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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | KD1JV Appalachian Trail Sprint-III Help


Reviews Summary for KD1JV Appalachian Trail Sprint-III
KD1JV Appalachian Trail Sprint-III Reviews: 20 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $155
Description: Shirt-pocket-sized, DDS-based, four-band CW rig
Product is not in production.
More info: http://www.qsl.net/kd1jv/ATS3.HTM
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KB8DNS Rating: 5/5 Mar 17, 2010 22:31 Send this review to a friend
Wonder of design!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built this rig in early 2005 and had a blast building it! Never worked with surface mount before and planned this out carefully.... After a two day build, could not put down the soldering pencil! The rig worked perfectly! I soldered each joint individually as I do not have a hot air gun and I do not subscribe to the "blob" technique. First contact was a local about 20 miles away and second was the Southern part of Illinois.
Zero beating the rig I could copy clearly many short wave stations and worked cross mode and checked in to 75 meter nets! I was able to receive as low as the AM broadcast band and even sent a short burst of CW on 160 meters! The receiver cut off about 21 mHz or so. Receiving WWV on 5 mHz the rig was spot on frequency!
Now Steve has the ATS-4 out and I am planning a purchase soon as I can muster the funds! All Kudos to KD1JV for his efforts!
72! Rod KB8DNS
 
W5ESE Rating: 5/5 Oct 12, 2007 13:52 Send this review to a friend
Great Little Rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I built an AT Sprint 3 when they were still
available, and have enjoyed it alot.

I was uncertain about my ability to build a
unit with many surface mount parts, but
succeeded in completing it and have a working
rig. Steve's instructions are well done.

I've taken it on several backpacking trips,
including some to the Guadalupe Mountains in
west Texas and the Holy Cross Wilderness
(Colorado). It's a wonderful rig to use on
backpacking trips.

I've used the cross-mode capability (CW to SSB)
and it works very well. I also used this radio
exclusively during my participation in the
Texas QSO Party.

Lots of fun in a small package! Thanks to Steve
for designing a kit that has provided excitement
in the hobby for so many.

73
Scott
 
KX0R Rating: 5/5 Aug 14, 2007 20:10 Send this review to a friend
Amazing Jewel  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
ATS-3A Review
KX0R

Steve Weberís ATS-3A has been out for some time now, and Iím one of the more recent owners of this amazing little jewel. I agree with most of the other positive reviews posted here, so I just want to add a few comments. Much more information and support from builders is available at the Yahoo group site for this rig:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AT_Sprint/

General:

Remember that the ATS radios were designed for lightweight portable use, and the necessary compromises affect operation. The 4-button interface is amazingly effective and easy to use. Many operators use these rigs at their home QTHís, because they like the radiosí performance.

When you change bands with the ATS rigs, you have to plug in different filter modules. This requires no tools and only takes a few seconds. Itís somewhat annoying if you want to hop from band to band, but itís no big deal for portable operation, where you usually plan on working just one or two bands at any particular time. You do have to be careful with these filters.

Receiver Notes:

The ATS-3A canít widen its bandwidth for listening to SSB and AM like the older versions. Itís dedicated to CW operation, and the 4-crystal filter is nice with its steep skirts. The receiver has a DDS, is very clean and stable, and it does an amazing job while operating on about 30 ma.

The ATS-3A has direct frequency entry (DFE) capability Ė this means you send code characters telling the rig its new frequency, and it jumps there. This is a lot more convenient than holding the up/down buttons. The buttons tune at about 500 hz/second, slowly enough that you can hear stations without jumping past them. It takes about a minute to tune 30 khz. With no tuning knob, thereís no way to tune quickly all around the band to get a feel for whatís happening.

The DDSís tuning range is somewhat restricted by the firmware, but a combination of direct frequency entry and tuning with the up-down buttons will permit limited operation outside of the programmed range. You can tune to WWV at 10 Mhz, for example.

There is no gain control on this radio. The AGC action in the ATS-3A receiver is good, and thereís no pumping and few artifacts Ė however, the audio is too loud on my favorite set of headphones, so I use a headphone volume control.
The ATS-3A manual talks about possible interference from SWBC stations, but I havenít experienced that problem here in Colorado. The problem must be worse in the Northeast where Steve Weber lives.

Transmitter Notes:

My ATS-3A puts out about 5W on all four bands when powered with 12.0V, and about 3W when running on 9.0V. Amazingly, it will put out 1+W while running on 6.0V. I had to adjust the turns on some of the toroids in the filter modules, plus add a small capacitor on the 40M module, to get the desired power output. Efficiency is very high on the 80 and 40 meter bands, but it falls on 30M and 20M, which show higher current drain. On 20M you can see the output fall if you hold the key down for a couple of seconds. This is probably due to heating in the three parallel 2N7000 final mosfets, which have minimal heat-sinking. Itís possible to get more than 5W from these little mosfets by adjusting the filter modules and raising the supply above 12V, but the rig is already pushed far enough!

This radio is really optimized for a 9V supply. It will actually run off a 9V alkaline battery and will keep running until the battery is down below 6V key-down.

The manual warns about running into reactive loads, and so far, Iíve seen no problems. My ATS-3A is relatively stable when running into a mismatched BLT tuner while sending dits. Clearly itís much better to tune while using a bridge, such as the one in the BLT. Youíll need a tuner with this rig, unless you know your antenna is close to 50 ohms resistive.

The ATS-3A has a key-shaping circuit, and it works pretty well when the radio runs on a 6-10V supply. However, I found that my radio had sharp, badly-shaped keying when I ran it on 12V. I ended up modifying the keying circuit to get better shaping with a 10-12V supply, but I lost the ability to run at 6 to 8V. Details of this modification and others are posted on the Yahoo AT Sprint group site.

One of the best features of the AST-3A is that it will deliver full power while running on three lightweight lithium-ion or lithium-polymer cells. The radio will continue to operate smoothly down to the discharged voltage of those cells. This is perfect for portable work.

Construction:

The clear instructions in the manual make the assembly straightforward, but this isnít a beginnerís kit. The DDS chip requires a steady hand and a fine point soldering tip. One of the T37-2 toroids has 70 turns of #32 wire, and winding this may be harder for some builders than the surface mount assembly. A pair of strong reading glasses and a stronger magnifier will probably be needed by most builders. Unlike many others, I built the whole thing piece by piece, on an ESD mat on a flat table, and I didnít lose any parts. A pair of high-quality tweezers will make all the difference Ė donít try to do this kit with just pliers.

My ATS-3A ran first try! The key is to read and follow the directions carefully. If you want things to go right, read all the instructions over lightly to get the big picture, and then re-read each section a couple of times before you start working through it. Steve Weber did a good job on this manual, and youíll be amazed how everything works out if you just read and follow whatís there.

This is one of the most satisfying kits Iíve ever assembled. Part of the joy comes from the initial intimidation associated with the surface mount parts, followed by the realization that the engineer who designed this radio actually will guide you through the whole assembly successfullyÖbut you do have to think. This kit is the complete opposite kind of product, compared to a manufactured article, sold to the masses, to provide instant gratification. Building and using the ATS-3A is more like joining a cult of special people who share a rich creative experience.

I was contacting people over 1000 miles way even before I put my ATS-3A in its Altoids tin. This is a very capable radio, and it may represent the most bang for the buck of any radio kit ever sold (adjusted for inflation).

KD1JVís QBSA accessory kit adds to the features of the ATS series of radios, providing an adjustable power supply regulator, frequency counter display, and audio power amplifier, all improving the radioís performance in a home station. Add a tuner like the BLT, paddles, headphones, antenna, and some DC, and youíre all set for fun.

I want to thank Steve Weber for creating the ATS-3A and making it available! This is an amazing piece of engineering, including the efficient RF design as well as the firmware that runs unseen inside the controller. This radio, while not for everyone, is one of the most amazing items to find its way into our hobbyÖthe ATS-3A is magic.

Steveís website says that the ATS-3B will be available before long. With 6 bands and new features, this new radio promises even more thrills than the ATS-3A! This will be a limited kit, so donít miss out!

Hereís Steveís new web site:

http://kd1jv.qrpradio.com/index.html

George Carey Fuller
KX0R
 
WU7R Rating: 5/5 Nov 30, 2006 15:35 Send this review to a friend
A Great Kit and Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have built several other kit radios that were easier to build, but none give the satisfaction of this ingeneously engineered kit and radio. It is not a beginner's kit, but almost anyone should be able to build it with patience and care. And the result is a four-band QRP radio in an extremely small package that operates fantasticly. I now use my ATS-3A more than any of the other Ten Tec and Elecraft radios I have. Now Steve is coming out with a base station kit for the radio allowing the use of a speaker, a regulated voltage supply and inclduing a frequency display. He is truly a genious and is a gift to all of ham radio. I love my Appalacheon Trail Sprint 3A!
 
AA1OF Rating: 5/5 Aug 10, 2006 16:12 Send this review to a friend
I am a big fan of the ats3  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
http://kd1jv.qrpradio.com/
is probably the best link right now for more information. the design gradually improves, the ats3a was offered instead of the ats3, and now the ats3a is sold out but his site says it should be available again mid september 2006. i love my ats3 and can't really add to what has already been said. apparently reception on 40 in europe was much improved in the 'a' version. not enough change yet to tempt me to upgrade.
 
KL7JT Rating: 5/5 Jun 3, 2006 23:02 Send this review to a friend
Heavy Zen Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
This rig is a brilliant design. Steve Weber understands practical RF at a level few people reach. The ATS-3 provides incredible contrast with boatanchors and contemporary desktop gear; obviously in terms of size, weight, and power, but also in terms of its unique and enjoyable feel. I have run mine on a small PV panel and a supercap. Signals just pop out of the tight audio passband.

While a minimalist rig in some respects, it offers very clever integration of features and is a joy to use. I thought the push-button tuning would be irritating, but found that it is actually fun once you get used to it. My 5 year old saw me using it once and asked me what I was smiling at.

Manual SMT assembly is not my forte. KD1JV could not have been more helpful in making sure the kit ended up as an operating radio.

The ATS-3 is the main component in my half pound Field Day station. This is real HAM gear. Although only a few ounces, it's a ton of fun.
 
N1KSN Rating: 5/5 Nov 19, 2005 14:48 Send this review to a friend
What an amazing radio!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I vacillated for several months before taking the plunge and purchasing this kit. Boy, am I glad I did! With the exception of a couple of poorly soldered pins on the RF mixer chip and the loss of a 100K resistor in the rug, board construction went smoothly. Getting the Altoids tin case marked and drilled had its own set of challenges, but it came out as acceptable. It sure makes a nice compact package once done. I was able to align the radio without too much effort using an RF generator and scope.

I just finished my first two contacts with the rig on 40m, and I couldn't be happier with it. I was initially skeptical about the push button tuning, but it works great and the keyer is nice and smooth. In the wide receive mode I tuned in WWV easily using the 30m board.

Now I have to decide what compact tuner and antenna combination I will mate with the ATS-3 for portable operations. I will power it with either 8 NiMH or 6 alkaline AA cells most of the time, but I just have to try a lithium 9v battery and some AAA cells, too, just to see how long it runs on them.

It was well worth the effort to build this kit, and I found out that SMT isn't all that bad once you get used to it.
 
AK2B Rating: 5/5 Oct 24, 2005 13:02 Send this review to a friend
Excellent!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Ok, right up front, let me say that I didnít build the whole thing by myself. Chris Waldrup, KD4PBJ, mounted all the smt parts and I finished up everything else. Consequently, the board looks just great and ATS-III flew from the moment power was applied.
It took some operating re-adjustments to get used to the push button tuning but after a while it became second nature and really quite practical. Tuning the tx is a breeze - I hooked up my doublet antenna to the Elecraft T1, pushed the menu button until I heard ĎTí, pushed the dah paddle, the T1 did its job, pushed the dit paddle and Iím on the air. I answered a CQ from a Russian ham and got a 559 report. Life doesnít get better!
If you want the details on the design of the ATS-III, go to the website. From my perspective, this is one of the cleverest designs yet to come out of ham radio and the excellent QRP community that exists these days. This radio is beyond being a novelty in an Altoids tin Ė it is brilliantly thought out from software to hardware. Good job Steve! Iím looking forward to the ATS-IV.
 
KG6TAG Rating: 5/5 Oct 1, 2005 23:04 Send this review to a friend
AB1DR said it best .... "WOW!!"  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
WOW! What a rig!!

Once you get it completed and the great tide of relief comes over you when it actually works, you'll sit back and look at it and just smile. It is amazing that all of these features fit in such a tiny little tin. You'll come up with all sorts of places where you can now bring your radio along. Mine will be travelling to France, replacing my K1 for that trip which was just a little too big for comfort and carry-on bags.

But... completion of this project comes with a little sadness because I now feel as if I've reached the pinnacle of project building -- what can be more difficult now that I've tackled this fine pitch SMT work and stressed my eyes and hands to the max? Come on Steve (KD1JV) -- "Bring 'em on! I'm game!! "

Documentation:
The assembly manual is well written and pretty clear.
The users portion of the manual is nicely done too.

Assembly:
After about 20 hours of on/off effort, I just finished assembly of the ATS3 this week. With two hours of debug and troubleshooting for a few reworked solder joints in the RF path, and after a quick email exchange with Steve Weber and subsequent follow-up, everything is now working FB.

Assembly Words of Wisdom:
* Take one part out at a time and solder it on.

* Thanks to everyone's comments at: http://www.ae5x.com/ats3.html -- They were really helpful.

* I made a Doofus - http://www.al7fs.us/AL7FS5ATSprint2.html and highly recommend it unless you have abstained from coffee for the last 20 years in which case you might be ok. I ran into trouble a couple of times because the sideways loading on the doofus pointy end - occuring when I wasn't able to drop it exactly vertical from where it wanted to be placed, wanted to move some of my parts around. However, this was at least predictable and much better than my shakey hands.

* All of the soldering for my next SMT project will be in a shallow cookie baking pan. I had one part get away from me onto the floor of the garage. 45 minutes and much swearing later I found it.

* Be sure to have some 26 Ga magnet wire on-hand. the quantities provided and recommended cut lengths don't leave a lot of spare.


Packaging:
My ATS3 is packaged in a Whitman's sampler tin which fits just perfectly and it gives me a little bit of extra height to play with so the inclusion of a BNC jack was no problem at all. Though I understand you can get a BNC in the Altoids tin if you really want to. The tip at AE5X's site describing use of a stepped drill bit worked absolutely perfectly on the thin tin. Go ahead - spend the few bucks for this stepped bit.

The Whitman's tin is cute and after much searching around local drug and department stores, I finally found one at Walmart. Somehow this case does not be-fit such an amazing radio. I would love to see a ATS3 version of the Mitybox (http://www.americanmorse.com/mitybox.htm) made available. Any other takers out there?

One advantage of the tin however is that the XYL did not have second thoughts about "yet another Altoids box radio showing up in my shack".

Performance:
This is a nice little rig. The ATS3 holds it's own rather well with my Icom 751A, but I expect that there are a couple of extra dB to gain (pardon the pun) once I get my hands on an the right equipment to do the IF adjustment correctly. It is however pretty good as-is right now after being tweaked by ear. I'll do an A/B against my K1 (which shares pretty much the same basic RX design) once I'm sure that I have the IF alignment spot-on with the ATS3.

Features:
http://www.qsl.net/kd1jv/ATS3.HTM - WOW!

Service:
Over the last couple of years, I've built three of Steve's kits and exchanged a total of three emails with him. He is always fast, helpful, and courteous.

Summary:
Many kudos to Steve for all aspects of this fine radio. This is a keeper.

72
-Dave
AE6RQ

Email: mycall@ARRL.NET
 
KM1N Rating: 5/5 Aug 9, 2005 17:25 Send this review to a friend
A Tiny Rig Thats A REAL Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The rig took about 12 hours to build. Visor magnifiers work great. Made a nice label in MS Word (drawing tools on) then printed out on photo paper. A few minutes of Xacto trimming and double sided tape secured it. Same for command cheat sheet on inside cover. The rig looks good!
And wow does it work great and did the first time. Two watts out on 9V. Worked Spain, California several 4-landers. Also have been using it for traffic on nightly NTS net. Good rx, great keyer/QSK, love the intuitive morse interface and rock-solid frequency synthesis. This rig sets a new standard of features and performance for QRP ops and builders. Watch out Elecraft this baby is innovative, tunes the whole band, is much, much smaller, way less money and well, maybe not as pretty. Great job Steve!

Bill Longworth - KM1N - Salem, NH
 
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