Tag Archives: Elecraft KX2

A review of the Red Oxx Micro Manager EDC and radio gear bag

Besides being a radio enthusiast, regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m also an avid traveler and, as a result, something of a pack geek.

In September, I posted a review of the Red Oxx “Lil Roy”–a small, relatively inexpensive multi-purpose bag that I love to haul my radio gear in.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Red Oxx gear. I’m fairly choosy about the quality of packs that I buy and am willing to pay a premium for packs that offer exceptional durability and are guaranteed for life. Red Oxx gear is designed and made in Montana, USA, and is nearly bullet-proof.

I love the design of Red Oxx bags; they can’t always be accurately described as tactical, low-profile, or urban, however.  Red Oxx leader Jim Markel describes the bags’ strengths this way: “Tactical strength without looking like you’re going to war.”  That’s fair.

Their designs are unique to the company and, I would argue, in Red Oxx bags, form definitely follows function.

After posting my review of the Red Oxx “Lil Roy,” I received a message from a representative at Red Oxx. They kindly noted that they were impressed by the detail my review provided, but also recalled that last year, I’d made a suggestion that they design an EDC (Everyday Carry) bag especially suited to those of us who like to carry radio gear (or any electronic gear, for that matter) out to the field. I specifically requested if they would consider designing a medium-sized bag with padded sides and floor, and the option for an over-the-shoulder carry strap––?

My hopes were not unfounded.  Red Oxx replied, saying that they’d actually designed just such a bag and wanted to know if I would test it prior to release, and offer any input.

Well…How could I resist?

The “Micro-Manager,” as their new product is aptly and amusingly named, arrived the day I left on a weekend trip. As I drove down the road with the unopened box next to me, I simply couldn’t wait to see what the design looked like. Since I didn’t know the dimensions, configuration, compartment size, nor the coloring, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Introducing…the Micro Manager

Upon reaching my destination, I opened the box and removed the Micro Manager––and by golly, I was very impressed with the bag’s size:  modest, handy, but not dinky.  Just about right.

I say this because portable radio gear is a funny thing.  Quite often I find a great pack in terms of material and features, but it’s either too small or too shallow for portable gear––or, at the other extreme, swallows my equipment, so that I have to fish around in its yawning depths to find my rig and add extra padding. Rarely is a bag appropriately sized in terms of height, width, and depth for radio carry.  The Micro Manager appeared to be just about the size I’d have made it, if I designed it myself.  But I had still to test it with the actual equipment, so I tried not to get my hopes up too soon.

Construction

I unzipped the pack, noting that the Red Oxx-standard extra-beefy #10 YKK VISLON zippers actually extend to within an inch of the bag’s base. In terms of main compartment access, structure, and configuration flexibility, I find this nearly ideal. The zippers also have attached “monkey fist” knots made from nylon cording that permit easy zipper operation.  These look rather cool, too.  In addition, the Micro Manager is designed with the Red Oxx Claw Shoulder Strap in mind, having two D-rings on opposite sides of the zipper––this means balance on the shoulder. And the Micro Manager includes the Claw Shoulder Strap, which is sturdy and solid.

Like all Red Oxx packs, the Micro Manager’s exterior sports 1000 weight CORDURA nylon material that is available in twelve solid color combos; mine is “Olive.”  Which is, well, olive––olive green––just as you’d expect.  No weird color names to throw you off.

Inside the Micro Manager, Red Oxx opted for a red 400 denier CORDURA Brand nylon lining which makes the interior resilient to nearly any kind of damage, and easy to wash up.  The vivid red color of the lining also means that any items in the bottom of the pack stand out, making it a cinch to find whatever you’re looking for in there.

 

But I wanted to check the pack even more closely, from the inside out.  And so I did just that:  I turned the pack inside out, examined it up close, looked at the stitches and the basic construction:  this is clearly one rugged bag.

Durability is not in question here.  Tom Bihn is another excellent US pack company; I’d say Red Oxx’s products and Tom Bihn’s run neck-and-neck, though Red Oxx has more of a tactical leaning and beefier hardware than the urban sleek, neat packs Tom Bihn produces.

In short, the Micro Manager is one tough pack. I would argue the toughest I’ve ever used for field equipment.

This little pack is built like a tank.

Padding

Of course, what really makes this pack ideal for radio gear is the fact the floor of the pack as well as the side panels are lined with Volara 4-pound closed-cell foam padding. This isn’t super-thick padding, but it’s dense, and in my view effective for radio gear. Nor would I want thick, bulky padding in this pack. It’s simply enough to absorb the shock of setting the pack down, even a hard or hasty set-down, and would likely help protect the contents if the pack were dropped.

To be clear: I’m not talking about stashing upwards of $1300 worth of radio gear in this pack and flinging it out an upstairs window to test the padding.  I’m not planning to check this bag at the airport, since I like my gear handy, and I’ll treat the pack and its contents with reasonable care.  The padding in this case just makes the contents more secure and resilient to the odd drop, bash, or tumble. I think it will do just fine.

Right Size…confirmed

But I still had to see how everything fit in the pack.  Being the radio geek I am, the first thing I did upon my arrival at home was to throw my Elecraft KX2 Transceiver pack and antenna supplies bag in the Micro Manager to see if my gear fit as well as I thought it might.  It all fit like a glove, and still had room for log book, pens, multi-tool, sunscreen, and (of course) bug repellent!

Next, I removed these items, and tried my larger Elecraft KX3 for size in the Micro Manager––again, ample interior room with just enough space left to include a battery pack and antenna supplies. Brilliant!

I tried various combos of gear and kit to find that the Micro Manager is quite a flexible field bag.  Finally!  A pack up to the task.

Configuration

But what really makes this pack shine? The large, open compartment is ideal for us “modular pack” folks.

Tom Bihn Pilot (left) Red Oxx Micro Manager (right)

In my experience, frequent travel means modular packing. In my main EDC pack (a Tom Bihn Pilot) all my gear is organized in cubes and pouches. If I’m heading out the door to catch a flight and want to take a backpack, rucksack, or duffel bag, I can whip the stuff out of my EDC bag, and in a matter of seconds, populate the other pack. Not only does it make transitioning from one pack to another a speedy process, but I’ll know exactly what’s in the pack, and exactly where.

When I opened the Micro Manager the first time, I instantly saw that it lends itself to modular packing, since there’s no internal organization walls and pockets are on the interior sides.

So, aside from packing radio gear, tablets, headphones, a DSLR camera, recording gear, or any other accessories, a packing cube could be used in the Micro Manager to carry clothing on a weekend or on a quick one-to-two night jaunt.

Packed for an overnight trip.

All essentials inside: iPad Air in sleeve, Tom Bihn Snake Charmer (I use as toiletries kit), and an old Eagle Creek packing cube.

Fully unpacked. Click to enlarge.

I’ll take a close look at the Micro Manager’s internal dimensions and see if one of the Red Oxx packing cubes might fit the bill.  Maybe, if I’ve been extra good this year, Santa will drop one in my stocking.

Packing in a cube and other modular packs would take full advantage of the Micro Manager’s modest-outside, spacious-inside capacity. A full-size internal cube packed with clothing would be easy to stash in a hotel room to reduce bulk while you’re in meetings at your location, thus leaving more room for files/reports, magazines, a paperback (for those of us who still like paper), and the like; then you could simply replace your clothing module in your MM for your flight home.

A great EDC pack, too

I have even pulled all of the packs from my Tom Bihn Pilot EDC bag and cheerfully used the Micro Manager for the day.

The Micro Manager works wonderfully as an EDC pack if I don’t need a laptop (my 13” MacBook Air is a little too large). It packs my iPad Air with ease and the padded interior pocket gives me peace of mind, encapsulating the tablet in padding all around. On the outside of the padded tablet sleeve, Red Oxx has added four pencil holders and two larger pouches which are large enough for most smartphones, business cards, field notes, and other small accessories.

Of course, there’s another interior pouch with an embedded pocket on the opposite side of the padded sleeve. I’ve used this sleeve for note pads, coiled antenna line, a paperback book, and a portable radio over the past few months. I’ve used the embedded zipper pocket for charging cables, wire cutters, adapters, USB memory sticks, you name it. It’s not a deep zipper pocket, so I wouldn’t put anything thick inside simply because I don’t like bulking out pockets, but it’s very useful.

On the outside panels of the Micro Manager, you’ll also find two double-zippered pockets. These are shallow in depth, but are ideally suited for cords, wire, and antenna line. Of course, they’ll easily hold notepads and other supplies.

The Micro Manager is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11” paper in a folder or even low-profile notebook. For someone who carries a tablet to work, this could easily replace a briefcase.

The genius behind the Micro Manager’s flexibility, in my view,  is the open design: the ability to open the main compartment zippers either partially or all the way to within an inch of the bottom of the bag. This allows you to fully open the pack without compromising its ability to be self-supporting. Since Red Oxx’s #10 YKK zippers won’t slip backwards, you can even simply open the top of the bag and not worry about the contents spilling out.  I like that.

Summary

Everything I review has its pros and cons, of course. When I begin a review or evaluation, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget my initial impressions. Following is the list I’ve formed over the time I’ve been evaluating the Red Oxx Micro Manager:

Pros:

  • Durable construction, solidly stitched
  • Made with rugged cordura
  • Lengthy, robust zippers track down to near the base of bag and don’t slide back, making for versatile loading/unloading of the bag––half open or fully open
  • Padded interior pocket for tablets or (for our use) a full-sized portable radio
  • Interior pocket for cables, pencils/pens, smartphones, and/or field notes
  • Ample padding is not too bulky but dense enough to take impact
  • Carry handles plus a strong claw strap for portability
  • Well-balanced on the shoulder
  • Lifetime, no-questions-asked, transferrable warranty

Cons:

If the Micro Manager were marketed primarily for outdoor use, then perhaps some rain protection around the zippers might be beneficial. Though I wouldn’t suggest doing this, I did leave the bag out in a surprise shower once and saw no signs of water penetration. The only point of water penetration could potentially be the zipper line. But from my observation, you’ve nothing to fear if you get caught in a downpour; I just wouldn’t leave it out in heavy rain or overnight.

The Micro Manager’s solid build means the bag is not featherweight.  It weighs in at about two pounds.

The Red Oxx D-Ring attachment points for the Claw shoulder strap are beefy and nearly indestructible. I’m 100% okay with any added weight.

If you prefer bags with entirely built-in storage, like elastic holding straps, instead of the sort of open construction that permits the carrying of modular cubes or kits for your gear, this bag may not be your thing.  But you might want to give it a look just the same; I was glad I experimented with modular kits and have learned to really appreciate their benefits.

And some readers will consider the $130 US price a “con” because similar bag configurations can be found on Amazon, eBay, or elsewhere for anywhere from $20-40. Somewhat better “camping grade” packs might be available at a further premium, perhaps $60-80. So yes, there are many cheaper bags out there.

But here’s the thing about Red Oxx gear: with that price comes rugged and superior quality and durability, in-the-US manufacture, and an incomparable warranty.  You’re buying from a company that designs and manufactures all of the their packs in Billings, Montana, USA. Their customer service, in my experience, is without compromise. They guarantee their products with a “no bull,” no-questions-asked, lifetime warranty.

Red Oxx routinely posts photos from their shop where employees are repairing customer bags bags that have been so severely battered that no (sane) company would consider it a warranty repair. But there’s integrity in Red Oxx’s insanity. That’s their customer base––folks who actually use their gear, who travel, who camp, who adventure.  Those who get out there, get going, get dirty.  These bags really take a beating, and thing is, it appears they can take it.

Remarkably, Red Oxx even honors their warranty without receipt of purchase, even knowing you might have purchased it used. Don’t believe me? Search eBay for Red Oxx bags–look at the completed sales pricing, and you’ll find even used bags selling for within a few dollars of their brand new pricing. Red Oxx doesn’t care how you came to be with their bag––you’re their customer, and that’s all that seems to matter to them.

So it’s clear:  Red Oxx packs not only hold your gear, they hold up––and they hold their value––over time. In my opinion, too, this bag is for the long haul.

Conclusion

Those of you who follow my blog know that I typically review radio gear. When I start testing new equipment, I never really know what I’m going to run into, especially if the equipment is mass-produced and the manufacturer has a questionable legacy when it comes to quality control.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the Micro Manager, having only seen a preview ad photo which showed little to no detail.  But I knew prior to evaluating this bag that its quality would be nothing less than benchmark. Red Oxx doesn’t allow anything out of their shop that doesn’t obviously meet some of the strictest quality standards in the business. As I mentioned above, I only know of one other pack company in their league, and that’s Tom Bihn. You simply can’t find better quality than these two US companies design into all of their US-made gear.

My only concerns when checking out the Micro Manager for the first time was about configuration and flexibility. Would it effectively hold my field gear without bulging or straining? Would internal organization get in the way of the main compartment’s capacity? Could this pack be used as an EDC bag, or personal carry-on item?

For my use, all of these questions were answered with a resounding Yes!  

So…do I recommend the Micro Manager? Heck, yes! Without reservation. As long as your portable kit fits inside, and you like the configuration as I do, you’ll be pleased with the Micro Manager as well as with the company that produces it.  This bag will stick around, staying faithfully by your side for many years to come.

Click here to check out the Red Oxx Micro Manager.

On a side note: Shhh…I’ll be purchasing another Micro Manager shortly. While I’ve been testing this bag, my wife has repeatedly tried to steal it to carry her art supplies. For once, I know what to get her for Christmas! And, thankfully, though she edits my reviews, she never reads my live blog. Mum’s the word! 

Escaping the noise while traveling

A Sony SW100, a PK Loop, and a pint of L’Écurieux brown ale. Lovely trio!

If you’re a regular Post reader, you’re probably aware that I enjoy a relatively RFI-free environment at my rural mountain home. RFI-free living is something of a luxury, even though our rural location also equates to appallingly slow Internet service.

But unfortunately, when I travel, I usually find that I’ve traded my RFI-free atmosphere for the chaos of noise-ridden bands. If you’ve ever stayed at a modern hotel and tried to tune to anything on mediumwave or shortwave, you’ll know just what I mean.

We’ve spent this summer, like last, near Québec City, Canada.  Near this fairly large city, I’ve been greeted by more than enough RFI to make up for the lack of RFI most of the year.

I attribute the atrocious RFI to the number of light dimmers the developers put in this condo complex and the proximity to a field of noisy electrical poles. Of course, all of the unregulated power supplies in the area don’t help, either. It’s a jungle of noise.

The PK Loop

Last year, I purchased a PK Loop portable HF loop antenna (about $150 on eBay)–specifically with hotels and this very condo in mind. I must say, it has been a welcome travel companion on this trip.

The Elecraft KX2 and PK Loop

While the PK Loop seems to pair well with my Sony SW100, I also love using it with my Elecraft KX2 for SWLing.

Sadly, the PK Loop doesn’t provide the noise mitigation of a large wideband mag loop antenna–like a Wellbrook or Pixel Loop–but it does lend itself to excellent portability and takes the edge off the noise.

While it’s easy to do my radio listening in the condo from a comfy chair, in reality, it limits what I can receive in a serious way. The 31 meter band, for example, is so heavily submerged in RFI that only the strongest stations can punch through (for example, Voice of Greece, Radio Romania International, WRMI, WBCQ, Radio Havana Cuba, China Radio International).

So, what can I do?

Hit the field, of course!

That’s right. Taking a page from the books of SWLing Post contributors London Shortwave and Clint Gouveia, I realize I can simply leave the RFI behind and seek a sound, radio quiet spot for SWLing/DXing!

My listening post last year–during the BBC Midwinter broadcast–in the parking lot of St-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica.

Over the past two months, I’ve taken time to escape the RFI and do a few live listening sessions and spectrum recordings in the field. I’ve always got my SDRplay RSP, Elecraft KX2, and Sony ICG-SW100 at the ready. In terms of wire antennas, I’ve deployed my NASA PA30 and even my QRP Trail-Friendly EFT, with good results.

Listening to the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast from the back of my vehicle in Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

I’ve also been experimenting with the homebrew Miniwhip antenna that SWLing Post contributor, Steve Yothment, provided earlier this year, based on the design used by the U Twente WebSDR. As Guy Atkins recently demonstrated, miniwhip designs do require some distance from sources of RFI, however.

The field is your friend…

Just a friendly reminder that if you live in an RFI-dense environment, you can certainly design a system to help mitigate RFI at home. After all, home is where you likely spend the bulk of your free time.

View of the Saint Lawrence River from my back-of-the-minivan listening post.

But, again, the easiest way to substantially increase your chances of snagging DX stations is to simply hit the field.

Join me in giving it a try. Find an RFI-free location with access to a couple of trees to hang a simple wire antenna–say, in a park, at the side of a rural road, on a friend’s farm…and if you find the listening good, make it your radio get-away. You’ll likely find that your portable shortwave radio can outperform your at-home tabletop receiver simply by removing yourself and your radio from the noisy environ of indoors.

When you first start doing radio in the field, it might feel a bit awkward–especially if you’re taking more than a portable shortwave along for the ride–but you’ll soon enjoy the fresh air ambiance and maybe even prefer it to indoors.  Even if you’re in a public setting where curious passers-by may want to know what you’re doing, as they undoubtedly will…When questions arise, take a (brief!) moment to educate your questioner(s) about the fascinating and nearly-forgotten world of shortwave radio––maybe you’ll inspire others to listen in, too.

And trust me: once you’ve been to the field a few times, you’ll start to look forward to playing radio in the great–and noise-free–outdoors!

Catch the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast?

Listening to the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast from the back of my vehicle in Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

Yesterday afternoon, I packed up the Sony ICF-SW100, Audiomax SRW-710S and Elecraft KX2 portables in search of a quite spot to listen to the BBC World Service Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast. I also packed my PK Loop and NASA PA 30 antennas.

I’m traveling in Canada again and staying in an RFI-dense condo. There was no way I’d hear the broadcast through the noise, so I searched for a field location.

I discovered a quiet spot to park on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

The location was almost ideal: it was RFI quiet compared to other spots I checked and I had access to a tree where I could hang the NASA PA 30 wire antenna.

View of the Saint Lawrence River from my back-of-the-minivan listening post.

Once I arrived, with little time to spare, I deployed the NASA PA 30 and connected it to my Elecraft KX2 transceiver. I then connected the Sony ICF-SW100 to the PK Loop antenna.

Since the KX2 is the most sensitive receiver in my travel arsenal–and even has built-in noise blanking, variable DSP noise reduction, and variable filter width–I used it as the source for my recording.

I checked audio levels by tuning the KX2 to the Voice of Greece on 9420–VOG was blowtorch strength.

None of the frequencies used for the Midwinter broadcast were ideal for my location and time of day (after all, these broadcasts target Antarctica!) but last year I did successfully receive the 41 meter band broadcast.

My fingers were crossed as the broadcast time approached (17:30 local/21:30 UTC).

A few seconds before the half hour, I heard the AM carrier light up on 7,360 kHz (ASCENSION). Very good sign! The broadcast audio followed a few seconds later and was weak, but intelligible. I would give the signal an overall SINPO of 35343.

I couldn’t receive a thing on the 6035 kHz (DHABAYYA) and only an extremely faint signal on 5985 kHz (WOOFFERTON).

The Elecraft KX2/NASA PA 30 combo did prove to be the most effective receiver/antenna pair.

I forgot to do two things in advance, however: to turn off the KX2’s key beeps (which would have been audible in the recording had I adjusted receiver settings) and to set my Zoom H2N to record in WAV format. Oh well…

I was very pleased with the results, all things considered.

The Sony ICF-SW100/PK Loop combo was also quite effective. The signal was a little weaker and less stable than the KX2, but I was still very pleased overall. Here’s a short video–note that I have the sync lock engaged:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The PK Loop was positioned on a folding trail seat close to the ground. After experimenting, I found that loop height had little impact on overall reception, so I opted to keep it closer for accessibility.

The PK Loop antenna.

Very impressive reception of weak DX for such a small portable a compact loop antenna. In the end, the SW100 is a phenomenal little DX machine!

I brought the Audiomax SRW-710S along as well. Since it has a built-in digital recording feature, I had hoped it might provide an additional recording of the broadcast.

Sadly, it fell short.

No matter how I positioned the receiver, nor what antenna it was connected to, the SRW-710S simply couldn’t cope with the weak signal, QRN and overall band conditions. The noise floor was high and the signal (when audible) very unstable. It was like listening to a battle between the receiver’s internal noise and the target signal.

The $20 Audiomax simply can’t compare to benchmark receivers like the ICF-SW100 and Elecraft KX2. Still, it’s an acceptable little radio for recording stronger shortwave, mediumwave and FM signals. I completely agree with Troy Riedel’s assessment.

Another Midwinter broadcast for the books!

It’s always a treat to enjoy the BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast live, knowing that the BAS crew, wintering over in Antarctica, are enjoying it at the same time!

That, in a nutshell, is the magic of shortwave radio.

Please share your recordings!

I’ve already received a healthy number of recordings from SWLing Post readers!  Thank you so much!

If you have a recording of the 2017 Midwinter Broadcast that you’d like to submit, please do so by Sunday. I’m participating in Field Day and attending an airshow this weekend, but plan to publish a post with all of the recordings and your photos early next week.

Please send your recordings with any notes and photos to my email address which can be found on the Contact page. If you submit a video, please upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and simply send me the link. Thank you!

Help record the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast today!

Every year, the BBC broadcasts a special program to the scientists and support staff in the British Antarctic Survey Team. The BBC plays music requests and sends special messages to the small team of 40+ located at various Antarctic research stations. Each year, the thirty minute show is guaranteed to be quirky, nostalgic, and certainly a DX-worthy catch!

After successful listener events from years past, I’m calling on all SWLing Post readers and shortwave radio listeners to make a short recording (say, 30-60 seconds) of the BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast today and share it here at the Post (frequencies and time below).

The recording can be audio-only, or even a video taken from any recording device or smart phone. It would be helpful to have a description and/or photo of your listening environment and location, if possible.

If you submit your recording to me, I will post it here on the SWLing Post–and insure that the British Antarctic Survey receives the post, too.  The recordings will be arranged by geographic location.

Frequencies

Please note that the broadcast begins at 2130 UTC on June 21, 2017. The following frequencies are based on the test transmissions last week and info published by Martin Goulding and Mauno Ritola (thank you, guys!):

From ASCENSION

7360 kHz250 kW / 207 deg to Antarctica

From DHABAYYA

6035 kHz250 kW / 203 deg to Antarctica

From WOOFFERTON

5985 kHz300 kW / 184 deg to Antarctica

I’m sure there will be live reports in the SWLing Post chat room during the broadcast.  Please sign in and share your report as well!

I hope I’ll be able to receive the broadcast this year–I’m traveling again in Québec, but will have my trusty Sony ICF-SW100 and Elecraft KX2 in tow.

Listening for the Midwinter test transmissions last week with the Elecraft KX2.

I’ll plan to set up at the same listening spot I did last year.

The Midwinter broadcast is one of my favorite programs of the year. I suppose, in part, this is because it happens on June 21–the Summer/Winter solstice–which also happens to be my birthday! Woo hoo!

The best transceiver for a new ham and seasoned SWL?

The Yaesu FT-890: One of many general coverage HF transceivers spotted in the 2017 Hamvention flea market.

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Joe, who writes:

I’ve been practicing for my Technician ham radio license here in the US and am ready for the test. I’m already looking at HF transceivers even though I don’t have my General license yet.

Here’s what’s important to me:

  • I will still do a lot of SW DX
  • Something that has at least decent audio
  • Something that isn’t too too huge; though I’m a little flexible on size
  • I need something that has a receiver that handles weak DX well

I’d be comfortable spending $500 any day all day no problem. Anything higher than that and I’d really have to think it’s an investment in my radio future.

Thanks for your question, Joe, and allowing me to post it here for comment as this is one I’m frequently asked.

First of all, congratulations on studying for and taking your ham radio license exam! I’m a ham and absolutely love the radio privileges my license provides.

At the same time, I’m still more of an SWL than a ham–meaning, I spend way more time chasing SWL DX than doing on-air ham operations.

With that said, I always seek radios that will serve me well as both a ham and SWL, if possible.

My humble advice

If we stick with your $500 budget strictly, then we’re certainly looking at used transceivers. That’s okay–there are many good ones on the market!

I posted the following review of general coverage transceivers a few years ago. The info in it is still very much accurate in the used market. I would suggest you give it a good review as it goes into more detail about the ins and outs of your first transceiver and the importance of leaving budget to purchase a good power supply:

The best general coverage transceivers for shortwave listening

Click here to read the full review.

 If you’re willing to spend a bit more than $500…

I’m a big fan of the Elecraft KX3 and Elecraft KX2. I have both and use them frequently.

Comparing the size of the Elecraft KX3 (top) and KX2 (bottom) at Elecraft’s Dayton Hamvention booth.

You can find the KX3 used for $700-900 (depending on options). The bare-bones model of the KX2 can be purchased new from Elecraft for $749.

Of course, something to keep in mind about the Elecraft KX series transceiver is that output power is limited to 12-15 watts. Some of the general coverage transceivers mentioned in our review have a much higher 100 watt output power.

Additionally, the audio fidelity (via the internal speaker) is not as good as many other general coverage transceivers. Audio amplification is not as powerful, because both transceivers are designed to operate on a small battery pack (a major plus in my world because I love field-portable rigs).

Since I do 90% of my radio work with headphones, audio amplification is not a problem for me and I’m quite please with both KX line transceivers. Many KX series owners purchase external amplified speakers to improve audio.

The LnR LD-11 tuned to the Voice of Greece.

While we’re looking at QRP transceivers, I would also recommend the LnR Precision LD-11. Its broadcast afidelity is even better (via headphones) than the KX2/KX3 since the AM filter can be widened to an impressive 9.6 kHz. It’s a top-notch transceiver and can be purchased new for $780 US. Click here to check out my full review of the LD-11.

The Icom IC-7200

Of course, as I mention in the general coverage transceiver review, the Icom IC-7200 is also a gem of a transceiver.

Keep in mind, the ‘7200 was such a popular radio that after Icom discontinued the model in January of 2016–due to overwhelming customer demand–they re-introduced it earlier this year. No kidding.

New, the IC-7200 is about $879 US, but they can be found used closer to the $650 – 750 mark. A very good value in my book. In fact, I’m very tempted to buy one as my 100 watt “shack and field” rig. It’s way more user-friendly on Field Day than my Elecraft K2/100 and, in many ways,  a better option than purchasing an Elecraft amp for my KX3/KX2.

Any other good suggestions?

The Kenwood TS-480SAT is full-featured, small, and has a detachable face plate. A very good general coverage transceiver.

There are hundreds of HF transceivers on the new/used market. I’m sure I’ve missed some excellent options in this post and my general coverage transceiver review.

Please comment with your favorite dual-purpose Ham Radio/SWLing rig. Tell us why you love it!