In my quest to find the perfect "Patio" rig, I stumbled on something that blew me away. N4LQ, Steve encouraged me to buy a Kenwood TS-480SAT rig because of his love for it. I read his review of it here on eHam. Boy, I am thinking this is it! Thinking small and all the features, I bit. After getting it, I was saddened to see that the face was not really attachable. My thoughts were "what was Kenwood thinking?"
However, using it was really a joy. It has beautiful QSK, DSP and crystal filtering, built in tuner and 6 meters. No, it is not a contest rig, I have 2 Yaesu Mark V's for that, but I just want to have a little fun outdoors. It really had all the features that I wanted but carrying an extra piece of gear (face) to the patio was not my idea of small. Each day I carried a small 25 amp switching supply, face, body, key, and cables outside to work CW on my new patio.
I ended up selling this rig looking for one that had a built in tuner, nice features and found none that had a built in power supply. Icom used to make the IC-736 which was nice. However they have some years on them now. It would be nice because I could carry one box and a paddle and I was set. I tried other smaller rigs only to be compromised in different ways with each.
I decided I was going to go back to the TS-480 and suck it up and carry the pieces out each day. Then a friend WB9RNY, Mike, came over from Illinois for a visit. While operating my rig he suggested to take the face only outside.
Boy, he was really onto something. So, now on a new quest to make this rig more patio friendly, I asked on some of the user groups about extending the face longer than the 12 ft of cable that Kenwood supplies. I found I was not the first to ask this and nobody ever replied.
This TS-480 uses a detached face but the key jacks and microphone jacks are in the body. It has a great sounding speaker built into the face. So, for SSB and CW operation, I had to think how I was going to get the face and paddles on the patio.
Off to Radio Shack I set. 100 Ft of CAT-5 cable (4 pairs - 24Ga.), RJ25 jacks, and crimpers led me back home for a nice project.
First thing I did was to try a full 100 ft of CAT 5 back to the face. Looking at the Kenwood panel cable, it only uses 5 of the 6 wires in the RJ25. Wow, I am now thinking 3 wires left over for my paddles back to the shack (CAT-5 cable has 8 wires). RJ25 jacks are the same physical size of the modular telephone jacks but uses 6 wires instead of 4. Getting my daughter's magnifying glass out to see the wires confirmed only 5 of the 6 are used.
Sure enough, only using 5 wires of the CAT-5 cable, 100 ft long, powered up the rig from the control face with full features. Next thing I did was to take the 3 remaining and put a nice stereo plug on them for my paddles.
All installed and now out on the patio for the first time to fire it up. DEAD! Not working. Well a closer look at my RJ25 showed I had inverted the plug. The wires had the correct arrangement but was upside down. As luck would have it, the rig was not damaged in any way. Now a new jack is installed correctly and I am on the air!!
100 watts from the display in the face showed just fine. Everything worked just as if it had the 12 ft cable on it. I am not much of an SSB guy but I next thought about putting another CAT-5 cable for the microphone. It is in fact an RJ45 connection, the same used in computer networking. I used factory CAT-5 cables with double female jacks to increase my length. Sure enough 75 ft of this cable gave me full SSB control now.
What I have now, is simply two CAT-5 cables from my shack to the patio. One CAT-5 has the factory ends on it with just a double female for the microphone. The other uses 5 of the 8 wires into an RJ25 which plugs into the face and I left a few inches of the 3 remaining wires on a jack that I can plug my paddles into.
All I have to do now is to carry my little TS-480 face and paddles outside. OK, I can take the microphone too.
This TS-480 gives several possibilities. Maybe having a rig in your living room, garage, or sunroom without running coax, power supplies and such.
Another possibility is by having the rig close to where the coax enters the house and put the body there, like the garage for example, and running CAT-5 back to the shack, without the need to run coax or ladder line feeders. I have no idea what the longest run could be this way, but I found 100 ft of 24 ga. worked just fine for me. I am now planning on putting some more CAT-5 cables in my garage and sun room with a switch back at the body in the shack for what ever location I decide to operate from.
I know there are going to be many different configurations for this rig, but this is my own personal experience.
Some guys suggested I run a wireless remote from a laptop back to the shack using VOIP. Well, that would be great if I was an SSB guy. But I really wanted CW operation and I really like being able to roll the dial.
I am hoping this will spark some more interest in other possibilities I have not thought of. Maybe being able to operate remote controlled to my truck via UHF/VHF back to my shack and use CW?
Others may want to think about doing other rigs like this that uses a detached face, like VHF rigs just to get out of the shack a little more often!
Comments and suggestions are welcomed!