Tag Archives: Mission RGO ONE

Looking back at 2020: What radios were in heavy rotation at your home and in the field–?

This morning, I’m looking at the calendar and I see and end in sight for 2020. I think most of us can agree that 2020 will be one for the history books, in large part due to the Covid-19 global pandemic which has had a pretty dramatic affect on many of our lives. It certainly brough my planned travels to a halt. I think many of us are quite happy to show 2020 the door!

As each year comes to a conclusion, I often look back at my radio activities during that year and see how it played out. I especially note the radios I used most heavily throughout the year.

Since I evaluate and test radios, models that are new to the market obviously get a lot of air time. Still, I’m also known to pull radios from the closet and give them some serous air time.

I’m very curious what radios you gave the most air time in 2020?

Here’s my list based on type/application:

Portable shortwave receivers

Since they’re new to the market, both the Tecsun PL-990 (above) and Belka DX (below) got a lot of air time.

I do like both radios and even took the pair on vacation recently even though packing space was very limited. I see the Belka DX getting much more air time in the future because 1.) it’s a performer (golly–just check out 13dka’s review of the Belka DSP) and 2.) it’s incredibly compact. The Belka now lives in my EDC bag, so is with me for impromptu listening and DXing sessions.

A classic solid-state portable that also got a lot of air time this year was the Panasonic RF-B65. Not only is it a performer, but it has a “cool” factor that’s hard to describe. I love it.

Tabletop portables

In a sense, the C.Crane CCradio3 got more play time than any of my radios.  It sits in a corner of our living area where we tune to FM, AM and weather radio–90% of the time, though, it’s either in AUX mode playing audio piped from my SiriusXM receiver, or in Bluetooth mode playing from one of our phones, tables, or computers. In October, the prototype CCRadio Solar took over SiriusXM duty brilliantly. I’m guessing the CCRadio3 has easily logged 1,600 hours of play time this year.

Of course, the Panasonic RF-2200 is one of my all-time favorite vintage solid-state portables, so it got a significant amount of field time.

Software Defined Radios

While at home the WinRadio Excalibur still gets a large portion of my SDR time, both the AirSpy HF+ Discovery and SDRplay RSP DX dominated this space in 2020.

The HF+ Discovery was my choice receiver for portable SDR DXing and the RSPdx when I wanted make wide bandwidth recordings and venture above VHF frequencies.

Home transceivers

Without a doubt the new Mission RGO One 50 watt HF transceiver got the most air time at home and a great deal of field time as well. It’s such a pleasure to use and is a proper performer to boot!

My new-to-me Icom IC-756 Pro, however, has become my always-connected, always-ready-to-pounce home 100W HF transceiver. It now lives above my computer monitor, so within easy reach. Although it’s capable of 100+ watts out, I rarely take it above 10 watts. The 756 Pro has helped me log hundreds of POTA parks and with it, I snagged a “Clean Sweep” and both bonus stations during the annual 13 Colonies event.

Field transceivers

The new Icom IC-705 has become one of my favorite portable transceivers. Not only is it the most full-featured transceiver I’ve ever owned, but it’s also a brillant SWLing broadcast receiver. With built-in audio recording, it’s a fabulous field radio.

Still, the Elecraft KX2 remains my choice field radio for its portability, versatility and incredibly compact size. This year, in particular, I’ve had a blast pairing the KX2 with the super-portable Elecraft AX1 antenna for quick field activations. I’ve posted a few field reports on QRPer.com and also a real-time video of an impromptu POTA activation with this combo:

How about you?

What radios did use use the most this year and why? Did you purchase a new radio this year? Have you ventured into the closet, dusted off a vintage radio and put it on the air?

Please comment!

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A comprehensive review of the Mission RGO One general coverage 50 watt transceiver

The following review was first published in the November 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


A review of the Mission RGO One ham radio transceiver

by Thomas (K4SWL / M0CYI)

Wow…I love this!

If I am perfectly frank, that would sum up my initial impression of the Mission RGO One.

It was the 2018 Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio, and I had just met up with radio engineer Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR) who was debuting the prototype of his 50-watt transceiver kit, the Mission RGO One. With its clean, functional design and simple front face, large weighted encoder, and enough tactile buttons and multi-function knobs to keep one’s most needed features within reach, the kit was certainly pushing all the right buttons for me.  Without a doubt, I was impressed from the start.

Boris (LZ2JR) the designer and engineer of the Mission RGO One.

To my mind, the RGO One smacks of classic 1990s-era transceivers:  a traditional tabletop front-facing panel, a large fold-out bail, and a unfussy backlit LCD display that’s large enough to read in the field and viewable at any angle.

Perhaps it’s only because I can’t turn off the innate radio reviewer, that I was rapidly checking mental boxes in this first encounter with the RGO One.  Indeed, when I first set eyes on any new radio, I do skim through my mental “operations checklist” to see how difficult the rig might be to use at home and/or in the field. Specifically, I’m looking for the following controls:

  • Encoder
  • AF Gain
  • RF Gain
  • Mode switch
  • Power output adjustment
  • Tune/Xmit button
  • Preamp/Attenuator
  • VFO A/B
  • Split and A=B
  • Mic gain and keyer speed
  • RIT
  • Filters
  • Band switching and direct frequency entry
  • Key and encoder lock

Of course, these days it’s fairly rare that radios actually contain all of these functions without the user having to dig into layers of menus, multi-function controls, or touch-screen options to access them.

Remarkably enough, the Mission RGO One, despite simple design, manages to include all of these features on the front panel without the need of embedded menus. In contrast with some of the radios I’ve tested and evaluated over the past several years, I could tell by the layout alone that the Mission RGO One was developed by an active ham radio operator and DXer: the controls are that intuitive.

Alas, the tantalizing prototype on Boris’ table in the 2018 Hamvention flea market was for show only.

Boris promised that he’d have fully-functional models available at the 2019 Hamvention. Because of this, following that first meeting in 2018, I kept in touch with Boris; we arranged to meet again at the 2019 Hamvention so I could take a second, much closer look at the RGO One––especially since he intended to start shipping the first very limited, early-production-run rigs shortly afterward.

So…did Boris deliver?  And more importantly: did the RGO deliver––?  Let’s find out.

On The Air

Within hours of taking delivery of the prototype radio, I had it in the field activating parks.

It was May 2019 when Boris delivered on his promise, handing me a loaner prototype RGO One. He did so with the understanding that the prototype was still a little rough around the edges. I acknowledged this, thinking in terms of a late Beta-test model since he welcomed reports of any bugs or anomalies I encountered and was fully prepared to address them.

After taking the initial RGO One to the field, I did note a few bugs, but nothing major.  All of my field notes were then sent to Boris and turned into action items.

Then, in July of 2020, Boris sent me a fully-upgraded Mission RGO One with the new internal ATU and optional adjustable filter. This radio represented the “fully-grown” production model, and in preparation to put it through its paces, I returned the prototype.

Although there are planned hardware upgrade options and, of course, firmware upgrades, the RGO One has now reached full maturity as a transceiver.

However, it was one thing to have ham-friendly ergonomic controls. The real question was, how did the RGO One stack up against the competition? It was time to find out.  After all, this is the danger of a “love at first sight” radio encounter––it often leaves the door open for disappointment, and of this I was well aware.

What follows is my full review of this 2020 Mission RGO One transceiver. Let’s take a deep dive into this rig…

Features and specifications

 

What follows are some of the RGO One features and highlights as written in the product manual (PDF):

  • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W [can actually be lowered to 0 watts out in 1 watt increments]
  • All-mode shortwave operation – coverage of all HAM HF bands (160m/60m optional)
  • High dynamic range receiver design, including high IP3 monolithic linear amplifiers in the front end, and diode ring RX mixer or H-mode first mixer (option)
  • Low-phase noise first LO – SI570 XO/VCXO chip
  • Full/semi (delay) QSK on CW; PTT/VOX operation on SSB. Strict RX/TX sequencing scheme with no “click” sounds
  • Down conversion superhet topology with popular 9MHz IF
  • Custom-made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type 200…2000Hz
  • Fast-acting AGC (fast and slow) with 134kHz dedicated IF
  • Compact and lightweight body, only 5 lbs
  • Custom-made multicolor backlit FSTN LCD
  • Custom-molded front panel with ergonomic controls
  • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside – solid state GaAs PHEMT SPDT switches on RX (BPF and TX to RX switching) and ultrafast rectifying diodes (LPF)
  • Modular construction – Main board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, plus inter-connections, and acts as a cable harness
  • Optional modules – Noise Blanker (NB), Audio Filter (AF), ATU, XVRTER, PC control via CAT protocol; USB UART – FTDI chipset
  • Double CPU circuitry control for front panel and main board – both field programmable via USB interface
  • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B); 4 Memory locations 128 bytes each

Build quality

First impressions proved accurate in terms of construction.  I’m very pleased with the build quality of the Mission RGO One. Keep in mind, however, you might note from the photos that some items––like the volume and multifunction knobs––are 3D printed, and I’m not certain if they’ll ever have custom knobs manufactured.  But I really don’t even think this is necessary, as the 3D printed ones are very nice, indeed––moreover, should a replacement ever be needed, I love the idea I could simply print one myself!

The RGO One main optical encoder/tuning knob is just brilliant. It’s weighted properly for the right amount of “heft” while tuning. I’m very pleased with the overall feeling and quality. It’s substantial, yet silky-smooth in operation, just what I look for in a tuning knob.

On the back of the unit, there is an externally-mounted heat sink with two small fans. These fans are quiet and efficient.

The chassis and bail are both top-shelf quality and should withstand years of field use. Just do keep in mind that like almost every other amateur transceiver currently on the market (save the recently reviewed lab599 Discovery TX-500), the chassis is neither water-proof nor weather-proof, so will require common-sense care to protect it from the elements.

Portability

The Mission RGO is relatively compact, lightweight (only 5 lbs without the ATU), and has a power output of up to 55 watts, even though the specs list just 50 watts. As a point of comparison, most other rigs in this class have a maximum output of 10 to 20 watts, and require an external amplifier for anything higher. The form factor is very similar to the Elecraft K2.

The light weight of the rig and the extra power makes the RGO One a capable and versatile field radio. Although the RGO One is configured like a desktop radio (with a front-facing panel), it’s still relatively compact and can easily be set up on a portable table, chair, or on the ground. Unlike field-portable rigs with top-mounted controls (think the Elecraft KX3 or KX2), obviously, it would be tough to do handheld or laptop operation.

The RGO One should also play for a long time on battery power as the receive current drain is a respectable 0.65A with the receiver preamp on. It’s not as efficient as, say, an Elecraft KX3 or the new Icom IC-705, but keep in mind the RGO One can provide 50 watts of output power and has a proper, internally-mounted, amplified speaker. The popular 100 watt Yaesu FT-891, in comparison, has a current drain closer to 1.75 to 2.0 amps [update: actually the specifications indicate 2 Amps in receive, but user reports are less than half that amount].  I pair the RGO One with my larger 15 aH Bioenno LiFePo battery. When fully-charged, I can operate actively for hours upon hours without needing to recharge.

Mission RGO One Bioenno LiFePo

The Bioenno 15aH battery powers the Mission RGO One for hours at a time in the field.

If it’s any indication of how much I wanted to take this rig to the field, when Boris handed me the prototype RGO One on Saturday at the 2019 Hamvention, I had it on the air that same day doing a Parks On The Air activation at an Ohio State Park.

Since then, I’ve easily taken the Mission RGO One on 30 or more park activations.

Performance

What’s most striking and obvious about the Mission RGO One’s receiver from the moment you turn it on is the low noise floor. It’s incredibly quiet. So much so that more than once, I’ve double checked to make sure RF gain hadn’t been accidentally altered as I started a field activation. I’d call CQ a few times, though, and when stations return they literally pop out of the ether. The RGO One currently has no digital noise reduction (DNR) but frankly, I don’t miss it like I might in other transceivers. Indeed, the RGO One is a radio I’ve reached for when the bands are noisy because the AGC and receiver seem to handle rough atmospheric conditions very well.

The RGO One’s built-in, top-mounted speaker provides ample audio levels for the shack, but in a noisy field environment, I wish it had a little more amplification. I’ve also used my Heil Pro headset and even inexpensive in-ear earphones connected to the front panel headphones jack in the field. The audio via headphones is excellent.

Let’s take a look at how well the RGO One performs by mode:

CW

First and foremost, CW operators will appreciate the RGO One’s silky-smooth full break-in QSK. The  RGO One employs clickless and quiet pin diode switching–a design feature I’ve become particularly fond of as traditional T/R relays can be noisy and distracting when not using headphones.

The RGO One also has a full compliment of adjustments for the CW operator including adjustable delay (default is 100ms), iambic mode, weight ratio, hand key/paddle, adjustable pitch, and sidetone volume.

The key jack is a standard three conductor 1/8” jack found on most modern transceivers. It’s located on the back of the radio.

My review unit has the optional variable width narrow filter which I highly recommend if operating in crowded conditions. I’ve used the RGO One on ARRL Field Day and found that it easily coped with crowded band conditions. Even after a few hours on the air, I had very little listener fatigue.

I also find that, as I mentioned earlier, CW signals just seem to “pop” out of the ether due to the low noise floor and excellent sensitivity/selectivity.

The RGO one also sports four CW keying memories where you can record your CQ, callsign, or even contest exchange. I’ve become incredibly reliant on memory keying to help facilitate my workflow in the field—while the radio is automatically sending my CQ or my regards and callsign to an station I’ve just worked, my hands are free to log the contact, adjust the radio, or even eat lunch!

Memory keying does require one long-press of the “6” button followed by either the “1,” “2,” “3,” or “4” button to play a message. Occasionally I won’t hold the 6 button long enough and accidentally move my frequency down one meter band since the 6 button is also the band “down” button. While it doesn’t happen often, it’s frustrating when it does but I think it could easily be fixed in the firmware as it’s really a timing issue.

SSB

Likewise, phone operators will be very pleased with the Mission RGO One. During all of my testing, I’ve only used the microphone supplied with the radio mainly because I don’t currently own another radio with an RJ-45 type microphone connector.

I do love the fact the microphone port is on the front panel of the radio—it’s very easy to connect and disconnect (in contract to the recently released Icom IC-705, for example). I’ve gotten excellent audio reports with the RGO One in SSB mode and have even monitored my own tests and QSOs via the KiwiSDR network.

Compression, gain, and VOX controls are easily accessible. One missing feature at present is a voice memory keyer. For field operators activating sites for the POTA, WWFF, or SOTA program, voice memory keying is huge as it saves your voice from calling “CQ” over the course of a few hours. I understand Boris does plan to implement voice memory keying in a future speech processor board.

AM Mode

Since the RGO One has general coverage receive and since I’m a shortwave broadcast listener, I was disappointed to find that there is presently no AM mode. Boris told me he does plan to add AM mode, “to be implemented in future versions of the IF/AF board only on RX.”

With that said, I can always zero-beat a broadcaster and use a wide SSB filter to listen to broadcasts which is more than I could do, for example, with my (ham band only) Elecraft K2.

At the end of the day, the RGO One is a high-performance, purpose-built ham radio transceiver, so the current lack of AM mode isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but I would love a wide AM filter on this rig.

ATU

The 2020 review model I received has the internal automatic antenna tuner which I feel is a worthy upgrade/addition. In the field, I’ve paired the RGO One with my Chameleon CHA Emcomm III Portable random wire antenna which requires an ATU in order to find matches across the bands. The pairing has been a very successful one because the Emcomm III can handle up to 50 watts power output in CW and covers the entire HF band when emptying the RGO One ATU.

 

Even though it’s a minor thing, I also like the fact that the RGO One ATU operates so quietly, even though with the present firmware it takes longer than some of my other ATUs to find a match.

Power

One thing I’ve found very useful in the field and, no doubt others will as well is the power output. In many ways, the RGO feels like a larger QRP radio (think Ten-Tec Argonaut V or VI) but it’s actually able to pump out 55 watts (often five watts more than specified). In single sideband mode, this is a meaningful amount of power output compared to, say, 5 or 10 watts. When I activate a rare park, or an ATNO (All Time New One), I’ve been taking the RGO One more times than not in order to get the best signal possible and maximum amount of contacts. Running full power, the rig never feels warm—heat dissipation is superb—and the fans on the back of the heat sink are super quiet.

I actually feel like the 50 watts of output power gives the RGO One a market niche since it sports top-shelf performance as you might expect in the venerable Elecraft K2, for example, but  not being a 10 watt or 100 watt radio, rather something in between which saves a little weight and also the need for heftier heat dissipation.

Other unique features

The RGO One has some interesting features not found in similar radios.

For one, there are no less than ten color options for the custom backlit LCD display, along with adjustable contrast and backlighting intensity.

The RGO One team also documents how to access hidden admin menus for granular adjustments to transceiver parameters, but of course you’d want to adjust those with caution and note values prior to changing them. When you receive your RGO One, Boris includes a sheet with all default values to make stepping back much easier.

Hands-on philosophy

At the end of the day, the Mission RGO One is a kit that can eventually be purchased in kit form, or as a fully assembled transceiver. It’s modular: you can add and upgrade features as you wish. Some field operators, for example, may wish to omit the ATU to save a little extra weight or cost. I actually love this philosophy and I think it’s one that’s made Elecraft such a successful manufacturer.

The process of upgrading firmware is slightly more involved than you might find with, say, an Elecraft, Icom, or Yaesu product. It’s a two stage process where one upgrades both the front panel and the main board separately. I completed a firmware update only a few weeks prior to publication. It took me perhaps 15 minutes with my PC as I followed Boris’ step-by-step instructions (http://lz2jr.com/blog/index.php/rgo-one-firmware-update-procedure/).

There is also an active email discussion group for the Mission RGO One (https://groups.io/g/RGO-ONE/) where participants share experiences, modifications, and even any glitches or bugs that are discovered. This group is closely monitored by the RGO One team, so items are addressed very quickly. I highly recommend joining this discussion group if you see an RGO One in your future.

Also, I’ve gotten great customer support from Boris (LZ2JR) and have heard the same from group members. He’s very much open to critical customer feedback.

Summary

Mission RGO One POTA

Every radio has its pros and cons. When I begin a review of a radio, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget some of my initial impressions. Here is the list I formed over the time I’ve spent evaluating the 2020 production model Mission RGO One.

Pros:

  • Excellent sensitivity and selectivity
  • Very low noise floor
  • Excellent, clean audio (see con)
  • Silky-smooth QSK
  • Full compliment of CW and SSB features and adjustments
  • CW memory keyer
  • Superb ergonomics with no need to access embedded menus for common features
  • 50 watts output power with effective quiet heat dissipation
  • Lighter weight compared with comparable transceivers
  • Direct frequency entry
  • Standard Anderson Powerpole power port on rear panel

Cons:

  • No voice keyer memory (at time of posting, but is planned in upgrade)
  • No notch or auto notch filter (at time of posting, but is planned)
  • No 6 meter option
  • No AM mode (at time of posting, but is planned)
  • Firmware updates are a two stage process
  • Would like slightly more audio amplification while using internal speaker in noisy outdoor environments

Conclusion

If you can’t tell, I’m impressed with the Mission RGO One because it does exactly what it sets out to do.  The RGO One is designed for an operator who appreciates rock-solid performance with simple, intuitive ergonomics.

While teaching an amateur radio course to our homeschool cooperative high school students last year, I picked the RGO One as the best field radio for HF demonstrations.

I’ll never forget setting the (prototype) RGO One for the first time on a folding table outside the classroom under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away.

We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ single sideband on the 20 meter band.  Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. All of my female students that term passed their Technician exam by the end of the term.

The RGO One is a very inviting radio.

I’ve had the luxury of testing, evaluating, and working with everything from one of the first prototypes to the latest updated version of the RGO One. It’s rare that I’m able to evaluate a radio over such a long period of time.

Even with the very early, bare-bones prototype, I was impressed with this transceiver’s performance characteristics. I’m not the only one either. It’s almost become routine new discussion group members join prior to receiving their radio, then announces how blown away they are with its performance. Check out eHam reviews, too—at time of posting, it’s a solid five stars at time of posting.

The RGO One reminds me of simple, classic radios of the 1980s and 90s, but underneath, it’s packing state-of-the-art performance.

Is it perfect? No radio is perfect, but I must say that for what it offers, it really hits the sweet spot for this radio operator.  It’s a joy to use.

There are still features in the works that will either be implemented with future firmware updates, or with future boards. In terms of performance and appearance, it reminds me of the Ten-Tec Eagle and Elecraft K2—both benchmark rigs in my world. And like the Eagle and K2, the RGO One is happy in the field, at home, or even on a DXpedition. It’s a simple radio that beckons to be on the air.

If you’re interested in the Mission RGO One, check the following web page for the pre-order form and pricing list. The RGO One is produced in batches, so you’ll need to reserve your model.

Click here to view the Mission RGO One order page.

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Mission RGO One Firmware update (2.10b) and pre-order form

A number of SWLing Post readers have been asking about the pricing and availability of the Mission RGO One transceiver.

RGO One designer, Boris (LZ2JR), has informed me that he’s published a new pre-order form available via the following link. The form specifies all options and pricing and applies to a third production run of the radio:

Click here to view the Mission RGO One pre-order form.

They’ve also announced firmware version 2.10b which improves ATU performance and addresses a number of other tweaks and user requests. Click here to read details and download the update.

Note that my full review of the Mission RGO transceiver is scheduled to publish in the November 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

I took the RGO One on another Parks On The Air activation yesterday. Look for a post about it soon!

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Mission RGO One: Impressions, availability, pricing and upgrades

Readers might recall that I picked up a Mission RGO One 50 watt transceiver from Boris (LZ2JR) at the 2019 Hamvention. I’ve been helping Boris and his team evaluate this Bulgarian-manufactured general coverage transceiver since then.

I’ll be writing a comprehensive review of the Mission RGO One for The Spectrum Monitor magazine later this year, but in the meantime I thought I’d post a quick update.

I’ve gotten a number of emails from readers asking specific questions about this transceiver and its availability/pricing. Here are a few answers to your questions:

Is it a good one?

This is the most common question, of course.

In short: the Mission RGO One has exceeded my expectations. The RGO’s noise floor is low, the dynamic range high, the audio pleasant, and the ergonomics are top-notch. As I said in a previous post, you can tell the RGO One was designed by an active ham radio operator. The radio is a pleasure to use and harkens back to the days of benchmark pre-SDR transceivers.

Keep in mind I have a very early evaluation model and it’s due a firmware upgrade. The only negatives I’ve experienced are ones I would expect as we flesh out minor firmware bugs. Indeed, most all of these have been sorted already.

I’ve used the RGO One in both the shack and in the field and find it’s a capable radio in both situations.

In fact, last year I taught a ham radio class to a group of home-schooled high school students. Of course, I wanted to offer them proper on-the-air time so they could experience a little HF radio magic. My radio of choice was the RGO One for its ease of use and excellent built-in audio.

I took the class outside and we connected the RGO One to a resonant portable 20 meter vertical. One of the very first SSB contacts we made was with a ham radio operator in Slovenia–with solid 5 by 9 reports on both ends. After that, my students were hooked! (In fact, four of my seven students have since passed their ham radio license exam! I’m incredibly proud of them.)

If you’re curious how well the RGO One holds up during contest conditions in CW, I highly recommend checking out this CQWW report by John (AE5X).

Market niche

With a large number of QRP and 100 watt sub-$1000 transceivers on the market–including the Elecraft KX2, Yaesu FT-818/FT-891, Icom IC-718/IC-7300, to name only a few–where does the Mission RGO One fit in?

Good question.

In my mind, what makes the RGO One unique is the fact that it has the price, weight, and form factor of a field-portable, front-panel QRP transceiver, but is capable of pumping out a full 50 watts of power without an external amplifier.

The RGO one is lighter (about 5 lbs) and draws less current on receive than most comparable 100 watt general coverage transceivers.

I see the RGO One becoming my choice radio for most Parks On The Air (POTA) field activations this year. In the past, I’ve used my beloved Elecraft KX2 for NPOTA and POTA activations because it’s extremely portable and incredibly versatile. I’ll still use the KX2 for activations that require hiking or in situations where I can’t easily set up a tabletop radio, but I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had a little more TX output Since the RGO One can provide up to 50 watts out, it’ll give me a little more “juice” when conditions demand.

Availability and pricing

At present, there are a limited number of early production Mission RGO One transceivers in the wild. The company is in the process of scaling up production.

To that end, you will now find a Mission RGO One pre-order form on their website.

The price is 790 Euro (roughly $880 US) plus shipping. There will be two shipping options: directly from Bulgaria, and from the USA in mid-May 2020. These units will all be fully factory assembled and aligned.

It’s my understanding that eventually there will be a modular kit version of the RGO One and the price will be much less than that of the assembled unit.

Internal ATU option

The RGO Team is also in the final stages of producing an optional high-performance internal ATU.

I have no details about pricing or availability yet, but I will be testing this ATU in the shack and in the field later this year. After I’ve evaluated the ATU, I will publish my full review of the RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Other Questions?

As you might have gathered, I’ve really been enjoying my time with the Mission RGO One transceiver. Lately, it’s even taken the place of my beloved KX3 in the radio shack.

Please comment if you have other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.


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Taking the new Mission RGO One transceiver to the field!

SWLing Post readers might recall that last year at the 2018 Hamvention, I met with radio engineer, Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR), who was debuting the prototype of his 50 watt transceiver kit: the Mission RGO One (click here to read that post).

Since last year, I’ve been in touch with Boris, and we arranged to meet again at the 2019 Hamvention so I could take a closer look at the RGO One, especially since he has started shipping the first limited production run.

The RGO One delivers everything Boris promised last year and Boris is on schedule, having finished all of the hardware design and having implemented frequent firmware updates to add functionality.

Excellent first impressions

I’ll be honest: I think the RGO One was one of the most exciting little radios to come out of Hamvention this year. Why?

First of all, in contrast to some radios I’ve tested and evaluated over the past two years, I can tell immediately that the Mission RGO One was developed by an active ham radio operator and DXer.

Here are some of the RGO One features and highlights as taken from the preliminary product manual (PDF):

    • QRP/QRO output 5 – 50W [can actually be lowered to 0 watts out in 1 watt increments]
    • All mode shortwave operation – coverage of all HAM HF bands (160m/60m optional)
    • High dynamic range receiver design including high IP3 monolithic linear amplifiers in the front end and diode ring RX mixer or H-mode first mixer (option).
    • Low phase noise first LO – SI570 XO/VCXO chip.
    • Full/semi (delay) QSK on CW; PTT/VOX operation on SSB. Strict RX/TX sequencing scheme. No click sounds at all!
    • Down conversion superhet topology with popular 9MHz IF
    • Custom made crystal filters for SSB and CW and variable crystal 4 pole filter – Johnson type 200…2000Hz
    • Fast acting AGC (fast and slow) with 134kHz dedicated IF
    • Compact and lightweight body [only 5 lbs!]
    • Custom made multicolor backlit FSTN LCD
    • Custom molded front panel with ergonomic controls.
    • Silent operation with no clicking relays inside – solid state GaAs PHEMT SPDT switches on RX (BPF and TX to RX switching) and ultrafast rectifying diodes (LPF)
    • Modular construction – Main board serves as a “chassis” also fits all the external connectors, daughter boards, inter-connections and acts as a cable harness.
    • Optional modules – Noise Blanker (NB), Audio Filter (AF), ATU, XVRTER, PC control via CAT protocol; USB UART – FTDI chipset
    • Double CPU circuitry control for front panel and main board – both field programmable via USB interface.
    • Memory morse code keyer (Curtis A, CMOS B); 4 Memory locations 128 bytes each

What really sets the Mission RGO apart from its competitors is the fact that it’s compact, lightweight (only 5 lbs!), and has a power output of up to 50 watts. Most other rigs in this class have a maximum output of 10 to 15 watts and require an external amplifier for anything higher.

The RGO One should also play for a long time on battery power as the receive current drain is a modest 0.65A with receiver preamp on.

The RGO is also designed to encourage a comfortable operating position. The bail lifts the front of the radio so that the faceplate and backlit screen are easily viewed at any angle.

The keypad is intuitive and–hold your applause!–all of the important functions are within one button or knob press!

The front panel design is simple and clean. There are no embedded menus to navigate to change filter width, power level, RF gain, keyer speed, mic gain, pre amp, or audio monitor level. Knob spacing is excellent and I believe I would even be able to operate the RGO while wearing gloves.

Even split-operation is designed so that, with one button press, you can easily monitor a pile-up and position your transmit frequency where the DX station last worked a station. (This is similar to the Icom XFC button). The user-interface is intuitive; it’s obvious to me that Boris built this radio around working DX at home and in the field.

Speaking of the field…

Parks On The Air (POTA) with the Mission RGO One

At my request, Boris has kindly loaned me one of the first production run units to test and review over the next few months. I intend to evaluate this radio at home, in the field, and (especially) on Field Day. By July, I should have a very good idea of how well this Bulgaria-born transceiver performs under demanding radio conditions!

I had planned to begin my RGO One evaluation after returning home from Hamvention, but I couldn’t resist taking it to the field, even though the propagation forecast was dismal.

The first leg of my journey home from Hamvention took me to Columbus, Ohio, on Monday, so I scheduled a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation of Delaware State Park, K-1946.

Delaware State Park (POTA K-1946) in Delaware, Ohio.

My buddy Miles (KD8KNC) and I met our mutual friend Mike (K8RAT) at the park entrance and quickly found a great site with tall trees, a little shade, and a large picnic table.

We set up the RGO One and, for comparison, my Elecraft KX2 for the POTA activation.

I won’t lie: band conditions were horrible. Propagation was incredibly weak, QRN was high, and QSB was deep. Yuck!

Still, this activation gave me a chance to test the RGO One in proper field conditions.

I was limited to SSB since the only CW key I had with me, the paddle specifically designed to attach to the front panel of the Elecraft KX2, wouldn’t work with the RGO One. In addition, I was limited to 25 watts output because the antenna I deployed, the LnR Precision EFT Trail-Friendly end-fed antenna, can only handle power up to 25 watts.

Although I had never operated the radio before, I was able to sort out most of its functions and features quickly.

The receiver audio was excellent and the noise floor seemed quite low to my ears. The internal speaker does a fine job producing audio levels that are more than ample for a field setting.  Still, I prefer operating with a set of earphones in the field–especially important on days like this when propagation equates to a lot of weak signals.

Although I failed to make a total of ten contacts to claim a proper POTA activation, I was pleased with offering up K-1946 to seven lucky POTA hunters/chasers. I simply didn’t have enough time available to work three stations more at such a slow QSO rate.

Of course, my signal reports were averaging “5 by 5” and were never more than “5 by 7” regardless of which rig–the RGO One or the KX2–I was using. The reports on the RGO One transmit audio reports were great.

Stay tuned!

I will publish my first review of the Mission RGO One in The Spectrum Monitor Magazine, most likely in August or September.  In the meantime, I will post updates here as I put the RGO One through its paces. I’m especially excited about using it during Field Day with my buddy Vlado (N3CZ) to see how it holds up in such an RF-dense environment.

And now that the POTA bug has bitten me?  Expect to catch me on the air with the RGO One over the next few weeks!

If you’re interested in following the Mission RGO One, bookmark the tag: RGO ONE.


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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.

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