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Reviews Categories | Interfaces, Radio to computer, amp, rotor, coax switch, internet | MicroHam Band Decoder Help


Reviews Summary for MicroHam Band Decoder
MicroHam Band Decoder Reviews: 16 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $(missing—add MSRP)
Description: Provides Band Decoding for antenna switching, rig interface, cw/ptt interface and Icom and Yaesu amp interface.
Product is not in production.
More info: http://www.microham.com
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WA8EBM Rating: 5/5 Mar 3, 2008 10:51 Send this review to a friend
As advertised  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Interfacing my K3 transceiver to my PW-1 amplifier. Easy setup. Quality build. Quick shipping and great customer support from Microham USA. Lots of features for any future non Icom rigs I may want to interface to the amplifer or other automated peripherals in the shack.
 
K6ZB Rating: 5/5 Dec 25, 2007 07:50 Send this review to a friend
Outstanding Problem Solver and Product  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
The Band Decoder is a wonder in a box. It is the most effective ham product I've seen, considering what it does. I'm using it to interface between an IC 756 PRO 2, my computer running TRX Manager, a PW1 amp and the Ameritron/MFC Automatic Screwdriver Antenna Controller for ICOM Radios (SDC-103). Without the Band Decoder, I could not get all of these pieces of equipment to communicate!

The Band Decoder is really easy to configure and it sits there doing its job quietly.

I would buy any MicroHam product if it matched my need. Also, Joe Subich, W4TV, at MicroHam USA is extremely helpful and knows his stuff.

Bruce K6ZB
 
N4TD Rating: 3/5 Mar 26, 2007 17:42 Send this review to a friend
Application warning  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
If I were to rate the micro BAND DECODER strictly on its performance once installed, I would gladly give it a 5. However, I experienced enough pain during the installation that I had to lower my overall ownership experience rating. After reciving the micro BAND DECODER, with relay board installed, I connected it to my rig and installed the software on my computer. After setup, the micro BAND DECODER was working as expected. The setup software installed easily and worked great. Now all I needed to do was make the connections between the micro BAND DECODER and my Ameritron RCS8 relay box. I made up the cable, checked the connections, and started testing the system. But, strange things were happening. After band changes, most of the time the wrong relay or no relay was energized. I recheched my wiring and found all OK. I chaged bands again to get a better feel for what was happing and heard the frying sound, saw the smoke, and smelled the unique odor that burning components emit. After shutdown and opening the micro BAND DECODER enclosure, I found two burned capacitors and two destroyed RF chokes. At this point I had an idea of what might be the problem. I got out the manual for the Ameritron RCS8 and checked the schematic. Sure enough, just as I suspected, no snubber diodes were shown across the relay coils. Then, more work as I uninstalled the RCS8 and opened it for inspection. Yep, just as the schematic showed, no snubber diodes.

What was happening is when the decoder removed voltage from a relay coil, a high voltage back EMF is generated by the colapsing magetic field. The spikes were playing havic with the micro BAND DECODER logic and causing the eratic behavier. The kick-back spike voltage level was also high enough to punch through the relay driver output filter RF filter capacitors. When the capacitors shorted to ground, the current went high enough to burn up the series RF chokes in the driver circuit.

To make a long story short, I installed snubber diodes in the RCS8 relay box and replaced the fried capacitors and chokes in the micro BAND DECODER. After putting everthing back together all was fine. The system worked as expected.

The microHAM web site lists the micro BAND DECODER as compatible with the Ameritron RCS8. Nowhere in the on-line support documents or manual could I find any reference to snubber diode issues. Since my RCS8 is fairly old, I checked the current manual on the Ameritron web site. The current schematic also shows no snubbers acrsoss the relay coils.

I exchanged a couple of emails with microHAM over this issue. Several weeks later, the on-line manual and RCS8 wiring instructions have not been updated with a warning about this issue. The micro BAND DECODER is a very well designed and nicely built product. However, I want others to be aware to check the RF relay box used with their micro BAND DECODER for proper relay coil snubbers.
 
K3NC Rating: 5/5 Jan 10, 2007 18:48 Send this review to a friend
Great unit  Time owned: more than 12 months
Just a short review. I have owned 2 of these units for 2 years and the quality, functionality and design is on par with the rest of the microHam line. I have found every piece of microHam gear to be of excellent quality, inventive functionality and bullet-proof to RF in the shack. They are a primere supplier of devices.
 
DJ0RD Rating: 5/5 Dec 10, 2006 07:14 Send this review to a friend
The Solution  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have configured the Band Decoder and the PAICKL1 with my FT1000MP MkV to provide fully automatic bandswitching to my ICOM IC-2KL. It works perfectly and interfaces seamlessly with Ham Radio Deluxe as well. Click on the DX Cluster entry and Rig and Amp go directly to the correct band and frequency. You do need the original ICOM TRX to Amp control cable. Once configured you do not need to have your computer on for automatic bandswitching either. Jozef gives great support.
 
NM6E Rating: 5/5 Aug 7, 2006 20:22 Send this review to a friend
Fantastic & Interoperates with Ameritron RCS-10!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I purchased the Micro Ham Band Decoder in May 2006. I ordered it for use with my Ameritron RCS-10 so I asked for the external relay board (mounted inside the MicroHam box).

After soldering the RCS-10 control leads that come from the tower to an RS-232 cable, it worked great. I had some RS-232 straight through cables laying around, so I cut one cable in half and and soldered the 4 leads from the tower control box directly to the RS-232 cable once I figured out which pins were needed.

I loaded the microHam micro-router software (WinXP Pro). I Connected the serial cable (DB-9 connector) to a serial port on the PC. I configured the MH Band Decoder for all of my antennas and for use with the RCS-10.

I use the MH Band Decoder with an Icom 7800 so I conected the supplied CI-V lead to the radio and then to the back of the band decoder (note: MH tells you which end (mono/stereo) is connected to the rig/band decoder). I use an outboard power supply.

After configuring the Band Decoder for use with the RCS-10, double checking the internal jumpers etc, I managed to get it all working. The box "tracks" the IC-7800 band data information and correctly selects the right antenna up top on the tower. I now have automated antenna selection. Painless.

The interesting thing is that I also purchased the Micro Ham Micro Keyer. Well as it turns out, the manual is a bit confusing (both the Band Decoder and the Micro Keyer).

After 2 email exchanges, Joe and Jozef had me on the right path.

First, setup the Micro Ham Band Decoder, make sure it tracks the radio/band data (which ever radio you use and the correct cables you ordered).

Then, remove the DB-9 serial cable used to configure band Decoder box. Then, to get the Micro Keyer to work, you connect the PC-cable (coming from the Micro Keyer) to the Micro Ham Band Decoder PC connector.

The key thing is that the Band Decoder is physicaly connected to the radio (in my case, IC-7800 via the CI-V cable--Band Decoder has a built in CI-V translator!)

The Band Decoder feeds the Band/Mode information to the Micro Keyer--allowing PC control of the rig in both directions (Rig<--Band-Decoder->MicroKeyer). This is how you connect the two.

If you ever have to reprogram the Band Decoder, you would have to connect the supplied DB-9 cable from the Band Decoder to the PC-DB-9 Serial Port.

Again, the MicroHam USA (Joe) support and Jozef is fantastic.

Another fine product from MicroHam.

Javier NM6E
 
W8FN Rating: 5/5 Nov 30, 2005 13:16 Send this review to a friend
Great Product -- Fantastic with SteppIR!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Due to a recent move, I found it necessary to completely re-engineer and rebuild my modest two-radio contest station. I had originally intended to continue using my old Top Ten band decoder and Top Ten six-way switch for automatic antenna switching control. However, the Top Ten decoder box is very inconvenient to reconfigure. Unless you're lucky enough to have a separate antenna for every band, every time you need to change the antenna mapping to use one antenna on more than one band you have to crack the box open and rewire diodes on a 16-pin header. Since I knew it would take me some time to get the entire complement of antennas going at the new station I realized that I was in for lots of tedious soldering to keep antenna switching up to date as the station evolved.

So I decided to see if there were any other solutions. In the course of my research I soon discovered the microHAM Band Decoder. The information on the microHAM Web site and favorable reviews here on eHam convinced me this was the way to go, and I ordered one, complete with the necessary cables to work with my Yaesu FT-1000D.

I won't go into all the features of the unit, as Bill, K1UQ has covered them very nicely in his review of 16 Oct 2005. Suffice it to say, this is one extremely impressive piece of work. The workmanship is first-rate and, as Bill has said, service and support are second to none. The out-of-the-box experience (as the computer folks would say) was great. I did have to order the optional relay board output option to drive my Top Ten antenna switch, but the microHAM configuration software knew all about the Top Ten box, and it was merely a matter of selecting it from a drop-down list to get the electrical interface right. Once the software configuration was done, plugging the radio cable into the FT-1000D and wiring the output cable to the Top Ten box took only a few minutes, and the decoder came up and worked perfectly.

A wonderful feature of the microHAM decoder is that it connects directly to the radio CAT port, so it can read the radio frequency directly without requiring a computer to be connected. Reading the actual frequency rather than just the band as all other automatic decoders do is a huge advantage, as this lets the unit select between two different antennas on a single band. If you want to run different antennas for 80 CW and 75 Phone, for example, this is a really nice feature. If you do have a computer connected, the box reads the frequency commands from whatever software is running on the computer and passes them on to the radio. Very slick!

Shortly after I installed the Band Decoder, my long-awaited SteppIR 3-element antenna (review to be posted soon) arrived. Once I had the SteppIR going, I began looking into making it track frequency changes as the radio was tuned, for fully automatic operation. The SteppIR controller does have the (optional) capability of "listening" to radio frequency information and tuning the antenna elements accordingly. But... the catch is that it works automatically without computer involvement only with Icom radios set in Transceive mode. Since I had a Yaesu radio, my only choice was to install a "Y" cable in the RS-232 control line between the computer and the radio to feed the SteppIR controller. The Yaesu radios can't be configured to "volunteer" frequency information, so the only way I could make my SteppIR follow it around the bands was to run a logging program such as DX4WIN that queries the radio periodically.

It turns out that there is a feature of the microHAM band decoder that provided the complete solution to this inconvenience. Although it is very poorly documented on both the microHAM Web site and in the user manual, there is a single special output pin on the Band Decoder that can be configured to do a number of different things. One of these special modes is designed to allow control of the Icom PW-1 amplifier with non-Icom radios. When the Band Decoder is set in this mode, it constantly outputs frequency data in Icom CI-V compatible format irrespective of the type of radio that is really being used. Connecting this output data line to the CI-V input on the SteppIR controller lets the antenna follow the radio tuning, regardless of the type of radio and without requiring a computer connection. To make life easier, microHAM sells an accessory connector breakout, designated PAICPW1, that connects between the Band Decoder output jack and the control cable plug that brings the data line out to a cable with a 3.5mm plug.

There is only one problem right now. The Band Decoder output is straight TTL rather than the open-collector type that the Icom CI-V standard requires, and I had to build a simple two-transistor buffer circuit in the PAICPW1 shell to make it work properly with the SteppIR controller. You can find the details of the circuit posted in the Files area of the Yahoo! microHaM group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/microHAM/) and the Yahoo! SteppIR group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SteppIR/). Jozef, OM7ZZ, at microHAM is aware of this problem and promises that the necessary circuitry modification will be made "as soon as possible."

With this capability in place, I am one happy camper. I can happily tool around the bands from 20 meters up with my SteppIR and the antenna follows wherever I go. When I QSY to other bands, the Band Decoder selects the appropriate antenna for each band. All I ever have to tune is the radio.

I'm an extremely satisfied customer, so much so that I'll eventually be acquiring a second Band Decoder for my secondary radio and a microHAM Double Six antenna switch to provide true two radio antenna selection capability. I highly recommend the microHAM Band Decoder.

73...
Randy Farmer, W8FN
 
K1UQ Rating: 5/5 Oct 16, 2005 12:58 Send this review to a friend
Thoroughly Engineered Hardware & Software!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I wanted to review the microHAM Band Decoder after station integration and test. Antennas are wires on 160 & 80, a 40m phased array, and a multi-band yagi. An Array Solutions Six-Pak relay box is controlled by either the automated-switching microHAM Band Decoder or an Array Solutions manual switch box. Primary rig is a Yaesu FT-1000MP. Yagi rotation is controlled by an Idiom Press SDX control card installed in a Yaesu -800SDX desk top control box. Software includes LOGic7 for general logging and N1MM Logger for contesting. A freeware rotator control program (LP-Rotor) was necessary for use with N1MM Logger; LOGic controls rotators without need for additional software. With all of this hardware, software, multiple serial ports, and interfacing to rig, rotator, software, etc, I needed to ensure everything plays well together. It does.

So what do I think of the microHAM Band Decoder? Do the words "winner” or "keeper" begin to describe this product? YOU BET! Here's why:

The enclosure is well made and thoroughly engineered. The result is a streamlined, small, sturdy box made of two U-shaped pieces; the bottom half forms the front, bottom and rear panels while the top cover, held in place by two
screws per side, forms the left, right and top. The bottom includes four non-marring feet. The front panel has a rocker-style power switch, with integrated green LED, mounted near left edge. Moving to the right are a series of ten red LEDS, one each for 160, 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, and 6 meters silk-screened in white on a black background. All LEDs, including the switch LED, are same shape, size, and all are inline – a thoughtful visual layout.

The rear panel shows more creative design in order to mount ten connectors, and do so without interference or even lack of proper labeling. No terminal strips, no screws - real connectors.
Looking at rear panel, in upper left corner is a coaxial power connector (unwired plug supplied should you need one). Beneath this is a 9 pin DBF "PC" connector you hook to your computer's serial port. To its right is a 25 pin DBF connector for connection to your relay box. Above this are two RCA Phono jacks - one for PTT and the other for CW. To the right are two mini jacks - top one called "SET" lets you plug in a SPST switch to manually change bands/antennas. Bottom one is a CI-V jack for interfacing to specific rigs. To their right finds a pair of female DIN connectors - left one is a 6 pin IF-232 connector and right one is an 8 pin ACC (accessory) connector. Lastly, on right edge is a 9 pin DBM RS-232 connector you connect to rig's serial port.

With all these connectors available, options for different configurations abound. I chose serial and thus use both the PC and RS-232 connectors, as well as the 25 pin Data Output connector wired to my Six-Pak relay box (in parallel w/ manually operated Six-Pak switches). The serial method allows the rig to control the band decoder, even with computer turned off.

Should you need interfacial cables, microHAM can provide pretty much whatever you need. I opted to buy the Yaesu Band Data Accessory Cable should I ever decide to use that method. (I figured it wise to get the cable today, rather than not have it tomorrow).

Band Decoder software installation is easy and straightforward. Free software / firmware updates are available at microHAM's web site. With software installed, configuration is straight forward. From drop-down lists, select your rig, CW & PTT source, and Antenna switch. Setting up your Band Plan allows you to enter lower, upper and an interim frequency for each of ten bands. Next, you setup the Output matrix where you check-off boxes for each of the antenna relay box ports you want activated for each band. Example: I connected my triband yagi to the 20m SO-239 connector on my Six-Pak, and as I can use this antenna for 20 through 10 + WARC, for the 20m port I checked off boxes for 20, 17, 15, 12, & 10. When any one of these bands is selected, the 20m port is activated and my triband yagi is connected. If I had two antennas, one for 80 and one for 75, I could check a box called "split by Freq" and it would remember my Band Plan setup. When on 80 that antenna gets selected, and when on 75 its antenna is selected. With this software method, once you have physically wired each antenna relay, you never have to return, reopen, and rewire what relay control wire goes where. Very convenient!

With the decoder hooked up, I can initiate band changes from either the rig or by software, and the microHAM Band Decoder does what it's supposed to do - automatically select the proper antenna. What if you have an array? I have the 40m phased verticals controlled by a desk top switch. When I move to 40m, microHAM automatically selects this array - all I need do is flip the desk top switch to change direction.

As there are functions I have yet to use (PTT, CW, etc.) please take the time to read the well written, online PDF manual. I found it helpful in my decision to purchase.

Possibly you too are interested and want to know what the buying experience was like, including communication, service, and how quickly they respond. North and South American operations are handled by Joe Subich W4TV, out of Florida. Joe responded VERY quickly and thoroughly to numerous emails for my several orders. I found Joe to be pleasant and personable in all of my dealings with microHAM-USA.com. In fact we even exchanged information about nearby Florida towns of which I'm somewhat familiar. This is a pretty good barometer when someone in business will take a moment for you. I was left with the impression Joe truly wants to help microHAM grow its business and realizes the importance of its customers with good old fashioned service!

I also had the occasion to email microHAM technical support as I had a question about the length of time it took LOGic software to get the Band Decoder to initiate an antenna change (turns out I needed to reduce a LOGic7 software polling value that adjusts this time lag). Joe forwarded my question to tech support and within a few hours I received an email from Jozef, OM7ZZ. Jozeff addressed my concerns and pointed me in the direction of LOGic causing the delay. Well done Jozef!

Bottom line: Great product, service, and support. Would I repeat this exact purchase? YES. Would I make future purchases from microHAM? YES.
BTW, I am in no way affiliated with microHAM. I'm just a very satisfied customer.

Regards, Bill K1UQ
 
G1OAR Rating: 5/5 May 1, 2005 09:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Build quality-1st class
Ease of use-Excellent
Back-up-Could not be better
After changing from Yaesu prime mover to Icom,I kept forgetting to change band on the Quadra amp,I was informed of this interface and bought it.Jozeff answers emails very quickly and the only way he could be more helpful is by sitting in the shack with you,FANTASTIC product and great guy
 
ON5ZO Rating: 5/5 Oct 10, 2004 06:36 Send this review to a friend
Superb device, super support  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I previously owned a MicroHAM micro TEN SWITCH driven by a simple homebrew band decoder. This worked very good, but I wanted to upgrade to a SO2R capable setup for future use. Because of the lack of time I decided to leave the homebrew road and settle for an off the shelf solution.

After my very positive experience with the MicroHAM products and the great service, I bought the SO2R pack (2 band decoders + 6 port SO2R antenna switch). The decoder (and this applies to all MicroHAM products) is very rugged, has a nice looking finish and contains high quality components. The set of cables supplied is also soldered like it should and has quality connectors. As for now, both band decoders work 'stand alone' and not in a SO2R config. For this you still need an external SO2R controller. Bonus: the slick design makes that this decoder gets the band data from the transceiver (no matter what brand or type as long as it has serial communication) so my PC doesn't need to be running to provide band data to the relay box.

The setup is easy with the supplied software and it's a breeze to get it going. It works as advertised with DX4WIN and N1MMLogger. The manual is complete and written in simple and plain words and contains tons of pictures of specific setups.

Should all this info fail to help you solving a problem, you can count on the fast and accurate support of the MicroHAM people via email.

One very satisfied customer.
73 de Franki ON5ZO
 
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