Category Archives: Ham Radio

Radio Waves: Guardians of Early Recordings, VOA Firewall, New DRM-Based HF Station, and Breakfast on BBC Essex Features Amateur Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Kim Elliott, Benn Kobb, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


Meet the guardians of the world’s earliest musical recordings (LA Times)

The voice seeps in as if from another dimension, hissy and distant, like an AM radio broadcaster transmitting through late-night static.

“‘The Ambassador March’ by Brown’s Orche-streee for the Los Angeles Phonograph Company of Los Angeles, California,” a man announces with a gentlemanly accent. After a moment’s scratchy pause, a violinist opens with a melody, and a small orchestra jumps in. Led by a Long Beach-based bandleader named E.R. Brown, the song dances along for two minutes.

The fidelity is primitive by today’s high-definition audio standards, a quaint toss-away. But “The Ambassador March” and the Coke-can-sized wax cylinder upon which it was etched into permanence in the late 1800s open a portal to another era.

That wax cylinder and others like it — rescued from rural estate sales and dusty attics — have survived earthquakes, heat waves, mold and indifference. They feature Mexican folk songs; military band marches; minstrelsy songs of the kind that preceded American blues, folk and country music; and the voices of former Lincoln cabinet members, Southern senators, popes, preachers and comedians. Their survival is emblematic of a revolution that allowed sound to be freed from its origins. Once untethered, the world would be forever changed.[]

US international broadcasting: Rebuilding the firewall in the new administration (The Hill)

by Kim Andrew Elliott

President-elect Joe Biden, who as a senator had a key interest in U.S. international broadcasting, is looking at its future.

He named Richard Stengel, former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, to head the transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Under USAGM are the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc., Radio Free Asia Inc., Office of Cuba Broadcast (Radio/TV Martí to Cuba) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. (the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).

With government officials under President Trump instructed not to cooperate with Biden’s teams, the transition for the time being will have to be done from afar. The Trump-appointed USAGM CEO Michael Pack, whose leadership has fomented several controversies since he was installed in June, might decide to be a benign, if uncooperative, caretaker until the new management comes in. Or he could impose personnel changes and alterations in content that could diminish the credibility of the USAGM entities, a situation that could take years to repair.

During his campaign, Biden promised to fire Pack. Pack might try to serve out the three-year term stipulated in the legislation that replaced the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with a politically appointed CEO (Pack being the first). If such an attempt ends up in court, a June Supreme Court decision overruling the fixed term of the director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, a victory for the Trump administration, could, ironically, be the undoing of any plans by Pack to stay on at USAGM.

Pack has already left his mark by rescinding the firewall “rule” published in June by the outgoing BBG. The rule, however, was not an act of Congress or a presidential directive. It was simply language placed in the Federal Register “to codify and memorialize definitions and practices associated with the firewall.” On such shallow roots, this tree was easy to fall. In October, Pack issued a repeal, which waved away the firewall rule as readily as it was instituted.[]

A New HF Station that’s Similar, but Different (DRMNA.info)

On October 21, 2020, DPA Mac LLC filed a FCC license application for a new, DRM-based International Broadcast Station to be located in Maple Park, IL. The principal is San Francisco entrepreneur Seth Kenvin and its technical consultant is Tamir Ostfeld of Raft Technologies, an Israeli developer of low-latency HF systems for so-called algorithmic trading.

No station devoted to algorithmic trading has ever been authorized for regular commercial operation in the U.S., as there is no formal radio service or spectrum allocation for that purpose. Several such stations have been licensed in the Experimental Radio Service (ERS), which is ostensibly for scientific studies only.

If the FCC licenses DPA Mac, it will be the first such station to make the transition from the ERS to regular, non-experimental licensing. This station would be the successor to experimental station WI2XXG. Other than the license document, the FCC has withheld most of WI2XXG’s records from public disclosure since it was first licensed in 2017.

DPA Mac is similar to other DRM stations on which we previously reported: WIPE in Alpine, NJ, which is built and is waiting on its FCC license; and WPBC, proposed for Batavia, IL. With regard to their use for non-broadcast, private data transmissions, those stations made general and non-descriptive representations to the FCC. On the other hand, DPA Mac’s license application is fairly transparent. The station aims to transmit “investment data from points within the United States to locations outside the United States carried over a channel immediately adjacent to the HF broadcasts…a low-power, low-latency digital data transmission service provided to private investors, including small- and medium-sized firms.” [Continue reading…]

Amateur radio on BBC Radio Essex

On Tuesday, November 24, CB and amateur radio featured in Sonia Watson’s popular Breakfast show on BBC Radio Essex

Among those interviewed was the Chair of Essex Ham, Pete M0PSX, who talked about the resurgence of interest in amateur radio.

Listen to the interview at 1:38:20 in this recording
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08xv7dv

You can find out more about amateur radio and the free Essex Ham Foundation Online training course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

You can follow Essex Ham on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/EssexHam

 


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Radio Waves: Potential for Change at USAGM, Judge Rules Pack Unconstitutionally Interfered With VOA, Solar Cycle 25 Could be Strong, and DEF CON Ham Radio Videos

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dan Robinson and Eric McFadden for the following tips:


The Biden Choice on USAGM: Business as usual, or major change (USC Center on Public Diplomancy)

Several years ago, I wrote about ongoing problems at Voice of America and its parent agency, which re-branded in 2018 as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), and how Donald Trump would deal with them.

I suggested that the Voice of America could be shut down with little impact on the global media scene. This sparked outrage in some quarters, especially from those invested in perpetuating the yearly $600 million to $800 million taxpayer-funded media structure aimed at foreign audiences.

Space limitations prohibit a thorough review of events since Donald Trump’s nominee to head USAGM, Michael Pack, finally achieved Senate confirmation and took up his post after being blocked for two years by Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans.

Pack faced a wave of hit pieces by major anti-Trump media as he moved to gain control of the bloated and entrenched USAGM bureaucracy, confront security issues at USAGM, and tackle political bias at VOA. His removal of key officials in charge of USAGM networks is still being fought out in the courts.[]

Trump Appointee Unconstitutionally Interfered With VOA, Judge Rules (NPR)

The chief executive over the Voice of America and its sister networks has acted unconstitutionally in investigating what he claimed was a deep-seated bias against President Trump by his own journalists, a federal judge has ruled.

Citing the journalists’ First Amendment protections, U.S. Judge Beryl Howell on Friday evening ordered U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack to stop interfering in the news service’s news coverage and editorial personnel matters. She struck a deep blow at Pack’s authority to continue to force the news agency to cover the president more sympathetically.

Actions by Pack and his aides have likely “violated and continue to violate [journalists’] First Amendment rights because, among other unconstitutional effects, they result in self-censorship and the chilling of First Amendment expression,” Howell wrote in her opinion. “These current and unanticipated harms are sufficient to demonstrate irreparable harm.”[]

Sunspot Cycle 25 could be among the strongest ever (Southgate ARC)

The ARRL reports a research paper has concluded that Solar Cycle 25 will stronger than the just-ended Solar Cycle 24 and likely stronger than Solar Cycle 23

The League says:

A research paper, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude,” by Scott W. McIntosh, Deputy Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, et al., has concluded that Solar Cycle 25 could be among the strongest sunspot cycles ever observed, and will almost certainly be stronger than the just-ended Solar Cycle 24 (sunspot number of 116). The scientists say it will also most likely be stronger than Solar Cycle 23 (sunspot number of 180). As the abstract explains:

“The sun exhibits a well-observed modulation in the number of spots on its disk over a period of about 11 years. From the dawn of modern observational astronomy, sunspots have presented a challenge to understanding — their quasi-periodic variation in number, first noted 175 years ago, stimulates community-wide interest to this day. A large number of techniques are able to explain the temporal landmarks, (geometric) shape, and amplitude of sunspot ‘cycles;’ however, forecasting these features accurately in advance remains elusive.

“Recent observationally motivated studies have illustrated a relationship between the sun’s 22-year magnetic cycle and the production of the sunspot cycle landmarks and patterns, but not the amplitude of the sunspot cycle. Using (discrete) Hilbert transforms on more than 270 years of (monthly) sunspot numbers, we robustly identify the so-called ‘termination’ events that mark the end of the previous 11-year sunspot cycle, the enhancement/acceleration of the present cycle, and the end of 22-year magnetic activity cycles. Using these, we extract a relationship between the temporal spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles.

“Given this relationship and our prediction of a terminator event in 2020, we deduce that Sunspot Cycle 25 could have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of Sunspot Cycle 25 magnitude.”

McIntosh’s recorded presentation of the paper is available at this link
Use passcode z7qCn@3G

The research paper is at
https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.15263.pdf

Source ARRL Letter November 19, 2020
http://www.arrl.org/arrlletter

DEF CON ham radio talks on YouTube (Southgate ARC)

Talks from the DEF CON event are available on YouTube, they include a number of amateur radio talks from the conference’s Ham Radio Village

Among the amateur radio talks are:
• Talking to Satellites by Eric Escobar KJ6OHH
• The K0BAK News Van by Pete Kobak K0BAK
• Single Board Computers (Raspberry Pi) In Amateur Radio by Typer Gardner KI7ODK
• Ham Radio Snail Mail NTS and the Radiogram Format by Aaron Hulett K8AMH
• Hunting tape measure yagis and offset attenuators by Mark Smith KR6ZY
• APRS Demo by Bryan Lamoreaux KG7OOW

Ham Radio Village Playlist
Click here

Other DEF CON videos are at
https://www.youtube.com/user/DEFCONConference/videosoo


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End of an Era: Universal Radio is closing shop

Universal Radio’s showroom at their previous Reynoldsburg location

While I’m very happy for my friends Fred and Barbara Osterman as they head into a well-deserved retirement, I’m very sad that Universal Radio will be closing.

I’ve been a Universal Radio customer since before I was a licensed ham radio operator. They have been–and are to this day–the one ham radio radio retailer that still specialized in shortwave radio receivers.

Fred and Barbara have generously supported numerous radio clubs, organizations, and non-profit organizations throughout the years and are simply some of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Fred and Barbara shared the following message with their customers:


Dear Friends Of Universal Radio,

Time waits for no one, and that includes Barbara and myself. We have decided to retire and our current location in Worthington
will close on November 30, 2020. Even though the store is closing we will fulfill all existing customer orders and have a large amount of inventory to close-out. The Universal Radio website will be maintained for the foreseeable future to sell this remaining stock, publications and some select products. Unfortunately the lack of a store front showroom will preclude us from carrying some manufacturers’ products.

I am very fortunate to have been in the radio business for over 50 years, 13 at Radio Shack and 37 at Universal Radio. We have met many wonderful people along the journey who have supported me personally as well as Universal Radio. It has been a privilege to have a continuous career in the fascinating field of radio since 1969.

Please accept our sincere “Thank You” for your support of Universal Radio
for these many years, and for the months to come.

Our new address for correspondence and mail order is below.
This is not a store front.

Universal Radio Inc.
752 N. State St. Unit 222
Westerville, OH 43082

Phone: 614 866-4267

Thank you.

73,

Fred Osterman N8EKU
Barbara Osterman KC8VWI


Thank you, Fred and Barbara, and here’s wishing you a very happy retirement!

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The best radio you have is the one in front of you

This autumn, I’ve received a number of emails from new readers who’ve dusted off the radio in their closet and decided to get back into shortwave radio listening and/or ham radio.

I can’t recall another time I’ve gotten so many similar messages and I can only attribute it to the fact so many people across the globe are still having to social distance due to the C-19 pandemic.

There’s.a common theme in the messages I’ve been receiving from readers. Here’s an excerpt from the latest message (note that I removed the model name from this question because, frankly, it’s irrelevant):

“[My radio] seems to be in great working order. It’s been stored in a climate controlled environment and besides needing a little DeOxit on some of the pots, it works like new. I couldn’t be happier! My question to you is, this model is from the 1990s when I used to be hot and heavy into radio. I know technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since then, so as I get back into radio maybe I should invest in a newer model? What do you think or suggest?”

It’s true that radio technology has gone through a massive number of innovations since the 1990s. We’ve seen the advent of Software Defined Radios and portable receivers/transceivers sporting DSP technology.  Far be it from me to dissuade anyone from acquiring new gear!

With that said, I also believe that the best radio you have is the one in front of you. Period.

Listening is a skill

You can’t buy it. Whether you’re an SWL or ham radio operator, most of the time you’re on the air, you’re listening. And the best filter you have is the one in your head. I’ll quote from an article I posted many moons ago:

My good friend Vlado (N3CZ) is a case in point: he is one of the most capable ham radio DXers I know. His extraordinary ability to pull intelligible conversations and CW (Morse code) out of the static, even in crowded radio conditions, is simply astounding. Vlado’s main transceiver is nearly two decades old, and by no means a benchmark technically. If you ask Vlad if he uses filters and digital signal processing, he will wisely tell you, in his Macedonian accent: “Your best filter is between your ears.”

The same goes for SWLing. I have spent enough time listening to shortwave and weak DX that I can now pull conversations out of the noise that my (non-radio) friends can barely detect. I’m convinced this is healthy exercise for the old grey matter.

A seasoned radio enthusiast can grab any radio and make the most of it.

Imagine what Joe Walsh could do with a toy guitar…

Do you think the guitar makes him one of the greatest guitarists of all time?

 

Many of the advances in technology over the past two or three decades has, of course, given us better tools for working weak signals. But more importantly, it’s brought down the price of performance. I can invest $200 in an SDR that will perform as well as or better than multi thousand dollar benchmark receivers from the 1990s. So yes, in terms of equipment, it’s a brilliant time to be an SWL or ham radio operator.

But at the end of the day, your skills are more important your gear.

My advice?

Make the most of the radio you have.

Challenge yourself to log a certain amount of DX with your radio–try to work states, counties, provinces, regions, territories, or countries. Make your own goals!

Take your radio to the field.

Experiment with antennas.

Get to know your radio so well you can use it blindfolded!

If you still feel you want to invest more in your gear, go for it and don’t look back!

That will be all.

-Thomas

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Radio Waves: Solar-Powered Broadcast Transmitters, Decommissioning Arecibo, and HWN in the path of an International Broadcaster

Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope in November of 2020 (Credit: University of Central Florida)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Jerome van der Linden, Zack Schindler, and Wilbur Forcier and  for the following tips:


Powering communication networks using solar power (BAI Communications)

BAI Communications (BAI) is committed to reducing emissions and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Over the past four years, BAI has invested in a number of initiatives that reduce power consumption as well as the carbon released into the atmosphere.

This year, four solar-powered sites were introduced in BAI’s broadcast transmission network; Yatpool, Victoria; Mawson, Western Australia; Minding, Western Australia; and Brandon, Queensland.

The annual reduction in CO2 emissions from our recent solar investment is 698 tonnes, equivalent to reducing:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from 2.7km driven by an average passenger vehicle
  • CO2 emissions from charging 89 million smartphones
  • Greenhouse emissions from 237 tonnes of waste sent to landfill

Find out how BAI implemented this solar power initiative as part of our commitment to managing our energy use and reducing consumption.

Click here to download case study (PDF).

The complexity of sending sounds to (and from) space (Mashable)

Communication with astronauts in space is vital, whether it’s during travel, when they’re doing experiments on the International Space Station, or just want to chat. It’s also pretty tricky.

That’s the topic of the latest episode of Twenty Thousand Hertz, where host Dallas Taylor speaks with International Space Station commander Peggy Whitson, NASA audio engineer Alexandria Perryman, and astrophysicist Paul Sutter to get an idea of how communication between astronauts and Earth works across the vacuum of space.[]

NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope (Space News)

WASHINGTON — The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

Engineers advising the NSF and the University of Central Florida (UCF), which operates Arecibo for the NSF, concluded that it was not possible to safely repair the structure because of the collapse risk. “After the recent failure, WSP does not recommend allowing personnel on the platform or the towers, or anywhere in their immediate physical vicinity in case of potential sudden structural failure,” stated WSP, one engineering firm involved in that analysis, in a Nov. 11 letter to UCF.

“NSF has concluded that this recent damage to the 305-meter telescope cannot be addressed without risking the lives and safety of work crews and staff, and NSF has decided to begin the process of planning for a controlled decommissioning of the 305-meter telescope,” said Sean Jones, assistant director of the NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.

Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete.[]

International Broadcast Station Interference Overwhelms Hurricane Watch Net (ARRL News)

As Category 4 Hurricane Iota neared landfall in Central America on November 16, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) was forced to suspend operations at 0300 UTC because of what HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, described as “deafening interference from a foreign AM broadcast station that came out of nowhere at 0200 UTC.” At the time, the net had shifted to its 40-meter frequency of 7.268 kHz, collecting real-time weather and damage reports via amateur radio.

“This was heartbreaking for our team, as the eyewall of Iota was just barely offshore,” Graves said. “The storm had weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 MPH.” After activating at 1300 UTC, the net was able to collect and forward reports from various parts of Nicaragua and Honduras via WX4NHC throughout the day for relay to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Iota was the most powerful storm on record to make landfall this late in the hurricane season.

Graves said the very strong AM signal was on 7.265 MHz. “From my location, it was S-9,” he told ARRL. “You could not hear anything but the BC station.” The source of the signal was not clear, but as he noted, other foreign broadcast stations are to be heard from 7.265 to 7.300 MHz and splattering close by.

Stations handling emergency traffic during the response to Category 5 Hurricane Iota had requested clear frequencies on November 16 to avoid interfering with the HWN and with WX4NHC, as well as with a Honduran emergency net operation on 7.180 MHz and a Nicaraguan emergency net operating on 7.098 MHz. It’s not known if those nets were also affected by interference from the numerous broadcasters on 40 meters. “Thank you to all who allowed us a clear frequency,” Graves said on behalf of the HWN.[]

[Personal note: I understand that this is very late in the season for the Hurricane Watch Net to activate. Normally, they operate on 20 meters, but moved to 40 meters for the evening. I don’t believe net control was aware that this portion of the 40 meter band is shared with international broadcasters. I don’t believe the international broadcaster could be called “interference”–they operate on a publicly available schedule–ham radio nets are actually the ones who are frequency agile. This seems to have just caught them off guard. I believe the HWN will be using frequencies below 7.2 MHz moving forward.]


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HamEstate.com makes it easy for families of radio enthusiasts to sell gear

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares a link to HamEstate.com: an online site that simplifies the process of selling radio gear from family estates.

I was not familiar with this site, but it appears they have good reviews. Possibly an option for families who’ve no one to help them sell a loved one’s gear. Of course, you might enjoy browsing their offerings as well!

Click here to check out HamEstate.com.

Thanks for the tip, Mario!

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Portable tuner (ATU) options for the new Icom IC-705

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who asks:

What are good choices for ATU and 100W amplifier for the IC-705? [Also] will the Icom AH-4 antenna tuner work well with the IC-705?

Great questions, Paul!

100 Watt Amplifiers

I’ve limited experience pairing the IC-705 with external 100 watt amplifiers. I own the Elecraft KXPA100 and it pairs well with the IC-705 via RF sensing. My hope is that SWLing Post readers may be able to chime in here and offer more suggestions as there are a number of inexpensive, basic, amplifiers on the market now but I’ve never personally used or tested them. I can say that the KXPA100 is a beautifully-engineered amplifier.

Antenna tuners

Icom AH-4

First off, regarding the Icom AH-4 ATU, I’m not certain if the IC-705 has the same control commands as the AH-4 (I’m guessing it does, but perhaps someone can confirm–?).

It would not be my first choice as a portable antenna tuner for field work. For one thing, it’s a pricey at $300. That, and I’ve always viewed the AH-4 as more of a remote antenna tuner for those who need a permanent matching box outside the shack near the antenna feed point. For that application, I’m sure it’s amazing.

According to the AH-4 specifications, it requires “10 W (5–15 W)” of tuning power. I’m not quite sure what the “5-15” watts means, but the IC-705’s max output power is 10 watts using an external 12-13.8V battery, and only 5 watts using the BP-272 Li-ion Battery. Not sure if that would be adequate to trigger the AH-4 to find a match without some sort of command cable connection.

For portable ATUs, let’s take a look:

IC-705 Portable ATU Options

The Icom IC-705 actually has a port on the side of the radio that allows one to connect the rig to an ATU for some level automatic ATU control. At time of posting, there are two ATUs in the works that are able to use this port: the Mat-Tuner mAT-705 and the Icom AH-705 (there could be more, but I’m not aware of them).

Mat-Tuner mAT-705 ($220 US)

I reviewed the mAT-705 on QRPer.com (click here to read). In short, it’s absolutely brilliant at matching antennas quickly and efficiently, but it has a few design shortcomings. The main issue is that you must use a mechanical switch to turn it on and off, else you deplete the internal 9V battery within a week. Most similar ATUs either have auto-off functionality, or at least an external power option. Since the mAT-705 can connect directly to the IC-705, it automatically knows when you need to tune to a frequency and will do this anytime you send a carrier, hit PTT, or initiate tuning via the menu option. It can also remember frequencies you’ve already matches to make the process quicker. The mAT-705 is also RF-sensing, thus can work with other radios. Vibroplex is the US distributor of the mAT-705. Note, too, that there are a number of portable Mat-Tuners that will work with the IC-705–the mAT-705 is the only one that uses the IC-705 control cable (which I feel is actually unnecessary).  Check out their full product line before ordering.

Icom AH-705 ($T.B.A.)

The Icom AH-705 is Icom’s own external ATU designed to work with the IC-705 and fit in the LC-192 backpack. Since the AH-705 will be able to connect directly to the IC-705, its functionality will be very similar to the mAT-705. I’m speaking in future tense here because, at time of posting (18 November 2020), the AH-705 is not yet in production and we’ve no retail price. With that said, Icom has a legacy of making fine ATUs, so I’ve no doubt it’ll function well. Like the mAT-705, it has a mechanical on/off button so you may have to be aware of turning it off when not in use to preserve the internal alkaline batteries. Unlike the mAT-705, it has an external 13.8 VDC power connection. Universal Radio will update their site with pricing and shipping information once available.

Elecraft T1 ($160-$190 US)

The Elecraft T1 ATU has been in production for many years now and is a fabulous portable ATU. Not only is it incredibly adept at finding matches, but it’s also efficient in terms of power usage. It will run for months on an internal 9V battery (that’s very easy to replace in the field). The T1 has no special connection for the IC-705, but it does have an optional T1-FT817 adapter for the Yaesu FT-817 series transceivers. In truth though? I find control cables unnecessary because tuning the T1 only requires pressing the tune button on the ATU, then keying the transceiver. Once it finds a match, it shuts down and locks it in. You can purchase the T1 directly from Elecraft ($160 kit/$190 assembled). The Elecraft T1 is my portable ATU of choice.

LDG Z-100A ($180 US)

I’ve owned a number of LDG tuners over the years an absolutely love them. I find that they offer great bang-for-buck, perform amazingly well, and are built well. In fact, I designed an outdoor remote antenna tuning unit around their original Z-11 Pro auto tuner. It’s housed in a sealed waterproof enclosure, but is completely exposed to outdoor humidity and temperature changes (which can be dramatic here on the mountain). I’ve been powering the Z-11 Pro for 10 years off of a discarded sealed lead acid battery that’s being charged by a Micro M+ charge controller and 5 watt BP solar panel. I’ve never needed to maintenance it. One of LDG’s latest portable ATUs is the Z-100A. I’ve never used it, but I imagine it’ll perform well and I may very well reach out to LDG and ask for a loaner to review with the IC-705. It does have a command cable port that works with Icom radios, but I’m checking with LDG to see if it works with the IC-705 (I’ll update this post when I hear back). The LDG Z-100A retails for $180 via LDG’s website.

Emtech ZM-2

Shortwave radio listeners, especially, should take note of the Emtech ZM-2 balanced line tuner! Unlike the ATUs above, the ZM-2 is manual–meaning, you manually adjust the tuner’s L/C controls to achieve a match with your antenna. I’ve owned the ZM-2 for many years and have used it with a number of QRP transceivers. Since it’s not automatic, it might take a minute or so to find a match, but it’s worth the wait. The ZM-2 requires no batteries to operate, which makes it an invaluable and reliable little tool in the field. In addition, since the ZM-2 doesn’t require RF energy in order to find a match, it’s a brilliant choice for SWLs who want to tweak their wire antennas. I find it functions as well as if not better than other manual tuners designed specifically for receivers. The ZM-2 is also the most affordable of the bunch: you can purchase a pre-built unit for $87.50 from Emtech or $62.50 as a kit. I would advise purchasing one even if you also have an automatic antenna tuner–makes for a great back-up!

Other options?

This is by no means a comprehensive list of portable ATUs to pair with the IC-705, just a few suggestions. In fact, companies like MFJ Enterprises make a number of manual tuners that could easily be taken to the field and require no power source (much like the ZM-2 above).

Please comment if you have experience with other types of ATUs and please include links if possible!

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