Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don, who notes that in anticipation of the TX-500 hitting the market, W2ENY has posted a number of accessory cables, spare connectors and even a military-style handset on his eBay store and website.
To be clear, via Ham Radio Outlet, the TX-500 ships with everything you need to get on the air via SSB or CW. Here’s the full accessory set that accompanies the TX-500:
Screen grab from HRO’s TX-500 product page.
If you wish to build your own cables, or you’d like additional break-out cable options, check out W2ENY’s selection.
A note about TX-500 connectors
I’ve received numerous inquiries from readers regarding the “non-standard” multi-pin connectors used on the TX-500 to maintain water resistance. Truth is, the TX-500 connectors are only non-standard in the amateur radio world–they are not proprietary as some have implied.
The TX-500 uses GX12 mm connectors that are widely used in aviation, commercial and military applications. They’re easy to find online, but the price per each with shipping is typically around $7.00-8.00 US. You get a better deal if you buy in bulk, but often bulk packages of 5 or more are of the same pin count/configuration.
After browsing W2ENY’s site, I see he’s offering a full set of TX-500 connectors for $30 via eBay and his store. Not a bad price although I wish he’d also offer a package with three in particular: the speaker/mic, CW, and power ports (perhaps if he reads this, he’ll consider!).
If I were to purchase the TX-500, I would grab an extra set of GX12mm connectors to build my own cables.
Any TX-500 questions?
While I’m at it, feel free to comment with any of your questions about the TX-500. I only have this rig in the shack and field for a few more days before I need to return it. I’ve started a frequently asked questions post about the TX-500 that I’ll publish this week.
And if you’re wondering, yes, I’m very tempted to add this rig to my own collection. More on that later–!
Yesterday, I hit the field again with the lab599 TX-500 Discovery. This time, I wanted to give the radio a proper shake-out by hiking to my location with the entire station in my pack.
This TX-500 transceiver is on loan, so I haven’t built a custom field kit for it like I have with my other radios. To be on the safe side, I packed the rig and all of its accessories in my Red Oxx C-Ruck pack.
The C-Ruck is loaded with three antennas, two LiFePo batteries, DC distribution panels, extra adapters/connectors, and essentially everything I need to handle pretty much any field situation. I take it on every field activation when I can afford the space in my car/truck because it’s so complete and stocked, it’s like a mini shack in a bag complete with tools I might need in the field.
This radio bag was total overkill for a quick day hike into Pisgah National Forest and I did remove a few heavy items like a larger battery, my Wolf River Coils TIA vertical, and other extra accessories. But at the end of the day, my four-legged hiking partner (Hazel) and I both agreed that I would kick myself if I arrived on-site and realized I was short, say, one PL-259 to BNC connector.
Turns out, the C-Ruck was just what the doctor ordered. The TX-500 is so compact, it fit in the C-Ruck’s top flap pocket that holds my logging notepad. I used that top flap to strap down my folding three legged stool for the hike.
The best part was the C-Ruck made for a perfect field table! The front pocket of the pack (which contains supplies like a first aid kit, emergency tarp/sleeping back, protein bars, etc.) propped the TX-500 in place.
After finding a nice spot off-trail, I set up my EFT Trail-Friendly end fed antenna in short order, plugged it into the TX-500, plugged in my 6 aH Bioenno LiFePo battery, the TX-500 Speaker/Mic (which conveniently clipped o the C-Ruck top flap), and finally my homebrew CW key cable.
Since I had no mobile Internet service at this site–no surprise–I started the activation in CW which gave me the best opportunity to be auto-spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) and for CW hunters to find me on the announced frequency via the POTA site.
I started calling CQ and was instantly rewarded with a string of contacts on 40 meters.
After working that small pile of hunters, I moved up to the 20 meter band, started calling CQ, and made this short video:
Shortly after making this video, I heard thunder nearby and had to pack up. I’d hoped to work a few stations on 20M in CW, then switch over to SSB and work more. I’m willing to tempt fate when it’s just rain, but I don’t play with lightening.
All in all, It was a very pleasant–although short–activation. Hazel and I really enjoyed the hike. Frankly both of us love any excuse to hit the trails or parks.
Hazel was more interested in squirrels than DX.
I’m finding that the TX-500 is a very sturdy and capable field radio with fantastic ergonomics.
This morning, I pulled out the scales and found that the radio, speaker/mic, and power cable all weigh in at 1 pound 9 ounces. That’s a lightweight kit by any standard.
Easy on batteries
Also, the TX-500 only seems to need about 110-120 milliamps of current drain in receive. That’s an impressive number for sure–right there with the benchmark Elecraft KX2. I’m pretty sure I could operate for hours with only my 6 aH LiFePo battery pack.
More to come
I still have the TX-500 for a week and hope to continue taking it to the field. I had planned to go out again today, but the weather forecast is dismal. Instead, I’ll chase some parks here in the shack!
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!?
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!
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!
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.