Tag Archives: 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.

 

A video tour of Scott’s Discovery TX-500 field pack

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z), who shares the following comment in reply to my Discovery TX-500 field pack built around the Red Oxx Micro Manager.

Scott writes:

I finally got my bag together.

Instead of the 5.11 pack I went with my Filson Journeyman. I like the old school retro look since I am old school retro.

Here is a video on my pack using the TX-500:

Click here to view on YouTube.

I love this pack, Scott! I’ve never owned a proper waxed canvas bag, but I’ve heard so many good comments about them in terms of comfort and longevity. Like Red Oxx, the Filson brand is well known for quality products.

I like how you mounted your N0SA SOTA paddles to the clipboard so that they can be easily pivoted for transport.

I also like those POTA/QRP cheat sheets. I have those in my KX1 kit, but none of the others. I need to make some with QRP calling frequencies and the 60M channels (which I always forget in the field). Thank you for the tip!

Cutting an exercise mat to make a padded seat for the field is incredibly practical. That would also serve to pad the back of the pack and, as you point out, make sitting on wet ground much more comfortable!

KK4Z’s Discovery TX-500 Pack List

At my request, Scott very kindly provided links to the gear in his field kit:

Thank you so much for sharing this, Scott!

Would you like to share a video or photo tour of your field pack?  Please contact me. I absolutely love seeing how others pack out their kits as I always learn a trick or two myself!

POTA Field Report: Welcoming party plus QRP DX fun with the Discovery TX-500 & MFJ-1984LP

On Friday, September 10, 2021, I made a detour to the Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012) on my way back to the QTH.

I love this site: it’s fairly remote, has tall trees, loads of space to set up antennas, convenient picnic tables, incredibly friendly park rangers and, most importantly, a welcoming party.

Welcoming party

These two greet me each time I’m at Table Rock. They’re incredibly friendly and now that they know I’m a complete and total sucker for dogs, they hang around and get attention for quite a while.

This time, I think they even recognized my vehicle because they were there as I opened the door. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Welcoming party plus QRP DX fun with the Discovery TX-500 & MFJ-1984LP

Video: A tour of my Red Oxx “Micro Manager” Discovery TX-500 field radio kit

Shortly after acquiring a lab599 Discovery TX-500 earlier this year, I did what I always do: invest an insane amount of time in researching and configuring a dedicated field radio kit.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a serious pack geek, so this is incredibly fun for me even though the choice is often difficult.

I like to buy packs and cases from manufacturers in the US and Canada when possible, so started searching through all of the options.

Requirements

The Discovery TX-500

I wanted a pack that was compact, versatile, and offered proper padding (even knowing the TX-500 is a rugged little transceiver). I don’t handle my packs with kid gloves, so I expect them to cope with sometimes rough field conditions and still protect the gear inside. I also like a certain level of organization inside the pack.

I wanted the kit to be relatively compact, but large enough to hold the transceiver, all accessories and connections, logging pad and pencil, paddles, a proper arborist throw line, portable ATU, and a 3Ah LiFePo4 battery. A the end of the day, I wanted this TX-500 field kit to be fully self-contained.

For more on my field radio kit strategies and philosophies, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my Anatomy of a Field Radio Kit series.

In the end, I adopted a pack with which I’m already very familiar…

The Red Oxx Micro Manager

Product image via Red Oxx

Red Oxx is my favorite pack company and if you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you’ve obviously seen a number of their bags and packs in my field reports.

Back in 2016, when they introduced the first iteration of the Micro Manager EDC bag, they actually reached out to me–as an existing customer–knowing that I had been looking for a good radio pack with proper padding (many packs don’t require side padding and internal padding). They sent me a prototype of the Micro Manager for my feedback and then incorporated some of my suggestions.

My KX2 NPOTA Micro Manager kit

I ended up using the Micro Manager as my dedicated Elecraft KX2 field kit which served me very well during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event.

I also purchased a Micro Manager for my wife who quickly turned hers into a mobile art studio!

She chose a red Micro Manager!
Her field-ready art kit

Much like my buddy Steve (AC5F)–whose XYL creates some amazing water color art in the field–my wife (K4MOI) is also an artist and loves to paint/draw during park and summit activations. Her art kit is always at the ready and she’s traveled with it extensively over the past five years.

The Micro Manager is a pack carried over the shoulder, much like a messenger or laptop bag.  Those times when my field activations require a lengthy hike, I’ve simply pulled all of the items out of the Micro Manager (since I do modular packing, this is super easy), else I’ve even been known to stick the entire Micro Manager pack into a backpack!

Over the years, Red Oxx has made iterative upgrades to the Micro Manager including a pleated front pocket, slip-in external pocket, and they started lining the internal pocket with a more flexible and thinner dense foam padding. The new padding not only fits the TX-500 better than the first Micro Manager version did, but I believe it will have enough dimension to accommodate the TX-500 battery pack when that’s available next year.

Inside the Micro Manager I also use a Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray to hold all of the TX-500 accessories: key, microphone, ATU, battery, and cables.

I own a number of these large travel trays and highly recommend them. I especially like the ballistic nylon versions for radio kits as they open and close so smoothly.

Video tour

I made a short video tour of the TX-500 Micro Manager kit before a recent activation at Table Rock:

Clci here to view on YouTube.

TX-500 Micro Manager Kit Contents:

I’ve used this pack for a number of field activations and couldn’t be more pleased. Looking back at the contents, it’s funny: the pack and almost every single item inside (save the notepad and pencil) are made in the USA while the radio is made in Russia! A bit of international harmony going on here!

If you have a field pack for the TX-500 (or any radio), I’d love to know more about it. Please consider commenting with details or even submitting a guest post with photos!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL

New lab599 Discovery TX-500 firmware upgrade, UK availability, and RadCom review

This morning, I finally remembered to do a firmware upgrade on the lab599 Discovery TX-500. I’ve been in the terrible habit of only remembering to do a firmware upgrade when I’m in the field.  Much like remembering to repair your roof while it’s raining! 🙂

New TX-500 Firmware

Fortunately, Lab599 just published their 1.10.10 firmware release this weekend, so my TX-500 will sport all of the latest upgrades including (in this upgrade) corrected AGC, improved receiver parameters, and (from previous upgrades) SWR analysis tool and message memory beacon mode.

I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the Lab599 team’s dedication to continuously upgrading and improving this already phenomenal little radio. It’s such a pleasure to take to the field.

UK TX-500 availability

I also understand that lab599’s UK distributors, Nevada Radio and Waters & Stanton, will soon have their first batch of Discovery TX-500s (first part of October 2021, if I recall).  Waters & Stanton (and possible Nevada) may even have a handful of units unallocated yet. It’s best to call them to check status and possibly reserve one.

Upcoming RadCom Review

Speaking of the UK, my full review of the Discovery TX-500 will appear in the November 2021 issue of RadCom.

POTA Field Report: Tinkering with the MPAS Lite at Lake Norman State Park

After completing a successful activation at Fort Dobbs State Historic Site on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, I decided to fit in one more activation that day. I thought about heading out to one of the game lands I hadn’t hit in a while, but frankly, I needed a park a little closer to home due to my time constraints that day, so Lake Norman State Park it was!

Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)

Lake Norman is such an effortless park to activate. Their main picnic area has numerous tables (including two large covered areas), and tall trees providing support for antennas and much needed shade from the NC summer sun!

One thing I had not decided upon was what antenna I’d use at Lake Norman. Earlier, I used my trusty speaker wire antenna at Fort Dobbs, but I like to shake things up. I checked the trunk of my car and found the Chameleon MPAS Lite. Seeing how propagation plummeted after my previous activation, I decided that I wanted a large wire antenna deployed rather than a vertical.

The MPAS Lite can be configured as a wire antenna, of course: instead of attaching the 17′ whip to the “Hybrid Micro” transformer, you attach the 60′ wire that might normally be used as a counterpoise.

Setting it up was quite easy, in fact. I used my arborist throw line to snag a tree branch about 45′ high, then attached the throw line to the floating dielectric ring on the Chameleon wire spool. I stretched the entire length of wire out, attached the end to a tree, then hoisted up the center, forming an inverted vee shape.

Wire antennas are so low-profile and simply disappear in trees.

Even thought the 50′ coax shield would act as a counterpoise, I really wanted another ground wire attached, so I pulled one of the wires off of my speaker wire antenna and attached it to the grounding post of the MPAS Lite’s stainless spike. I figured a little extra counterpoise wouldn’t hurt.

Gear:

On the air

Although I’d never used the CHA MPAS Lite quite like this, I was pretty confident my Elecraft T1 would find a match. The Chameleon transformer (the Hybrid Micro) brings most any (but not all) lengths of wire within reasonable matching range of an ATU.

I started on 40 meters and found that, without employing the ATU, I had a match that was slightly below 2:1. Not terribly surprising since I had a good 60′ of wire in the tree. Still, I hit the tune button on the T1 and easily achieved a 1:1 match.

I will add here, though, that perfect 1:1 matches are not that important–especially at QRP levels. I’m certain the TX-500 would plug along with a match of 2.5:1 or higher and still radiate perfectly fine. I’ve known hams that truly equate that 1:1 match with an antenna that’s performing efficiently, but that’s not always the case. Keep in mind a dummy load will give you a 1:1 match but is hardly efficient. The ATU’s job isn’t to make the antenna radiate better–it’s to match impedance.

The CHA MPAS Lite will get you within matching range across the HF bands and, many times, it’s close enough that an ATU isn’t really needed.

I started calling CQ POTA on 40 meters and within 28 minutes had logged the ten contacts needed for a valid park activation–all with 5 watts, of course. I was very pleased with these results because, as I had suspected, the bands were still pretty darn rough.

I then moved up to the 30 meter band where I worked a couple of stations and then, for fun, found a match on 80 meters and worked one NC station (possibly on ground wave!).

Here’s a screenshot of my logs from the POTA website:

I must say that I do love using the Discovery TX-500. It’s such a brilliant little field radio. I’m just itching to take it on another SOTA activation soon!

I’m also loving the TX-500 field kit that I built around a Red Oxx Micro Manager pack.

I used the same bag (different color) for my KX2 NPOTA field kit in 2016. It’s such a great size and can even easily hold my arborist throw line along with all of the station accessories and rig, of course. I’ve made a short video showing how I pack it and will upload that video when I have a little bandwidth!

Video

I did make a real-time, no-edit video of my entire Lake Norman activation. Feel free to check it out below or via this YouTube link. No need to worry about ads popping up–my videos have no YouTube ads!

A Brief Public Service Announcement…

If I have a little advice for you this week, it’s this: don’t wait to play radio because someone says you don’t have the right gear for the job.

I received an email this morning from a ham that’s new to field operation and just received an antenna he had ordered. He was upset because a YouTuber claimed his antenna was basically a dummy load. To add insult to injury, he also found a blogger or YouTuber was also highly critical of his recently-acquired Yaesu FT-818. [Note that the FT-817ND–the 818’s predecessor–is one of my favorite field rigs.]

Keep in mind that many of these YouTubers are trying to produce “click bait” videos that will stir up a reaction and, thus, increase their readership numbers which will have a direct and positive impact on their ad revenue.  It’s a red flag when someone doesn’t have real-world examples and comparisons proving their points and typically a sign that they’ve never even used the products in question.

I’ve been told antennas I use don’t work, yet I’ve snagged some incredible QRP DX with them. I’ve been told that some radios I use are junk, yet I’ve hundreds of successful field activations with them. And funniest of all are those who tell me that QRP is ineffective and–quoting from an actual message recently–“a complete waste of time.

My advice is to simply ignore these folks. The proof is in the pudding! Get out there and play radio!  In the words of Admiral Farragut, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!” 🙂

Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading this field report and a special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement–my content is always free–I really appreciate the support.

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SWL)