Tag Archives: Xiegu

What are my favorite QRP field radios in terms of audio quality–?

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?

Thank you.

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

  • sound noisy/harsh,
  • 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:

Continue reading What are my favorite QRP field radios in terms of audio quality–?

Update: A few more details about the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the new Xiegu G106 transceiver.

Since then, I’ve been getting a few updates from my friend as, I assume, Xiegu releases preliminary info.

This is the latest illustration (click to enlarge):

You can see Xiegu is certainly eyeing the park and summit activators out there.

They’re also touting digital mode operation and I’ll have to assume this means the radio has an internal sound card which would certainly simplify a field-portable digi mode kit.

I was originally told that the G106 had six bands, but this image implies 80-10 meters including the WARC bands. We’ll have to verify this once the production marketing information is released. Since this is the 2022 Hamvention weekend, we could be learning more int he next couple of days.

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

Oh yeah, I do hope there are some fold-out feet or a bail hiding under that G106 chassis!

Photos of a new Xiegu G106 HF transceiver [updated]

A friend who works in the amateur radio industry has shared the following photos and given me permission to post them.

These are images of the Xiegu G106 HF transceiver (click to enlarge):

As a field operator, one thing I noticed immediately are the protrusions around the faceplate that protect the encoder and what I assume in a multi-function knob. The form-factor seems to be roughly that of the Xiegu G90 (even smaller) with a backlit LCD display that resembles the Xiegu X5105 (only, again, much smaller).

I’m assured this isn’t vaporware, and I have to assume we’ll learn a lot more about the G106 soon.

The front panel is incredibly simple, so I must assume it’ll reply on menus for filter control, etc.

I have no other details at this point. When I learn more about the Xiegu G106, I’ll post updates here on QRPer.com.

Xiegu G1M replacement

Update (17 May 2022): I’ve just learned that the Xiegu G106 is the replacement for the Xiegu G1M . It’s sports 6 bands [actually, it might be more according to this update] has 5 watts of output power, and, of course, is SDR based like other Xiegu products. I’ve also learned it can receive wide band FM (hence the FM broadcast band image above).

An additional photo:

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

POTA Field Report: Pairing the Xiegu X6100 and PackTenna Random Wire

I’ve had a lot of fun testing the Xiegu X6100 in the field. Each time I’ve taken this little shack-in-a-box radio outdoors, I’ve paired it with a different antenna.

I’ve paired it with the Elecraft AX1, an End-Fed Half-Wave, and my 28.5′ speaker wire antenna.

On January 10, 2022, I decided to try one more antenna: the PackTenna 9:1 UNUN random wire.

The Packtenna random wire is a brilliant little antenna to pair with radios like the X6100 that have built-in, wide-range ATUs. It’s such a small antenna and can easily find matches on my favorite POTA/SOTA bands:  40 meters and up. It’s also very compact and super durable.

I use te PackTenna random wire quite a lot in the field, so I was curious just how effectively it might pair with the X6100. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Pairing the Xiegu X6100 and PackTenna Random Wire

Xiegu X6100: New compact throwline, POTA pileups & overloading in Pisgah National Forest

On Thursday, January 6, 2022, I woke up with one goal in mind: take the Xiegu X6100 out on a proper hike-in activation!

While I’d had this radio on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, I hadn’t had an opportunity to truly hike it into an activation site. Between the weather and my tight schedule, I haven’t had an opportunity to plot out a proper Summits On The Air (SOTA) Activation. SOTA activations that involve hiking usually take a much bigger bite out of my day and, lately, I’ve been to busy to plot one.

I do live near a vast trail network, however, and it so happens that much of the trails run through overlapping public lands: Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah State Game Land.

So I packed my Spec-Ops EDC tactical pack, grabbed Hazel’s harness, and headed out the door.

“Let’s go, Daddy!”

Hazel knows me too well.

When she sees my pack and my hiking boots, she  waits in front of the door so there’s no possibility she’ll be left behind. Continue reading Xiegu X6100: New compact throwline, POTA pileups & overloading in Pisgah National Forest

Xiegu X6100: Scott’s thoughts and impressions

Yes, Scott will freely admit that his sticker is tongue-in-cheek!

Many thanks to Scott (KN3A) who recently commented with his thoughts and impressions of the Xiegu X6100. Scott writes:

When you published your X6100 [field] report, I could not wait to see the video! You tipped me off when we had our QSO that you were using it! As you said in your YouTube comment, a X6100 to X6100 was accomplished at your activation!

I am an avid POTA/SOTA QRP operator and mostly use my Icom IC-705 on activations. It is a superb radio and no intention of ever selling it. The reason I was attracted to my X6100 was the fact it’s an SDR, has a very nice display screen and has a built in ATU. I use many different antennas on activations, and some require a ATU, like my Sotabeams Bandhopper 3. I like using it when I go backpacking and activating due to how easy it is to deploy and lightweight.

To those who attempt to compare the X6100 to the IC 705 is like comparing a Ford F-150 to a Toyota Tacoma. I had an X5105 for a few months and went on a few activations with it. I would mostly compare the X6100 to the X5105 and call it a big upgrade to the X5105.

I got familiar with the X6100 in my hamshack the past 3 weeks, and although I know of it’s shortcomings, which I did share with Thomas prior to it’s arrival at his QTH, I am very pleased with the radio even with the features that are not enabled yet.

On Christmas eve, I went hiking and afterwards did a quick POTA activation inside my car using my IC 7100 and 50 watts. The temperature was getting warmer and warmer out, so I made a hasty decision to go home and get the x6100 and take it to another local park and sit outside on a picnic table. I decided to use my spark plug antenna and use my 17 ft. Shakespeare fishing pole. I had almost 1:1 SWR on 40 and 20 meters and had to use the ATU as I was having about a 3:1 on 30. The ATU kicked in and had a perfect match in seconds, which is also the same response as the G90 and x5105. Continue reading Xiegu X6100: Scott’s thoughts and impressions

New Xiegu X6100 firmware adds WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity

The X6100 WLAN configuration screen.

Many thanks to Radioddity who sent me the following note this morning:

We released new [Xiegu X6100]  firmware, which adds BT & WiFi function.

    1. Added WIFI function
    2. Added Bluetooth function
    3. Fixed the bug that can not save the user-selected filter group(1,2,3)
    4. Optimized the ALC algorithm and corrected the problem of power rise slow.
    5. Optimized the system settings.

For more details, please check this blog below,
https://radioddity.com/blogs/all/xiegu-x6100-firmware-upgrade-20211207

New Firmware Update Guide:
https://radioddity.s3.amazonaws.com/Xiegu_X6100_Wifi_%26_Bluetooth_Function_Instructions_20211230.pdf

The new Xiegu X6100: Let’s see how well it performs CW in the field!

Last week, I received the new Xiegu X6100 QRP HF transceiver on loan from Xiegu distributor/retailer Radioddity. This is the exact same unit Josh (KI6NAZ) reviewed for Ham Radio Crash Course (click here to see his updated X6100 video).

Many thanks to Josh for sending me this X6100 so promptly and performing the first firmware update!

I took delivery of the X6100 last week after returning from vacation in the Outer Banks. It was bittersweet as I was so eager to check out this new radio but simply had too many projects on the table to complete before Christmas day.

That and in the morning light after our return, my daughter pointed out that one side of my horizontal delta loop antenna had fallen to the ground. Fortunately, I was able to fix the antenna in short order. It’s certainly time to push the schedule up for completely replacing this 10 year old wire antenna!

X6100: Known issues

I had gotten a few messages from X6100 early adopters like Scott (KN3A) and Rich (KQ9L) noting that the current firmware version (the December 7, 2021 release) had taken care of a few initial bugs, but there were still a few outstanding points that specifically affect CW operators. Most notably:

  • Noise reduction (or DNR) in CW mode severely distorts audio
  • CW message memories can be stored and saved but cannot yet be played back on the air (SSB message memories are fully functional, however)
  • Fine tuning is limited to 10 Hz steps at the moment

Someone had also noted possible CW keyer timing issues.

At the same time, I had read mostly positive comments about SSB operation from QRPer readers and subscribers.

Frankly, knowing Xiegu’s history of pushing the production and distribution timeline ahead of a radio being fully-functional and properly tested, I expected a few bugs and issues that would need to be sorted out in firmware updates.

To be very clear: I’m not a fan of the “early adopters are the Beta testers” philosophy. I wish Xiegu would thoroughly Beta test their products so that they were more polished and fully-functional right out the door much like we expect from the likes of Elecraft, Icom, Yaesu, and Kenwood. There are almost always minor post-production bugs to sort out even with these legacy manufacturers, but issues should be of the variety that somehow slips past a team of Beta testers who actually use the radio.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox! 🙂

X6100: In the shack

Over Christmas weekend, I did have some time to hook the X6100 up to my (repaired) sky loop and casually work a number of park and summit activators. Of course, I formed a few initial impressions about the X6100 and I speak to those in the video below. Continue reading The new Xiegu X6100: Let’s see how well it performs CW in the field!

Josh checks out a pre-production Xiegu X6100

Josh (KI6NAZ), over at the excellent Ham Radio Crash Course YouTube channel, has just published a video demonstrating a pre-production Xiegu X6100.

If you’ve been interested in the X6100, I highly recommend checking it out.

Josh compares the X6100 with the X5105 in terms of size and functionality, and even makes a QSO with it. For CW ops, he also demoes the relay clicking sound (spoiler alert: it uses relays instead of PIN Diode switching).

His particular unit is really a pre-production unit–it sounds like the first production run (that many early adopters should soon be receiving) will have upgraded software and even hardware.

Josh (rightfully so) holds out on making a recommendation until he’s able to test the first production run unit–the same version early adopters will receive–which is being sent to him soon.

Check out his video below:

Click here to view on YouTube.

I’ve gotten so many questions about the X6100 from readers and YouTube subscribers. Fear not! I will get a chance to check out the X6100 in the near future. In fact, Josh is sending me the Radioddity loaner unit he’ll be testing. I’m not sure how long I’ll get to hold onto it, but I’ll give it a thorough workout.

In addition, I know Scott (KN3A) has purchased one of the first production run units and will give us his impressions–since he owns the IC-705 and has owned the X5105 in the past, he should have some valuable insight. Stay tuned!

If you’re considering purchasing the X6100, you might check out Radioddity’s upcoming Black Friday sale.  They have a sign-up form on the X6100 product page. I have no inside information, but I must assume the X6100 will either be discounted or come with extra goodies (or both?).

Do you already have an X6100 on order? Curious if it looks like the X6100 is on track to meet your expectations after watching Josh’s demo.

Which should you purchase: the Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?

This year I’ve been trying to make dedicated posts and videos to address questions I’m asked most often by QRPer.com readers and my YouTube channel subscribers. The idea is to have a link I can send in a reply instead of trying to give a comprehensive answer in an email.

One question that’s been surfacing a lot lately is a variation of:

“Which should I buy, Thomas? The Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?”

I’m sure the reason I’ve been getting this question is because I reviewed and purchased the Xiegu X5105 earlier this year and have used it on a number of activations.

I’ve owned the Elecraft KX2 since 2016 so have a lot of experience with this little field radio as well.

Why the choice between these two particular models? Continue reading Which should you purchase: the Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?