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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: 64 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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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
NS2X Rating: 5/5 Jul 18, 2010 19:11 Send this review to a friend
FANTASCTIC QRP RIG !  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The Small Wonder Labs SW40+ is a FANTASTIC little QRP RIG... I purchased the 40-meter version and the wait was short. Ordered; April, 25, received; May, 17. It went together very nicely. It took me +/- 2 hours per night, for four nights. I mounted / soldered one component at a time. I used the very good detailed instructions from K7QO; "Building the Small Wonder Labs Sw-40+ ver.1.0”. I had no issues with anything. I had lost one small cap when I dumped everything on my floor, but Dave, K1SWL, sent one out immediately, free of charge. That's Great Customer Service!

I happened to finish the great little rig about an hour after the CQWPX started, so I tried the little bugger. Super Results with limited operating time. Bonaire was my first contact with the SW40+. I contacted 20 Countries: Bonaire, USA, Virgin Is, France,
Puerto Rico, Canada (BC, QC, PE, ON, SK) Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, Canary Island, Cyprus, Aruba, Italy, Nicaragua, Hawaii, Slovenia, Slovak Rep, Cuba, Uruguay, and Honduras. Also, worked 25 States; CA, AZ, WA, MT, CO, NM, TX, HI, LA, AR, MO, MN, MI, OH, GA, FL, PA, NY, MD, DE, NJ, CT, RI, MA, NH. Now that's fantastic results from a 1.5watt QRP Rig. Used a 160-meter, horizontal delta loop up about 40 feet. Feeding it with twin-lead and a MFJ-969 Tuner.

My band spread was 7.033 to 7.072. I was hoping to install a small switch, by Field Day, so I could switch in some capacitance, for C7, to drop the band down to include 7.001 to 7.033. That switch modification, plus wire to capacitor didn’t work very, too much capacity in wire or coax. So I installed a Molex connector, in place of C7, from Jameco, and placed the 22pfd across the connector and it drops the band spread to; 7.002-7.039. Now I can get 7.002 to 7.072 just by placing/pulling the cap connector.

Other basic mods: I added a Molex connector to the circuit end of the coax, so I could completely remove the circuit board, if needed. I also soldered in a TO-220 Socket (Jameco), for easy changing of the Final Amp, 2SC2166.

Frequency Drift is very low. Almost nil. That was one of its selling factors, for me choosing the SW40+. NOTE: I considered about 5 or 6 other QRP rigs and this one didn't have negative comments like the others.

With the standard tuning pot I didn’t find any need for RIT, even during the crowded contest. The RF gain control hasn’t been needed. It is usually turned all the way back. It would be nice to wire in an AF control. The audio output was good enough to drive the MFJ-281 ClearTone Speaker on most signals.

SO…. if you are looking for a single band QRP rig to try, TRY this one, I highly recommend it. 73... Greg NS2X.
NW9T Rating: 5/5 Apr 27, 2010 20:31 Send this review to a friend
Quality Kit  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just finished building this kit tonight and haven't even tried to make my first QSO but just had to write a review based on the kit itself. Instructions, parts list and other documentation are very clear and thorough. PC board is well laid out, screen printing very clear and component locations well marked. Spacing is adequate and not overly crowded. There are some torroids to wind, but nothing complicated.

This rig worked the very first time I powered it up without needing to do any troubleshooting. Easily aligned and set to the recommended 1.5 watts output. Signal transmitted, which I monitored on my big rig is clean and steady. Receive is surprisingly good for such a small and simple rig, I had no problem picking up numerous signals using my attic mounted 40 meter dipole.

As mentioned by other reviewers help is an email away.. Customer service at Small Wonder Labs is a class act that's hard to beat. I'm absolutely thrilled with the results of my experience buidling the 40 meter version of the SW+ and will be looking forward to building more kits from this company in the not too distant future.
M0BMN Rating: 5/5 Jan 23, 2010 12:51 Send this review to a friend
Great Value Kit  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have built the 80/40/30/ and 20m versions of this kit and i am really impressed with the performance and value. I am involved in the running of the UK chapter of FISTS and we used this as a club project a couple of years ago and may do again soon. It is a easy build radio with good clear instructions. ok the basic kit does not come with a case or pots and knobs but that means you can choose just how you want the finished set to look , if you wish you can buy a purpose made case and control set which looks very nice but doubles the price (still a good deal) only problem i have had and i have had it on all the ones i have built is that the offset between rx and tx freqs means that my TX freq as been to far off the rx freq, all i have had to do is change one caps value to change the offset, not hard, but it would be nice if a small trimer cap had been used to allow this to be set correctly, i have fitted one on mine and that fixed it. anyway for the money you end up with a very usable radio, not a toy. 2-3 watts output really does the trick on CW and very low current drain so the radio will run for days on batterys.
you can not beat it,
73 Paul M0BMN
WB0FDJ Rating: 5/5 Dec 24, 2009 14:39 Send this review to a friend
A great kit  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
An excellent radio! I did a few things wrong but found them without help-a true learning experience-due to excellent documentation. Once I got the receiver going I encountered a problem with the final. Sent email back and forth and was receiving replies from Dave at 6pm on a Friday evening! Once the replacement final arrived and was soldered into place the radio fired up with very minimal alignment. 2Watts. Very nice clean sounding receiver. Stable. Nice QSK. Within minutes had a 30 minute QSO with a W7 near Kingman AZ from SE MN with a 559 report. This is a great QRP kit. It does all you could ask from a simpler radio. Highly recommended.
G3CWI Rating: 5/5 Nov 28, 2009 00:26 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Dave Benson's kits are always good and this one is no exception. I built the SW-80+ and have really enjoyed using it. The VFO is amazingly stable and the overall performance is superb for such a simple design. It lends itself to customisation and I have added a few minor "bells and whistles". The book "QRP Power" discusses this design in some detail and includes a whole section on modifications.

Thanks Dave.


HZ1SK Rating: 5/5 Oct 22, 2009 17:17 Send this review to a friend
Great Rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Again one of the best kits I have ever built.
It worked from the first time,no problems what so ever,the tuning of the rig is very simple and doesn't require sophisticated test equipment.
The reception is Excellent and I am getting 2 watts.Today I put the kit in the enclosure,I used an old computer Switch box as I wanted good space to use the 10 turn variable resistor for tuning and also I am planning to add an electronic key and a frequency meter later on.
In Brief,an fantastic kit .

Best 73,
EA5BLP Rating: 5/5 Apr 25, 2009 18:43 Send this review to a friend
A simple and elegant design  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Fine QSK and general performance. It gives a solid 2 watts in the output.This is a minimalist radio with a very elegant electronic design. There are some very minor mistakes in the steep by steep assembly guide, easily solved loocking to the general mounting drawn or the schema.Really, one of the best and funny QRP rigs you can get today! And yes, the near-sight glasses are a good help...
73 dx!
VK5GI Rating: 5/5 Mar 26, 2009 02:43 Send this review to a friend
Just Buy One!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I dithered a lot as to which kit to buy - but eventually settled on the SW-40+. I'm really -
- REALLY glad I did. My eyesight isn't what it used to be, so with the aid of magnifiers and a few prayers, I completed the construction over about four afternoons - couple of hours each. It went together easily, the construction notes are superb, with no bits missing. I think that this would really suit a first time kit buyer if they took their time about it. I took it to a friends place (VK5XGH) to do the smoke test, and the transmitting side fired up beautifully. Couldn't hear a thing tho'! Mea Culpa. I'd inserted a wrong value capacitor, and put a couple of resistors in the wrong holes. Greg fixed those and the wee rig burst into life. It's very easy to align, and I have the phones on as I write this listening to 40 metres.
Pro: Everything - just write to Dave and buy one, there is no way you'll be disappointed.
Cons: I wish the case was a tad bigger so's I can fit in the KC-1 frequency counter and keyer. Maybe a tad higher too so's I can fit in a 10 turn pot.
In the event, the Cons don't matter. This is a superbly thought out transceiver which works extremely well, lends itself to numerous mods if you are so inclined, and all at a very modest cost. If you, too, are dithering, just go ahead and buy one. You too will not be disappointed.
Kind regards
K3XR Rating: 5/5 Feb 25, 2009 10:58 Send this review to a friend
SCORE!! Another 5  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
In Feb. 06 I built the 30 mtr version for a winter project (review here). Just finished the 80 meter version, receiver worked great as soon as power was applied, no TX. Scratched my head, checked componet values, did some voltage checks, read over the 'troubleshooting' where Dave points out.... "85% of problems are caused by cold solder joints" ....Dave knows his kits. Went over all solder joints in area of the TX on the board and BINGO about 3 wtts out. First QSO 579 in N.C.. Talk about bang for the buc..can't beat it.
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