How often have you seen into the thinking process of the development engineering team for an amateur radio manufacturer? Or an industrial test and measurements manufacturer of devices used frequently by amateur operators? In the latter case, the HP Journal was (and still is for vintage equipment) a key source for their line of equipment and often had an in-depth article from the engineers who designed one of their popular test devices. Less so but often with the Tek Journal, too. I always see if there’s a “design article” for any HP or Tek vintage equipment before I make a purchase. While MFJ Enterprises frequently gives factory tours, even for a single visitor, Martin Jue rarely gives public disclosures of the thought process of a device. At least, not until it’s well into production and sales.
But Hans Summers G0UPL, recent winner of the Homebrew Heroes Award for 2019, has done just that! In the October issue of QRP Quarterly (Vol 60, Number 4: 24-38), Hans weaves his thinking and design choices for the SSB QSX multiband, multimode 10-watt QRP transceiver. He’s been publicly discussing the concept since 2017 but rarely do we get this level of detail and insight for a major transceiver release. Oh wait. It’s not a product of one of the major manufacturers so what makes it a major product?
Review the QRP-Labs website on the QSX for the interim specifications and feature set. And pay attention to the projected price. Now, let’s revisit the reticence at calling it a major product release. Block diagrams, schematics, mock-up designs, and the pricing-performance choices going into Hans’ decision matrix for each element of the forthcoming rig are there. Even the case and the choice of no hardware volume control! And the choice of a soft switch for power on and off. The inclusion of several test equipment circuits built directly into the transceiver package ramps up what other manufacturers have included. And did I mention that the target price is $150 USD?
Ashar Farhan made a real splash in the QRP homebrew space when he released the Bitx40 ($59USD) and uBitx ($130USD). There is a small army of builders, modders, and third-party add-ons and case makers surrounding Farhan’s products. But reading the target specifications for “just a little bit more” at $150USD on the QSX QRP transceiver (including a nice case), it will set a new bar for the value proposition in the QRP market place!
And who knew how much the inclusion of a “simple” potentiometer for power on/off and volume control could impact the overall design and cost for a multiband transceiver? If you read this article, you’ll be somewhat shocked and amazed at how the designer’s careful analysis of his product target goals factored into the decision to just not include one. But that’s only one of the interesting twists and turns in this intriguing article on the design of the QSX transceiver.
Read the article and see if you agree with my assessment. QRP Quarterly is edited by Mike Malone KD5KXF. It is the publication of the QRP Amateur Radio Club International with an annual subscription price at $25 USD for domestic subscribers and $28 USD for international subscribers. The QRP-ARCI sponsors the Four Days in May Symposium held in conjunction with Hamvention in Xenia, OH. Hans G0UPL is also a member of the QRP Hall of Fame.
The market shall see what the final version, performance, and exact price will be. Reviewers will leave no stone unturned in putting the QSX through it’s paces when it’s available for retail purchase. But very rarely will buyers know as much about a transceiver’s design and why it was so as with the QSX. The snarky reviews that we almost always see of why didn’t “they” do this or that in a rig will almost all have been answered well in advance of the official release of the QSX. While “they” usually represent an engineering design team, QRP-Labs is staffed by one, Hans G0UPL, Hero 2019.