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Author Topic: A few questions about QRP PSK31 and general band selection.  (Read 15625 times)

Posts: 217

« on: May 25, 2013, 07:12:18 PM »

I've been looking for an all-in-on QRP  PSK tranceiver, but there doesn't seems to be any good solution right now. There's the NeuPSK that can act as a dedicated portable terminal, but honestly, it's not much smaller than my netbook. There was an intreguing all-in-one product shown at Dayton by "Silent System" ( ), but it's projected to be $300 and 100mW output, max - is 100mw PSK viable or an exercise in self hate?

As far as I can tell, the dedicated PSK tranceiver kit projects like the Small Wonder Labs offerings are dead. Because of this, I've been eyeballing a few QRP (or near QRP) SSB kits to use with the netbook, but some are single-band and I'm wondering how useful they'd be.   There's the Survivor which is priced right and looks great, but I wonder how smart it would be to be limited to 80m because of summertime noise and the difficulty of getting a portable antenna high enough. The BitX20A also grabs my interest, but again, it's single band. There are some "new kids" on the block like the X1M and the YouKits TJ2B which look pretty promising, but is 5 watts enough to have fun with using digi modes?  I'm not looking for a full on contest ready rig like a KX3, but rather something I can toss in the bag and have some fun with from a park or maybe hotel room when I travel.

What's the conventional wisdom of QRP in a given band (80/40/20/17m are my focus)? And minimum power to make PSK31 work? Or any self contained, dedicated QRP/PSK, rigs in the pipeline?


Posts: 179

« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2013, 07:22:49 AM »

Well you're likely to get a variety of opinions on this but this is my quick take.

Five watts is "enough" to make PSK contacts. I think you'll find a number of QRP'ers that have done so. You'll want to adjust your operating technique to increase your success but it can be done. I've even had several nice QSO's into Central America and the Caribbean islands using my Gap Challenger. You mention running 100mW. Theres a lot of guys who experiment with mW power, but its almost always using CW.

Band recommendation: I'd think 20 meters would be a reasonable choice. It's usually active most days and lately open into the evening hours. There are many antenna choices for 20 that could easily be packed for portable use, the simplest being the dipole. If you want to pursue other bands, then go for it. I notice that for me, in the upper midwest, the higher freq's aren't alway active. 80 meter PSK seems to be a bit more active in the winter months.

You've covered the available rigs and I'm not aware of anything "coming down the pipeline" but don't take that as gospel. You'll want to think about the PA in any rig. I prefer to use my 703 because it has a 10 watt PA and I can get 5 watts out and not have any ALC indication on my signal. And at that power it runs pretty cool for those longer QSO's My FT-817, with proper ALC setting (i.e. none) tends to run about 3 watts. Still enough for contacts mind you, but I like having the little extra power.

I haven't personally tried PSK portable. But I do have an old Acer Aspire One netbook that I actually used as the "shack computer" for a time and could be taken into the field. I had a nice QSO with a guy who was out with a group, set up in a park, using a netbook running PSK. We compared notes about typing on those teeny little keys, his words were "it's a little awkward". The advantage, in my mind, would be the ability to QSY to the JT65 freqs, fire up WSJT and make some contacts. Thats a mode that does very well at 5 watts!

Good luck. 73 de WB0FDJ, Doc

Posts: 217

« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2013, 05:52:14 AM »

Thanks for the advice!  I had forgotten that I need to keep ALC action (or the lack thereof to be precise) in the equation. It would seem then a small 10 watt SSB rig should be my goal. Yes like many, I'm drooling over the KX3 for many reasons, but honestly, it's overkill for my purposes.

I've made a fair number of PSK QSOs with my TS-130v which can eke out an honest 12 watts cw, or about 6 SSB/PSK adjusted to stay out of the ALC. My antenna at the time was just a modest 5/8 wave, 20m wire vertical strung up in a tree - it's defunct now. Perhaps I should play with 130v more before purchasing anything else. It's a bona fide QRP rig, it just isn't particularly portable nor efficient with that beautiful VFD display glowing.

73 OM

Posts: 1560

« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2013, 07:46:46 AM »

I've run PSK31 on 40/20/10M at 4W with very good success.
I've also run PSK31 at all power levels at 6 and 2M with good results.

The key is antenna at low power.  crappy antenna, rotten results.

My favorite is the SWL PSK series I have an older PSK20 runs about 3W
and just seems to get contacts allover. 

As to modern rigs, just about all of them do PSK and other digital modes.

If you want a less expensive, small, or simple radio that does PSK the
choices are more limited. 


Posts: 2243

« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2013, 10:48:39 PM »

As far as I can tell, the dedicated PSK transceiver kit projects like
the Small Wonder Labs offerings are dead.

Not "technically" true. The DL-QRP Club Shop still offers
the "Digifun" dedicated QRP PSK-31 transceiver kit.
(only one of the three PC boards in the kit is shown on
that page, FYI) is now extremely expensive (209.50 Euros, approx $217 USD, plus shipping)
is an extremely difficult build and alignment,
mostly due to a VERY poorly written manual,
(translated from German)
inexistent company support, and usually arrives missing
many, many parts. Stay VERY FAR AWAY! Shocked

The Small Wonder Labs PSK rigs are no longer being offered
but you can still find them for sale from time to time. As
mentioned, they are excellent little transceivers. I have
the PSK-20, 40, and Warbler (80m simpler version).
I had one of the rare PSK-10's but sold it. (Still kicking myself)

I would stick with one of the 20m versions.
Remember that the older ones required a Serial Port
to key them. The later ones had VOX and a little more
power output. (But I think the higher parts count
earliest versions with the Serial Port have better receivers).
I have had phenomenal QSO's with my PSK-20 with
stations all over the world with very simple and modest antennas.
 It's an insanely good QRP rig.

Anyway, there are PSK apps for Pads and Smart Phones even,
so you don't need to spend a fortune for a NUE PSK Modem.
(Though that they now support RTTY and CW is pretty darn cool!)
Back when those Nue PSK Modems were newer, simpler, and
cheaper, and still available as a kit, I saw one built into an
enclosure with a Warbler and it was a really spiffy setup!

I also have the Hendrix BITX20A and even after warm up I
don't think it's quite stable enough for PSK. Maybe for very short
QSO's, but you don't want to end up chasing each other up
and down the band. I'm sure that the DDS VFO Mod
would solve that problem.

Good luck in your quest, whatever you decide on!
73 & God Bless, Ken  AD6KA

Posts: 4

« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2013, 04:45:37 AM »


I read your post about QRP operation using PSK31.  Believe it or not, 5W is plenty to go around the world.  Most stations use about 25 - 30 W but I have operated with 1.5W for years.  I use a SWL kit that I built back in 2002 with a Diamond BB7V vertical up 25 ft.  Currently I have worked  all continents (WAC), I have 78 for DXCC,and 46 for WAS almost all of it on 20m.  That seems to be the go-to band most of the time.  I have worked Australia three times now, twice by longpath.  That doesn't happen every day but it is possible with a minimal setup like mine.  I've even won a few contests along the way.  I, and others that I have worked, have really been amazed at what 1.5W can do on this band in this mode.  I have even gotten a few to turn down their power to QRP levels.
So if you are looking for a band to use 20m is a good all-around choice and if you want to go QRP then 5W will get you there.

GL, 73

Posts: 537

« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2013, 03:45:25 PM »

The Elecraft KX3 is a battery-powered QRP transceiver with PSK31 capability built in.  You can read the received text on the screen and send using the little morse code paddle that bolts to the radio.

Of course you need to know CW in order to use the paddles!  This is actually what got me started down the path toward CW fluency.  The PSK31 functionality can also be accessed over a USB cable using free software from Elecraft, but of course in that case you need a separate computer.

As far as an all-in one solution in a single box, radio and PSK terminal included system goes, it is the only thing on the market at this point.
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