Tag 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.

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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.

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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!

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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.


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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.

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The TV-B-Gone: reviewing a fun and (incredibly) useful kit!

The TV-B-Gone kit

Post readers might recall that I attended and presented at  Circle of HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth 2018 in New York City.

One of the many cool things about HOPE was the Hardware Hacking Village: a space with 40 or so fully-stocked soldering stations that HOPE attendees could use anytime during the conference.

One of the many HOPE Hardware Hacking Village tables

I built two kits at the conference: The Cricket QRP transceiver (read about that here) and a very cool little product called the TV-B-Gone.

What is the TV-B-Gone? As the name implies, it’s a TV remote control with only one function, one button and one mission: to turn off TVs!

The TV-B-Gone is packed with power codes for virtually any TV or monitor on the market. Simply point the remote at a TV, click its one button, and wait as the device cycles through loads of power codes in a few seconds.

At first blush, this might sound like a mischievous little device. I mean, imagine watching the World Cup finals at your favorite pub or bar and someone turns off all of the TVs in the establishment at a crucial moment in the game? I’m sure some purchase the TV-B-Gone for this very purpose.

That’s not me. I’m not into pranks and that’s not why TV-B-Gone designer (and Maker community giant) Mitch Altman designed this product. It was more about creating an “environmental management device”–a way to control the ubiquitous TV messages/media bombarding us in situations where they really don’t belong.

Mitch Altman in his element, teaching a class in the Hardware Hacking Village at HOPE 2018.

I’ll be the first to admit here that I’m a radio guy (big surprise, right–?) and really have no love for TVs. We have one 28″ TV in our home and it only receives one PBS station although we do use this TV it to watch the odd TV program or series via Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. I never consume news via TV unless a news-worthy event is one that must be seen. I prefer consuming news via radio or reading newspapers with objective reporters that I trust.

So when I met Mitch at HOPE and saw that he was selling a kit version of the TV-B-Gone for $20 US, I couldn’t fork out my money fast enough!

I bought the kit and built it at a table not even 10 feet away from him.

I meant to take photos of the TV-B-Gone kit as I built it, but was quite distracted helping a father and his 10 year old son both build their first kits (HumanaLight kits, of all things!) across from me.

Even though my attention was divided, I still completed the kit in well under an hour. I didn’t have two spare AA batteries to power it for testing purposes, but Mitch was nearby and gave me two new AA cells.

The TV-B-Gone kit is powered by two common AA batteries

After pushing the only button on this remote, the small green LED started blinking–“a good sign” said Mitch. Then he had me turn on the front-facing camera of my Android phone to verify the LEDs were blinking (front-facing cameras don’t filter IR light–who knew?). They were blinking/flickering like mad.

Mitch said, “Now you have the power to turn off TVs…and you should!

The TV-B-Gone kit sports four powerful LEDs that are effective up to 150 feet away.

I bought this kit with one specific use in mind: hotel dining rooms.

I travel quite a lot and almost always stay in hotels that provide breakfast in a small dining room area of the lobby. I’m often travelling with family, so I wake up quite early, head to the breakfast area, grab a cup of coffee, and catch up with SWLing Post correspondence, comments and posts. Most of the time, I’m the only person in the dining room, yet the TV is blaring the news (often an outlet I don’t like) and there is no remote to be found.

This is where the TV-B-Gone could bring peace to my morning. But would it work? Time to find out!

On a trip through Connecticut in August, I stayed a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn. I found an excellent spot to work on a comfy couch in a corner nook of the lobby. The couch faced a fireplace and was perfect for relaxing and catching up on work. One morning, I woke at 5:30 AM, headed down to the lobby and grabbed a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, right above the fireplace in this small nook was perched a monster flat screen TV with the news blaring. At 5:30 AM!?!

There was no remote to be found, so I reached into my bag, pulled out the TV-B-Gone, pressed the button and within 5 seconds, the TV turned off.

I knew then: I’d fallen in love with this $20 kit.

Then again in New York, last week, I was having breakfast at 6:00 AM in a small hotel. The only other people in the dining room were obviously with the military and there together for breakfast and a chat/debriefing before starting their day. None of them were watching the TV which was blaring commercials–in fact, they had all positioned themselves at the farthest point from the TV and facing away. I had a hunch they wouldn’t mind if I turned off the TV, so I pulled out the TV-B-Gone and didn’t even remove it from the poly bag I keep it in. One press of the button and seconds later the TV went silent.

I heard one of the guys at the other table say, “I hope they keep that thing turned off!”

I won’t lie: it felt like I was wielding a super power.

My EDC Pack easily accommodates the TV-B-Gone.

My TV-B-Gone remote now permanently lives in a dedicated pocket at the front of my EDC pack (a Tom Bihn Stowaway, in case you’re interested).

My TV-B-Gone remote now travels with me everywhere.

If you’re like me and would like a little device to manage your environment, I strongly recommend the TV-B-Gone.

I had a lot of fun building the kit version of TV-B-Gone, but if you don’t care to build one, Mitch has pre-built key chain versions of this same remote on his website for a mere $24.95. Note that the kit version comes with all you need to set up the remote for international use (power codes and configuration differ based on region). If you purchase a pre-built keychain, make sure you buy the version for the part of the world where you intend to use it.

TV-B-Gone Retailers:

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QRP Labs Announces The QSX Transceiver

The QSX Transceiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Pete Eaton (WB9FLW), who writes:

QRP Labs has just announced the QSX an All-Band All-Mode Transceiver Kit that should be available later this year. The Target price for the 10 Band Model is $150, also available will be a 40 Meter version for $75.00.

Details from QRP Labs:

QSX (QRP Labs SSB Xcvr) is a 40m SSB transceiver with 10-band (160m-10m) and enclosure options. The kit inherits all the functionality of the famous QCX single-band CW transceiver kit but adds SSB, AM, FM, PSK31 and RTTY. This will be the lowest cost all-HF radio available but also high performance and packed with features. These are the planned features of QSX:

  • Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology with standalone Digital Signal Processing (DSP), no PC required
  • Very high performance 24-bit Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) and 24-bit Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
  • 40m (single band) or 160-10m (10-band, including 60m) versions available
  • Modes: SSB, CW, AM, FM, PSK31, RTTY, WSPR beacon
  • Power output: 10W from 13.8V supply (power output is adjustable by the firmware)
  • Single power supply needed, 12V to 14V
  • USB host interface and connector, for USB keyboard to allow PC-less operation on PSK31 and RTTY
  • USB device interface and connector, for PC CAT Control
  • QSX can appear to a PC as a high performance 24-bit USB sound card and radio – for digital modes from a PC e.g. FT8, either demodulated or as I-Q for PC SDR programs
  • Built-in CW IAMBIC keyer (or straight keying also possible) with raised-cosine key-envelope shaping
  • DSP features (selectable sharp filters, AGC, Speech Compression, Noise Reduction etc.)
  • Dual microphone inputs (mobile phone headset with VOX, or RJ45 connector for Kenwood/Yaesu mics)
  • Dual VFO (A/B/Split), frequency and message memories
  • Through-hole assembly only
  • Built-in test equipment features for alignment, debugging and general purpose use
  • Detailed assembly manual
  • Macro facility for user defined sequences of operations, or redefinition of controls
  • Front panel: 16 x 2 LCD (yellow/green backlight), 2 rotary encoders, 4 buttons, mic/earphones socket
  • Soft-power on/off switch, the radio saves its state automatically on switch off, so that it starts up in the same state next time
  • Free firmware updates for life, very simple firmware update procedure via a USB memory stic

QSX is still in development! The above list is subject to change. The following is a FAQ with information about QSX.

More Info on QRP Labs Web Page:

https://www.qrp-labs.com/qsx.html

Check out the following video from YOTA 2018:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Fantastic! Many thanks for sharing this, Pete! This looks like a brilliant little kit for any skill level of patient kit builder.

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