Tag Archives: Discovery TX-500

Let’s hit the field with the new lab599 TX-500 Discovery QRP transceiver!

Yesterday, I took delivery of a lab599 TX-500 Discovery QRP transceiver. Many thanks to Josh at Ham Radio Crash Course for shipping it here and Ham Radio Outlet for trusting me with this fine machine for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for months–indeed, nearly a year.

A few initial impressions…

I won’t lie: the TX-500 is a gorgeous little transceiver and it’s solid.

The form factor is even a little smaller and lighter weight than I had imagined. I thought the multi-pin connectors on the side panels were the same size as, say, an XLR connector. Turns out, they’re much smaller and quite easy to use.

To put the TX-500 on the air, you’ll need to connect a minimum of three things: the power cable (terminated with Anderson Power Poles on the battery side), an antenna (BNC), and the speaker microphone. The TX-500 has no built-in speaker.

That’s all you’ll need if operating SSB. If operating CW, of course you’ll need to connect your key, but you’ll still need the speaker/mic connected for audio. That does make for quite a few things connected to the radio all at once.

The backlit display is high-contrast and easy to read indoors and in full sunlight. (And yes, that’s the Voice of Greece!)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a fan of speaker microphone combos, but I’ll readily admit that the one with the TX-500 is about as good as they come. It feels durable and produces serious volume. The audio fidelity is obviously built around voice and CW, so it’s not ideal for HF broadcast listening, although it does have an external mono speaker port on the side of the mic.

If I owned this TX-500, I would order another speaker/mic 6 pin connector and build a headphone cable for broadcast listening and CW use. An easy fix.

For SSB though? The provided speaker/mic works. Indeed, it works quite well in the field because it’s so easy to hear.

There’s so much more to this radio, but I’ll save that for future posts and my full review. Let’s talk code…

Attaching a key

This morning, the first thing I did was fire up my soldering iron and make a CW paddle cable. (I hope HRO doesn’t mind–I didn’t exactly think to ask. Come to think of it, let’s just keep this between us, ok?). I soldered three wires to the supplied 5 pin connector (pins 1, 2, and 5).

To keep things simple, I hooked the TX-500 up to my Vibroplex single lever paddle which sports three terminals, making it easy to connect to the CW cable pigtail. Plus, heck, any excuse to play with the Vibroplex, right!?

CW

I was so eager to see how the TX-500 would perform on CW, that immediately after hooking up the key the first time, I checked POTA spots and worked two stations (WR8F in Ohio and NG5E in Texas) in rapid succession. Here’s a video of the exchange with NG5E:

Note that I used my iPad to make this video and, for some reason, the mic accentuated the clicking/clacking of my Vibroplex key. It’s not normally that pronounced. 🙂

CW memory keying

One of my complaints about the TX-500 when I read the final feature list a couple weeks ago was that it lacked CW memory keying. To me, this was a major negative because many POTA and SOTA activators rely on CW keyer memories to help with their logging workflow in the field. I certainly do.

lab599 must have been listening because I found out last week that they implemented CW memory keying in the most recent beta firmware update. Woo hoo!

I was sent the firmware file and this morning had no issues installing it in the TX-500 with the firmware application/tool.

After I sorted out how to record and play back the CW memories using the top row of function buttons, I was ready to hit the field!

I packed the TX-500, and headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a POTA activation!

CW POTA activation

I only had a brief period of time to fit in an activation today, so I kept it simple by going to the Folk Art Center which has a number of picnic tables. A park ranger once asked that I not hang an antenna in a tree at this particular site, so I used my Wolf River Coils TIA portable vertical antenna.

The Wolf River Coils TIA

Truth is, I feel like I always get more mileage out of a wire antenna than a vertical when running QRP, but I worked with what I had.

I started calling CQ on 7063 kHz and within 10 minutes worked five stations.

The CW memory keyer worked well. There is currently a two second delay before the TX-500 begins transmitting, but I’m guessing that can be fixed in a future firmware update.

Here’s a short video of the TX-500 memory keyer in action:

The TX-500 uses a relay to switch between transmit and receive, so you can hear clicking in the background. I had the recovery time set to the shortest interval which resulted in the maximum amount of clicking. Good news is the TX-500 body is so solid, the clicking is quite soft and muted–about the softest clicking I’ve ever heard in a transceiver. You could, of course, minimize relay clicks by setting the T/R delay to a higher number.

I’m very impressed with the TX-500’s low noise floor and filtering. Signals just seem to pop out of this thing.

I played radio for a while longer but was eventually chased off by a thunderstorm.

I must admit: for the first time, I wasn’t terribly worried if it started raining and the radio got a bit wet. The TX-500 is weather-resistant so can certainly cope with a sprinkle.

More to come!

I’ve set a personal goal to take the TX-500 to the field seven days in a row. I’m not entirely sure that’s realistic as I see the amount of thunderstorm activity in the forecast. Still, one must have goals, right? Plus, any excuse to hit the field and play radio!

Please comment if you have questions about the TX-500. I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can!


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Video: Josh’s Lab599 TX-500 Deep Dive & Review

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don (W7SSB), who notes that Josh (KI6NAZ) at Ham Radio Crash Course has just posted his final TX-500 video. If you’ve been considering the TX-500, it’s very much worth your time:

Josh is actually sending me this very same TX-500 for review in The Spectrum Monitor magazine and here on the SWLing Post.

Please comment if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them while I have the unit here at SWLing Post HQ.

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Photos of the lab599 Discovery TX-500 in the field

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don (W7SSB), who shares the following photos of the new lab599 Discovery TX-500. Don notes that all of these photos were taken in Russia–where the TX-500 is manufactured–and include a number of Chameleon resonant field antennas.

Thanks for sharing these, Don.  The thin form-factor of the TX-500, paired with a resonant antenna, certainly makes for a lightweight portable field setup!

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Video: Josh takes us on a tour of the lab599 Discovery TX-500 QRP transceiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Josh (KI6NAZ), who shares a link to his YouTube channel where he takes us on a tour of the lab599 TX-500 Discovery:

Click here to check out Josh’s channel, Ham Radio Crash Course on YouTube.

Thanks for sharing this, Josh! The TX-500 is certainly a unicorn in the world of field-portable QRP radios since it’s designed to be weather-proof.

lab599 has confirmed that they will dispatch a TX-500 loaner unit for my upcoming review.  I’m looking forward to see how it plays in the field and might compare with other QRP rigs in my arsenal!

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The lab599 Discovery TX-500 QRP transceiver price and anticipated delivery via HRO

This evening, I discovered that HRO now has the long-awaited lab599 TX-500 transceiver available for purchase on their website.

I had actually placed an order for the radio, but I’ve asked to cancel it because I should have a loaner available for review.

Without a doubt, the TX-500 is one of the most anticipated QRP transceivers this year. Field operators have always wished for a rugged, weather-resistant portable radio and the TX-500 looks like it will fit the bill! Based on some of the videos we’ve seen, it should perform as well.

Click here to check out the TX-500 on the HRO website ($789.95 US at time of posting).

Update: HRO informs me that the lead time, or anticipated delivery is still weeks away.

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Any news about the labratory599 TX-500 Discovery QRP transceiver–?

A number of SWLing Post readers have been contacting me this month regarding the lab599 TX-500 Discovery QRP general coverage transceiver. Since its announcement around this time last year, a number of radio enthusiasts have been seeking any updates or information regarding price and availability.

Spoiler alert: Sadly, I have no meaningful updates at present.

Here’s what I do know…

The product page for the TX-500 now has more photos and specifications. They also added a downloads page with the manual, software, and firmware. [Update: I removed links to these pages because some systems report that the site may have gotten a malware injection–common with WordPress sites.]

Many of you have asked if the TX-500 will be “vaporware.”  Possibly, but I don’t believe so. I suspect lab599 is keeping everything under wraps until they have firm information regarding availability and pricing. I’m actually happy they haven’t asked for pre-orders with cash deposits because that always adds a layer of risk with products that are not yet in production. At this point, no consumers have an investment riding on this future rig.

Of course, I imagine the Covid-19 pandemic could also affect their supply chain.

Videos

There have been two new videos posted on the lab599 YouTube page this month.

The first video shows the TX-500 in the field and the operator (R9JC) making a contact in CW:

The second video shows the TX-500 display as the operator tunes through the CW portion of the 20 meter band with the 50 Hz filter engaged:

Following TX-500 updates closely…

I am following TX-500 updates very closely. Since I’m primarily a “field” ham radio operator, the idea of a weather-proof, rugged, QRP transceiver is very appealing.  Seriously…just take my money!

Of course, being first and foremost a shortwave radio listener, I’m also very interested how the TX-500 might play on the broadcast bands in AM mode.

You can bet I will review the TX-500 as soon as it’s available.

I recently sent another inquiry to lab599. If I receive any meaningful information, I’ll share it here on the SWLing Post. Simply follow the tag: TX-500 

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The lab599 Discovery TX-500 ruggedized portable QRP transceiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Vlad, who shares some images and a video of a new QRP transceiver in development: the Discovery TX-500 by a company called lab599.

Specifications have not been published yet, but we have confirmed a few details from the manufacturer:

  • 10 watts PEP
  • HF plus 6 meters
  • Weight 570 grams (1.25 pounds)
  • Voltage 9 – 14 VDC
  • 105 milliamps at 13.8 VDC and with backlit display on
  • CAT control via USB and using Kenwood codes
  • I/Q outputs
  • Weatherized
  • Expected availability autumn 2019
  • Target retail price is $700 US
  • Product website is forthcoming

All of the following images came from the Discovery TX-500 gallery on Instagram:

Here are a few videos:

View this post on Instagram

Discovery TX-500, Lab599

A post shared by Laboratory599 (@discovery_tx_500) on

Click here to view on Instagram.

Click here to view on Instagram.

Click here to view on Instagram.

For someone, like me, who loves playing radio in the field (Parks On The Air and Summits On The Air) this looks like an ideal rig. It’s one of the only ham radio transceivers I’ve seen that is weatherized to some degree (how much, we don’t know yet).

I don’t see a speaker on the TX-500, so I’m guessing it might require a mic/speaker combo or an external speaker of some sort? I also don’t see a built-in ATU, but at $700, I certainly wouldn’t expect one.

With a power consumption of 110 milliamps at 13.8 VDC, this little transceiver should run for ages on a modest battery pack.

This is certainly a fascinating prototype QRP transceiver. If the Discovery TX-500 transceiver can be produced and marketed at $700 with all of the features mentioned so far, it should certainly fly off the shelves. They can certainly take my money!

Of course, I will plan to grab one of these for review. I’m also eager to see how this little SDR transceiver might perform on the broadcast bands.

We will post post TX-500 updates and details as they become available. Bookmark the tag Discovery TX-500 and stay tuned!


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