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Author Topic: Looking for ideal CW/Digi/CAT interface device  (Read 4623 times)
W2IRT
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« on: May 06, 2012, 04:09:14 PM »

Hi all,
After having another MicroHAM device (USB-II) fail me in a critical moment I'd like to know if there are any other manufacturers of CW/FSK/Digital + CAT devices on the market. Price is irrelevant but durability and 100% reliability is paramount. I need something that has a K1EL keyer built in, can send proper FSK (not afsk) RTTY and will allow me to sequence my .WAV files for contest voice keying. Any thoughts? This will interface to an IC-7000 transceiver.

I'm looking for something that's "desert-island grade," meaning something that needs to be reliable on a major DXpedition to somewhere with no repair facilities nearby, and its failure would result in the failure of the operation.
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VE3FMC
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2012, 04:13:12 AM »

Hi all,
After having another MicroHAM device (USB-II) fail me in a critical moment I'd like to know if there are any other manufacturers of CW/FSK/Digital + CAT devices on the market. Price is irrelevant but durability and 100% reliability is paramount. I need something that has a K1EL keyer built in, can send proper FSK (not afsk) RTTY and will allow me to sequence my .WAV files for contest voice keying. Any thoughts? This will interface to an IC-7000 transceiver.

I'm looking for something that's "desert-island grade," meaning something that needs to be reliable on a major DXpedition to somewhere with no repair facilities nearby, and its failure would result in the failure of the operation.

I have owned a Tigertronics SignaLink USB since September 2007. It has never giving me any trouble and I use it almost every day. So that is a lot of air time since I bought it.

I currently have it interfaced with a Yaesu FT-950 but before I bought this rig I used it with an Icom 7000. One thing I would recommend is to use the 6 pin data port on the 7000 for the connection to the SignaLink USB. When I was using the 13 pin data cable I had RF problems when operating SSB. So go with the 6 pin cable.

As I said, close to 5 years of operating with the SignaLink and not one problem. A friend of mine has owned his for about the same amount of time and has never had any problems. I have had many a digital QSO with other hams who use them.

73, Rick VE3FMC
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W2IRT
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2012, 07:29:13 AM »

I was under the impression that the SignalLink device was AFSK-only not pure FSK keying. Am I wrong in this?
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AA4PB
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2012, 10:31:19 AM »

Yes, the SignaLink-USB is AFSK only. It doesn't do FSK and it doesn't do CAT control. The PTT control is operated by the tones, similar to VOX on a SSB transceiver.
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W2IRT
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2012, 10:47:01 AM »

Yeah, that's what I thought, which rules that device out completely. Whatever I get has to do keyed CW & FSK amongst the other requirements.
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VE3FMC
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2012, 05:57:53 PM »

Yeah, that's what I thought, which rules that device out completely. Whatever I get has to do keyed CW & FSK amongst the other requirements.

I got around the CW issue by adding a K1EL Winkeyer to my system.
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W2IRT
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2012, 06:02:52 PM »

I guess I should clarify: I'm looking for something DXpedition grade to potentially go on actual DXpeditions, or at least serve for FD and traveling contests. The USB-II device, in theory, is perfect but I've had one too many MicroHAM cable failures or Router software problems for me to consider keeping it as part of the kit going forward.
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K8AC
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2012, 08:38:49 PM »

Peter - I don't understand the penchant today for a "device" that performs the functions you mentioned.  FSK and PTT are easily accomplished by a simple single transistor in the shell of a serial cable (works just fine for most USB/serial converters as well).  Why a separate device with a K1EL keyer built in when a standalone K1EL keyer does the job perfectly?  Logging software like N1MM handles all the CAT interface you'd need and greatly automates CW and SSB operation, including .wav files. 

73, K8AC
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W2IRT
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2012, 10:04:32 PM »

Call it personal preference. I like commercially built devices that are rugged and have a good reputation for build quality and reliability. I tried the transistor keying method many years back and it just never worked well. Either errant dits or delays in sending were common. WinKey just works, 100% reliably. The ideal outboard box is fully USB, does the CI-V interface, keys both CW and FSK, keys the radio and routes incoming .WAV files via N1MM and has the keyer built in. To be really ideal, it's physically small and light with a small footprint.

I generally like the MicroHAM USB-II interface but it has two big drawbacks for me. First, it doesn't have a keyer built in, necessitating a bulky outboard electronic keyer if I want to use both N1MM and paddles to send. This adds to weight and complexity and the potential for problems. Second, the cable set that attaches to the radio is of mediocre quality (and that's being generous). There is no strain relief on any connector except the DB-15 on the interface itself; nothing at the radio end. Thin-gauge wires into a 1/4" jack without strain relief is asking for problems. It's "OK" but not an ideal interface. "Will it do?" Yes. Is it what I'm after? No.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2012, 05:59:38 AM »

It seems like your biggest issue is cables. Maybe the solution is to have a set of "rugged" cables made. You could also travel with a spare set of cables just in case. I'm not aware of any ruggedized, off-the-shelf, interface that will do everything that you want.

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W4MAY
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2012, 06:02:27 PM »

You can also look at the Rigexpert products.  They seem to mimic the micro ham line.  I have a older rig expert + and I have no issues with the unit and/or cables.

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KC3JV
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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 05:04:24 PM »

Hi:  After using the Tigertronics I opted for the NUE-PSK all in one modem and interface.   It does PSK-31, RTTY and CW all you need is the special cable for ICOM and a KEYBOARD and your on the air.   Best of all the device is portable and can run on 12V or 2 9V batteries.   One thing get the USB memory add on it makes life much easyer.

Mark KC3JV
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