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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: HF Amateur HF+6M+VHF+UHF models - not QRP <5W | Cubic/Swan Astro 150A Help

Reviews Summary for Cubic/Swan Astro 150A
Cubic/Swan Astro 150A Reviews: 7 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $(missing—add MSRP)
Description: The Swan Astro 150 and Astro 151 and the Cubic Astro 150A and Astro 151A are synthesized, high-frequency SSB and CW transceivers that were introduced in the late 1970s. These radios cover, in the case of the 150 series the 80M through 10M bands, and in the case of the 151 series, 160M through 15M, with considerable coverage outside each amateur band. They operate from a nominal 13.8 VDC, drawing up to 20 A to provide a nominal 100 Watts output on each band. Frequency is displayed on LEDs, with a resolution of 100 Hz. The size is a rather compact 9.75" W by 3.75" H by 11.875" D, and the weight is about 13 Lbs.. Features include an 8 pole, 2.7 KHz wide SSB filter with a built-in, 300 Hz wide CW filter. VOX or PTT SSB operation is provided for SSB, as is the choice of either semi or full break-in for CW. RIT with a range of +/- 300 Hz and Fine Tuning of +/- 75 Hz are provided. The CW offset is nominally 800 Hz. Offsets consistent with using the transceivers in pileups are not possible. An internal speaker is provided. Jacks are available on the rear panel for an external speaker or headphones, relay control, and a key. These transceivers do not use a conventional tuning knob for frequency control. There is a variable rate rotary control that speeds the tuning rate as it is turned further clockwise or counter-clockwise from the center position, which has a detent. Also there are "UP" and "DOWN" momentary contact switches on the top of the microphone supplied with the transceivers. The construction quality of these transceivers is very high. They were produced first by Swan and then by Cubic, the main difference being the color scheme of the cabinets and front panels. Matching antenna tuners, the ST-3 and ST-3A are available, as are matching power supplies with an internal speaker (PSU-5 and PSU-5AorB). A product review was published in the July 1980 issue of QST. The Astro 150/151 and 150A/151A DO NOT provide WARC band coverage and they are single conversion designs with an IF of nominally 9 MHz.
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K7LZR Rating: 5/5 Oct 5, 2012 10:15 Send this review to a friend
Excellent basic rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
As I write this, I am listening to the pleasant receive audio from an Astro 151. The 151 covers 160-15m rather than the 80-10m coverage of the 150A.

These rigs have exactly what you need to communicate on the HF bands - no more, no less. But the sheer simplicity of these rigs has its own appeal - i.e. quick to set up, small and lightweight, few things to fail, easy to work on, and they use standard components.

Receive audio is rich and full, even with the internal speaker. Transmit audio is clean and crisp. The transmitter puts out an honest, full 100+ watts, unlike some of today's conservative designs. My own unit measured 132w peak SSB into a calibrated HP service monitor without distortion nor clipping. A nice feature is the built-in true peak reading wattmeter. Many of today's rigs could use this.

The frequency tuning system takes a bit of getting used to. Unlike conventional VFO tuning with a finger detent etc., this system uses a potentiometer with a center detent and a big knob. Turning the control to left of center moves down in frequency, while turning right of center moves up. Further from center = faster tuning. But it really only takes a few seconds to master, and then you're scooting around the bands just like always.

Build quality of these rigs is also outstanding. High-quality epoxy PC boards are used throughout, and the chassis and covers are heavy metal. As mentioned earlier, commonly available components are used in most of the circuits and so repairs are generally easy.

Also offered for these rigs was a matching power supply w/speaker and a matching antenna tuner. If you can find those too the so much the better but they really aren't necessary because nearly any 12vdc power supply which can deliver 20A will work, as will other antenna tuners.

To sum, these are quality, great basic radios which will give you quality signals on 5 HF bands. If you can find one at a good price you won't be disappointed.

W7CPA Rating: 4/5 Sep 30, 2010 10:56 Send this review to a friend
Suprising Top Performer  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I got mine from K3PZ (thanks Paul), did a precision re-align and painted the cabinets to achieve a near new condition.

On-air performance compared to the most excellent FLEX 5000A is impressive. Audio quality on the internal speaker is the best I have ever heard from an internal little speaker. Transmit audio is excellent as well. The goofy shuttle-jog tuning is a little odd but the Cubic mic with UP/DOWN is just fine. From a cold start it does drift about 40z but that's no big deal. After warm up it is rock solid.
K5LG Rating: 5/5 Jun 3, 2008 07:16 Send this review to a friend
enjoyed the swan astro 150  Time owned: more than 12 months
I used the swan astro 150 mobile cw for several years back in late 70s and 80s. I bought the rig used with ps. It worked fb and I had great fun with it. I really liked the detent tuning because you cud scan the band and listen to all the cw qsos as it slowly changed freq. A good little rig
N8YX Rating: 5/5 Oct 16, 2006 09:27 Send this review to a friend
One of my all-time favorites  Time owned: more than 12 months
I first encountered one of these rigs in the shack of a friend back in the late 80's; his father-in-law bought it and the matching PSU5B as for him as a present.

Eventually, the supply was sold and the radio traded throughout the times residing in an over-the-road semi tractor, where it was used to check into various nets while its owner crossed the country.

I ended up with the thing at a fairly good price around 1997. It needed lots of restoration work to make it cosmetically 'presentable'. Electrically...was another story. From Day One the radio was plagued with a problem in its main VCO loop; this manifested itself as a warble in the signal (both transmitted and received).

On the shelf it went - until in early 2004 I happened to run across a Usenet bit written by Doug, WA1TUT. He described a problem with the rigs and their loop filters; seems that a rather large tantalum cap (200uF; 10v) in the Main VCO Loop filter will go bad and produce the condition that my rig was experiencing. After changing this part - voila! All fixed, and what a neat little rig it was! There's a good bit of coverage available above and below each of the amateur bands - perfect for caual SWLing and UTE monitoring. Once the rig warms up thoroughly - ~1h - it's stable enough to be used for RTTY, packet and so forth. It never drifts more than a couple hundred hertz from a cold start - very good for a rig of this design.

I was bitten...and began to buy more of them. Not perfect working examples, mind you - but old junque to resurrect.

At this point there must be a dozen or more Astro 150s hanging around my shack; most of them have their companion antenna tuners, power supplies and so forth. When Cubic took over Swan, they released this transceiver in amateur (150A) and commercial (150C) flavors. The latter could have its band coverage scheme programmed at the factory with a customer's specified ranges; I have two of the -C models and both are set up differently in this regard. (Neither were delivered as 'amateur band' transceivers but their tuning ranges still manage to cover most amateur allocations below 12M.)

The -C models used some rather hard-to-find multipin Amphenol bayonet locking connectors for such things as AFSK IN, RLY control and so forth. I've seen people remove these and convert the rear bulkhead to use standard RCA and 1/4" jacks as used on the -A models.

The little rigs are built very well and will just keep going and going. As has been pointed out before - they are NOT the equivalent of an FT1000, 756 Pro or any other fully featured HF transceiver. What they are is a set which gives the operator exactly what he or she needs to communicate; nothing more, nothing less.

A couple things to note - and be aware of - when buying and using the Astro 150 series:

First off, that tantalum cap in the VCO loop filter. If yours begins to warble, remove and swap this component. (Cubic redesigned part of the VCO Loop Filter in later-model Astros; the change decreased lock time - but the cap in question is still present. A newer-model Main VCO board looks to be missing a number of components, including an 8-pin DIP op-amp. It'll work fine in this configuration.)

Next - get hold of a service manual and verify that the foldback limiting circuitry on the RF filter board is adjusted correctly. The Astros use a PA 'brick' which is common across all of the company's product lines, so finding service info shouldn't be that difficult. The PA output transistors are MRF458 and don't have as high a dissipation rating as those used in a TR7's PA, for example. Therefore, one MUST pay attention to setup of the VSWR protection circuit - especially if driving an amp with an untuned input.

Moving on - there is a potentiometer (on the Band VCO board) which adjusts the 10.5V regulator. Setting this regulator correctly is as important for this rig's 'character' as its counterpart within a TR7 is. In other words...verify with a DVM and correct if out-of-spec.

Last - early-model PA driver transistors are spec'd as MRF433, and late-model as MRF455. If you should need to replace a '433 pair, do so with a set of '455s. The higher-gain (blue, green dot) versions of the '433 will eagerly go into thermal runaway when run in a 'stock' (non-modified) PA.
CE3PG Rating: 5/5 Oct 14, 2006 16:40 Send this review to a friend
Great second rig!  Time owned: more than 12 months
About four years ago I met three of these fine rigs, yes three of them. Let me tell you, worst mistake I have ever made was selling one of the three. The construction is excellent and the small footprint of the transceiver calls for operation on boats, camps, fieldays, etc. If you get one, you better get used to receive lots of nice reports. I use it regularly on local networks on 40 and 80 meters and works excellent. On 20 meters I pair it with a Swan Cubic 1500ZA linear amplifier and works like a charm. Of course the rig will not stand competition agains the last generation of bells and whistles rigs, but its an almost perfect piece of gear that will make you proud. And it is beautiful!
K6PS Rating: 5/5 Dec 22, 2003 15:27 Send this review to a friend
Astounding Construction  Time owned: more than 12 months
I read WA6GDU's review and had to chime in. I agree it is indeed one super fine business 80 through 10 meter SSB/CW rig.

I have two "sets" of these rigs. That is, in addition to having the matching PSU-5B 12v supply, I also have the ST-3B Antenna Match Box. Every unit times two, ie a total of six "boxes". All are rigidly constructed, with steel cases that you can pound with your fist and not make a dent. Glass epoxy boards, tough knobs, and high quality switches make these units practically indestructible.

If anyone can remember the old SBE-34, this is sort of an upgraded solid state digital version of that mid-60s transceiver. At hamfests one often see these Cubic/Astro 150 units attached to the match box. It makes for a small compact set up and such "bolt togethers" were often used in sailboats where small size, robust construction, simple use, and low power consumption were inportant concerns.

How does the unit function? I have a Yaesu 1000D and it is not a 1000D. The frequency tuning "knob" of the Astro 150 takes a little getting used to as it is more of a tuning "knobswitch" that when rotated just slightly clockwise or clockwise makes the unit tune up or down. The quality of SSB and CW reception is more like early TenTec...which is to say quite excellent. If you find the rig, be sure to ask for the microphone, because it has the remote button up/down feature.

These units were the last hurrah for Swan/Cubic and reflect a level of American electronic assembly which, while not necessarily super advanced, was indeed super rugged. I am not quite sure whether it qualifies as Milspec, but it is well built. Just for those who see a Model 151, this unit is the same but excludes I think? 10 meters and instead includes 160. I have also seen these rigs as black colored "Swan" and as grey colored "Astro Cubic" rigs. I prefer the grey and later "Cubic Style.

If you find one, buy it. They are not that easy to find and people selling them often do not understand or appreciate the fact that this is a gem of a rig that will run forever. 73 K6PS
WA6GDU Rating: 5/5 Apr 7, 2001 14:41 Send this review to a friend
A nice backup rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
This rigs needs a review. It was feeling unloved and lonely. goes.

I bought a cubic/swan 150A in 1980. This is a nice little rig - small, simple and rugged. It uses a single conversion receive/transmit scheme. Look inside and see a beautifully built radio - military specs and quality. It is birdie-free, quiet, sensitive and accurate. The transmit audio is clean and receives many good reports.

The tuning is different with a variable resistor/switch control. This controls the speed and direction of tuning. Frequency can also be controlled by the microphone. The tuning takes a little getting used to, but it does the job.

I have used this rig side by side with others; currently a Jupiter. Switching between the rigs shows the quality of the receiver; after 20 years it is still great! It doesn't have all the bells of whistles of the newer rigs but somehow the simplity makes up for it.

I see the rig for sale in the $300 range. Be sure to get the matching power supply. The package is very small and fits easily into your shack or car. I've used it with a 12 volt gel-cell with good results, which makes it a nice little camping rig (not backpacking). Running at reduced power will allow you to operate quite a while.

If you're looking for a small, quality back-up rig consider the lonely Astro 150. It will become your love slave.


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