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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | Small Wonder Labs SW+ Series Help

Reviews Summary for Small Wonder Labs SW+ Series
Small Wonder Labs SW+ Series Reviews: 63 Average rating: 4.8/5 MSRP: $90.00
Description: 2-watt monoband superhet CW rig with varactor diode VFO
Product is not in production.
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Page 1 of 7 —>

E78CB Rating: 5/5 Apr 10, 2013 02:23 Send this review to a friend
Great rig to built and use  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought SW40+ just to try it and as being my first radio kit experience I can say it just worked flawlessly right from the start. As I was satisfied with it, I ordered 20m and 30m versions, build them and they also worked fine. They all cower about 34-36 KHz range by VFO witch is good enough for me.
During first start of 20m version I found that final transistor is faulty, so I asked Dave if he can send me another one I will pay for. Before he answered I made order via e-bay and inform him there is no reason for him to send it to me any more. However, after some time I received this part from him at no charge! Now, I am not living in US or next door but overseas so I must say it is more than fair service from Small Wonder Labs! Thanks, Dave!
However, I made a tribander radio and put it in old CB station case. This took a lot of my nerves to the brink just to put it all inside. I used a 4x8 contacts rotary switch (couple of USD on e-bay) for switching in between these three units, although I made separate antenna switch. Supported with DL4YHF keyer and BLT+ QRP Tuner it makes a great camping rig for me. I made no additional modifications except simple RF meter and using 15V battery charge it puts out 4w on 40m, 3w on 20m and 2w on 20m. With 12V it goes down by 1w less. Together with some simple dipole or mobile wire aerials it brings me a lot of joy, especially when working from the field. Great rig! I see it is no longer produced by SWL, so hope the Rockmite series will stand
KD4SBY Rating: 2/5 Oct 2, 2012 09:08 Send this review to a friend
Do not like them  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Am I the only one who does not like these kits? I build two of them, the 20M and 40M version, and both were horrible. They overloaded quickly and the reception was so weak that I had to crank everything wide open, resulting in the overloading problem I mentioned above. And that with the same antenna that I use for my regular rig! I finally got rid of them, completely puzzeled by the great praise they receive here in the reviews. I can understand if one was bad, I could have bad parts, but both of them?
They certainly did not perform as was expierenced by others here!
N2DM Rating: 5/5 Jul 9, 2012 05:29 Send this review to a friend
Great  Time owned: more than 12 months
Very good rig. I especially like the receiver. There is just the right amount of feedthrough from adjacent frequencies, to let me know where other stations are, but they do not interfere with center freq. Really smooth rx. Used in FD 2012, thought SW40+ better than FT817 on 40m. Dale, N2DM.
GM0WNR Rating: 5/5 Mar 20, 2012 13:27 Send this review to a friend
Great little QRP rig!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
What can I say that hasn't already been heaped on in spades, great little kit, some of the placement on the PCB was quite tight, but the instructions are well written, and I would have no hesitation in recommending it for the newcomer to "diy" radio. Communication is great from the company, as I had one query about the 40M version of the kit which was answered very quickly and to my complete satisfaction. It worked first time and produced a QSO over @ 100 miles resulting in a 599 report from a massive 2 watts out into my home brew doublet at 25 feet. Still to fit it in a case but look forward to working some good stuff from the garden this summer. Radio just became interesting again, with the "will I make it?" feeling you only get with QRP. Overall a massively entertaining, pleasant experience, both building and using this lovely kit!
AD6KA Rating: 5/5 Jan 26, 2012 10:46 Send this review to a friend
LItele Rig, Big Signal  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is yet another terrific kit from Dave Benson. Parts, PC Board Quality, and Documentation second to none. Elecraft Quality.
Super simple but fun build.

Hears great, and I get almost 4 watts output (!)measured with my Elecraft W1 digital SWRBridge/Wattmeter, but I cranked it down to 2.5 watts and PUT A HEAT SINK ON THE FINAL PA
TRANSISTOR. I think this last item is important.

Winding L1 in the VFO exactly according to the manual put me exactly where I wanted to be, smack in the middle of the Novice Band. And knowing that I can change the base frequency simply by removing an L1 turn or adding a small cap is nice, should I change my mind later.

People I chat with on CW give me good reports for
tone, and can't believe I'm barely running 3 watts into a multiband vertical or 40m dipole.
(I mostly use the vertical because the dipole is setup for the phone band).

This kit would be PERFECT for a new ham or one new to buildig who "wants to get his feet wet".
I can't remember the last time one of Dave's kits had a missing part. And even if you screw
up part yourself, he simply drops it in the mail for you. He is always there by email
for Technical Support if needed, which it was not needed with this kit.

I plan to add a Pico Keyer kit for this rig from and also a .5w LM386 audio amp to drive a small speaker. Am also going to have jacks for either straight key or paddle. I see no need for a frequency counter display, but other guys have added them to theirs.

This is the PERFECT inexpensive project for the ham itching to build a small, USEFUL project
for his shack, and it would make a superb portable/backpack rig as current drain is very low.

It's hard to come up with more superlatives when describing this rig.

If you have any questions about this rig or
how I built and modified mine, please feel free to qrite me.
My email is good at under AD6KA.
73, Ken AD6KA/5R8GQ
K1AVE Rating: 5/5 Jan 3, 2012 09:00 Send this review to a friend
Great Kits  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've built, own and still operate the 80, 40, 30 and 20 meter versions and all are a blast to build and use! Great RX with sharp edge bandpass. MSRP is now $60 not the $90 as noted. I'd recommend anything that Dave sells - he knows what he's doing and he cares.
2M0CFB Rating: 5/5 Jan 3, 2012 05:55 Send this review to a friend
Great kit, great value, great support.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I ordered the SW+20 from Dave on 19 December thinking I'd get it in the new year some time. The kit arrived here in Scotland on 29 December; I was incredulous. Opening the well packaged carton and finding everything there as listed, I set the kit down for a while. Unable to contain myself for long I made a start. Reading through the manual identified one errata, R17 must be installed the opposite way to the silk screen.
Alignment was quite straight-forward; I'd not done this kind of thing before, but got there eventually. I also embodied a RIT mod from the instructions that are on Dave's website. This works well; if you plan to do this it's worth building it in so you only need to select C7 & C8 values once. I get 43kHz (14.022-14.065) of the band and the RIT gives about plus or minus 1kHz. I changed C29 as my sidetone was down at 500hz, a 220pf ceramic gave me very close to 800hz, which is where the audio peak seems to be. Finally this thing has a rock stable VFO, I've applied a few coats of nail varnish to L1 and it can sit there for hours without wandering any more than about 100hz.
If you want to have a good time building a wonderfully reproduceable design go for it!
AB4ZT Rating: 5/5 May 1, 2011 05:20 Send this review to a friend
SW-40+ A Great Kit  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is my first QRP kit, so I don't have others to compare it against. However, I am giving this a 5 for the following reasons:

- The kit was complete, no missing parts
- The instructions were well written and thorough
- Quality PCB - soldering was very easy
- Alignment was very simple and straightforward
- Great circuit design and features. The radio performs very well, and there is plenty, plenty of audio
- Most important of all, I thoroughly enjoyed building and using it. It worked right off and my first QSO was with an XE2 station about 1,200 miles distant. I have mine set to as close to 1.5 watts output as I can measure.

Bottom line, whether you have done kits before or this is your first one, you will really enjoy building, and just as important, using this radio. One piece of advice: If you don't have one yet, one of those "helping hands" circuit board holders makes a world of difference. Get yourself one.

By the way, in a separate post in Company Reviews I noted that I received very prompt service of my order, so no fears there, either.


Richard, AB4ZT
N6MUK Rating: 5/5 Dec 19, 2010 10:17 Send this review to a friend
Great Kit, SW-80+  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
In the past I have built and used a Ten Tec 1300 series transceiver on 40 meters and an MFJ Cub transceiver on 20 meters. I also own an OHR Explorer II transceiver on 30 meters, that I bought used on ebay (assembled by someone else). Each and every QRP rig has its quirks for sure...

Saddened by the fact that I was lacking the ability to operate QRP on 80 meters, I ordered a Small Wonder Labs SW-80+ kit from Dave Benson.

-Assembly is straight forward. Not as involved as the TT 1300, but definitely more involved than the MFJ Cub. While the instructions and the kit are well thought through, I can't quite recommend the SW+ series for the first time builder working on their own.

-My SW-80+ worked straight off but the audio in the headphones was low. I contacted Dave about it and he lead me in the direction of finding the problem. I had accidentally inserted a wrong value capacitor somewhere in the audio signal path. After I changed that, the rig provided plenty of audio to drive ear buds or headphones.

-Even before I fixed my error in the audio chain, I was making fine business QSOs with this great little rig. In fact, my first CQ call on 3.527 mHz brought an immediate reply from a station a few states away, and a nice little rag chew ensued.

-This rig has no RIT. I can't honestly say that I've ever missed it. RIT is something I rarely use anyhow.

-This rig has no Automatic Gain Control. That concerned me when I bought the kit but it shouldn't have. The "volume" control on the SW series is actually an RF gain attenuator. I was skeptical of this but it really works great. Its easy and natural to adjust the gain and I've never missed (or noticed) that AGC is lacking. I suppose in a hot contest it would fall short but that's not what this type of rig is for.

-A good QRP receiver (in my opinion) has a quality of clarity on the band. What I mean is, I feel I'm operating closer to the band and the signals. It feels more life like, more dynamic, more 3 dimensional in my ears. I get drawn in. Dave's single conversion superhet design, with it's rich sounding audio chain and smooth QSK, is great in this respect.

-This SW+ rig outputs a clean 1.5 Watts of RF that is shockingly effective! With most state-side QSOs, when the band is in decent shape, I'll give a 589 or 599 and typically receive a 569 or 579. That's not bad considering most hams I work on 80 meters are running 100W or more. As with all QRP radios, your antenna is the most important thing.

-This rig is not really a DX machine because 1.5 Watts is thin for DXing on 80 meters. I've worked Alaska, Hawaii, Canada and The Caribbean and with a better 80 meter antenna I would probably do more. For real QRP DX fun, 40 meters has been my power house band. This rig on 80 is smooth, relaxed, fun and great for rag chews.

Overall, a solid performer with a GREAT little receiver, good instructions, good economy and the GREAT support of Dave Benson. Highly recommended!
WB5L Rating: 5/5 Nov 15, 2010 13:09 Send this review to a friend
My “first” radio, building the SW40+  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I was going to build “my own” radio. An original WB5L design, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of not only how it works, but providing something more. I had built various projects for the shack; two versions of soundcard interfaces, DC power controls, etc., but not a single radio. Yes I was bitten by the builders bug. I researched and decided that a good primer was the Pixie. I picked up two of them at the local Hamfest for a song.
After a several months of playing around with various Pixie designs, I had decided that the Pixie was good to understand the basics of direct conversion receivers, but not so good of an operating radio. It has an annoying constant tone, which is transmitted all the time, albeit in the micro-watt range, but I could still hear it in my “big rig” with the antenna disconnected. The design, although simple, was just not what I envisioned as my first home brew rig.
After researching on-line, I decided on the SW series of mono-band CW radios from Small Wonder Labs. Dave Benson, K1SWL, has quite a reputation with his radio kits. I ordered the SW40+ kit from Dave on November 1st. I had already scavenged a nice box from an old computer serial port switch. I also purchased the K-PCB Tiny CW Keyer Kit from K1EL. I had already put that together originally for the Pixie radio. The K-12 keyer board is only 10 bucks, what a deal! It has memory, and all the options one would need to use an Iambic keyer. After all the research on-line, I also ordered a 100k ohm 10-turn pot for the tuning of the SW40+, and a 5k ohm pot with an on-off switch for the receiver gain from Mouser Electronics. I had a 10-turn dial in my junk box, given to me by my Elmer K4COF Phil (now SK), way back when. I always kept that little black dial, and just “knew” that I would use it someday. With that black dial, I decided to paint the re-purposed switch box black as well, it looked much better than the dull tan color of the original enclosure.
The excitement peaked as I received a package from Small Wonder Labs in the mailbox last Friday, November 12th. I could hardly eat dinner as I opened the package from Dave. It had a nice looking printed circuit board, a CD with the docs, along with a bag of parts with various internal bags, of which I decided to finish up dinner before un-packing. I told the XYL, “I guess you know what I am going to be doing this weekend, see you later”, and with that, I disappeared into the depths of the basement man cave, as the wife calls it.
Dave’s documentation was quite good, the “first things first” piece is something that is lacking with most kit building documentation. Failure to plan is a plan that fails, they say, so I proceeded to cautiously remove the various components and place them where I can identify them quickly. This turns out to be a great idea: I printed a copy of the parts list on some good thick paper, and started punching holes with a piece of wire, for the components. I inserted the correct components in the holes, next to their respective names. What do you know? Everything was accounted for! This took an hour or so, however I decided that this time, I was going to take my time and do things right. After feeling good about my parts as placed, I warmed up the soldering iron. Soldering with plated through holes was a real treat. It took a few parts to discover that if I held the iron on the pad just a second longer, the solder would fill the hole through the other side. I finished about one fourth of the board, before my eyes started getting blurry, and went to bed.
Saturday morning, I could hardly wait until I got back into the shack for the SW40. I took my time, double checked the parts placement, and finished the board around 3 PM. Looking good! After wiring in the various controls, along with the K-PCB keyer, it was time for the smoke test! There’s nothing quite like the first sounds coming from that pile of parts you just soldered together. I’d say it was much like that first QSO after finally getting your license. There was only one problem, it would not tune! Looking at the schematic, the 10-turn pot was checked, and I discovered that it was not changing the 8-volts as mentioned in Dave’s troubleshooting section of the docs. So after considering that I was just getting tired, I left it again for the night.
Sometime early in the morning of Sunday the 14th, I had an epiphany. A vision of the schematic of a variable resister was floating in my head. There has to be 100k across the resister for pins 1 and 3, all I have to do is find which two pins have 100k ohms across them, and that 100k reading does not change while turning the knob. That would be the next thing to check after breakfast. As it turns out, I was right, the pin out was 2-1-3, instead of the proverbial 1-2-3. After connecting the tuning pot the correct way, I had tuning! Imagine that! The alignment went as prescribed afterwards, and I have a nice 2 watt output signal from 7.000 through 7.035 Mhz. Rather than mess around with the rig, I decided that was good enough. I could turn the power up to over 5 watts, but decided to keep it back at 2 where it was designed.
After getting it all buttoned up, I proudly displayed the new rig to the XYL. “All is well”, I proclaimed. I finally had built my own radio. “All the planets are in alignment”, I joked. She was very supportive, and applauded my accomplishment. (Is this still a dream?). I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to the crisp sounds of CW on my new rig. The 4-pole crystal filter has some ringing, but can be eliminated by simply moving the tuning dial just a little. The 10-turn pot was worth all the trouble, and that little black 10-turn dial, well, it’s finally got a purpose in life besides filling a drawer in my junk box. K4COF, The Crafty Old Fox is somehow looking down and smiling. The bandwidth, as measured by Ham Radio Deluxe from the sound card, shows to be around 600 Hz. The side-tone comes in around 800 Hz, pretty much in the middle of the pass-band. I could actually hear some signals that was too far down in the noise with my “big rig” (TS-450). I heard many stations from all around the world!
While not my own design, this has been a great experience. Not only have I proven to myself that I could actually build a radio, I now have a renewed interest in brushing up on the code. I have accomplished the goal of learning more about how a radio works, and now I am ready for tackling more advanced projects. I can see myself using the little SW40+ at field day, or just anywhere while traveling or camping. It will be a treasured piece of the shack forever.

Glenn Kilpatrick
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