Posts Tagged ‘Rigs’

Contentment with radios

After considering buying a new transceiver, I have decided to stick with the rigs I have. At present, my poor voice makes all speech QSOs an effort. I enjoy WSPR as this is really a true QRP mode and it tells me a lot about propagation, without shouting!

I’ll still “window shop” and might consider a new radio transceiver next year. I get by far the most fun from my $49 10m WSPR rig and my home-brew 472kHz transverter, proving that you do not need to break the bank to have fun. I am not against those who think differently – each to his/her own.


A couple of years ago I attempted to upgrade my rig to a more ‘vase’ station type. I really like my IC7000 and have thoroughly enjoyed using it but I have also enjoyed operating from larger rigs more. There’s less need to get a PC up and running and to use that to drive the menu’s. The reason why I didn’t get a new rig last time is because a more pressing need was there, we needed a new car.

Well now I get to think about it all over again. I’ve got a figure of around £1500 in my head and thought that the TS590 might do me well. Other options would be a second hand K3 but they are rarer than hens teeth and likely to be more money and an ideal would be a new Hermes SDR, but then again that would be more like £2000+.

I found this decision quite difficult before but the issue doesn’t seem to want to go away in a hurry. New or second hand I’m not really bothered. I just want the best I can for the money. HF & 6m are a must. 2m would be great and 70cm’s as well so i can do some satellite work but I’ll happily drop the VHF for a better HF rig. The TS590 does seem like the best choice so far.

The cost of equipment

The new edition of Radcom arrived a little while ago and I had a chance to have a read through it yesterday and there was a review for the new Kenwood super rig. It certainly looked an impressive site, but what struck me the most was not the features it had but the sheer cost of the thing. It tips the scales at over £6k. The cost of my last car!

Radcom also features a section every now and again about how they are trying to attract new members and potential people into ham radio. Can I give them a little hint, start working on cheaper rigs. The evidence was even strong as I went through the pages and it showed individuals, who know doubt deservedly, won trophies and prizes for all manner of things. There wasn’t a single one in the 16-24 bracket, in fact I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a soul under 45 in there.

Can I make a suggestion?

Can we please take a look at providing cheaper gear that doesn’t need building, say a £100 rig that will get people on air. If we can produce a funcube dongle for a little more than that which seems like an amazing piece of kit, why can’t we produce a rig that is universal, cheap, useful and worth having rather than producing for the wealthy ‘person of a certain age’. That way we may be able to see talent in the younger age bracket collecting trophies.

If you’re looking for a volunteer to project manage it then just ask. If you’re looking for a technical whizzkid then you’d better look elsewhere ;-)

Hamcation 2013 and QRP

One of my favorite events is the Orlando Hamcation. This year I didn’t really have a “get list” so could enjoy more time with fellow QRP ops. Our Central FL QRP Group regular Jim Diggs K4AHO helped us get a QRP Forum and Jim Stafford W4QO came in from Georgia to help bring a good session about working DXCC with QRP. Wow! Jim also did a lot of recruiting of QRP ops as he manned the QRP ARCI booth and allowed us to hang out and assist. We had quite a good turnout of QRP Ops from FL and all over the US and a few overseas members too!


W4QOatHamcation2013QRPForum CFLQRPHamcation2013 Crowd at Hamcation 2013 QRPARCI booth Hamcation2013demoN4KGL  Carl AA2JZ brought some of his homebrew masterpieces and along with some QRP rigs W4QO displayed we got a lot if interests and questions on what was in the Altoids tins.

After the QRP Forum, Greg N4KGL gave us a demo of his Alex Loop and KX-3 at a nearby picnic table. The weather and bands were both cooperative and we were all impressed with the way the antenna and rig set up and operated!

Thanks to all who joined in the fun. Check out our Central FL QRP Group blog for details on our outings.

Tecsun PL-360

Tecsun PL-360

The only item of radio equipment in my Christmas stocking this year was a Tecsun PL-360 FM/MW/SW DSP receiver. These smartly-styled radios in black or silver are widely available on eBay for less than £30 including postage from China. The radio looks and feels a much better quality item than you might expect at that price.

The PL-360 covers medium wave, Band 2 FM (with stereo decoder) and 13 short wave bands from 2300 to 21950 kHz. Unlike most cheap short wave radios that have a frequency counter displaying the frequency of an analogue VFO, the Tecsun PL-360 is a true digital radio having a fully synthesized PLL VFO.

The Tecsun is also a digital radio in that it is DSP based not the usual superhet. The benefits are immediately apparent when you listen to the radio – it has that clear, open sound characteristic of DSP receivers. The internal speaker does not deliver much bass but you really hear the difference, especially listening to FM stereo, when using earphones, of which a Walkman-style pair are included.

For AM use Tecsun supplies a rotatable ferrite rod antenna that plugs in to the top of the radio. This can be used over a frequency range of 150 to 1710 kHZ, though note well that this radio does not have a long wave band. The 7-section telescopic whip antenna is 38cm (15in) long and is used on the short wave and FM bands.

Showing the rotatable MW antenna

The tuning control is a click-stopped rotary encoder which tunes the radio in 1 kHz steps on short wave and 9 or 10 kHz steps on medium wave. The radio can be tuned outside the broadcast bands but this is rather a tedious exercise due to the 1 kHz steps – there is no provision for direct frequency entry using a keypad. The  Tecsun PL-360 does not demodulate CW or SSB so there is not much point in tuning into the amateur HF bands – a pity, though that is not unexpected at this price level.

For tuning the Tecsun has a neat trick inherited from TV receivers. Called Easy Tuning Mode (ETM) the radio first tunes the entire MW, SW or FM frequency range and stores all the frequencies on which a signal was heard in memory. You can then tune from one signal to the next using the click-stopped tuning control. This makes short wave listening really easy and pleasurable. Doing an ETM scan of the short wave bands takes a few minutes. The feature is a useful tool for checking out HF propagation, though it’s a pity the tuning range stops at 22 MHz.

Power is provided by 3 x AA cells which may be standard alkaline or NiMH rechargeable (not supplied.). A charging circuit is built-in and power may be applied using a mini-USB socket on the side, so you can charge the batteries from a PC (using an appropriate USB cable) or a mobile phone charger. A charger is not included, but you do get a long wire antenna that clips on to the top of the telescopic whip for improved short wave reception, and a nice faux-leather case.

As an alternative to the Easy Tuning Mode the receiver may be tuned manually and frequencies entered into memories, but as mentioned earlier this is quite tedious. There is no programming software that would enable memories to be set up using a computer. There is a built-in clock which is quite accurate and includes an alarm function. The radio also has a temperature sensor and displays both temperature and time even when switched off.

To sum up, the Tecsun PL-360 is a portable radio of surprisingly good quality and performance for the money. Its Easy Tuning Mode makes casual listening a pleasure, the audio quality is excellent and the provision for rechargeable batteries is welcome. At less than £30 it is a real bargain.

Speculation-Biased Speculation…

If you are old enough, I bet you remember the game Fascination and that song in the commercial that stuck in your head all these years? For you new ones, here’s that commercial in YouTube format.

If you change the word fascination to Speculation, that naggy song becomes Speculation, Biased Speculation… the game we love to play! Seems like today’s political and journalistic culture has invaded ham radio if you follow the threads on QRP-L reflector about the Ten Tec 539 which is yet to be released. It has been diced, sliced and all sorts of factless speculation has already been thrown out as to why it won’t be popular or competitive with brand x’s new scrumpdillyicious xcvr. Whew!

I think it is a sad sign of the  times that instead of waiting for things to be released publically and from the source, products are already condemned as unworthy and judged based on hearsay and not true facts. It is bad enough that our culture does that in tv news broadcasts. Everyday we endure seeing the accused virtually tried and convicted on the screen by endless talk show hosts and experts often months before the courts are convened. I hate to see that culture spilling over from the current US political context where finger-pointing, wild speculation, and always attempting to  avoid responsibility and accountability begins to be spewed out on our hobby.

I for one will look forward to the final roll out of what looks like a very nice new transceiver from a US company before I make that buying decision.  Might be something I want, but who can tell until the process is finished and we get to see the final product? From here, it looks promising despite the speculation that is taking over all the airwaves and culture here in the USA. As for me and my house, we will wait for the facts!


Kelly K4UPG

New Open Source Rig Project? Dah Mini-Pig+

The QRP-L reflector has been buzzin’ with the news and chatter (positive and some negative btw) about a new project to design and build a new transceiver for QRP HF use. YAHOO!

Manhattan Style

K8IQY Style Test Setup

What I love the most about this is that the QRP community is able to contribute ideas, resources and participate much like the Open Source software community operates. This could really be a fun project for our Central Florida QRP group. After all, we are not that far from Diz W8DIZ who is facilitating and coordinating this project.

If you like to build, experiment and try some QRP operation with a new rig… you should tune in and join the fun.

This is the last week to vote in the poll on my blog for the best US QTH for ham radio… Here’s the standings as of Sunday at 2100 EDT:

  • West Virginia (17%, 10 Votes)
  • Kansas (16%, 9 Votes)
  • Hawaii (7%, 4 Votes)
  • Texas (7%, 4 Votes)
  • New Hampshire (5%, 3 Votes)

You can cast your vote by following this link!


Kelly K4UPG PB #173

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