Category Archives: New Products

BITX40: A Fully Assembled $45 SSB QRP transceiver


Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who writes:

Don’t know if you have seen this or not. VU2ESE of BITX20 Fame has just introduced the BITX40.

This is a fully assembled and tested SSB Transceiver for $45 including shipping from India!

Wow! I may have to purchase one of these and try it out.

I’m currently teaching a HamRadio 101 course to a group of 13 year olds. One of them recently asked how much it would cost to get a basic HF radio kit with SSB mode.  HF rigs–even basic ones–tend to be quite expensive if they include SSB.

Here are details from the BitX40 order page:

Work the world on 40 meters

When was the last time you used a radio you had built? The BITX40 board is single circuit board 40 meter SSB transceiver module. Inside an evening, you can be on-air with this SSB transceiver module, chatting with the local gang or chasing DX. Plug in the earphones, the included electret mic, tuning and volume controls and you are on air! Included are high quality connectors, all the needed sockets and jacks, tuning and volume controls, mounting hardware, etc.


The BITX40 is a very clean, crisp and quite receiver. The front-end has a triple tuned circuit that cuts out-of-band signals from getting inside, a diode ring mixer front-end with a very low phase noise, all analog oscillator makes this a crisp receiver that doesn’t overload easily. The all analog signal path to your ear makes provides outstanding signal clarity that is to be heard to be believed.

7 watts of SSB provides you with enough juice to have thousands of contacts on 40 meters, daily rag chew and occasional DX chasing. Any common 2 ampere 12 linear volts supply will provide enough juice for this transceiver. Or you could simply run it from a battery!


The BITX40 will inspire you to experiment. Modify it, mount it, tweak it, change it.

The PCB uses all analog large sized SMD components that are laid out on an easy to understand manner on a double sided board with broad tracks. This can be your main module around which you can start experimenting. There are jump-points from where you can add more modules like the DDS, more bands, better audio amplifier, etc. Imagination is your limit. You can separately increase the power amplifier’s supply voltage to 25 volts to be more than 20 watts of power : You will have to add a better heat sink. The mods are on the way!

The board can be installed inside any box that you like. Make your own station rigs, man-packs, trail radios or mount it in a cigar box and leave it on your bedside table. The tuning capacitor has been replaced by a varactor tuning so you can place the tuning knob anywhere as it only carries a DC voltage. Watch the instructions video.

Box Contents

We have tried to include connector/hardware you might possibly need to build a full radio. However, we also had to balance the shipping weight to keep the overall cost down. You will have to supply your own box, power supply and earphones/headphones/speaker.

  • 4-1/2 inches by 5 inches tested SSB transceiver module, covering any 150 KHz segment of the 7 MHz band
  • Small electret microphone
  • High quality BNC connector for the antenna
  • Two earphone style audio jacks for the mic and the earphones/speaker
  • A set of DC power socket and plug
  • Volume control with on/off switch
  • 100k linear pot for tuning
  • 4 Brass stand-offs with mounting nuts and bolts
  • Connectors with wires for all connections on the board

* Note : A speaker is not included in the kit as earphones/headphones/speakers are easily available locally. No cabinet is included to save on the postage cost. Almost any box maybe used.


The BITX boards are hand assembled by a collective of women. Each of the toroids is hand wound. This provides these women with livelihood. The assembled boards are then DC checked a final RF check is performed to check the receiver’s sensitivity as well as transmitter’s output before being shipped. Each board is individually numbered.

Click here to view the BITX40 ordering page. 

A review of the Como Audio Solo


Regular SWLing Post readers might remember that this past summer, I made an impulse purchase–and in doing so, backed a Kickstarter campaign for the new Como Audio Solo.

But exactly why did I buy this small, self-contained digital music device–? Having just completed an in-depth review of several WiFi radios, I certainly didn’t need another.  But the good-looking Solo, with its clean design and walnut casing really caught my attention…I couldn’t resist checking it out.  Plus, in backing the radio via Kickstarter, I was able to purchase it for $100 less than the predicted future retail of $299 US.

The Kickstarter campaign funding Como Audio was prompt in communicating updates with backers and providing even more product options during the wait for production and delivery. Although several other snazzy finishes for the Solo were brandished before me, I stuck firmly by the walnut veneer I’d originally chosen.

Fast forward to the present. I finally received my Como Audio Solo a few weeks ago, and have had time to play with it. While I haven’t had time to explore every nuance of this radio, of course, I have had an opportunity to form some opinions.


I don’t often comment on the design of radios I review, but in this case it’s worth noting.

The Como Audio Solo, in wood, is elegant and simple. Love it:


The only element of the design I’m not typically keen on?  I’m not the biggest fan of devices that sport colored backlit displays; to me they appear a bit flash and faddish, undermining a radio’s overall aesthetic.

But I must say, the Solo pulls it off.  The color display in this case is somehow not too distracting–it’s soft yet crisp, and easy to read even at a distance.

In short, the Solo is a stunning piece of kit, especially with that warm walnut casing, and looks right at home in any setting–office, living area, kitchen, or at the bedside.

I’ve only one gripe with the Solo’s ergonomics: the front control knobs are a little too close to the bottom of the recessed controls area. When I try to turn a knob–for example, attempt to tune the FM band–I find my fingertips won’t fit between the knob and lower edge of the recessed panel, making the knobs a little hard to turn in one fluid motion. (Of course,this is also due to the fact that I have big fingers; my wife doesn’t seem to have this problem).

But this isn’t a dealbreaker as I’m finding I don’t often need to reach for the front controls, anyway.  Why? Because the rig’s IR remote–or better yet, its smartphone app–control the radio effectively at any convenient distance from the radio.  Sweet.



I’m a sucker for quality audio fidelity, and I must admit that this was one of the biggest deciding factors in purchasing the Solo: it touted extraordinary audio in a modest package, being designed around an acoustic chamber/chassis containing a 3″ woofer and 3/4″ dome tweeter fueled by a 2 X 30 watt RMS amplifier. I was very curious whether it could live up to its initial claim.

After turning on the Solo for the first time, I immediately wanted to hear audio, so I put it in Bluetooth mode and played a few songs, ranging from Jazz to Electronica.

In a nutshell:  Wow.

The audio is strikingly reminiscent of my Tivoli Audio Model One…which is to say, it’s excellent. It packs more audio punch than any of the radios I reviewed in my WiFi radio comparison.

Out of the box, the audio is fairly well-balanced, too. But you can tweak the equalizer, and I did, drawing in a little more bass and treble.  My wife (also a bit of an audiophile) was impressed. And yes, the sound is all the more remarkable considering the radio’s relatively small form-factor:  little box, big voice.

FM Reception


The Como Audio Solo is one of the few Wifi radios on the market that has a built-in analog FM and DAB receiver (save the $120 Sangean WFR-28, which has analog FM reviewed here).

Since I live in the US, I can’t comment on DAB reception.  I have, however, had an opportunity to test the FM analog reception.  Keep in mind, I live in a rural area and require a decent FM receiver with telescopic antenna fully extended just to listen to my favorite regional programming.

When I tune the Solo to my benchmark FM stations, it can receive them–but not as effectively as many of my other radios, including the WFR-28. Even when forced to use the Mono setting only, the stations it receives carry too much static for good listening.  So obviously the Solo isn’t as sensitive as some of my other radios, at least in this setting. Indeed, few stations it receives in this area are able to lock in to the point that there’s no static in the received audio. For out-of-towners, this is a bit of a disappointment.

With this said, I imagine if you live in an urban area, the FM receiver should more than please you. I’ve no doubt it can faithfully reproduce beautiful audio from local FM outlets.

I should add that, while FM reception isn’t stellar for distant stations, the RDS information does convey even when the audio isn’t full fidelity.

WiFi radio


Of course, the main reason I purchased the Como Audio Solo was to use and review it as a WiFi radio…nothing at all to do with that sharp walnut chassis, or audio power.

As I outlined in my WiFi Radio primer, WiFi radios rely on station aggregators–extensive curated databases of radio stations–to surf and serve up the tens of thousands of streaming stations around the globe.

Based on feedback from Como Audio shortly after the Kickstarter launch, I was under the impression that the station aggregator of choice was vTuner. This concerned me, as vTuner’s reputation as an aggregator is somewhat maligned due to a series of documented faults and weaknesses.  Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case: after the initial confusion, I soon discovered Como had adopted the more robust Frontier Silicon aggregator, instead–a better choice.

Click here to read our primer on setting up your Como Audio product on the Frontier Silicon radio portal.

Since I’m a pretty big fan of Frontier Silicon and since I’ve already been using their service with my Sangean WFR-28, once I connected my radio to my user account, the WiFi portion of the radio felt identical to that of my WFR-28. Simply brilliant, as the Frontier Silicon radio portal gives the user flexibility to create station lists and folders with ease–all of which readily convey to the radio itself.

The Solo also features six dedicated memory buttons on the front panel for quick access to favorites.

Turns out, there’s also a comprehensive manual available online for download (click here).




And am I please with the Solo so far?

I’ll reply with a resounding “Yes!”

I love the Solo’s design–this certainly is a handsome product. Moreover, I love the audio, and am pleased that it delivers the fidelity promised by its Kickstarter campaign. The Solo and Duet are loaded with features, connections, Aux In and Aux Out audio and digital ports–more, in fact, than any similar device with which I’m familiar. I regret that the rig’s FM isn’t suited for country life, but the audio coupled with its stylish exterior do make up for this somewhat.


I do wish the Solo had an internal rechargeable battery option. Being able to move the receiver to different locations within a home or building could be a major plus for rural FM reception. As my friend John pointed out, however, the audio amplifier is robust enough, it might have been a challenge to implement an affordable-but-effective internal battery without compromising the audio amplifier’s needs.

In truth, I favor audio fidelity over portability for a tabletop radio.


In conclusion…do I have any backer’s remorse?  Absolutely not–!

In short, the Como Audio Solo is a keeper.  I’m still marvelling at this classy and dynamic radio that fills our home with rich beautiful audio. A few weeks in, the Solo has already become a permanent feature in our abode. It’s one of the few radios I have that meets my artist wife’s approval in terms of both design and audio.comoaudiosolo-fm

Great job, Como Audio!  If the Solo is any indication of radios to come, I’ll certainly be looking for your future innovations.

Click here to order the Como Audio Solo and Como Audio Duetto.

The new CommRadio CTX-10 QRP general coverage transceiver


Many thanks to Fred Osterman and Dave Zantow for sharing information about the new CommRadio CTX-10 transciever.  Here is the description from Universal Radio’s catalog:

AeroStream Communications near Golden, Colorado entered the hobby radio market in 2013 with their revolutionary CommRadio CR-1 and follow up CR-1a SDR receivers. The success of these innovative radios left many asking for a transceiver of similar size and capability.

The answer is the just announced CTX-10.

The CommRadio CTX-10 blends high performance, internal SDR technology, high efficiency circuit design, compact size and simple operation. This multi-mission QRP radio is ideal for field use and emergency operations. Transmitter covers 160-10 meter amateur bands with output power adjustable from 1 to 10 watts. The new design uses ruggedized land mobile power amps in push-pull. Every aspect of the radio design is optimized for low power consumption.

The efficient and sharp OLED display is readable in low or high lighting conditions. The radio has three built-in #18650 3.7V 2600 mAh Li-ion batteries providing 28.8 watt-hours of operation. A built-in intelligent charger provides seamless power management.

The general coverage receiver section uses multiple preselectors for optimized reception from 200 kHz to 30 MHz. An integrated CW reader and antenna tuner enhances portability. The premium tuning knob optical encoder is rated at a million revolutions.

Entire enclosure is aluminum with metal knobs and front panel. External connections are through-hole mounted for durability. Includes USB cable, DC power cord and manual. DC power requirements: receive 1.5 W, transmit 20 W. This quality device is robustly built in Colorado, U.S.A.

I’m really looking forward to reviewing the CTX-10. If the CR-1 and CR-1a are indicators, this could be a very well-built unit with a top-notch receiver!

Follow the tag CTX-10 for updates.


Tecsun PL-680 Beats Expectations


I have been procrastinating over investing in another portable shortwave radio to replace my ageing (but still going strong) Sangean ATS909. Also known in the U.S. as the rebadged Radio Shack DX–398, the Sangean has been a most reliable rig for in-the-field DXpeditions. My unit is one of the early first generation versions that I purchased on the second-hand market, so I’m guessing it has to be at least 16 years old now. It continues to provide a full rich tone quality on AM/FM and is very sensitive on shortwave providing you use an external antenna of 5 metres (16 feet) or more. The radio received some bad press because of its poor SW reception using just the telescopic rod antenna, which frankly was justified. The in-built whip is useless! But all of my work has been with an external antenna, and the results have been most successful over the years.

But the old ATS909 has lived a hard life, having been bounced around in the car on rough dirt tracks, dropped a few times, and thanks to a recent home renovation project it now has paint splattered all over it. On one occasion, I’d even left it outside on the ground after a spot of gardening, subjecting it to half an hour of heavy rain, before realising my forgetfulness. The radio was soaked but still going strong when I picked it up. However, the digital readout was all messed up. After 24 hours of drying, and it fired up beautifully again, and has been fine ever since! That’s some impressive build quality there! Thanks Sangean!

Anyway, a few months ago I decided to “pull the trigger” and purchased a new Tecsun PL-680 AM/FM/SSB/Air Band radio. This rig has been on the market since around February 2015. So far, it has performed very well for me.

Interestingly, on the built-in telescopic antenna reception is only marginally better than the Sangean, but the Tecsun is really quite sensitive with an external long wire antenna. In fact, I’ve had it hooked up to my three double bazooka (coax) dipoles for 80, 40 and 20 meters, and the performance has been excellent. The tone quality is not quite a good as the Sangean, lacking richness and depth on MW, FM and SW. But for DXing, the audio appears just right for digging out clear audio from the noisy shortwave bands.


Recently, I hooked up both portables for a side-by-side comparison using four different external antennas outside the shack with switches between the two radios. I was eager to check how they measured up in terms of sensitivity and selectivity. The results for the Tecsun were impressive, picking up all of the weaker signals that the Sangean could hear.

Indeed, on several shortwave broadcast bands, the Tecsun appeared to be just a touch more sensitive at digging out some of the weakest signals. The audio also appeared a little clearer for those weak signals, perhaps because it has a narrower audio response than the Sangean. And selectivity for the PL-680 was about the same as the ATS909, generally very good.

On the ham bands, however, the SSB audio quality of the ATS909 sounds more pleasant to my ears than the PL680. But the Sangean’s tuning process in SSB is somewhat more cumbersome than for the Tecsun.

The PL-680’s synchronous detector effectively reduces adjacent signal interference. It’s easy to use and is a strong feature in its favor. However, occasionally it can fail to lock on to a weaker signal or when the signal is subject to deep fading. One other characteristic of the Tecsun is that it has a rather overly generous S-meter, hitting S4 or 5 for all but the weakest signals. This is a meter not to be taken too seriously!

But the PL-680 is not without its faults!

Click here to continue reading the full story.

Rob Wagner, VK3BVW, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. He also blogs at the Mount Evelyn DX Report.

The Icom SP-38: A matching external speaker for the IC-7300


(Source: Southgate ARC)

Icom are introducing a new external speaker for its revolutionary IC-7300 Software Designed Radio.

The new SP-38 complements the appearance of the IC-7300 as well as improving the listening experience from its large diameter speaker.

The SP-38 external speaker will be available in October with a suggested retail price of £156.00 inc.VAT from all Icom Authorised Amateur radio dealers.

Specifications about this new external speaker can be downloaded from the SP-38 data sheet.

Click here to view this article on the Southgate ARC site.