Category Archives: Accessories

Radio Deal: AN200 loop antenna on sale at Ham Radio Outlet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Grant Porter, who notes that Ham Radio Outlet has the Eton/Grundig AN200 loop antenna on a closeout sale for $15.00.

As Grant notes, this is an especially great deal if you live near an HRO retails store.

The AN200 is an incredibly effective tool for a mediumwave DXer. Click here to read some of our past articles.

Click here to check out the AN200 at HRO.

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Giuseppe is impressed with the performance of his homebrew passive loop antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW), who shares the following:

Dear Thomas, I’m Giuseppe Morlè from central Italy, the Tyrrhenian Sea, Formia.

Today I tested my noise canceling loop inside the radio station by comparing it to the crossed loops. Again, like my medium wave T Ferrite, this loop proved to be very quiet, practically immune to house noise.

You can see my two videos about listening to the Voice of Turkey and a QSO on 40m. between radio amateurs–a test with two different powers, one high in AM and another much lower among radio amateurs.

Here are the videos from my YouTube channel:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to view on YouTube.

A nice result knowing that we are receiving inside my radio station. The homebrew NCPL antenna you encouraged me to build is truly amazing.

Best wishes to you and the SWLing Post community.

73 by Giuseppe Morlè IZ0GZW.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and these videos with us, Giuseppe. It is very encouraging that we have some antenna options that help us cope with all of the RFI generated within our homes! Thank you again!

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Belka-DX: Installing the new speaker and battery pack from Mobimax

Last month, Mobimax announced a new speaker option for the Belka-DX DSP receiver. This speaker is slightly different from the original Belka-DX speaker in that it has a full-size battery pack and fold-out legs to prop up this pocket-sized receiver.

Mobimax sent one of these speakers to me to install and evaluate at no cost to me–I received it last week and installed it yesterday.

Installation

The installation couldn’t have been more simple: the only tool needed is a small Phillips-Head screwdriver. Note that my Belka-DX already had the original speaker option installed.

All I needed to do was remove the lower two screws on both sides of the Belka chassis.

After doing this, the bottom section of the chassis simply pulls out (do this slowly since there are both battery and speaker jumpers).

Next, I unplugged the speaker and battery jumpers from the original speaker option.

Installing the new speaker section was simply a matter of plugging in the speaker and battery jumpers (each plug is a different size so they can’t be confused), then attaching the new pack to the back of the Belka-DX using the same four screws that had been removed.

The whole process might have taken four or five minutes (mainly because I took photos!).

How does it play?

Since I can’t really do a side-by-side comparison with the original speaker and this one, I simply listened to the original speaker tuned to WWV, WRMI, and the Voice of Greece for a while before installing the new speaker.

Both speakers are obviously very small as the Belka-DX is the most compact shortwave portable I’ve ever laid hands on.

Audio quality

I believe the original speaker has better audio fidelity, likely due to the fact it uses the body of the Belka-DX as an enclosure or resonance chamber. The new speaker has a dedicated enclosure, but it’s maybe 40% the size of the Belka-DX body.

In the end, though? Neither speaker will give you the audio fidelity of a traditional portable. The original speaker is just slightly better than the new one. With the Belka-DX, I see the speaker as a wonderful convenience, but frankly, I reach for earphones or headphones if I want to do DXing or proper broadcast listening.

Battery

The new speaker option allows for a full size battery pack in the Belka-DX. This is probably the biggest selling point of the new speaker. The original speaker option fits both the speaker and a smaller LiIon battery pack on the bottom plate of the radio.

The original speaker and smaller battery pack (top section of this photo)

Since the new speaker option adds a dedicated speaker section, it opens up the full real estate of the bottom plate for a full size battery again.

 

I should also add that the new speaker section matches the original Belka-DX enclosure and speaker in that it’s incredibly durable. Frankly, it feels military-grade and over-engineered. I love it.

Fold-out legs

I really like the fold-out legs on the new speaker. They actually have two indented sections that click into place as you fold them out. This allows for two different stable viewing angles. I prefer having them folded out all the way.

Size

The new speaker option adds a bit of weight and bulk to the Belka-DX.

Again: we’re talking about a wee little radio here, so I can’t imagine someone complaining about the size or weight. The new speaker makes the radio slightly deeper or thicker if you look at it from the side or profile. Frankly, it’s a negligible amount, but worth noting.

Should you buy it?

In my opinion, the main reasons to buy the new speaker option are to take advantage of the longer play time from the full size internal battery and to gain the two fold-out feet.  The Belka-DX is so efficient that even the smaller battery pack in the original speaker option will power this radio for many hours without recharge.

Still, if these two factors are important to you, this is a no-brainer.

I would simply pick the speaker option that best suits your needs.

I must say again that it’s a real pleasure evaluating products that are engineered to the degree of the Belka-DX (and Belka-DSP) and both speaker options. These feel like they’re built to last a lifetime and could really take a beating in my various radio packs and kits.

Many thanks again to Mobimax for dispatching one of these for my evaluation.

Click here to check out the new speaker option from Mobimax.

Click here to read about the original speaker option and its installation.

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Looking for Linux Mini PC recommendations

Mintbox Mini

Even though I do most of my blogging from a MacBook Air and use a Windows 10 PC in the shack for SDR work, I’m a huge fan of Linux.

Over the past decade, I’ve used a number of Linux distributions including Puppy Linux, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Raspian.

The past few years, I’ve been doing most of my Linux work with a Raspberry Pi running Raspian. I probably own ten or more Raspberry Pi models; some have one dedicated task (like the Raspberry Pirate, my ADS-B feeder, or one that feeds LiveATC) while others, like the Pi4 4GB models, are serving as primary personal computers for my daughters. I’ve been trying to up my command line game so I can continue teaching it to my daughters–the Pi has been perfect for this.

Why a mini PC?

While I love the Raspberry Pi, I would like a dedicated device in the shack that sports more horsepower and a better integrated sound card. I also want something compact.

In the past, I have, of course, resurrected old PCs by installing Linux and I’ve even turned my primary shack PC into a Windows/Linux dual boot system. I’m not the biggest fan of dual boot, though, because I have run into problems when I needed to do a full re-install of Windows and/or Linux–all of that partition management gets tricky for me. I’ve even found a few PCs (guessing it’s the BIOS) that reject the dual boot loading system.

I simply don’t have the desktop real estate for another revived desktop or tower PC.

Spoiled for choice

I like the idea of a Mini PC dedicated to Linux but there are a dizzying array of devices on the market ranging in price from $100-$700. I don’t need a lot of horsepower, just enough to run SDR apps, potentially playback spectrum recordings, stream videos, and occasionally manipulate graphics and images. The Pi can do many of these tasks to an extent, but it’s not always terribly stable.

I’ve been tempted by this mini PC because the reviews seem positive (although I don’t always trust Amazon reviews) and the price is right at $129.

The Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n IoT

I’ve also read positive comments from folks who’ve loaded Ubuntu on a base version of the Lenovo ThinkCentre M90n IoT.

Of course, I know I can also buy Mini PCs that have Linux pre-loaded and part of the proceeds support development of the distro like the Mintbox Mini pictured at the top of this page. I do like the idea of my purchase directly supporting the distro.

I also like the Intel NUC, but once configured it can be a bit pricey for my purposes. I don’t want to exceed $300.

Any recommendations?

If you have any advice, I’m all ears! I’m especially interested in any first-hand experience with a Mini PC model running Linux. Please feel free to comment with your suggestions and links.

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Mario recommends WB2JKJ as a source for hard-to-find printed manuals

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who writes:

Not sure if you are familiar with this site, run by Tony, WB2JKJ, a NYC school teacher and a great guy:

https://www.hamradiomanuals.com/

I’ve dealt with him in the past with excellent satisfaction. I know that many manuals can be found free on-line, but if that isn’t the case, Tony may have it.

He’s also involved with teaching city school kids about amateur radio and welcomes donations of ham radio gear. I’ve donated items to his cause and felt good about it: http://www.wb2jkj.org/

He always follows up with a nice thank you letter from the school.

Thank you so much for sharing this recommendation, Mario!

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W2ENY: New military handset and other accessories for the Mission RGO One

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don, who notes that W2ENY has developed a full suite of products for the Mission RGO ONE (click here to read our review of the RGO One).

Don notes that W2ENY is producing a military handset, desk mic, headset with boom mic, and PTT cable.

Click here to check out these products at W2ENY.com.

Thanks for the tip, Don!

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Mark finds an affordable IP67 rated protective case for the Yaesu FT-891

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Thomas,

I got a new FT-891 recently and wanted a protective case for taking it out into the field.

A mixture of internet searches and Amazon algorithms turned up this very affordable case which closely matches the size of the radio, as the enclosed photograph shows.

It uses the familiar pick and pluck foam, although in two layers.

The base layer is a bit thin, so I might put a layer of rigid plastic over it to stop the feet of the radio pushing down to the outer case.

I prioritised the side wall thickness opposite from the carry handle, as the case is designed to sit on its side like a briefcase.

Via Amazon USA ($29.31)

Via Amazon UK (£20.99)

Mark

Wow, Mark! I do love the size of this case and the fact that it fits the FT-891 so perfectly.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about building out a case to hold one of my smaller QRP transceivers (the KX1, KX2, or MTR3B) in the field to be used when it’s raining. Perhaps this has been on my mind because I’ve been enjoying nearly 5 straight days of rain and fog! A case like this would be an affordable solution and I wouldn’t feel terribly bad about drilling through the case to mount antenna, key, mic, and headphone ports.

I, for one, would love your thoughts about the Yaesu FT-891 as well. I’ve contemplated reviewing it this year mainly because so many field operators rave about it. I’d be curious what you think about it in terms of shortwave radio listening.

Thank you again for the tip!

Note that the Amazon affiliate links above support the SWLing Post at no cost to you. If you’d rather not use these links, simply search Amazon for “Max MAX004S.” Thank you!

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