Don’t Look Back! They Might Be Gaining On You…or the emergence of the premium HF transceiver

The old quote attributed to the iron man of baseball, Satchel Paige, about not looking back is what I thought of as I posted my latest page in my new Sherwood Tools section of the website. The emergence of the premium HF transceiver is the focus of much discussion, rants and downright fistfights in the kitchen to paraphrase a research methods text. Such a topic is ripe for statistical analysis using best-available data. I’ve tried to do that in this new page of tools to use to shape your thinking about pulling the trigger on a premium HF transceiver. In this market? How could you not use all the evidence available to you?

The Sherwood Tables are the basis of that data with the addition of the market-entry price and year. The focus is: who invented the premium transceiver? Well, it wasn’t Hilberling although at $20,000 in 2021 US Dollars that might be a good guess. Head over to this page to see by clicking here.

If you’re heading to Hamvention, it might be a good time to check the graphics out before making a decision. If you’re sitting this one out, it’s a great time to review what I have posted there. I understand Rob NC0B will feature these tools at his talk—Transceiver Performance for the HF Contest and DX Operator— for Contest University.

Sherwood Tools Available

The work that Rob Sherwood NC0B has contributed to the public over the past decade is unique and an amazing service to hams worldwide. I’m talking about, of course, his summary Table of receive bench tests published at this Sherwood Engineering website. He is independent so no one can think that advertising dollars could skew his assessments or how he presents them. As a CW contest operator, he is very clear that he sorts his table on the basis of what his experience and training has shown him to be the single most important measurement in his table: the narrow dynamic range.

I am not a CW operator or accomplished contester (lol) but enjoy the latter with my small team of fellow hams. But I am a statistician who likes to focus on problems where analytic tools can help foster a wider understanding of the data surrounding the problem area. So, working with Rob NC0B, I’ve created a set of “Sherwood Tools” to visualize his data as well as link them to a couple of other critical aspects of a rig purchase: market-entry price, consumer satisfaction, and the year the radio entered the market. These four vectors of data drive all of these tools, now available over at

3D Sherwood with Market-Entry Year

The tools include a sortable Sherwood list where you can sort on any of the nine tests he publishes as well as the composite index of them that I created and included in my two-part NCJ articles in 2021. A set of 3D data visualizations are available to simultaneously view radios on four data elements (that does make it 4D, technically). Several graphs illustrate key aspects of the data, including how to not get tripped-up in the “ranking” of radios where the bench measurements are just not appreciably different. Seeing how the past 50 years of radios appearing in Rob’s Table have made a remarkable and clear progression toward the best receiver performance that modern test equipment can detect is in another tool. In addition, how the trend in getting a receive bang-for-the-buck has progressed over this 50 year period is there, too. Finally, I’ve used the industry-standard tool by Gartner, the Magic Quadrant, to help isolate radios in Rob’s Table that perform and are rated above average at various price points. I call these the Golden Quadrant Lists.

Rob NC0B has not endorsed these tools and neither have Scott K0MD or Bob K0NR. But all three have given advice and suggestions for how I’ve designed them for which I am very grateful. None should be held accountable for any mistake or result that the viewer may find there. I hope these Sherwood Tools are of use to viewers who are evaluating rigs. (They have been to me over the past two years of doing this research during which I’ve purchased two new HF rigs.) Making a written set of must-have features is a critical complement to these tools. Just like Smokey the Bear says: only you can put out forest fires. Only you can determine the feature-set and ergonomics to satisfy your use-case for a new radio!

I’m outlining a talk on the use of these tools should clubs wish me to visit with them via Zoom. See my contact tab above. I’m good on QRZed.

Solder On, Garth…

While I would love to think that in Wayne’s World, this article would be “excellent,” that’s for you to decide! In this month’s Practical Wireless magazine, my article, “Need a Hand? Or Six?,” is on the cover. Like many hams, soldering work on the bench takes many forms. A lot of that involves setup time to get the right tools in place to begin. I really like to minimize these things so that my limited time is spent goofing up a solder joint..uh, making good soldering joints…and getting things done.

I also have been immensely dissatisfied with the cheap “helping hands” devices found at every hamfest or rally I’ve attended. The magnifying glass tips over too easily, there’s really not enough “hands” to suit me, and if I drop it on my garage floor, it’s likely to shatter. So I was inspired by a previous article in the April 2021 PW about the fabrication of a jig to do SMD work by Michael Jones GW7BBY.

My “artisan” soldering platform is my current solution to having a rather full-featured 12″ square platform with numerous “hands” to hold parts for using my two hands for holding the soldering iron or gun and the solder thread. It’s an honor to publish in Practical Wireless, smartly edited by a world-class contest operator, Don Field G3XTT. His book on 6 meter operation was recently revised and it’s well worth reading before practicing the “magic” in the 50 mhz region!

Keep Soldering On is from my article this month in PW

3-D Sherwood!

Due to questions I’ve received during club talks to visualize all three dimensions of price, performance and satisfaction in HF rigs, I’ve assembled a 3D data cube (scatter plot) with these three measures together. This includes the composite Sherwood Receive Tests (SPI), price at market entry, and the eHam rating. The data cube points are color-shaded to reflect year-of-entry into the marketplace. These data are updated with Rob NC0B’s March 5, 2022 test data. A few (older) rigs without eHam ratings were removed.

Go to this link over at to take a look. I may do some additional analyses in the near future so stay tuned if you’re interested in Rob’s work and related data.

Elvis Left the Building…in 2015

Paying homage to the cultural icon and frequent use of the phrase, my latest Social Circuits column is now available over at I’ve analyzed ARRL membership numbers and licensed hams over the past two decades. The results show some surprises, both in the growth segments of ham licenses and in League numbers. But the most demonstrable finding is captured in the phrase, Elvis Has Left the Building…but in 2015. Go here to find out what this means and perhaps why.

Meanwhile, Elvis ain’t coming back. But the League might be on the incipient steps of doing just that. But the Reagan-esque phrase of tearing down walls that created the decline depends on the ARRL’s Chief Executive Officer. Read the column and see the numbers. It’s as clear as Elvis singing Blue Christmas…

Sortable Sherwood!

One of the most valuable tools for amateurs worldwide to use when evaluating HF rigs is the set of bench tests that Rob Sherwood NC0B has provided for quite a number of years now. He ranks the receive tests by his favorite metric: narrow dynamic range in dB. It’s a key for CW contest operators (pun intended) which he is in spades. But it is a frequent question from readers of Rob’s table: why can’t I sort it on another criterion? Especially if I’m not a CW contest operator?

Well, now you can! Working directly with Rob NC0B, I’ve taken his latest receive test data and made a sortable table for the Sherwood Test Results. They are circa March 5, 2022. It’s at my companion site, at this link. I plan to update it when Rob adds new radios to his Table.

I’ve also added sub-pages to illustrate some facets of the data. Based on my work over the past couple of years with adding price and consumer satisfaction data for each rig in his Table, I’ve learned that it’s important for readers to better understand both Rob’s tests and his ranking metric. In that research published in the ARRL’s National Contesting Journal, I created a composite of all nine of Rob’s bench tests which I called the Sherwood Performance Index (SPI). It is a broader assessment of receive performance than the narrow dynamic range. But it is not intended to be a replacement for Rob’s preferred metric, only a complement.

Thus far, I’ve added two interactive charts that will help the viewer better understand Rob’s table results. More may come.

One chart shows how the reader can “out-rank” themselves by ONLY focusing on how a rig is ranked on the narrow dynamic range measurement. Rob tells readers not to take the exact ranking as the only aspect of a rig for the top ten rigs are all very good on receive. This interactive graphic will allow the viewer to see how some rigs “bunch” together with almost identical narrow dynamic range but are, indeed, sequential ranked because of numerical differences that simply do not make much difference as realized in the rig’s actual performance. But, ever hear an athletic team cheer this after a game? We’re Number 10! We’re Number 10! I didn’t think so. But Number 10 might be just as good as Number 1 on the metric determining the ranking. You have to look at the data behind the ranking. This chart makes it easy.

A second chart demonstrates how Rob’s ranking variable, narrow dynamic range, relates to the composite SPI. You’ll find some interesting results from that chart, seeing how narrow dynamic range is important but there is more to some rigs than that. Especially if you’re not a contest operator, CW or otherwise.

As he has stated in various podcast interviews (including mine on the ICQ Podcast and recently on the Ham Radio Workbench), he started these bench tests for his own use as a CW contest operator. Rob disagreed with the ARRL’s tests as published in a review of the classic Drake R-4C receiver. So he created what he thought was a suite of appropriate bench tests. And the rest is history. For transceivers and receivers (“rigs”) over a 50 year period!

Here’s a trend line for the SPI by year over the horizon of rigs in his Table, circa November 2019. We are in the best period yet for receive performance in terms of Rob’s test suite. But now you can sort the Sherwood Table on any of his tests including the composite SPI that I added to asses your rig of choice.

Rob codes his website in conventional HTML. He recently had to suddenly change hosting providers. So he’s had enough on his plate with all of the other engineering contributions he makes almost daily to various email lists and groups. So while he could alter the HTML code to provide the ability to sort his table, I appreciate his spending his retirement time continuing to assist the amateur radio community as he does now. I hope that this offering of a Sortable Sherwood Table on my companion website will help the reader better understand this terrific tool as well as help Rob, too.


In a joint announcement, the ICQ Podcast team and the Ham Radio Workbench podcast team agreed to shift the ownership and management of the Homebrew Heroes Award ( to the Ham Radio Workbench team. “George Zafiropolis KJ6VU and I have discussed this over the past few months. It makes better branding sense for their team to acquire and manage this awards program. Their episode-to-episode content clearly reflects the underlying principles of the Homebrew Heroes Award,” said Frank Howell K4FMH of the ICQ Podcast team.

George KJ6VU

George Zafiropolis KJ6VU stated that “We are enthusiastic that our fellow podcasters thought of us to take on this terrific awards program. Our team has admired both the concept and the implementation over the past two years. We plan to maintain the Award into the future!” Martin M1MRB added, “We have been pleased to provide promotional support for this Award. And we will continue to promote it under the management of the Ham Radio Workbench team.”

Rod Hardmon VA3ON agreed, stating “I’m delighted to have a leadership role in this Awards program on behalf of Ham Radio Workbench. It’s a perfect fit for what we are about.” Vince d’Eon VE6LK concurred with both George and Rod by saying, “It’s a great program that we hope to take to the next level over the years by promoting those who truly make heroic efforts to show the way to build stuff in amateur radio and related areas.”

Frank K4FMH

The Homebrew Hero Award was the brainchild of Frank K4FMH during the 2019 Hamvention in Xenia, OH. It was the first time the ICQ Podcast team had visited in-person as a group. As Martin Butler M1MRB, his son Colin M6BOY, and Frank were having lunch in one of the sets of bleachers between buildings, a number of prominent homebrew makers had passed by. “There sure are some homebrew heroes here this year,” said Frank. Colin looked at him and they both knew that this concept was worthy of fleshing-out. During the tour of the famous radio station WLW during Hamvention, the three of them put together the concept and implementation.

A few months later, the first Award was given to Hans Summers G0UPL, proprietor of QRP Labs ( Colin M6BOY added, “It was a fast endeavor for Martin, Frank and I to put this together as we did. Corporate sponsors have been terrific in signing on, including Digilent, Siglent, MFJ Enterprises, and Heil Sound. The ICQ Podcast has been privileged to have Presenters who come up with innovative ideas like this.”


Frank K4FMH added, “I’ll still have a connection to this Award program as a sponsor. I’ve committed to donating a soldering iron station each year as this is the heart-and-soul of any homebrewer’s work bench. Awards programs like this take on greater meaning and importance as they transition over the years. This move to the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast team is the right move at the right time.”

Details on the Homebrew Heroes Award program in the future can be found at The current slate of sponsors are continuing through the 2022 cycle of the Homebrew Heroes Award.

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor