Chinese Kit Invasion

I suppose that I might be a little late to the game, so to speak, but I was browsing through the variety of  QRP kits on Ebay the other day and was shocked at what I saw. Many may already be familiar with  this phenomena in the QRP kit world, however it was news to me. A new Pixie 2 kit for $3.54 plus a whopping $1.80 for shipping. Now that's a QRP price. The kits were from China. As I considered this, I rationalized that at that price, something was askew, surely the quality was suspect, the parts incomplete and the instructions resembled some graffiti on an inner city wall. I passed it off as maybe a joke and went about my EBay browsing.

A few days later I stumbled upon an entry on the SOTA reflector entitled "QRPp Activation with a $3.56 Chinese Pixie..." by Manuel HB9DQM. Manuel had seen the radio on EBAy and couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it a shot. He not only built the radio, which takes the better part of an hour, but he decided to put it to the test in the field.

HB9DQM Pixie Station

Using the configuration above, running 300 milliwatts, he made 16 QSO's from a summit top bench. Pretty cool. 300 mw, wire antenna, battery power and a straight key, ah the magic of Ham Radio.

Of course the radio has limitations, it's crystal controlled, the radio comes with a 7.023 crystal (HB9DQM used a 7.030 crystal) and the bandwidth on receive is very wide, but as Manuel demonstrated, you can have some good, cheap fun with this little radio. He said he was listening to the world news, in English (courtesy of a BC station), while he worked the callers. An interesting diversion.

I did some further research on YouTube and found many happy campers who had purchased and assembled the kit. So I took the big plunge. I even went overboard and bought a couple of extra's as projects for my teenage grandsons who are hams.

There is one thing a little troublesome about this kit invasion however, at these prices, the other QRP kit providers can't compete. What will happen to them? Such is the world these days.

Chinese version of the Pixie 2
The inexpensive kits aren't limited to Pixie's, there are also '49ers, RockMites, etc.. Some even come assembled. I saw and assembled Rockmite, with a case for $35.00.
Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “Chinese Kit Invasion”

  • Mike, WV2ZOW:

    I went all out and purchased the deluxe Frog Sounds rig. Similar in construction, but has separate transmitter and receiver oscillators and can do almost 3 watts. $11.00, including shipping. I’m the loud station on 7023! Had a little trouble with the resistor color code. 5 bands, none of them gold or silver. Can read either way. Ohm meter saved the day. There were a lot of extra parts included. Resistors, caps and even a few transistors. –Mike

  • Mark G0NMY:

    These cheap kits are a bargain, however, the quality of the components is very poor.
    So expect failures. Check all the ceramic capacitors for shorts lots have reported failures.
    I have built a few now The Frog 1.8W where the Ne602 let its smoke out.
    The Super RM ROCKMITE SAYS 8watts for 12v but easy to set to 5W
    And the best yet the NIGHTHAWK V3 this little rig is a belter.
    10W can be set for 5w The tuning covers all the lower cw part of 40m
    The biggest drawback with this kit is the documentation which you have to use google to translate. Again the quality of the coils were poor but I got it up and running.
    I have now moved on to building the Bitx ssb rig which the documentation for is fantastic and the component quality is of a higher standard.
    So Chinese qrp kits cheap but can be hard to get working.
    Great for a beginner providing they have someone to turn to if they dont work.
    Thats my experience anyway.
    72 and good dx
    Mark G0NMY

  • Marty KD2JQG:

    Don’t install the 7.023 crystal supplied with the kit. Buy this kit and a set of crystals from KC9ON.com instead, and have a multi-channel (4) “rig”:

    http://kc9on.com/store/kIts/pIxIe-swItch/

  • Joe Cro N3IBX:

    Hello All,
    I’ve purchased a good number of the original “Pixie” kits over one year ago and most if not all of them are still operational today. Yes, the receivers are a bit broad for CW, but they seem to get the job done in most cases.

    With the help of a good friend I was able to get the kits completed and “on the air”.

    I find every QSO with one is a challenge but well worth the time invested to make the contact like most QRP QSO’s.

    I don’t know for how much longer these prices will prevail for, but it’s well worth the money and time invested.

    Best regards,
    Joe Cro N3IBX

  • Dennis G6YBC:

    The problem here is some kits are sold with free postage cheaper than a UK or US Kit manuafacturer can get the PCB made for. So not good for the guy who is making the original kit that these were copied from.

  • Jimmy Bishop, W4CYF:

    You need to think, these are poorly designed kits with cheap parts. Probably highly subsidized by the Chinese government. Good, reliable, reasonably priced, albeit also built overseas, radio manufacturers cannot compete. Same with some of the 2M/220/440 handhelds.

    I think the old adage applies: “If you want good fresh oats, you must expect to pay a reasonable price. If you are willing to accept them after they have been through the horse, those come cheaper.”

  • Kenneth Eppler AB5CC:

    Hi Mike,

    I have been buying the Pixie from Aliexpress for $3.09 with free shipping. I also bought 50 crystals on 10.111 for $2.85 (for all 50) and built one for 30m by changing L2, C5, and C6. It works great. I put one on 3.59745 again changing L2, C5, C6 and C7. I found a deal this weekend on aliexpress for 50 crystals on 21.050 for about $5 so I ordered them and another kit. The only problem is the three week shipping time. The values for changing hands can be found online. Lots of fun!

  • Rob KB7PWJ:

    Coming late to this ‘chew, but I wouldn’t worry about undercutting kit marketers elsewhere in the world. These kits are famously problematic, with difficult instructions, poor components, and no support. There’s plenty of market there for better kits that are better documented.

    To say nothing of the wealth of mods and upgrades you could sell. Filters, amps, keyers, enclosures, new bands, more channels (or even variable freq)… it goes on and on. Heck, at these prices you could stack 5 of ’em up and get full HF band coverage!

    I see where at least one American ham is already re-selling the Chinese kits on Ebay with some of these enhancements. DIY for about 11$, fully assembled for about 24$.

    Thing I couldn’t have imagined back in the day.

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