Category Archives: Kits

Building the EA3GCY DB4020 Dual-band 40 and 20M QRP SSB Transceiver Kit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Frank (ON6UU), who shares the following guest post:


Building EA3GCY’s DB4020 QRP Transceiver kit

by Frank Lagaet (ON6UU)

In May, I discovered via a newsletter that a new kit was available from Javier EA3GCY in Spain.  I was immediately sold as this was a kit from my favourite kit producer and it has 2 bands–it will also be able to do CW and there also will be a CW filter.

After building 2 MFT’s from Javier which work without problems, I needed to have the DB4020.  The MFT’s are for 20 and 40 mtrs and do DSB (double side band).  I did put them in a not-so-graceful box but they do what they are intended for which is QRP phone (SSB).   They came together without problems so I expected the same for the DB4020–I knew for sure when I saw the board:  all through-hole components (except for some capacitors which are factory soldered) and a lot of space on the board.   The board has been silk-screened with clear indications on where all components have to come and the manual has very clear instructions where each component has to be soldered with referral to a quadrant.  The manual provides a 252 quadrant page so it is a piece of cake to find where each piece goes.

What do you get?

Javier provides you with all components which need to be installed on the board and, of course, the kit board.  The components come in small marked plastic bags and all is well-wrapped up in bubble wrap.  The board is wrapped separately and that is put together with the component wrap which is then again wrapped up in bubble plastic.  All goes into an envelope.  Very well packed I must say.

Here’s a picture of the bags with components:

The silk-screened board:

I started with the resistors since that’s the easiest way. After that, I did the capacitors.  I like to solder in all flat components first, so next were the diodes and IC sockets followed by the elco’s.  The transistors were next together with all relays.  As you solder in the transistors one also has to mount the cooling heatsinks,  these cooling sinks are high and are ideal to protect the coils one has to make,  they also protect the polystyrene caps (which I always find vulnerable) when the board is upside down.

Many kit builders are afraid of winding the toroids in kits–don’t be!  It is easy.  Just take your time and follow the instructions given by Javier in the construction manual.  In this kit the builder has to wind 8 toroids:  6 are a single wire which goes through the toroid body,  1 is a toroid with 2 different windings, and 1 has a twisted pair which goes through the final toroid.  Be sure to measure the wire you need per toroid as instructed in the manual.  Javier gives some spare, so you can be sure.  You will also see that on next picture where the legs of the toroids have not been trimmed yet.  Once done I still had some centimetres of wire leftover.

Picture of the toroids ready to be soldered in:

Finally all other parts and pin headers went in,  jumpers were immediately put on where needed.

As I’m using a military-grade plastic box, I have to break-out some components like the display,  tuning encoder,  volume and rx control from the board.  I also have put an on/off switch on the box and already have the CW KEY connector ready installed. I also installed a loudspeaker in the box.  The SI5351 board and the Ardiuno Nano are the final components which go into the board after installing all wires.

Picture of the board:

I intend to attach a CW paddle to the box made out of a relay.  A HWEF tuner (from EA3GCY) which I was planning to incorporate in the box is I think a bit overkill. That HWEF tuner is already in a nice little box and would be a pity to dismantle,  also I’m running out of space in the box…  Maybe I can fit in a 9-1unun which would then give me good results on both bands…?

Maybe I will install a battery pack in the same box.

The box with board installed:

The box completed front side:

Mind you,  it still needs some additional switches for the CW part of the transceiver.

73
Frank (ON6UU)

Video


Brilliant, Frank! I really appreciate the video as well–sounds like the kit produces smooth audio and should serve you well. No doubt, that military box enclosure will survive even the roughest field conditions!

Click here to check out the DB4020 kit at EA3GCY’s store.

Spread the radio love

Frank recommends the DB4020 QRP transceiver kit by EA3GCY

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Frank (ON6UU), who writes:

As so many, I enjoy reading your posts on the SWLing Post, very clear and understandable written with eye for details. I just did a “read-again” of the QCX+ article and thought that maybe you also would be interested in another European kit, namely the DB4020 by Javier Solans of QRP HAMRADIO KITS in Spain.

The DB4020 is a 2 band kit enabling you to do 40 and 20 meters, SSB and CW. The SSB part of the kit can be obtained for 150€ (169$), Print is a beautiful doubled sided silkscreen with enough space to mount all parts without problems. Some SMD parts are factory installed by Javier, all other parts are normal parts that can be soldered by anyone who knows how to hold a soldering iron. The CW part is an additional module which needs to be plugged into the main board. There will also be a CW filter available soon.

For more information please see : https://www.qrphamradiokits.com/transceivers/db4020-dual-band-ssb/#cc-m-product-12710260049

I’m building the kit at the moment and enjoy every minute of it. I’m not related or don’t have any benefit in sending you this mail, only want to draw some attention to a great kit and super friendly owner who goes the extra mile to have happy customers.

Have a great day

Thank you for the tip, Frank–and I’m glad you enjoy the SWLing Post! EA3GCY’s kit does look very nice indeed. We would love to see your photos once the kit is complete! It looks like a kit I’d certainly love building!

Click here to check out the DB4020 QRP Kit at QRPHamRadioKits.com.

Spread the radio love

Just pulled the trigger on the new QCX+ CW/WSPR QRP transceiver kit

I’m a real sucker for kits of any stripe.

A few days ago, my buddy, Pete (WB9FLW), sent me a tip about the new QCX+ CW/WSPR transceiver by QRP Labs. I posted an announcement on QRPer.com.

I’ve yet to build a QRP Labs kit, but I’ve only heard positive reviews from readers and friends. QRP Labs’ president, Hans Summers (G0UPL), is an amazing kit designer and, indeed, won the 2019 Homebrew Heroes Award.

Hans kindly took a break so that I could snap his photo at Hamvention 2019.

Last year, at the 2019 Hamvention, QRP Labs had a table across from ours and, based on the amount of people huddled around his table all day long, I’m certain he was one of the busiest vendors at Hamvention.

His new QCX+ transceiver is an upgraded/updated version of the original QCX transceiver which has sold nearly 10,000 units. In the following video, Hans describes in detail how the QCX+ is designed and the differences between it and its predecessor:

Since I’ve quite a few things on my Social DX bucket list–including the recent addition of QRP EME (I mean, what am I thinking?)–and since I don’t really need yet another CW QRP transceiver, I required a good excuse to buy and build this kit. So I turned to my editor at RadCom who very much wanted review. Fantastic excuse! Thank you!

The amazing thing about the QCX+ is you getting a full-featured single band QRP transceiver for $55 US plus a modest shipping fee. This means pretty much anyone can afford to buy and build one.

I just placed an order for the transceiver ($55) with a 40M band module, the optional custom aluminum enclosure ($25), and the optional GPS receiver ($23). If I had a 3D printer, I might have skipped the enclosure because I’m willing to bet that shortly after the transceiver’s release, someone will share an enclosure design one can print at home. Then again, since I know I’ll take this little rig to the field, an aluminum enclose will provide excellent protection.

I purchased the optional GPS receiver because I plan to eventually put this rig into use as a dedicated WSPR beacon. The GPS module will calibrate the frequency, time, and Maidenhead Locator grid square in WSPR mode. It can also be used to precisely calibrate the transceiver’s synthesizer reference oscillator.

Kit anticipation time!

According to the QRP Labs website, they plan to start shipping the QCX+ in mid-June. I opted for FedEx delivery, so hopefully it’ll arrive sometime around my birthday (Happy Birthday to me!).

More than anything, I simply enjoy building kits and really look forward to building the QCX+, then putting it on the air! I’ll post updates and a few photos here, but look for my full review likely this fall in the pages of RadCom.

Post readers: Please comment if you’ve built a QRP Labs kit or have any other kits in the pipeline this summer!

Spread the radio love

The Ham Radio Workbench 12 VDC Power Distribution Strip Kit

I had a number of important plans and goals yesterday which I conveniently set aside to build kits instead. Have you ever had one of those days?

Building kits is a little like therapy for me. I find it relaxing, fun, and it gives me an opportunity to tune out everything else in the world while that soldering iron is hot.

The first kit I built was one I purchased this year at Hamvention: the Ham Radio Workbench 12 VDC Power Distribution Strip.

I’ve been on a search for two types of fused Anderson Powerpole distribution panels: a portable one for the field with at least 4 ports, and a large one for the shack with 12-16 ports and at least two USB 5VDC ports.

Sadly, there is no large one on the market that I would like right now. I checked every vendor at Hamvention and the Huntsville Hamfest this year and while there are large panels available, none of them have USB ports. That and the price for a 12-16 position DC distribution panel can easily exceed $120.

As for the small panels for field use, many of them are a bit too bulky and pricey. The inexpensive ones lack individually fused ports.

My buddy Dave (K4SV) knew I was on the hunt, so at Hamvention he directed me to the Ham Radio Workbench podcast table. There, I found the ideal portable solution in kit form.  And the price?  A whopping $25.

Take my money!

Yesterday, I built the kit in near record time. It went together so fast, I forgot to take progress photos.

What I love about this DC distribution kit is it actually has more features than other products on the market:

  • There’s a green LED to indicate power has been applied to the panel and a red LED to indicate any faults
  • Each position is individually fused with standard blade fuses
  • Each position also has a red LED to indicate if the fuse has blown

I also love the size and configuration.

The kit does not come with an enclosure or base of any sort, so I had planned to simply attach it to a dielectric plate to prevent the bottom of the board from shorting on a conductive surface.

This morning, however, I discovered a 3D-printed enclosure from Rocket City 3D:

This enclosure protects the entire panel on all sides so I’ll be able to throw it in my backpack and not worry about the connectors snagging on other items. The price is a reasonable $12 shipped. Done!

This little DC panel pairs well with the 4.5 aH Bioenno Lithium Iron Phosphate battery I purchased on sale at the Huntsville Hamfest. Together, they’ll power the portable SDR system I’m putting together. More on that in a future post! Stay tuned!

Click here to check out this kit at HamRadio Workbech. It’s currently out-of-stock, but you might contact HRW and see if a future run is in the works. Click here to check out the custom enclosure from Rocket City 3D.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

QRPGuys Active Antenna Splitter Kit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who shares the following announcement from Ken (WA4MNT) via the QRP-L forum:

QRPGuys is open for orders after this year’s Summer shutdown. We have  added a product that may be of special interest to SWL listeners and some hams. It is an active antenna splitter that will enable connection to three receivers from a single antenna.

Product Deescription:

The KN8TND Active RX Antenna Splitter will allow you to use one antenna with mulitple HF receivers simultaneously. Many hams and SWLers like to monitor several bands and/or frequencies, i.e. 14.300, international nautical emergency freq, 14.100, world HF beacons, etc, etc. Having two or three HF receiving antennas is a luxury some Hams and SWLers can’t afford. With the active receiver antenna splitter you can use one antenna and three receivers at the same time. Keep abreast of what’s going on on the bands, put some of those dust collecting receivers back in action. On a difficulty scale of 1 to 5, this kit is a 2. Build time is about 2 hours, depending on your experience, with the normal kit tools. Bear in mind, this is for receiving only. For HF transceivers you would need a T/R switch to your tuned transmitting antenna.

Come by and see it at:
https://qrpguys.com/k8tnd-active-antenna-splitter

QRPGuys makes amazing QRP kits. Immediately after receiving Eric’s email, I purchased the active antenna splitter kit. Total cost with shipping was $25 US. A true bargain! Although I already have an ELAD Active antenna splitter, this one would be nice to take to the field as it’s much smaller and lighter weight.

Click here to check out the new Active Antenna Splitter at QRPGuys.

Spread the radio love

Hamvention Highlights: The QRP Labs QSX 10 watt, general coverage, low-cost HF transceiver kit

Hans (G0UPL) of QRP Labs holding a QSX transceiver prototype at the 2019 Hamvention

Each year at the Dayton Hamvention I enjoy checking out the latest radio products and services. This year (2019) I found an exceptional number of innovations and will share these in Hamvention Highlights posts. If you would like to check out 2019 Hamvention Highlights as I publish them, bookmark this tag: 2019 Hamvention Highlights

The QRP Labs QSX Transceiver

Hans (G0UPL) of QRP Labs was, without a doubt, one of the most popular guys at the 2019 Hamvention — especially within the QRP community. In fact, at the Four Days In May (FDIM) vendors’ night his table was so busy I didn’t bother trying to force my way through the crowd to speak with him.

As luck would have it, our own table for ETOW was directly across from QRP Labs table at the the Greene County Fairgrounds so, in the end, I spent some quality time with Hans over the course of the Hamvention.

I’ll also make prediction: if the 10 band QSX transceiver delivers what it promises, it will be a serious disruptor in the ham radio transceiver world! This is a good thing. Why?

The QSX is a feature-packed, all-mode, high-performance, affordable, QRP transceiver.

The QSX will have a 24-bit Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) and a 24-bit Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). It will be a fully stand-alone unit and, since it’s an SDR and sports robust DSP, when connected to your PC, it will be recognized as a high-performance sound card. This equates to nearly native digital mode integration without the need for an external sound card interface.

The QSX Prototype Back Panel

The QSX Transceiver will be a through-hole kit with the surface-mounted components pre-installed on the circuit boards. This means the kit should be accessible to anyone with soldering skills.

Hans has even managed to include a mini spectrum display on the front backlit LCD panel.

The price? Around $150 US in total for the transceiver kit, 10 band filter module and enclosure. Unbelievable!

If Hans can pull this off — and I feel pretty confident he can — the QSX will set a new bar for QRP transceiver pricing and performance.

If you’d like more details about the QSX transceiver, check out the following resources sent to me by SWLing Post contributor, Pete Eaton:

The 10 band QSX will sport a general coverage receiver and although though the modes supported currently don’t include AM, Hans plans to add AM for at least reception purposes. This could make for a high-performance stand-alone SDR field radio for HF broadcast listening.

Of course, I also see the QSX transceiver as an accessible entry radio for new ham radio operators who are nervous about forking out $800+ for a new HF transceiver.

I will certainly grab the 10 band QSX transceiver kit when it becomes available and review it here on the SWLing Post. Stay tuned!

If you would like to follow other Hamvention Highlights, bookmark the tag: 2019 Hamvention Highlights


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Taking the new Mission RGO One transceiver to the field!

SWLing Post readers might recall that last year at the 2018 Hamvention, I met with radio engineer, Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR), who was debuting the prototype of his 50 watt transceiver kit: the Mission RGO One (click here to read that post).

Since last year, I’ve been in touch with Boris, and we arranged to meet again at the 2019 Hamvention so I could take a closer look at the RGO One, especially since he has started shipping the first limited production run.

The RGO One delivers everything Boris promised last year and Boris is on schedule, having finished all of the hardware design and having implemented frequent firmware updates to add functionality.

Excellent first impressions

I’ll be honest: I think the RGO One was one of the most exciting little radios to come out of Hamvention this year. Why?

First of all, in contrast to some radios I’ve tested and evaluated over the past two years, I can tell immediately that the Mission RGO One was developed by an active ham radio operator and DXer.

Here are some of the RGO One features and highlights as taken from the preliminary product manual (PDF):

    • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W [can actually be lowered to 0 watts out in 1 watt increments]
    • All mode shortwave operation – coverage of all HAM HF bands (160m/60m optional)
    • High dynamic range receiver design including high IP3 monolithic linear amplifiers in the front end and diode ring RX mixer or H-mode first mixer (option).
    • Low phase noise first LO – SI570 XO/VCXO chip.
    • Full/semi (delay) QSK on CW; PTT/VOX operation on SSB. Strict RX/TX sequencing scheme. No click sounds at all!
    • Down conversion superhet topology with popular 9MHz IF
    • Custom made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type 200…2000Hz
    • Fast acting AGC (fast and slow) with 134kHz dedicated IF
    • Compact and lightweight body [only 5 lbs!]
    • Custom made multicolor backlit FSTN LCD
    • Custom molded front panel with ergonomic controls.
    • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside – solid state GaAs PHEMT SPDT switches on RX (BPF and TX to RX switching) and ultrafast rectifying diodes (LPF)
    • Modular construction – Main board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, inter-connections and acts as a cable harness.
    • Optional modules – Noise Blanker (NB), Audio Filter (AF), ATU, XVRTER, PC control via CAT protocol; USB UART – FTDI chipset
    • Double CPU circuitry control for front panel and main board – both field programmable via USB interface.
    • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B); 4 Memory locations 128 bytes each

What really sets the Mission RGO apart from its competitors is the fact that it’s compact, lightweight (only 5 lbs!), and has a power output of up to 50 watts. Most other rigs in this class have a maximum output of 10 to 15 watts and require an external amplifier for anything higher.

The RGO One should also play for a long time on battery power as the receive current drain is a modest 0.65A with receiver preamp on.

The RGO is also designed to encourage a comfortable operating position. The bail lifts the front of the radio so that the faceplate and backlit screen are easily viewed at any angle.

The keypad is intuitive and–hold your applause!–all of the important functions are within one button or knob press!

The front panel design is simple and clean. There are no embedded menus to navigate to change filter width, power level, RF gain, keyer speed, mic gain, pre amp, or audio monitor level. Knob spacing is excellent and I believe I would even be able to operate the RGO while wearing gloves.

Even split-operation is designed so that, with one button press, you can easily monitor a pile-up and position your transmit frequency where the DX station last worked a station. (This is similar to the Icom XFC button). The user-interface is intuitive; it’s obvious to me that Boris built this radio around working DX at home and in the field.

Speaking of the field…

Parks On The Air (POTA) with the Mission RGO One

At my request, Boris has kindly loaned me one of the first production run units to test and review over the next few months. I intend to evaluate this radio at home, in the field, and (especially) on Field Day. By July, I should have a very good idea of how well this Bulgaria-born transceiver performs under demanding radio conditions!

I had planned to begin my RGO One evaluation after returning home from Hamvention, but I couldn’t resist taking it to the field, even though the propagation forecast was dismal.

The first leg of my journey home from Hamvention took me to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, so I scheduled a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation of Delaware State Park, K-1946.

Delaware State Park (POTA K-1946) in Delaware, Ohio.

My buddy Miles (KD8KNC) and I met our mutual friend Mike (K8RAT) at the park entrance and quickly found a great site with tall trees, a little shade, and a large picnic table.

We set up the RGO One and, for comparison, my Elecraft KX2 for the POTA activation.

I won’t lie: band conditions were horrible. Propagation was incredibly weak, QRN was high, and QSB was deep. Yuck!

Still, this activation gave me a chance to test the RGO One in proper field conditions.

I was limited to SSB since the only CW key I had with me, the paddle specifically designed to attach to the front panel of the Elecraft KX2, wouldn’t work with the RGO One. In addition, I was limited to 25 watts output because the antenna I deployed, the LnR Precision EFT Trail-Friendly end-fed antenna, can only handle power up to 25 watts.

Although I had never operated the radio before, I was able to sort out most of its functions and features quickly.

The receiver audio was excellent and the noise floor seemed quite low to my ears. The internal speaker does a fine job producing audio levels that are more than ample for a field setting.  Still, I prefer operating with a set of earphones in the field–especially important on days like this when propagation equates to a lot of weak signals.

Although I failed to make a total of ten contacts to claim a proper POTA activation, I was pleased with offering up K-1946 to seven lucky POTA hunters/chasers. I simply didn’t have enough time available to work three stations more at such a slow QSO rate.

Of course, my signal reports were averaging “5 by 5” and were never more than “5 by 7” regardless of which rig–the RGO One or the KX2–I was using. The reports on the RGO One transmit audio reports were great.

Stay tuned!

I will publish my first review of the Mission RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor Magazine, most likely in August or September.  In the meantime, I will post updates here as I put the RGO One through its paces. I’m especially excited about using it during Field Day with my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) to see how it holds up in such an RF-dense environment.

And now that the POTA bug has bitten me?  Expect to catch me on the air with the RGO One over the next few weeks!

If you’re interested in following the Mission RGO One, bookmark the tag: RGO ONE.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love