My wife and daughters were up for a trip to Québec City, so I picked out a park in the Sainte-Foy part of town.

There are many POTA parks in Sainte-Foy (indeed, I already activated four of them) but the one that immediately came to mind was one of the few I’d explored previously in Québec: Base de plein air Sainte-Foy.

In 2017 and 2018, I joined the Club Radio Amateur de Québec (CRAQ) at the Base de plein air Sainte-Foy for the ARRL’s Field Day.  I knew it was a pretty expansive park with a nice lake and beach. It looked pretty welcoming in the summer, but I imagine the park gets even more visitors in the winter for skating, cross-country skiing and sledding.

I was very surprised to discover that Base de plein air Ste-Foy was also a POTA ATNO. No doubt, there had been plenty of radio activity on-site int he past, but no POTA activations.

Continue reading Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy

Choosing a Field Radio: How to find the perfect transceiver for your outdoor radio activities!

The following article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor Magazine:


Choosing a Field Radio

by Thomas (K4SWL)

At least ninety percent of all of my radio operations happen in the field. Whether I’m in a park, on a summit activation, or I’m out camping, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed “playing radio” outdoors. In fact, it was the joy of field radio––and the accompanying challenge of low-power operations––which launched my labor of love in the world of ham radio.

I’ve been running QRPer.com now for fourteen years, and during that time, the questions I’m asked most deal with selecting a field radio. Turns out, it’s an incredibly difficult question to answer, and we’ll touch on why that is before we dive into the reasons one radio might hold appeal over another for you.

Instead of offering up a list of field radios on the market, and reviewing each one—and, to be fair, there are so many these days—I’ll share with you a series of questions you might ask yourself before making a radio purchase, and follow up with a few bits of advice based on my own experience.These deceptively simple questions will help hone your decision-making. Finally, I’ll note a few of my favorite general coverage field radios and share what I love about each.

But, first…

Spoiler alert: It’s all about the operator, less about the specs

When searching for a new radio, we hams tend to take deep dives into feature and specification comparisons between various models of radios. We’ll reference Rob Sherwood’s superb receiver test data table, we’ll pour over user reviews, and we’ll download full radio manuals before we choose.

While this is valuable information—especially since radios can be quite a costly “investment”—I would argue that this process shouldn’t be your first step.

I’ve found that enjoyment of any particular radio—whether field radio or not—has everything to do with the operator and less to do with the radio’s actual performance.

A realistic assessment of yourself

The first step in choosing a field radio is to ask yourself a few questions, and answer them as honestly as you can. Here are some basic questions to get you started in your search of a field radio:

Question 1:  Where do I plan to operate?

If you plan to operate mostly at the QTH or indoors with only the occasional foray outdoors, you may want a field-capable radio that best suits you indoors—one with robust audio, a larger encoder, a larger display, and more front panel real estate.

On the other hand, if you plan to take your radio on backpacking adventures, then portability, battery efficiency and durability are king

Of course, most of us may be somewhere in between, having park activations or camping trips in mind, but overall size may be less important as we may be driving or taking only a short walk to the activation site. When your shack is a picnic table not too far from a parking lot or even an RV, you have a lot more options than when you have to hike up a mountain with your radio gear in tow.

Question 2:  What modes will I operate the most?

Are you a single mode operator? If your intention is to only use digital modes, then you’ll want a radio designed with easy digital mode operation in mind.

If you plan to focus on single sideband, power output may be more important and features like voice-memory keying.

If you plan to primarily operate CW, then the radio world is your oyster because it even opens the door to numerous inexpensive CW-only field radios.

If you plan to primarily operate CW,  I would strongly suggest going low power or QRP. I’ve often heard that 5 watts CW is roughly equivalent to 80 watts single sideband. I tend to agree with this. CW field operators hardly need more than 5 watts, in my experience.

And if, like most of us, you plan to operate a variety of modes, then you’ll want a radio that is multi-mode. Continue reading Choosing a Field Radio: How to find the perfect transceiver for your outdoor radio activities!

Moody weather and a trailside activation with the amazing Discovery TX-500 and PackTenna EFHW

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m starting to sort out the gear I’ll take on a long road trip this summer. I still haven’t quite decided which radio will accompany my Elecraft KX2, but the lab599 Discovery TX-500 is on my very short list.

I pulled the TX-500 yesterday to do a firmware update and found my logbook for an activation I made on February 16, 2022. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember writing the field report for that activation.

I checked my YouTube channel and, sure enough, buried at the bottom of my video list was the activation video marked as “unlisted.”

That bit of time between mid-February and mid-March was crazy for me. I was in isolation for a week (thanks Covid) and had a very hectic family schedule. I accumulated a small backlog of videos then and this one was lost simply lost in the shuffle.

Here’s the report and video from that activation:

Clear Creek Trail

It was Wednesday, February 16, 2022, and I was driving to my parents’ house to help them with a few projects. I had enough time to make a little detour to the Clear Creek Access of South Mountains State Park (K02753) and had two things in mind: a good hike and trailside activation.

The weather? Man oh man was it was fickle.

On the interstate, I got caught in a proper downpour and traffic slowed to a crawl.

I thought about throwing in the towel then, but I made a promise to myself that I would continue driving to the park if it wasn’t raining when I approached the park exit on the interstate.

You know what? The rain stopped maybe 3 miles before the exit. So I continued my drive. Continue reading Moody weather and a trailside activation with the amazing Discovery TX-500 and PackTenna EFHW

Rich builds a simple GX12 key/paddle adapter for the Discovery TX-500

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) who shares the following tutorial describing how to build a compact key/paddle GX12 connector for the lab599 Discovery TX-500:

This adapter is simple, compact, and eliminated the need for yet another wire extension.

How to build a Discovery TX-500 key adapter

I love my Lab599 Discovery TX-500 however I was frustrated with all the extra “wires” hanging from the connectors on the rig.

I took inspiration from Vlad Solovey (RA9QAT) who posted his design for a small and compact 3.5mm jack that allows you to connect your paddles directly into a GX12 connector. Continue reading Rich builds a simple GX12 key/paddle adapter for the Discovery TX-500

A Last-Minute, Late Afternoon New Year’s Day Activation!

Photo by K4TLI

I’ve always believed that the first day of the year should be symbolic of the whole year.

At least, that’s the excuse I was using to fit in a quick activation on New Year’s Day (Jan 1, 2022).

I have had the new Xiegu X6100 on loan and planned to take it to the field, but that afternoon waves of rain were moving into the area in advance of a weather front. Since I don’t own this X6100, I didn’t want to risk getting it wet.

In fact, I had almost talked myself out of going on an activation, but my wife encouraged me to head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we jumped into the car and hit the road.

Our options on the parkway were very limited as they often are in the winter. In advance of winter weather, the National Park Service closes off large sections of the BRP because they have no equipment to remove snow/ice. Plus, you’d never want to drive the BRP in slippery conditions. There are too many beautiful overlooks to slide off of.

Thankfully, the Folk Art Center access is always open and incredibly convenient.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

We arrived at the parking lot and I very quickly made my way to a picnic table while my wife and daughters took a walk.

I knew this would be a short activation even by my standards but hopefully, it would represent the first of many meaningful field outings this year! Continue reading A Last-Minute, Late Afternoon New Year’s Day Activation!

“What battery, antenna, and ATU should I pair with the Discovery TX-500?”

Many thanks to Vitor Morais who asked the following question in the comments section of my YouTube video:

Hi,

Greetings from UK.
I recently learned that POTA [is now in the] UK so I am really looking forward to it.

I also recently put an order for [the Discovery TX-500] so I am really excited as well.

I would like to create a very compact setup pouch for field use to pair with this radio; one that I could take to summits or parks and also travel abroad.

What battery and antenna would recommend?

Would you recommend an ATU?

Or would you compromise to fewer bands or pack a secondary antenna?

I love to know your opinion.
Thanks

Great questions, Vitor! In truth, these sorts of questions are easy to ask but quite complicated to answer due of the insane number of options and possibilities available. It’s impossible to cover them all so I’ll try to give you some suggestions based on what I tend to use in the field. Continue reading “What battery, antenna, and ATU should I pair with the Discovery TX-500?”

QRPer Notes: Price increases from Icom and a few TX-500s in stock at HRO


Icom America 2022 Price Increases

Many thanks to Dave (N9EWO) who notes that Ray Novak with Icom America recently announced price increases we’ve already started seeing in 2022. Dave shares the following video from DX Engineering queued up to the point where Ray makes the announcement:

 

The price of the Icom IC-705 seems to have already increased to $1,369.95 at DX Engineering, and to $1,399.95 at GigaParts.

If you’ve been considering the IC-705, you may still be able to order it for the 2021 price from a couple of Icom authorized distributors.

We’ve noted that both  R and L Electronics and Ham Radio Outlet are still advertising the IC-705 at the 2021 price of $1,299.95.

Of course, this price increase likely applies to the entire Icom range, not just the IC-705 and probably applies internationally since all Icom products are produced at the same facilities. It appears the increase is roughly 5 to 6 %.

A few Discovery TX-500s in stock

Speaking of Ham Radio Outlet, I received a message from Owen (KB2QQM) with HRO who notes:

If you know anyone that wants a TX-500 we have 4 ready to ship.

They $949+ tax. Free shipping in 48 states.

Click here to check it out.

Just a heads up.
I’m enjoying your videos of POTA and the website.

73

Thank you for the heads-up, Owen. As I post the link this morning, I see that HRO may already have sold these units (that was fast!). If interested in one of these units, you may wish to call HRO and confirm if you’re interested.

POTA this morning!

As a side note, Hazel and I are hitting the trail in a few minutes and plan to activate both Pisgah Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937) as a two-fer.

We’ll be taking the new Xiegu X6100.

It may be too late by the time you read this (it’s 12:30 UTC, January 6, 2022 now), but readers have asked me to announce when I might be doing part of an activation in SSB and since I was making a QRPer Notes post, I thought I’d add this.

I plan to include some SSB time this morning, if I can get spotted. The area where I plan to set up has no Internet coverage whatsoever–it’s in a very deep valley–but I hope to send a text via my Garmin In-Reach Mini to have friends spot me.

Listen for me in/around 7188 kHz (+/- 5 kHz depending on available frequencies) around 14:15 UTC (+/- 30 minutes). I’ll start the activation on 40 meters CW.

You might check spots on the POTA.app website.

Thank you and have a brilliant day!

73, Thomas (K4SWL)

Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

You might recall that I’ve been testing a new backpack that I plan to use primarily for SOTA activations. It’s the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC.

I’ve now taken it on a few activations, but the very first outing was on Monday, December 7, 2021.

That afternoon, my daughters attended an afternoon art class that was only four miles from our QTH as the crow flies, but took 45+ minutes to drive. Gotta love the mountains!

I had no complaints whatsoever about the drive, though, because it was within five minutes of the Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace; one of my favorite local POTA spots!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

After dropping off the girls, I drove to Vance and was happy to see that no one was occupying their one picnic shelter. Even though the Vance site is relatively spacious and they’ve numerous trees along the periphery of the property, it’s a historic/archaeological site and as a rule of thumb I only set up at picnic areas in parks like these.

It was a breezy day and temps were hovering around 44F/7C. These are ideal conditions in my world.

I grabbed the Discovery TX-500 for this activation. I had been using it quite a bit in the shack, but realized I hadn’t taken it to the field in a few weeks. I decided to pair it with the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical antenna since I had already loaded the Lite in my pack, using the pack’s built-in antenna port. Continue reading Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

QRPer Notes: NG2E activates 7 summits in one day, K4OGO discovers QRP in Hawaii, New Icom Software, and TX-500 Firmware Update

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


NG2E activates 7 summits on one December day

Many thanks to Jack (NG2E) who shares this Storymap post outlining his effort to activate seven summits in one day.

Jack notes:

[…]My plan was to activate four primary peaks along the Skyline Drive. I then planned to skip over two peaks–Stony Man and Hawksbill Mtn–as I’ve previously activated these peaks. Once activating Hazeltop Mtn farther to the south, I planned to backtrack and pick up the bonus points only for Hawksbill and Stony Mtn if I had enough time and energy.[…]

Click here to view his activation map and narrative on Storymaps.

5 Watts SSB on the Beach in Kauai, Hawaii (K4OGO)

Many thanks to Tommy (N4KBM) who shares this video of K4OGO making his first QRP SSB contact on a beach in Hawaii:

Icom IC-705 Firmware upgrade

Many thanks to Markku Koskinen who writes:

New software available from Icom.

ST-4003W | Firmware / Software | Support | Icom Inc. (icomjapan.com)

The ST-4003W is Windows software, which allows you to set the radio’s time from your PC’s time by connecting the radio to the PC.

Compatible radios (as of November 2021)
IC-705
IC-7100
IC-7300
IC-7600
IC-7610
IC-7850/IC-7851
IC-9700

Use a USB cable to connect the radio to your PC.

The USB port type differs depending on the radio, so please check the radio’s port type before preparing the cable.

Before downloading this software, please thoroughly read the “ST-4003W INSTRUCTIONS” for installation details and what is required for the installation.

New Discovery TX-500 Firmware Update

Lab599 notes via Twitter:

New firmware version available v1.12.00

    1. Improved AGC algorithm
    2. Added beacon mode activity indicator
    3. Added reference frequency correction (TCXO adjustment)

You can download it from here.