(As is Vince’s usual, this article has a bunch of links – click on as many as you wish for the full experience)
Before I go too far into this topic, I wish to first offer hearty congratulations to Thomas Witherspoon for having one thousand posts on QRPer.com! Woo-Hoo!
Do you pack a Radio Field First Aid kit?
On my recent trip to VE3-land I had a few opportunities to practice set-up with my gear–away from the safe place that is my truck–to ensure I’d brought everything for my trip to Hamvention and activations along the way. I did forget an audio cable, however a visit to a local dollar store solved that problem inexpensively.
So, unless you pack two of everything -because two is one and one is none– you should expect that something’s going to fail or break along the way. What you never know is when or how that’s going to happen. I wouldn’t be writing this story if it had not happened to me before.
This time it was on a Sunday outing to VE-1512, the McLaughlin Bay Reserve Wildlife Area in Oshawa Ontario and far away from the comforts of my shop at home. Tucked away not far off of the 401 Highway, this nature reserve is a calm and peaceful oasis just minutes from urban life. I saw kayakers, hikers and trail runners during my visit.
Setting up my Comet HFJ-350M, I added the jumper cable to set the antenna for 20m and then I started to push the antenna down into the ground onto the stake. And that’s when my hand slipped and I broke the jumper cable connector, busted off in the hole.
If you own a Xiegu G106, X6100, or any other radio that is prone to overloading when in the presence of an AM broadcaster, you should consider building an in-line BCI filter!
As many of you know, I’ve been testing the Xiegu G106 over the past couple of months for a review that will be published in the May 2023 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.
One criticism of the G106 is that its front-end overloads when there’s an AM broadcaster within a few miles of where you choose to operate. The Xiegu X6100 is identical in this regard.
One quick way to remedy this is to build or buy a BCI filter. We’ve mentioned in the past how you can homebrew them and I planned to do so. After checking my parts drawer, though, I realized I needed to buy a capacitor, toroids and at least one of the two BNC connectors needed if I wanted an in-line filter in a small project box.
Many thanks to Adam (BD6CR) who shares the following guest post about his latest project:
From Open Source Project ADX to Kit ADX-S
by Adam (BD6CR)
BD6CR @ CRKits.COM
Original Design: WB2CBA
Modification and Kitting: BD6CR
I knew Barb, WB2CBA from his uSDX design a few years ago and I introduced both DL2MAN and his designs in my blog. So, when I came across the ADX – Arduino Digital Xcvr a few months ago, I immediately ordered both the ADX (through hole) and the ADX UNO (surface mount) PCB samples.
I started building the ADX UNO and put it in a dental floss case and made a few contacts on park bench. However, the soldering is too much for my eyesight. So, I turned back to the ADX because I don’t need to solder any SMD parts, since both the M328P and SI5351 are module based. I could build the project in 3 hours and it worked the first time.
However, I felt unsatisfied with the strong BCI since the CD2003 radio receiver chip was connected as a direct conversion receiver. JE1RAV mentioned in his QP-7C modification project that he tried JA9TTT’s idea to build a superhet SSB receiver with the TA2003 or CD2003, so I tried and it worked very well. I have decided to name the new circuit as ADX-S, where S stands for Superhet.
I shared the great news with Barb and he encouraged me to carry the flag to make it a kit, since my design D4D was his first digital radio and he loved it.
My hardware modification can be outlined in this schematic. I have added an FL1, PFB455JR ceramic filter by Murata and a C25 coupling capacitor from CLK2 of SI5351 module. The RX audio comes from pin 11 instead of pin 4.
Many thanks to Bob (K7ZB) who shares the following guest post:
The ATS-20 in HF CW Transceiver Mode
by Bob Houf (K7ZB)
I picked up an ATS-20 last summer and played with it on SWBC and the ham bands but found the telescoping whip antenna to be marginal.
The unit I purchased from Amazon turned out to be solid: no problems have surfaced after 9 months of intermittent listening. By default, I have enjoyed it primarily listening to FM in my office.
When I used my long wire antenna, the performance on shortwave greatly improved – easy copy of DX and the value of the receiver began to impress me.
Recently I came across a Swedish ham who co-developed a line of radios covering a broad range of WSPR and associated designs built to a very high standard.
Already having a WSPR setup I was intrigued by a very low power CW transmitter that Zach co-developed with KB9RLW which puts out 300mW on 40, 30 and 20 meters at a price point that is less than the ATS-20, and – most interestingly – the design of the radio allows it to work in transceive mode with the receiver by providing a T/R switch when used with the proper SMA-BNC cable arrangement.
Many thanks to Skip (K4EAK) who shares the following guest post:
The QRPguys DS-1 Portable Antenna Kit
by Skip (K4EAK)
There have been several videos and extended comments lately about the Elecraft AX1 and AX2 antennas, both of which function remarkably well for a small, highly compromised antenna.
For those interested in other, similar designs, especially those hams who find that building the equipment is half the fun, another option to consider is the QRPguys DS-1 antenna.
The DS-1 is similar in concept and design to the AX2. It consists of a base-loading coil, a 46.5-inch collapsible whip, and a plate to attach the antenna to a small tripod. One can also purchase an add-on 40-meter coil. The can be deployed in just a couple minutes and, when collapsed, the longest portion is only 6.5” long, easily fitting in the palm of one’s hand. QRPguys recommends a 16.5′ counterpoise; I use two such wires, usually spread out at a 180-degree angle. I’ve also used it with a clamp-on mount and a car window mount.
Building the antenna is simple and took me less than an hour. After installing a BNC connector into a brass plug and inserting the plug onto a length of PEX tubing, one simply runs the supplied 22AWG wire from inside the tubing, out and around making 22 turns, and then sealing it with a length of heat shrink tubing.
There are really only two aspects of assembly that are slightly more difficult. The first is that it’s necessary to drill and tap two holes for 4-40 screws, which obviously means that (1) one needs a 4-40 tap and (2) one needs to be careful tapping the threads to assure a clean cut. The second is that the heat shrink tubing, at least as supplied in my kit, was grossly oversized, which required some finesse in getting a final product that was at least reasonably aesthetic, to say nothing of accomplishing that without dry roasting my fingertips.
Field testing of the DS-1 shows that it works surprisingly well. The SWR is well below 2.0 across almost all of the 20-meter band and where it is higher than that (the upper end of the voice portion), the KX2 internal tuner can tune it easily. As one would expect, on 40 meters the antenna has a somewhat narrower range, although the KX2 tuner has handled it on all of the frequencies I’ve tested so far (all CW). And it appears to be efficient enough.
I have used it on numerous activations and consistently get to the requisite 10 contacts within 20 minutes or so after getting spotted. After that, the number of contacts depends on the time available, but for those occasions when I have only a 30-minute window for an activation, the antenna is a convenient and practical alternative.
I keep the antenna, the tabletop tripod, and the counterpoise wires in the water bottle pocket of my pack, ready for use whenever I have a few moments for a quick activation.
What is it about winter that engages my inner kit-builder–?
I go through this cycle every year: when outdoor temps plummet, I fire up the soldering iron and start building kits that have been sitting on the shelf for the previous three seasons.
I used to think that I built more kits in the winter because I spent more time indoors, but that’s not actually true. Reality is, I probably spend more time outdoors in the winter than I do in the other seasons…save fall, perhaps.
I actually have a QCX+ transceiver kit that a kind reader generously donated to me (thanks again, OM!). I can’t wait to dig into this particular build, but I’m forcing myself to wait.
Until I finish building and installing my Murphy Bench (check out this HRWB podcast episode where we take a deep-dive) I don’t have a dedicated space for a good multi-day transceiver kit. At present, I have to take over the dining room table and as you might imagine, the others in my family aren’t incredibly pleased with a semi-permanent workbench in the middle of the house.
I’m making my Murphy Bench a priority and dangling the QCX+ as a reward for completing the build. Wish me luck!
I’m curious: Do you find that you also do more kit-building during certain seasons? What kits or other projects are on your horizon?Please comment!
K-1716, Silver Sands State Park, Milford, Connecticut
January 13, 2023
By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH
A digital mode multiband transceiver for $69? Yes! QRP Labs has the QDX kit available for $69 US. Add $20 if you would like a very nice black anodized aluminum case to mount it in and if you want it assembled and tested add another $45. Visit the QRP Labs web site for all of the details (QDX 4-band 5W Digi transceiver (qrp-labs.com)
How well can a $69 digital transceiver work? Read on…
I ordered my QDX kit back in May 2022. It arrived in June, I assembled it and ran some tests at home. It worked well on FT8 into my home antennas. It interfaces nicely with WSJT-X and I liked the idea of using a low power transceiver to band hop on WSPR. My QDX is an early four band version, which does 20, 30, 40 & 80 meters. I set it to band hop on all four bands not remembering that my multiband offset center fed dipole is not resonant on 30 meters. Since the QDX does not have a tuner, it didn’t like the higher reflected power of a two minute long WSPR transmission into a bad load and smoke resulted. I was fortunate that the failure was isolated to the RF power amplifier transistors and replacing those got me running again. This was my own fault, not the transceiver. Now, it band hops on 20, 40 and 80 meters with no issues, I eliminated 30 meters from the hop schedule.
I share this important story at the beginning of my field report as a warning to anyone considering using a QDX to be very careful when connecting an antenna to it. Since the QDX does not have an internal antenna tuner, you either need a resonant antenna or must use an external tuner to provide a 50 ohm load with low SWR to the QDX. The QRP Labs groups.io site has a number of posts from users with different tuner suggestions.
Now comes the fun part. I visited Silver Sands State Park, K-1716, located on Long Island sound in Milford, CT on January 13, 2023 in the afternoon. While it was Friday the 13th, I had nothing but good luck. Knowing I would be running QRP power, I decided to use what I consider to be my best 20 meter antenna. It’s a modified version of a Buddipole, which I call my “no coil” Buddipole dipole. I use a Buddipole VersaTee mounted to a WILL-BURT Hurry Up mast, which is a push up mast that extends to about 25’ high. The dipole consists of two Buddipole 32” accessory arms, one for each side of the VersaTee and two MFJ 17’ telescoping whips, extended to just about 17.5’. This provides a very broad bandwidth and low SWR on 20 meters. See the screen shot of my antenna sweep from the RigExpert analyzer below.
Here’s a photo of the antenna in the air.
The temperature on this January day was a mild 55 degrees so I was able to set up my equipment in the back of my Jeep. Here’s everything I needed to do the activation. Since the antenna is resonant, I did not use a tuner.
My iPhone gives you an idea of just how big the QDX is, which is sitting just to the right of it. There are only three connections needed, the antenna cable, a 12V power cable and the USB cable. I was using my Bioenno 9ah battery for power. I brought the Bird Model 43 with a 25 watt element in it to monitor the output power and also to measure the reflected power, which barely even nudged the meter. It was effectively zero watts reflected. In the photo above, I was in a transmit cycle and you can see the power meter just a touch above 5 watts. On the computer, you can see a mini pile-up of six hunters in the queue. One thing to note about the QDX is that you can’t adjust the power by lowering the PWR slider in WSJT-X. It’s recommended to leave that at maximum. The way to adjust output power is to adjust the power supply voltage. In this case, the Bioenno had a full charge, so the radio was running full power.
I began the activation without spotting myself, just to see who’d hear me. Here’s a map of the pskreporter showing my spots.
I eventually spotted myself so hunters would know what park I was at. I was amazed that during my activation, I never ran dry or had to call CQ POTA, there was a steady stream of hunters the entire time. The QDX does a fine job receiving, here’s a screenshot of WSJT-X including the waterfall to show what it was receiving.
So, how did the $69 radio do? In a one hour and 17 minute activation, I completed 46 FT8 QSO’s. Here’s my coverage map.
I managed to complete three park to park QSO’s, too. One park called me and I called the other two who heard me and answered. I use JTAlert which helps me keep track of the order of who called. I always try to answer the hunters in the order they called me. I’ve set up a Directed CQ alert in JTAlert for anyone calling “CQ POTA” which helps me to see who else is at a park while I’m activating. If I’m able to contact them, I use the POTA spot list to include their park number in the SIG_INFO field of my log, which is N3FJP. N3FJP is handy to use since I start a new log for each activation and I’ve configured it to upload to LOTW and QRZ when I’m done for the day.
Another thing worth noting is that there is no speaker on the QDX. I’m one of those digital operators who actually listens to the cycles while I’m on the air. It provides a certain cadence to hear each cycle go by so you know what to be looking at or clicking on and when. With no sound coming out of the QDX, it forces you to find that cadence by looking at the computer screen. For me, it means watching the receive audio levels and the progress bar to see if I’m transmitting or receiving. The QDX does have a single red LED on the front panel that will flash during transmit cycles, which is also a helpful indicator.
I’d say the results shown here speak for themselves. I had a steady stream of hunters, I had just one or two QSO’s that needed a second RR73 to confirm and the coverage was as good as most activations I’ve done with more expensive radios and more power. Despite the self-inflicted hiccup I experienced at the beginning, I’d say that If you’re looking to try activating digital for Parks On The Air or even for your home, the QDX certainly works very well and provides a lot of value for the money.
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.
Good morning Thomas, from wintry southwestern Ontario.
I thought I would send you a quick message to share my experiences, so far, with the little TR-35.
Yesterday, around 3pm, I took the above unassembled kit off the shelf and began to melt solder. The smoke test was successfully performed the next morning at 1:30am, after non-stop building (with the exception of a few hours for eating and catching up on a little tv). I measure twice and solder once hihi.
I had my calendar marked for February 15 to check the site again for the 3rd batch as I thought that was the day they planned to issue another pre-order.
My buddy Eric (WD8RIF), who is the President of the Athens County Amateur Radio Club (ACARA), contacted me yesterday asking if I knew of any QRP kits designed with phone/SSB operation in mind. One of ACARA’s members was searching for one.
The only other kit I could think of was the new (tr)uSDX. When Eric asked for a link to the product, I went to the Rowaves site and discovered that they were taking pre-orders for the third wave of kits. Like, right then and there!
Without hesitation, I added one to my shopping cart and checked out.
I thought perhaps Rowaves caught up and no longer had a waiting list. This morning, when I checked the site again however, it appears they’ve sold out of the third batch.
Without Eric’s prompting, I would have never thought to check the Rowaves site yesterday.
Side note:There are various (tr)uSDX group buys out there. I don’t completely understand how they work, but perhaps someone with more experience can comment. DL2MAN has information and links on his webpage.
If I’m being brutally honest, the (tr)uSDX kit is a bit intimidating for me. I recently referred to myself as a “gross motor skills” kit builder. I think that’s a pretty accurate description. I’m fine with through holes, simple toroids, and very clear, illustrated instructions. Truth is, I absolutely love building kits. But I’m not an electronics engineer, so when instructions are vague, I can get lost quite easily.
The (tr)uSDX toroids don’t look terribly complicated and all of the surface mount components are pre-installed. Still: it’s a wee kit and I’ve yet to check out the build instructions.