Tag Archives: General Coverage Transceivers

Guest Post: Mark’s Micro Go-Box for the ICOM IC-7100

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who shares the following guest post:


Micro Go-Box for the ICOM IC-7100

by Mark Hirst

You’ll be familiar I’m sure with the IC-7100 base unit and separate head unit design. It lends itself very nicely for vehicle installation.

Using it in any ‘portable’ situation however has always presented something of a challenge. A FT-857 or FT-891 can be carried as a single physical package with the head unit integrated into the body. The radios can sit and potentially operate on their tail in a backpack, with products like the Escort from Portable Zero making that process even easier.

I’ve had a few attempts at solving this portability conundrum, driven by a concern that there could be long term problems continually connecting and disconnecting the component parts for transport and operation, but knowing that a permanently assembled IC-7100 will always be an awkward dispersed structure.

My first solution was a Stanley 16 inch toolbox, which is fortuitously sized to accommodate the base unit and provides enough space to loop the original connecting cable and head unit. The box is not a bad fit, but certainly bulkier than necessary and leaves enough room for things to rattle around. When tilted vertically, the head unit can start moving.

Fast forward to this week when I discovered that the IC-7100 base unit will also fit inside a 5 litre XL storage box made by Really Useful Boxes:

http://www.reallyusefulproducts.co.uk/usa/
http://www.reallyusefulproducts.co.uk/uk/

The XL version of the 5 litre box has a taller lid, and as you can see from the accompanying photos, accommodates the base unit with the head unit sitting on top of it in a ready to use configuration. The tolerances for height are also exact, the VFO knob very lightly touches the lid, so don’t put something heavy on the box:

Once the lid has been removed, the radio can operate directly from the container:

To make the whole thing fit, I used a 25cm CAT 6 cable in place of the original connection cable and a significantly shortened power lead. As luck would have it, I created the shortened power lead a while ago because I often put the battery right next to the radio.

You can see that I removed a section between the power plug and the fuses, and now use the removed length as an extension should the battery be further away. Although it wasn’t my intention at the time, the main part is about 2 feet long, the secondary about 8 inches.

For transport, the power cable is coiled behind the head unit, ensuring the fuse holders sit in the void immediately behind it, while the microphone cable is coiled on top leaving the microphone resting inside its own coil. You can see the arrangement below:

In the next photo, you can see how the cabling emerges from the back of the base unit:

There’s just enough space for the power cable to leave the base and bend around without undue pressure, and likewise for the CAT 6 cable to curve round into the back of the head unit. Two angle connectors make the antenna ports accessible from above, while a short USB external drive cable provides access to the USB port for data modes and CAT control. A longer USB extension cable is attached to this short cable only when required, and the extension uses much more substantial ferrite chokes to mitigate noise from the computer.

To complete the transport package, I’ve cut out a kaizen style foam insert to make sure the base unit can’t move back into the cabling space, and another to make sure the head unit doesn’t slide towards the front.

The last problem of course is cooling. The fan is located in the front of the base unit, with slots along the sides and top to allow air flow. The box unfortunately is exactly the right size for the base, leaving no gaps for air to circulate. In the absence of a proper workshop or professional tools, I opted to use a hole cutter designed for putting pipes through wood panels. It turns out that plastic has a tendency to deform rather than cut under the blades due to friction heating. A sharp knife was essential in dealing with the effects of that deformation to produce the final smooth edges around the holes:

While I’m happy with the port exposing the front fan, the two holes on each side do not completely expose the side slots. Do I drill out the space between them knowing how tricky and flexible the plastic can be, and would a larger hole compromise the strength of the box? For now, I’m going to keep a careful eye for any temperature issues.

The current arrangement is to carry the box horizontally in a cheap travel bag:

Could the box be tilted vertically with the base unit nose down and carried in a back pack for longer excursions? Yes, but experience has told me that the lid latches on Really Useful Boxes have a tendency to pop open when you do that, so a luggage strap around the box may be required to prevent its very expensive cargo from spilling out. I’m also mindful that the box lid gently touches the VFO knob, so might put load on it in the vertical position.

The final result is something of a Swiss watch, and there isn’t much room for error. Things have to be arranged ‘just so’ to fit, but it does mean I can pack and pick the whole thing up in a handy container. The radio only needs a battery and antenna to be connected on site and then it’s ready to go.

There’s something oddly satisfying when unrelated objects come together like this. Who knew that this box was just the right size to fit the radio?

So, what do you think?


Thank you for sharing this project, Mark!

I love your Micro Go-Box: it’s practical, affordable and makes an otherwise awkward field radio easy to deploy and use. Looking at your photos, I realize that the IC-7100 does have one strong suit for field use. The IC-7100 front panel is tilted at a very comfortable 45 degree angle for use. 

Post Readers: What do you think?  Any other IC-7100 owners out there who take their rig to the field? Please comment!

The Mission RGO ONE: A new 50 watt all mode HF transceiver

Shortly after posting a set of photos I took at the 2018 Hamvention, I received a number of reader inquiries regarding one particular radio: The Mission RGO ONE.

I found this cool tabletop transceiver in the flea market area of the Hamvention early Saturday morning and included it with my inside exhibits photos. I wasn’t able to gather a lot of information from the representative at the time because the Hamvention staff opened the gates to general admission a full 30 minutes early, so I had to make a sprint to my table at the other side of the fairgrounds.

The following specifications/features were listed on the RGO ONE product sheet:

  • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W
  • All mode shortwave operation – coverage of the 9 HAM HF bands (160m optional)
  • High dynamic range receiver design including high IP3 monolithic IC in the front end and H-mode first mixer
  • Low phase noise first LO – SI570 chip
  • Full/semi QSK on CW; VOX operation on SSB.
  • Down conversion superhet topology with 9MHz IF
  • Custom made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type
  • Stylish and professional look
  • Compact and lightweight body
  • Multicolor FSTN LCD
  • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside
  • Modular construction – Mother board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, inter-connections and acts as a cable harness.
  • Optional modules – NB, AF, ATU, XVRTER
  • PC control via CAT protocol; USB FTDI chip
  • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B)
  • Contest and DXpedition conveniences

For even more detail, I recently contacted the rig’s developer, Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR), who kindly answered all of my questions.

Boris replied:

Hello Thomas,

Thanks a lot for your message and interest about our new homebrew project that we called RGO ONE. Here you can find more about the radio:

QRP HF Transceiver

There are clickable highlights on the text which lead to a schematic diagram for each module so you can have a look if you like. Final documents and last revision of schematics will be available soon.

The idea of this project was inspired of an old TEN-TEC radios with 9MHz IF – their perfect analogue design and crystal crisp audio both CW and sideband. Mine have two very old TEN-TEC ARGOSY 525D and several moreTEN-TEC equipments. So with the help of the new electronic components available on the market we realize this old concept…

We’ve been working hard for almost three years to see what you saw at Dayton flea market table. A real performing HF 50W CW/SSB transceiver. We are 4 people in the team.. Other team mates are very good in industrial electronics manufacturing and helping very much with electronic PCB design, parts delivery, microprocessors and other things.

The idea of the front panel and other constructions design is mine .. I literally drew it in a couple of hours then our CAD designer put it in AUTOCAD/INVENTOR 3D design software.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

LCD we made in China and already stocked plenty of LCD and backlight units. Front panel is made by means of plastic mold method:

Here it is:

FACE PANEL MOLD PLASTICS OR ALUMINUM MACHINED

So far we got two samples that we tested already in real conditions and made several contest (LZ2RS helped with this task).

You can seek for video clips on YouTube (my channel) to see how it works.

Click here to view on YouTube.

I am back in Bulgaria now and today we had a team meeting so it is decided to start first lot 10pcs which will be completely ready to run. The time range of this is somewhere next two months. Then next lot will be 100 units probably some of them or most of them will be in a kit form with ready populated SMD small foot print components.

At the show in Dayton we revealed our target price for the base version – $450-$550. Hope to keep it as promised but final price will be available when first units come to alive.
First units will ship from Bulgaria, then we will try to stock more units in US.

This is briefly about our intentions of the project. A lot of interest, expectations and positive “WOW” feedbacks received so this urge me to go fast forward.

73, GL

Boris LZ2JR/AC9IJ

Thank you for the detailed reply, Boris! I will certainly follow this project with interest and post updates (readers: bookmark the tag RGO ONE).

I love the size of the RGO ONE and the fact it’s capable of a full 50 watts out in such a portable form factor. The front panel is very attractive, ergonomic and the backlit LCD screen is quite easy to read at any angle.

Boris, if you manage to hit your target price of $550 or less, you’ll no doubt sell these by the hundreds! I’ll be watching this project with interest.

Yaesu FT-818 details emerge (and beware of the fake “leaked” photo!)

I’ve been following news about the Yaesu FT-818: the next iteration of the venerable Yaesu FT-817ND QRP general coverage transceiver.

The FT-817 series has been on the market for nearly two decades. I remember purchasing one of the first production models when I lived in the UK in 2001.

It was a revolutionary radio at the time.

It was exceptionally suited for portable use, sporting an internal battery pack, on-board keyer, had all mode/all band capability and antenna ports on the front faceplate and rear. It was the most compact full-featured transceiver on the market. All this for about $670 US.

In 2004, Yaesu made upgrades and launched the model FT-817(N)D. In no small way, I’m sure this little radio has been a cash cow for Yaesu. It’s had an exceptionally long market run and has been the only QRP transceiver in the Yaesu product line for decades.

Recently, Yaesu released specifications and retail pricing of the FT-818.  But before we go any further…

Don’t believe the fake prototype photos

It seems like every time a new amateur radio transceiver is announced, someone quickly assembles a “leaked” prototype image and publishes it on the web. Here’s the one someone pieced together for the Yaesu FT-818:

Click to enlarge (and see obvious Photoshop chop job)

To be crystal clear: this is not a leaked photo of the Yaesu FT-818. It’s (frankly) a terrible Photoshop job–someone playing with cutting, pasting and resizing bits from other transceivers.

I fully suspect the new FT-818 will not be a dramatic departure from the FT-817 in terms of styling and design. Perhaps it’ll be nearly identical. In fact, radio retailers have been posting the following image on their FT-818 ordering page:

Image taken from GigaParts.

This may simply be a placeholder, or it may be that all of the upgrades are internal and the ‘818 form factor will be identical to the ‘817.

Enough said…

What we do know about the Yaesu FT-818

Rumors of an FT-818 have been floating around the ham radio community for years. No surprise given the extraordinarily long run of the ‘817 series!

We do have concrete details now since ham radio retailers have been given features, specifications and availability dates. It appears the upgrades are iterative–this is not a dramatically re-designed rig.

Here’s what Yaesu has released (I took this from GigaParts, but retailers are posting variations of the same announcement):

Yaesu FT-818 6W HF/VHF/UHF All-Mode Portable Transceiver

The new Yaesu FT-818 incorporates all of the basic and attractive features of the ever-popular FT-817ND while providing upgrades desired by many existing owners.

The FT-818 provides 6W of solid output power with an external DC power source. The supplied Ni-MH battery pack (SBR-32MH) has been upgraded to now provide larger battery capacity – 9.6v/ 1900mAh. The recent launch of several new satellites is a certain indicator that the large global community of satellite enthusiast are going to be very delighted to learn that the FT-818 includes a Built-in TCXO-9 oscillator that gives the FT-818 fantastic frequency stability (±0.5ppm).

The FT-818 includes all the useful functions that are included in the FT-817ND: Dual VFOs; Split-Frequency operation; IF Shift; Clarifier “R.I.T”; IF Noise Blanker; RF Gain and Squelch control; IPO (Intercept Point Optimization); AM Aircraft reception; AM and FM Broadcast reception; VOX; Built-in Electronic Keyer; Adjustable CW Pitch; Automatic Repeater Shift (ARS); Built-in CTCSS Encoder/ Decoders; 208 memory channels with 10 memory groups; two antenna connectors; Automatic Power-Off (APO) and Time-Out-Timer(TOT) functions; and so on.

Features

  • Increased power output 6W(SSB, CW, FM) 2.0W(AM Carrier) *NEW!
  • Improved frequency stability ±0.5 ppm : Built-in TCXO-9 *NEW!
  • Larger battery capacity : 9.6V/1,900mAh (SBR-32) *NEW!
  • 208 Memory Channels / 10 Memory Groups
  • Operates on 160-10m , HF, 6m, 2m and 70 cm Bands
  • Ultra Compact and Portable
  • Two Antenna Connectors
  • IF Shift, IF Noise Blanker, IPO, ATT
  • CW “Semi-Break-in”, CW Reverse, CW Pitch Control
  • Built-in Electronic Keyer
  • Multi-Color Easy to see LCD
  • Internal Battery Operation Capability
  • ARS Automatic Repeater Shift
  • APO Automatic Power Off
  • Front Panel Key Lock Mode

Specifications

Frequency Ranges:

RX:

  • 100 kHz – 33 MHz
  • 33 MHz – 56 MHz
  • 76 MHz – 108 MHz
  • 108 MHz – 154 MHz
  • 420 MHz – 470 MHz

TX:

  • 1.8 MHz – 29.7 MHz (5.3320 MHz/ 5.3480 MHz/ 5.3585 MHz/ 5.3730 MHz/ 5.4050MHz)
  • 50 MHz – 54 MHz
  • 144 MHz – 148 MHz
  • 430 MHz – 450 MHz (Amateur Bands only)

Circuit Type: Double-Conversion Superheterodyne (SSB/CW/AM/FM)
Single-Conversion Superheterodyne (WFM)
Modulation Type: A1A(CW), A3E(AM), J3E(LSB,USB), F3E(FM), F1D(PACKET), F2D(PACKET)
RF Power Output : 6 W (SSB/CW/FM), 2 W (AM Carrier) @13.8 V
Memory Channels: 208
Case Size(W x H x D): 135 x 38 x 165 mm (5.31″ x 1.5″ x 6.50″) w/o knob and connector
Weight: 900 g (1.98 lbs) (w/o Battery, Antenna and Microphone)

Includes

  • Yaesu FT-818 6W HF/VHF/UHF All-Mode Portable Transceiver
  • Hand Microphone(MH-31A8J)
  • Battery (SBR-32 9.6V 1900mAh Ni-MH )
  • Battery Case (FBA-28) (Requires 8 “AA: batteries)
  • Whip Antenna for 50/144/430 MHz (YHA-63)
  • DC Cable (E-DC-6)
  • Shoulder Strap, Ferrite Core, Rubber Foot
  • Operating Manual
  • Battery Charger (PA-48)

The retail price is roughly $819 US shipped via GigaParts and $849 via Ham Radio Outlet. I’m sure Universal Radio will post the FT-818 to their site soon as well. At time of posting, I haven’t noticed any retailers outside the US including the FT-818 in their catalog.

I will plan to review the Yaesu FT-818, so bookmark this tag to follow any updates: Yaesu FT-818

CommRadio CTX-10 availability update

The CommRadio CTX-10 QRP transceiver

Universal Radio is now taking orders for the CommRadio CTX-10 QRP transceiver. The price is $999.99 and the expected shipping date is March 1, 2018. Universal notes that they will not charge customers until the units begin shipping.

Once radios are in production, I plan to review the CTX-10.

Click here to view the CTX-10 at Universal Radio.