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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | Wilderness Sierra Help


Reviews Summary for Wilderness Sierra
Wilderness Sierra Reviews: 28 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $245 with 1 band module
Description: A battery friendly multiband QSK CW rig of circa 3W output
Product is not in production.
More info: http://www.fix.net/~jparker/wilderness/sierra.htm
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K4KRW Rating: 5/5 Nov 15, 2011 20:08 Send this review to a friend
Fabulous kit. Fabulous radio. Get this classic while you can!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is a fabulous kit and a fabulous radio. Get one while they are still available.

Bob at Wilderness Radio is an absolute pleasure to deal with. He is in Joplin, Missouri. I ordered my radio about a month after the tornadoes struck. He was just getting phone and internet back when he shipped my order out. He was always very responsive and very helpful when I had questions.

Make sure you join the Yahoo group if you are considering buying this radio. There is a lot of great information available. If you have a question, somebody in the group will usually have the answer.

I had a blast assembling this radio. The instructions are very good. The components are of very good quality. The circuit boards are outstanding. The radio also comes with a very nice case.

Taking my time, I had the radio and a band module built in less than a week. I now have all 9 band modules (160m, 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m). I also added the KC1 keyer/frequency counter accessory and the BuzzNot noise blanker.

There is plenty of room in the case for additions. To me, figuring out what I was going to add and how I was going to do it was a large part of the fun of building the radio. I imagine my radio will remain a work in progress for a while.

The Sierra is an absolute jewel. Everything on it just works. The mechanical tuning dial is reasonably accurate. All controls are silky smooth in operation. The receiver sounds wonderful and is very sensitive. The adjustable bandwidth control is fabulous. With this radio, I rarely find myself using my outboard DSP to process the audio signal. I just don’t need it.

Changing the band module out is very easy and can be done very quickly. The band modules are sturdy. They work very well. To me, the band modules are one of the best features of this radio. They keep the circuitry simple and they allow you to have many more band options than you have in most QRP kits.

Many kits only give you about 75 KHz of tuning range on each band. The Sierra gives you 150 KHz. This is really handy on 40 meters.

In addition, this radio is rock solid stable on frequency. No warm up is required. Just turn it on, and it is ready to go.

If you add the KC1 keyer/counter, it works very well in both roles. If aligned properly, the KC1's frequency reading is always correct (to 1 KHz). I never feel like I am fighting the iambic keyer. The keyer also has programmable memory that can contain up to 3 different messages.

Many who own this radio replace the final transistor and a coil to increase the output from 2-3 watts to 4 to 5 watts on most bands. I have only one band where I get less than 3 Watts output and that is 10 meters. But, even with just that one Watt I ended up completing a QSO with a ham in Alaska (my first Alaska contact – 3,300 miles).

Every time I turn this radio on I just have to smile. It is so elegant, so sturdy and it works so well. If you are into QRP, you will love this QRP classic.
 
WB3T Rating: 5/5 May 11, 2011 06:44 Send this review to a friend
My Favorite QRP Rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun with a new radio. Yes I do, it was March of 1976, but that’s another story.

I have been on a building binge, adding to my already overgrown collection of QRP projects. I have built over 200 electronic kits in my 48 years of kit building, 100 of those have been radio related. Just this past year, I added three more SW Plus kits (80, 40, and 20 meters), a K1, and a KX1. Also a Ten Tec 9-band regenerative shortwave receiver, which was a blast, as well as a Ten Tec Any-band DC Receiver. The Elecrafts I thought were disappointing given their price vs. performance ratio. The K1 has drift issues on warmup as well as other problems. I enjoyed the others but a very regrettable experience with the K1 left me still wanting an ALL-BAND QRP portable. I will not own a K2 based on the K1 experience. Besides, a full-up K2 is not priced in what I consider the QRP category. It actually costs more than some commercial QRO rigs. QRP is a minimalist experience, and as such should not command a QRO price.

In April I spoke with QRP Bob at Wilderness Radio who advised me that after more than 15 years, the Sierra is getting hard to kit due to parts availability issues. He tells me there are only a couple of handfuls of Sierra kits left. This was my last chance to build this QRP Classic, and a brand new one at that. I ordered the Sierra with 6 band modules. Sadly the KC2 option is no longer so I planned on building the analog version – analog frequency scale, analog S/RF meter, etc. I planned out my Sierra faceplate in PhotoShop and waited eagerly. I was pretty psyched based on the reviews I had read here and elsewhere.

It was no disappointment. The manual is outstanding, the build went well (fun!), and the result is everything I hoped it would be. Frequency readout on the analog dial is within 2 kHz end-to-end on all bands and dead-on in the center of each where I operate (I was meticulous in setting the VFO and each band module). After finishing the basic kit, and prior to upgrades, the Sierra was already filling my log book. I used an 80 meter dipole and a ground-mounted 40 meter vertical, which also tunes up on all other HF bands. Running 2-3 Watts I worked DX on 20 and 15 meters and plenty of stateside stations on 80 and 40. I made a few DX contacts on 30 but didn’t spend too much time there. Same for 10 meters. One watt out, one try, one contact to Croatia. Worth a grin. Many Sierra owners modify, strive and tweak for every milliwatt (myself included) but frankly I don’t see the point. In its original form, QSOs were not at all hard to come by, even with my neighborhood’s antenna restrictions.

The next week I added my preferred accessories – the qrpkits.com LED SWR indicator, K1EL memory keyer, analog power meter, front-panel ABX control, and internal 3-cell 800 mAH lithium battery. I also peaked up all output filters for each band using my HP141T spectrum analyzer. I am now getting 4 Watts out on 80, 40, and 30, 3 Watts out on 20 and 15, and 2 Watts out on 10 meters using a 14.0 Volt supply. All harmonics and spurs are down 42 dB or better. With the internal battery, I get about one Watt less on each band. I have uploaded photos of my new baby to my web site at http://radiowb3t.homestead.com/

This past weekend there were several contests going – the New England QSO Party, 7-Area QSO Party, and SKCC Sprint. I set up on the back patio plugged into my portable antenna and ground mounted vertical (which is hidden in a tree). On internal batteries I figured I’d be good for a few hours. But the Sierra ran from 1:30 PM until 9 PM Sunday, minus a dinner break and a nap, delivering 24 casual contacts all over the US on various bands and into Europe. Throw in two contacts to Hawaii for good measure. The ABX control is an absolute joy and slices clean, and I mean clean through tightly spaced QRM with nice smooth audio - close QRM was silenced, gone. Q’s were coming easily and usually I got a response on the first try. There is a video of this on youtube.com. Look for “Wilderness Sierra QRP New England QSO Party.” Contacts included an early 40 meter ragchew and a couple of ragchews on 80 meters in the evening to wrap up a long and most excellent day.

Afterwards, I measured the battery voltage under load, and it was still nominal, about halfway down its voltage curve. Apparently it could have continued for quite a while longer. True, most Q’s that day were brief contest-style contacts, but three or four were not - and I had power to spare.

One evening I tuned in a phone QSO at the upper end of the Sierra’s 40 meter coverage, opened up the IF bandwidth to max, and monitored the QSO for an hour while building one of the band modules. I never touched the tuning and the frequency stayed perfectly centered the entire time – no distortion of the voices. I have repeated this since. My DDS-controlled KX1 can do this as well, my analog VFO-controlled K1 cannot. The big difference between the K1 and Sierra is that the Sierra uses a variable capacitor while the K1 uses a varactor for QSY. The Sierra is far more stable, the K1 is smaller, take your pick.

My poor XYL has become a Sierra widow over the last few weeks of planning, building, upgrading, and using my new rig. I still need three more band modules to complete my collection, and with Father’s Day coming up, I am dropping hints. When I built my HW-9 in 1986 I made the mistake of not ordering the WARC band kit, now unavailable. I am not going to repeat that error. I have also picked up enough spare parts to ensure my Sierra keeps going for many years.

If you want a really great QRP classic, better call Bob ASAP before the Sierras have gone the way of the Hot Watter series. For now, you can still get a brand new one! Take it from someone who has built almost one of everything – this is a versatile, power efficient, fun, and pretty radio not to be missed.

Hits:
Pleasant Audio
ABX Filter (Five Stars for This!)
Smooth-Operating, Quality Tuner
Rock Solid Frequency Stability
All HF Bands, 160 – 10 Meters
Power Efficiency
Appearance
Room for Upgrades/Customization
Reasonable Price
Outstanding Customer Support

Misses:
Band modules difficult to tune with the newer style varicaps
Band modules no longer have full jacket, exposing the user to lead solder in the field upon swapping modules (wash your hands before you munch, lead is poisonous!)

I have no affiliation with Wilderness Radio other than that of a happy customer. See other mini-reviews of several other QRP radios on my web site, listed above.
 
WA4NTM Rating: 5/5 Nov 11, 2010 18:18 Send this review to a friend
GREAT service!  Time owned: more than 12 months
My station was recently struck by lightening. Naturally it got my SIERRA with NB1 Noise Blanker, NBX & KC2 Digital Display that I built back in the first part of 2008.

I called QRP Bob on 29 Oct 2010, told him my "sad" story and inquired about a repair. He honored the price in the Owner's Manual for the repair plus return shipping 1st Class Mail. I received the rig back on 10 Nov. 2010 and all at a fair price. He kept me informed by a phone call; repaired the rig [I think it works better now than ever before!]; and even sent me the bag of "DEAD FRIED PARTS" back in the box.[;-)]

I've ALWAYS got great reports on the SIERRA's 3+ watts on 40m and my PAR End Fed Dipole at only 17'. I also have the 20m module but rarely plug it in: too much FB fun on 40m.


I extremely happy having my 'lil blue box home and back on-line again. Thanks, Bob!
 
G4ABX Rating: 5/5 Aug 6, 2010 12:01 Send this review to a friend
Wonderful 3watt QSK multiband CW rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Well I now have 2 of these, one without the Digital display/keyer and one with and both are -- Excellent!
Building them is straightforward. Aligning them is not difficult but using them is just GREAT.
Whether you have or don't have the digital display & keyer they are excellent rigs. Well designed. Well executed and with excellent performance.
I've just had my first QSO on the new one -- a mere 2400 mile 569 both ways on 40M and I'm using a home brew coax-trapped dipole 5 metres above ground.
I can thoroughly recommend this little rig.
Its just delightful!
 
N2DTS Rating: 5/5 Jan 9, 2009 20:29 Send this review to a friend
Very nice!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I built the kit and 2 band mods in 1 day, it was not hard, worked first time, easy alignment.
I had no missing parts, no extra parts.

I get 4 watts out on 80 and 40 meters, but I did the rf output transistor choke mod.
The basic Sierra kit has the abx (bandwidth control) inside on the circuit board, I may mount one on the front panel, but it wont have matching labeling of the other front panel controls...
The receiver seems to work very well, tuning is a bit touchy (fast) but not bad.
The receiver is fairly quiet, but sensitive, I was picking up signals using the dummy load!
Turn the rf gain down all the way and there is just a trace of hiss from the chips.
The analog dial calibration is quite good, and it seems stable.
The agc seems to work well also, unlike the K1 I had.

The filter setup seems to work very well, nothing wrong with it that I can tell, it does just what it should.
I had something like 30 ma showing on the meter of the power supply on rx, on transmit I think it was 400 ma at 14 volts.

I like the Sierra better than the K1.

Brett
N2DTS

 
AF4LQ Rating: 5/5 Oct 24, 2008 20:06 Send this review to a friend
Excellent radio, great service.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just finished building a Sierra and am more than very happy with it. I passed on building one back in 1998 and have built quite a few kit rigs including a K2 since then, and now I've come full circle and gone back to basics and I'm glad that I got the chance to build and enjoy using this one now that I can really appreciate it. The radio itself is a QRP classic and it's performance is well proven. For CW and QRP, it has everything that you need and then some, and none of the things you don't need, and it's a true pleasure to build and operate.

As for the kit, it went together perfectly and the rig fired up and worked right out of the gate. I ordered mine with the 40/30/20 meter modules and also added the optional KC2 counter/keyer. The receiver is excellent and the adjustable ABX filter works really well. Still have the 30m module to finish but I'm getting 3.75+ watts on 40 and 3.25 watts on 20 at 14V. Alignment was quite easy using a DMM, freq counter, and another transceiver. I also used Spectrogram to align the BFO with the sidetone pitch but this was my choice and not a necessity. The alignment isn't difficult and can be easily done with just a DMM and separate transceiver as the manual explains.

I did operate the rig with only the analog dial for a week or so before installing the KC2 and must say that it will serve you quite well that way, just the radio in it's basic form. I was surprised that the dial itself is pretty darned linear and accurate and I enjoyed using it that way with just an outboard keyer. But the KC2 is a nice addition, adding digital readout, and the keyer is really a pleasure to use. In fact, of several keyers I've used over time I prefer the feel of the KC2, and also the KC1 that I built into a Norcal 40A. A lot of keyers that I've used have a "mechanical" feel to them but the KC1/2 have a smooth feel to them that lets you just operate and not have to "work" the keyer itself, if that makes sense.

Finally, the service and support from Bob Dyer are excellent, as others have mentioned. There were no missing parts in either kit and I found that Bob also included the extra caps and resistor needed for three of the KC2's connections to the rig. I thought that was a nice touch that most other companies would leave for you to scrounge up. Also, when I ran into a problem with the KC2 that turned out to be a faulty transistor (or perhaps my fault) he answered my initial email within hours with advice as to what the problem was likely to be and and I had the new transistor two days later. In fact, he sent two just to be sure. Excellent service, and a great person to deal with.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth and I hope it helps you decide to build that Sierra you're trying to decide about. You won't regret it, and don't wait 10 years like I did!
 
NU4B Rating: 5/5 Sep 6, 2007 15:24 Send this review to a friend
Top Notch  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have just finished building this rig. With my initial purchase I also bought a 30M module and the KC2 option. These are my initial impressions.

First some general observstions:
1) The quality of the parts, cabinet, circuit board, etc... is excellent.
2) Customer service is outstanding.
3) There is good internet support through the yahoo group and other internet sites.
4) The manual is very good. Although not as step by step like the old Heathkit manuals, anything more complicated than inserting a resistor or capacitor is explained in detail.

The kit is not overly difficult. A few initial steps will help with a successful experience:
1) I used a 15 watt iron.
2) Before starting any project replace the soldering iron's tip. (and replace as needed)
3) Read the manual first and become familiar with the instructions, parts, etc..
4) Inventory the parts - to make sure nothing is missing and that you recognize all the parts.
5) Take your time. I did resistors one night, capacitors the next, and so on. You may not want to do that, but if you start feeling tired or something doesn't go right stop and come back to it later.
6) Don't be afraid of winding toroids. They are actually pretty neat. Once again take your time and follow the instructions. (There's a toroid tutorial in tne manual.) I would also add that as you burn the ends of the magnet wire to remove the insulation you hold the the end next to the toroid with some hemostats or small pliers to protect the rest of the wire from the flame.

The manual lists 3 ways to align the radio depending on the equipment you have available. I used another transceiver and the process is very straightforward and a snap to complete.

My finished rig has 3 watts out on 30M with a 13.78 volt power supply.. The receiver is excellent and the rig features RIT and variable bandwidth which really knocks out adjacent QRM. You can adjust the bandwidth down to 150HZ.
I would suggest you also get the KC2 option as it really adds to the versatility of the rig. The KC2 includes a keyer w/ message, a tune function, a digital frequency readout, a signal stregnth meter and a power out meter.
While this rig is set up quite well for camping, hiking, field day, etc.. it is very functional in the shack. Its not a cutsy toy, but very classy rig with alot of features - and a very goodlooking piece of equipment. My first QSO's included VE, CO, and TG.
There are many mods for this rig including several that are listed in the manual so you can personalize your radio to serve your needs. And of course you can choose the bands you want or get all the modules. The PCB is easily accessable and there is plenty of room to do the mods if you wish.

This is an excellent rig and I don't think you will be disappointed with either the building experience or the operation. Its a fantastic combination of simplicity, features, and options.

There is nothing more satisfying than operating a rig you built. This one is one you can show off with pride.


- Larry, NU4B
 
KO6Z Rating: 5/5 Jul 24, 2007 10:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Rig; Excellent Company  Time owned: more than 12 months
After owning two second- or third-hand Sierras over a period of several years, an FT-817, and recently building and using two WR SSTs and an Elecraft KX-1, I decided that the WR Sierra is the best of them all, at least for my purposes. So, I ordered and built one for myself. I have not been disappointed. The Sierra has one of the best receivers I have experienced in 25 years of military radio operating and 38 years as a ham. QSK is also excellent. Along with its trail friendly cousins, the SSTs, it will work for very long periods of time on a few double A batteries. I like to keep things simple and the Sierra measures up in this department. It has knobs to turn instead of menus to wade through. Even the KC-2 is simple to use. The little rig is rugged and relatively easy to build in part because there's plenty of room to work. Lots of toroids to wind, but that's not a big deal. If needed, QRPBob's service is first-rate and won't cost you a lot. If you like a simple to use, battery friendly yet high-end performance QRP radio you won't be disappointed with the Sierra.
 
HB9IQB Rating: 5/5 Dec 29, 2006 01:27 Send this review to a friend
Works vy well  Time owned: more than 12 months
I am using my Wilderness Sierra/KC2 with very good results along with a cheap battery pack and a homemade G5RV antenna up 8m in the trees. RX, TX signal, ABX and QSK are really excellent. On 80m my Sierra puts out 1,7 W (@ 12 V). If I can hear a station with, say, S5 and higher, I can work it, whereever it may be located, loc or dx.
Only moderate skills required to build the kit.
If any technicals questions come up, QrpBob answers them within 24 h by e-mail.

Vy 73 es 72 de Peri, HB9IQB, KI1E
 
K3MD Rating: 5/5 Sep 6, 2006 10:03 Send this review to a friend
Cute  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Not a beginner's kit. Mine has the 80, 40, 20 meter band modules and the KC-2 frequency counter. Construction time around 20 hours or more with help from the factory also. Puts out around 1.8 watts. Have not put the mod in yet for 4 watts. Good receiver. Transmit alignment is tight, best done listening to signal on another reciver. Clean construciton. Adds to my collection of SST-40, Rock-Mite 40, Glowbug 40, FT-817, OHR 100A-40, MFJ cub-40, K-1/4. Keyer works well. Remember: once thru the CENTER of toroid core is 1 turn!
 
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