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Author Topic: New Adventure into QRP  (Read 5626 times)
WX7K
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Posts: 45




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« on: April 24, 2011, 08:30:43 AM »

I have been operating since 1986 and never tried QRP, until a couple weeks ago when I answered a 20 Meter CQ from a ham in Nicaragua from here in Washington state on 1 watt (I had accidentally left my radio output turned down after doing some testing).  I think I caught the bug.  So my question is: for a first QRP rig, what is a good band.  I am thinking 20 M because the antenna can be fairly short and the band is open fairly often and I seem to have had good luck on it already Smiley.  I am still doing the research on which kit to build.  I am chagrined (don't you love that word) to find that many kits with great reviews are no longer in production.  Your comments are welcome.  

73,

Newell
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WB6BYU
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2011, 08:53:06 AM »

I'd start by using your current rig with the power turned down low.  That's just as much QRP
as anything else, and will give you the opportunity to try it out with minimal investment.

But if you ALSO want the fun of building radios and operating them portable, then one of the
small radios adds to the fun.  The SW40+ is inexpensive and gives very good performance on
40m CW.  (There are versions for other bands as well.)  The Elecraft KX1 / K1 / K2 are
top-of-the-line kits with excellent support and many options - the K2 can be upgraded to SSB -
but are much more expensive.


Regarding which band - I like 40m, as my interests tend to be more casual contacts rather than
DX.  20m isn't a bad choice, either, if that is normally your favorite band.  One advantage of the
SW-series is that buying two or three for different bands may still be cheaper than a single rig
that covers multiple bands.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 08:55:49 AM by WB6BYU » Logged
N3PDT
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Posts: 75




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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2011, 05:44:17 PM »

20m and 40m are both good choices. The Small Wonder Labs SW+ series are great kits, as already mentoned. Another great choice are the OHR 100A kits. Ten Tec and MFJ Cubs are also popular.

Chances are you are actually just looking for your FIRST QRP kit. If you are like most of us, more will follow. I just finished up a little SWLabs Rockmite40, am fiddling with some mods to an SW+80, have a Hendricks DC20 on order, and will probably order an OHR 100A in 15m next week! Grin

Doug
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WX7K
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Posts: 45




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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 04:14:01 PM »

Dale, Doug

Thanks for your replies.   I also suspect that this will be a first kit. Cheesy  I am not married to any particular band, but this first radio is going with me on some trips and I was thinking about keeping it simple and small.  What enclosures are you using for your SWL radios?  Are they home brew or is there something out there that is available that will readily fit?

I have been looking at the KX1 and K1, but they are too expensive until I see if QRP is going to be a long term thing.  I really like the reviews on the KX1, though.  Nice radio.  I have been looking at the TT 1300 series.  I suspect that after you get an enclosure and labeling for a SWL kit it will be close to the same price as the TT.  I am thinking the TT may be a good choice for the first kit as it will eliminate the hassles of having to the radio into an enclosure.  So many choices, so little time. Cheesy

Well, thanks for the input.  I suspect I will be back with more questions and I will be mining the other posts for information.

73

Newell
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N3PDT
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« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2011, 01:19:58 PM »

Newell,

My SW80+ is an older kit and was supplied with an enclosure. I believe they were supplied by Ten Tec. The current Ten Tec TG-24 looks to be a duplicate of the enclosure I have. The Ten Tec TPx-19 would also work. Prices run from about $7 to about $9.

I have no experience with the TT 1300 series, although I am a big TT fan. I like the slightly wider bandwidth available and the 3w output over the SWL 40Khz and 2.5w. I have owned a KX-1 and currently have a K1. Both are in a different class than the $100 +/- mono band rigs and a lot of fun to operate. I like the K1 slightly better than the KX-1, but just slightly. I have not built an Elecraft yet, having bought mine used.

The TT 1300 series has a very extensive third party assembly manual available (the factory manual gets some negative comments in reviews, and from some personal experience with TT documentation, I would believe that their docs might be a little "light" for less experienced builders - like me. On the other hand, they are very helpful on the phone - great customer service).

The Small Wonder line is also very well supported by both the owner Dave, and the dedicated users. There is a Yahoo group for the Small Wonder products. Bottom line, of the kits you're looking at, I doubt you'd go wrong with any of them. I'd probably lean towards SWL just because of my positive experience with them already, although as mentioned earlier, I'm going with OHR for a 15m kit in the near future.

I'd be interested to find out which way you go. It's a lot of fun.
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K5ACO
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2011, 05:20:09 PM »

The PFR-3 is a nice all-in-one, kinda a poor man's KX-1. It covers 20-30-and 40 with 4-5 W out, built in keyer, antenna tuner, and digital readout.  It is drift-free and uses pushbutton switches for up/down tuning.  Very low current drain and efficient class-E final.

It is $240 + about $20 shipping.  Pair that with a Baby black widow paddle for about $40, 8 AA batteries, a 35 ft antenna wire and 15 ft counterpoise wire, earphones, and you are ready to go to the field.  Works even better on a "real" antenna.  In several respects it is better than a KX-1 (in some others, less so)

I still want a Small wonder or Oak Hill rig for 80, but this rig will make QRP easy with everything built into that tiny yellow case.
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WX7K
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« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2011, 06:08:44 AM »

Well, I ordered a couple boxes from TT.  I figured that it would be cheaper to get extras now than to order them one at a time.  Sure enough, the total shipping for additional boxes was far less that the total would have been shipping each one separately.

As for the radio, I have decided on the SW40.  I am going with 40 meters because a lot of my QSOs have been on 7.114, the SKCC elmer frequency.  It helps me build my code speed back up and also I like to help other hams getting started with CW. 

So, with that decided, all I have to do is wait and watch the mail. Wink

I will post back when I get everything together and let you know how it went.

73

Newell
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KL7IPV
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Posts: 984




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« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2011, 08:55:24 PM »

I have the Icom IC-703 that was made before the "Plus" and without the built in tuner. Look for one of those. It is a great little radio and puts out a full 10 watts if you need to POWER UP!! Smiley
Frank
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AE4RV
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2011, 09:21:35 AM »

I have the Icom IC-703 that was made before the "Plus" and without the built in tuner. Look for one of those. It is a great little radio and puts out a full 10 watts if you need to POWER UP!! Smiley
Frank

Are you sure about that? I have a very early IC-703 (non-plus) that has a built in tuner. Mine is so early that according to a document of IC-703 serial numbers that I found at the 703 Yahoo group, it was the very radio used by CQ magazine for their review! I'm not aware that they made them without the tuner. BTW, it is a very good tuner, similar to an aftermarket LDG model with power-saving latching relays and able to tune almost anything, not like a typical built-in tuner that is only useful for trimming a dipole.

As far as I know, the non-plus model lacks six meters and possibly some refinements.

It's a great rig. However, I think the OP is planning a kit build, right?

73, Geoff

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WX7K
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Posts: 45




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« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2011, 10:47:34 AM »

Right, for now I am going with a kit.  This is something I can throw in a suit case to travel without taking a lot of weight and bulk with me.  Also, I want to KISS untill I find out if this is going to be a passing fancy or I have the bug.  If I find I have been bitten by the bug, then I will look at other radios, or maybe some more kits.  Who knows where this will take me?  I may be running my Orion at 2 watts.  Cheesy  I think that is the exciting part of starting something new, you have no idea where you might end up.

I have been looking at an end-fed antenna cut for the frequency band of the radio to eliminate the need to carry a tuner with me.  The PAR END FEDZ 40 Meter antenna looks great and the reviews are also great.  Then there was an article in QST a couple months ago about a home brew end fed antenna that I will look into.  So there are still lots of things to look at and look into before I get the "final rig" set up.

73

Newell
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AE4RV
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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2011, 12:15:53 PM »

Great, Newel, have fun.

Just yesterday I did about the same thing you did that got you started. I do some QRP - I like and respect it, but MOSTLY I run between 40-100 watts. Yesterday, I jumped in a little pile up for a station in the Turks/Caicos islands, working split. I sent my call one time and he came right back with my suffix, I sent it again and he got it. TU dit dit.

I went to log it and noticed my power was about four watts.

73, Geoff
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WA4FNG
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Posts: 162




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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2011, 08:53:58 AM »

I work QRP all the time with my TenTec Corsair 2, either cranked back to 5W or just under 1W output. When I want QRO, I just turn the knob. Generally, when I hear a CQ QRP I turn back the power in hopes of a 2-way QRP QSO. The other night I had a 5W QSO with Canary Islands on 30m. It was very gratifying to say the least. I turned off the rig and went to bed. A few hours later I woke up and turned on the radio to see how the band sounded. I forgot that I was still running 5W and proceeded to work 5 countries in Europe (I'm in Atlanta) before noticing my power was 5W. I like QRP and it provides a nice diversion from the normal QSOs. -Milt
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N2RRA
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« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2011, 06:17:39 PM »

I had the same QRP experience as you and never dropped it since. Stick with your rig unless your gonna go portable, but i run a YEASU FT-817 and love it. Gonna start running solor panels on my hikes.

A great QRP adventure I've recently found is S.O.T.A (Summits On The Air) and with this your QRP adventures become far more exciting. This is done by news going out on all your hikes, or portable operations which make over seas DX and state side listen for you frantically to get that point or summit number. Just like I.O.T.A (Islands On The Air). IOTA is another great QRP activity.

So get QRP'ing and rock on!

BTW: I run QRP base, portable (hill top/hike) and mobile quite often. Even today under a poor cycle with much success.

73 & GL!
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WB6RQN
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« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2011, 04:08:23 PM »

My first transmitter was a Central Electronics 10A Multiphase Exciter many moons ago. It was about 10W out. I have done QRP off and on ever since then.

Right now I have and use three different QRP transceivers:

A Small Wonder Labs PSK-20
An Elecraft K2
A Flex Radio Systems 1500

I find that most of my operation now is QRP using digital modes. I run WSPR, Olivia, DominoEX, or THOR at 3W most of the time now. I use the 1500 much more than the other two.

I agree with the advice that one start by turning down the TX power level on your existing radio. I also like that a "real" QRP station can be very light and transportable. I run my 1500 with a battery pack and typically operate a 1/2 wave loop (or larger) with a tuner.

73 de Brian, WB6RQN/J79BPL
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NU4B
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« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2011, 04:59:12 AM »

Also keep an eye out on the QRP frequencies. Its alot of fun working other QRPers and sometimes you stumble across some DX stations running QRP. Its a thrill to work a 2X QRP DX contact. This coming up DX season watch 21.060. (And maybe 28.060 although the way this cycle is going 2013 may be the year for that.) I'm guessing 15 meters will be a good place this year. A few months ago I was listening to 15 and heard ZF2SC calling on 21.060. Some of my more interesting 2X QRP DX contacts have been with stations I didn't know were QRP like OK1AEX/5N0 many years ago. More recently last winter I worked A33A who was running QRP from Tonga. The 15 meter band is a good band because, although quite helpful, you don't necessarily need a beam to make some neat contacts when conditions are good. And if 10 ever really opens up you will find where the expression " 1 watt into a wet noodle" came from.
You've heard the saying "life is too short for QRP", well that comes from operators who.... well you can fill in the blank. In the last 10 years I've made about 15,000 QRP QSOs and about 76% were DX contacts. (Don't you just love computer logs and the stats you can keep up with.) That doesn't mean I won't use more power (12 watts) for a long winded chat if needed, but for great fun DX'ing and chasing islands, etc.. 4 or 5 watts is what I use.
And there's much you can do with QRP. Some of the other guys mentioned the different modes. It makes building rigs easier - you can have a homebuilt station. Plus they are easy to take with you. Whether on vacation, hiking, camping, biking.
Give it a shot, Brian, and I hope you enjoy yourself.
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