QRP radios

I continue to be surprised by how few affordable QRP radios are on the market. The FT817ND continues to be the favourite, but recent exchange rate changes have not been matched by decent falls in the UK retail prices. I think we are still being ripped off by dealers in the UK. The IC703 is no longer made and the KX3 from Elecraft is very expensive over here. There are a few lower cost Chinese HF radios appearing. Overall, there remains little choice in QRP transceivers at sensible prices. I am sure the KX3 is a very good radio but for the same price I can buy 2 FT817 transceivers, and these are all mode and to 70cms.

A multi-band, all mode, 5-10W radio would be a killer in this age where people take lots of holidays and are on the move frequently. I still fail to understand why the big Japanese manufacturerers have not got a raft of low cost units on the market. It seems a gold mine opportunity is being wasted. Maybe I have misread the market?

I know if there was a new, attractively featured, QRP transceiver on the market now at a sensible price I’d be in the line to buy. I am sure very many others would be too.

Roger Lapthorn, G3XBM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cambridge, England.

18 Responses to “QRP radios”

  • Peter kg5wy:

    I completely agree with your writing.
    I believe the manufactures, (whether it be kits or assembled) are taking advantage of the QRP trend to get what money they can from them.
    I think hams should just use one of their existing radios and turn the power down.

  • Matt W1MST:

    I hear your just “turn the power down” argument, but I think that misses one of the biggest draws of QRP — taking your radio to the middle of nowhere and working stations all over the world. I’m thinking of Jim W1PID as a great example.

  • Peter kg5wy:

    Many HF radios work on 12vdc. I had 2.
    Alternatively people can feed the manufactures what they want.
    However, I must agree with Roger. They are charging too much!!!

  • David M. N1KGH:

    HF transceivers have been made of expensivum for a long time. 25 years after being licensed, I finally have a rig, but I still stretched it.

    I got the Xiegu X108, long promised. It and its older sib, the X1M seem to be the only rigs in their price class. I wasn’t able to even consider the major brands at all.

  • k9jwv:

    David, N1KGH – I’d like ur thoughts on the X-108….pse contact me via my -mail address at qrz.com

  • Matt W1MST:

    David, go ahead and post your thoughts here. I’m also interested in the Xiegu X108.

  • W3FIS, Paul:

    There are lot of quite inexpensive CW single-band kits from outfits like MFJ and Ten-Tec. Also good single frequency ones from QRP Kits, and QRPMe, FWIIW.

    73 /paul W3FIS

  • Mike, WV2ZOW:

    There is the FLEX 1500. 5 Watt, 160-6 meters. Superb rcvr for the price. I think it comes in less than the 817 these days. OK– you need a computer with it, but many of today’s smaller computers can run it. I know when my family travels, there is at least one computer. Probably not the best choice for mountain topping but you don’t have to worry about breaking a knob off!

  • Rich Line KC8HMJ:

    I enjoy my Flex 1500 and my X1M very much.
    Sometimes I start a QSO with the amp on and turn it off and keep
    yacking on 5 watts.

    Rich KC8HMJ

  • Dave K1THP:

    LNR precision, the source for the PAR Endfed antennas, has a new transceiver model LD-5 in the works. You might remember their Mantis 2 band rig a few years ago and the Ft-4 40 thru 17 meter rig that works CW and SSB. The LD-5 works CW, SSB and digital modes on all bands 40 thru 15 meters. The problem is, it was supposed to come out in September and now its mid November. It seems that bringing a new product to market takes a lot longer than most of us realize. Perhaps a winter with some bench time and solder smoke will solve the new rig urge. there are lots of available kit rigs out there for those that are not yet ready to design their own. In my case I am working on things that will get a workout in the field next season with whatever rig I plan to bring along.

  • David WB4ONA:

    I don’t understand the obsession with a “low power” version of what is essentially an existing radio. Take for example the FT-857D: Use it the exact same way you would the FT-817ND for QRP – but turn the power down! It’s that simple.

    The FT-857D is only 20% more expensive and far more capable than the FT-817ND. The only way this situation would be different would be if Yaesu was smart and used the space in the FT-817ND for the useless AA batteries for an internal auto antenna tuner instead. Then the FT-817ND would indeed be a different radio.

  • Frank ON6UU:

    Started qrp with a Kanga Foxx3 on 30mtrs, then a Rockmite bought via Kanga, I have a IC703 but did not even consider that a QRP radio…. .. But it is of course, has a lot of advantages and has a tuner. Do you need a vhf and UHF portable, take a HT, they come for 35€ from Wouxung or some other Chinese brand.
    Since last week I have a FT817ND, bought from a friend for a very good price, it is the radio I have been active with the last week. It has its fouls but it is a good radio.
    The X1M and X108…I don’t even want to consider those two…no bandfilters in the first for the WARC bands, the second one almost as expensive as a new FT817 which does much more.
    Want to have fun, make a small radio yourself, start easy, grow in it and you’ll have fun with 400mW on a Rockmite.

    have a nice day all,


  • Clive GM4FZH:

    Yes, we are ripped off in the UK. Look at the prices charged by the main dealers – almost the same to the nearest penny. They have a nice cosy little ring!!!

    I would urge people to buy from the smaller firms who may offer an incentive or if you go abroad buy it there. I often buy things when in the USA.

    An upgraded 817 would be nice with 4m (70MHz) built in or as an option and MUCH better battery consumption figures.

  • Mark AI4HO:

    While I can see taking the 857D or any rig that is kinda small..ish turn your power down to 5 or 10 watts. You can do it, I’ve done it…its just not the same some how. I used to do a LOT of QRP when my legs and back were good, and somewhat stronger. I’ve had 3 FT-817ND’s I’ve had an IC 703+ (still my favorite low power rig). I’ve had the FT-857D the FT-897D, I have had a lot of rigs, there is something about having a dedicated QRP rig. My fondest memory was taking my FT-817ND..brand new I had it barely 3 months when we went to Mexico for a family vacation. Got my Mexican call sign XE1/AI4HO, had an afternoon where we wern’t doing much, took it my Diamond HV-7A with the 20 meter coil, set up o an old chain link fence. Was able to get in on a afternoon net that I frequented a good friend of mine was NC lived less than 10 miles from me. Got in there were a couple others on the net, but Freddy heard me the best. Here I was 3,000 miles or more from hoe and I talked to a good friend back home. That…made the trip to Mexici for me. A good, even a decent QRP rig dedicated QRP rig is almost a must if yer gonna do qrp.

    No with that trip 8 years ago, my legs and back are no longer much good for much of anything now. Can barely get to a field day let alone do much but get in the way. I don’t do much QRP I still like it, don’t have any QRP rig, and I’m not about to turn the power down on my IC-756 Pro III and call it QRP…it ain’t the same, it just isn’t. So while I can see a bit to both sides, a decent, reasonably priced QRP rig, or a totally revamped FT-817ND at a decent price, I might even consider getting another QRP rig. Its pointless to write, email, call the rig manufacturers they won’t or don’t listen. They’re out to make as much money for the company as they can..end of story. They would do well to listen to the buyers as we are the ones who keep them in business, but. End of story.

  • James KH2SR:

    I recently published a review on Examiner of a cool little 5 band QRP rig called the LD-5. Its made by LNR in USA. Great little radio.

    Check it out here: http://www.examiner.com/review/tech-review-ld-5-hf-ham-radio-qrp-transceiver

  • Frank on6uu:


    Good article James. I only wonder about the price this 5 band machine costs. Pretty expensive ! I can spend less and have an FT817ND with more bands, even 2m and 70cm…. ..

  • Brian Kelly AA3BK:

    Well it’s 2018, and Yaesu has come out with the FT-818, the replacement for the 817 “providing upgrades desired by many existing owners.” Apparently, the 817 owners weren’t vocal enough about the desire for an internal antenna tuner. The Elecraft Kx2 & KX3 both can have one if purchased as an option. As noted, they are a bit pricey, especially after you add the desirable options.

  • Frank ON6UU:

    FT-818 will be the same power consumer as the FT-817 and thus no go for me.

    I find it a poor upgrade.

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