Tag Archives: lab599 Discovery TX-500

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

QRPer Notes: HB9HCI’s FT8 Box, TX-500 Covers, and Maxpedition BOGO Sale

Welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to items making waves in the world of radio!


HB9HCI’s FT8 Box

Many thanks to Jean-François (HB9MCZ) who writes:

I just wanted to mention a very interesting little box [available from Lutz Electronics:

Page in German.

Page translated into English.

With this magic FT-8 box and a little power bank, all you need to make FT8 in SOTA expeditions is your smartphone.

I don’t own this product, but found it might interest many people visiting your excellent website.

Best 73′ from Switzerland,

JF (HB9MCZ)

Lab599 Discovery TX-500 Covers

Many thanks to Mike (KG4MTN) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I have just received a nice set of 3D screen/keyboard covers from KB7MDB for my TX-500. Along with these covers he included 5 screw-on plug covers. All appear to be nicely made and fit my rig just fine. Cost was $15, which includes shipping. I have the 2-cover set, I believe he also makes a single-cover unit. Mine is black but I think he also makes them in orange. Shipping is very prompt. His Etsy site is Brewer 3D Design LLC.

Stay warm!
Mike Serio
KG4MTN

Click here to view/purchase on Etsy.com.

Maxpedition Pocket Organizer BOGO Sale

The Maxpedition EDC Organizer holding my MTR-3B and accessories in this photo.

Many thanks to Ray (K8DRT) who reminds us of an ongoing sale at Maxpedition’s main website. The sale includes a number of popular Organizer Pouches including the Fatty which I use for my Elecraft AX1 antenna, and their smaller EDC organizer that I’ve used for a number of radio accessories, logging pads, and EDC items over the years.

Click here to check out all of the items in the BOGO sale.

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

“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?”

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

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.

New Discovery TX-500 firmware adds audio modes and SWR monitor

Lab599 has just announced that firmware v1.10.04 has been published for the Discovery TX-500 and is available for download on their website.

New: Audio modes

The new firmware adds two switchable audio modes: 1W “Normal” mode and 3W “Outdoor” mode. Although I’ve always felt the audio gain on the TX-500 was excellent, this will give even more granular control of volume levels.

New: Antenna SWR Monitor


Lab599 has also added an SWR monitor and display. They describe it on Twitter:

“This new function will provide you a graph to determine characteristics of the antenna (SWR) in the range of the selected band.” 

They shared the image above of the TX-500 display and have already added this along with details in their downloadable user manual.

Click here to download the firmware and operator’s manual on the lab599 website.