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Author Topic: SGC SG-2020 - Still the one to beat for QRP HF SSB  (Read 23883 times)
K5TED
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« on: January 29, 2012, 07:26:02 PM »

Just sayin.. Used market price, around $400



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KATEKEBO
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Posts: 118




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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 07:29:12 AM »

I owned three different samples, and in spite of trying really hard, I never got myself to like it.

I think that on paper this radio looks great - 20W TX output, powerful VOGAD speech processor, ADSP, no-frills simple operation, built like a tank - all as good as it can get.  But in practice this radio leaves a lot to desire, and I think these shortcoming eventually lead to its demise (and lack of popularity).

My first issue with the SG-2020 was the audio quality - both on receive and transmit.  The thing that I hated most was the tonal difference between USB and LSB.  In all three sample, one of the sidebands was always very muffled, while the other one had a lot of hiss.  I'm not an expert, but I heard some people say that it has to do with the way SSB was implemented in this radio.  The net effect is that it was never enjoyable to listen to.  While on one sideband the audio sounded as if there was a pillow covering the speaker (making it really hard to understand), the other sideband had a lot of hiss, making prolonged listening very tiresome.  On transmit, the audio was also bad, very muffled (no high tones), with noticeable "warble".  If I had this problem with only one radio, then this may have been an alignment issue.  But all three radios had this problem, regardless of age.  So I think it is more a design issue than a specific sample problem.

I have used the SG-2020 side-by-side with the FT-817, and in spite of 4 times more power and the supposed VOGAD, I always got better signal reports from the Yaesu.  The audio from the Yaesu was always reported as being "cleaner" and more understandable than the audio from the SGC.  And there was no measurable difference in signal strength.

Finally, the receiver wasn't very good either.  The single conversion receiver is no match to double- and triple-conversion receivers of other radios, regardless of how nicely SGC would defend their idea.  Again, in side-by-side comparison vs. the FT-817, I could hear (and understand) many more stations on the little Yeasu than on the SG-2020.  Many stations that were quite understandable on the FT-817 simply were not detectable on the SG-2020, or they were completely buried in the noise level.  The ADSP did help with some problem, such as heterodynes, but was useless to dig out weak signals.  And the Yaesu FT-817 isn't precisely the most capable DX receiver out there.

Incidentally, some time ago I discussed the SG-2020 with a group of hams, one of them being a retired HAM Radio Outlet employee.  He told us that during his times at HRO, the SG-2020 was a "dog", with a very high return rate compared to other radios.  Apparently many hams who bought this radio were disappointed with the performance soon after purchase and would return the radio.  No other radio it his memory had such high return rate as the SG-2020.

So, the SG-2020 may appear like a great little radio based on the specifications, but the actual execution was far from perfect.

Just my $0.02....

73
S. Bucki
KD8KQH
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K5TED
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« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2012, 12:29:19 PM »

Good comments, and almost the exact opposite of my comparisons between the SG-2020 and FT-817ND.

I believe that the SG-2020's "demise" was more due to the fact it is a very niche product, coupled with declining HF conditions at the time (2005), and high price making it not interesting for newbies (no VHF/UHF). The 2020 battery pack is unwieldy and cost almost as much as the radio. The CW implementation is also annoying.

In my blind A/B tests on 4w, a simple wire antenna, on 60m, the SG-2020 with ADSP2 got better audio reports and had a much better time dealing with the noise on that band. On other bands, the 2020 easily outperforms the 817 on dealing with adjacent interference, with SGC's  combination of SCAF, IF shift, RF gain and ADSP2. There is an art to tweaking the interplay between these controls.

I'd like to test the 2020 on HF phone against the Icom 703 and some others in the same price range. I suspect the 2020 would still come out on top.


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ZENKI
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2012, 12:52:15 AM »

SGC radio is a good concept radio. It had  the ideal power output for a QRP radio. Its a shame that SGC does not invest some more time into improving the receiver.

SGC would have a huge hit on their hands if they  converted it into HF MANPACK configuration with a lithium battery. If they could emulate something like the TADIRAN HF manpack it will be very popular with a tough plastic IP rated case
A built in antenna tuner for a whip and longwire would be something that SGC could do. A small switch mode power supply that operated on AC 90 to 260 volts plus a DC/Dc converter that operates from 10 to 50 volts would  make this a popular concept radio..

The KX3 by comparison although feature packed is a messy concept, it would have better if they just made the KX23 a complete 25 watt radio rather than having a cumbersome 100 watt AMP.
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KH6AQ
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« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2012, 04:14:43 AM »

20 watts is not QRP.
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ZENKI
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« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2012, 11:01:59 PM »

True legal QRP is 5 watts of output. 20 watts is the minimum necessary communications power that is effective for SSB. This is reason that the vast majority of mil HF manpacks use this power.

I cant see the point really banging my head against the wall with 5 watts on SSB, 20 watts will do the job 99% of the time.

20 watts is not QRP.
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W4KYR
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2012, 07:52:10 AM »



 Correct 20 watts is not qrp, that aside. $400 used for the SG 2020? I have seen the Kenwood TS 50, Alinco DX 70, Icom 718 other great rigs going for $400 - $450 and represent a much better deal for the money . At some point one must ask what are you really getting for that $400? Is the SG 2020 really worth $400 and only 20 watts and limited functions?
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K5TED
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Posts: 229




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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2012, 06:33:05 PM »

SG-2020 functionality is indeed limited to what is necessary to conduct communications on ssb. That's what it's designed for. To even compare a plastic Japanese rig with the 1-piece solid aluminum case and steel pinned inner cage construction of the SG-2020 is humorous.

TS-50's average used price these days is around $550. It's a great little rig. It consumes 1.45A on receive (almost as much as the 817ND on full transmit) compared to the SG-2020's less than 400mA spec. QRP Field Day battery/solar/wind power working for bonus points? The TS-50, fine rig that it is, will eat your batteries before lunchtime. In fact, the SG-2020 consumes less power on receive than the IC-703 or FT-817ND. As for the IC-718, or others mentioned, good luck with power consumption on those tabletop rigs.

I went into a 40m call this evening with 20w on a 40ft random wire and the first thing the station said was that I wasn't giving him any signal but that the audio was "punching through the noise really well". I've never had that comment on the FT-817ND on any band. I've worked a fair number of HF contacts with it, but never had any spontaneous comments on the audio. Did I mention that the 817ND pulls 2A for barely 5 watts out while the 2020 pulls just over 2A at 10w?

I like my 817ND. It does all modes HF and 6m on up as well. It's not the greatest HF SSB QRP rig, but it does OK on digi modes. It's a fine 2m/70cm portable rig as well. It has no noise reduction, nor does the TS-50. The 703 has the Icom DSP which is OK on heterodyne. The 2020's ADSP2 is a noise destroyer. The SCAF digital baseband filtering is continuously variable from 2.7kHz to 100Hz for those pesky CW pileups or splattering PSK stations.

The 2020 is a specialized rig, not suited for those desiring an all-purpose shack in a pack. It's a field radio. It has premium construction, a well thought out feature set, and is priced accordingly.

Try one. You'll either love it or hate it.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2012, 09:00:59 AM »

I've worked several ops over the years using the 2020, and on SSB not one of them sounded good; not even reasonably good.  Actually, they all sounded quite bad.

I doubt every one of those ops was flying blind, I think the rig had a defect.
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K4ALE
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2012, 04:48:07 PM »

I have used and enjoyed the SG-2020 for nearly 5 years.  Anyone who expects this to be a home station rig will likely be disappointed, UNLESS one has a ken for low power transmission.  My unit was one of those upgraded at the factory to install ASDP2.  As is noted by some others, this rig requires some familiarization and practice to squeeze out all the best from it.  But, I sorta thought that was part of the fun in the hobby.

I got this rig to serve as my "field" radio.  I live in central Virginia, and use it often on camping trips to the farm I grew up on and in the mountains.  The qrp CW function of this radio is so good, in my experience, that I agree that it is "still the one to beat."  That is, until the Elecraft KX3 comes out [I have one of those on order].  I think the KX3 will very likely set an entirely new standard for "field" radio performance, which will leave very few other rigs in the running.  However, the additional 10 watts on SSB will keep the SG-2020 in the running for serious "emergency" operations.

As noted, 20 watts is not technically "qrp," but I agree that 5 watts on SSB is a operation for those who are really trying to squeeze the most out of the formal definition of qrp. 

I have not done any A/B testing against another low power field radio, but let me share my delights with the SG-2020.  As in any other setting, the real keys to getting good SSB DX results with low power is to have good antennas and good transmit audio.  As noted below, I have received "astonished" DX reports that I was operating at 20 watts, so my rig obviously transmits excellent audio, as described in the manual.

In the field I have used three different antennas, all with amazing results.  I have a 20m delta loop, designed on EZNEC, and using NOT the equilateral triangle design, but rather the "back-to-back" isosclese triangle design [the base is the square root of 2 longer than the two sloping sides.]  At an apex height of about 25 feet, and the base about 6-8 feet, this design is under 2:1 throughout the 20m band.  I also have a dipole made of two 33 ft. tape measures, fed with coax, and a portable 3 band 2-element yagi.  Using these three I have made contacts all the way to Russia and Japan.  One Ukrainian station could not believe I was only using 20 watts.

The low power demands allow use of batteries in the field, and I find the rig easy to use.  Of course the receiver could be hotter, but it has never been a significant limiting factor in any use.

Finally, try the rig on PSK-31 or MFSK.  The transmit audio quality helps give digital modes like this real legs--Europe is easy.

Taken all together, I would not accept $400 for this rig.  I paid less, and would not sell it for twice that amount.  I hope I never need to use it for real emergency communications, but it is set up in an old Samsonite suitcase with foam and antennas as a "rapid deployment" kit.

Bevin Alexander
K4ALE
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XE1UFO
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2012, 10:33:29 PM »

I have owned my SG-2020-ADSP2 now for about 9 years. About 7 years ago, it was stolen.  Cry I replaced it with a Yaesu FT-817-ND. A few years later, my stolen rig was discovered at a local second-hand outlet. I presented the store owner with my legal papers and police report, and told him he was going to prison. He handed it right over. Grin

If I had to sell one, it would be the Yaesu. The SG-2020 has traveled with me in my backpack or small computer bag all over Mexico.  It travels with a 7-amp gelcel, an Elecraft T-1 pocket-size autotuner, miniature key and paddle, and an assortment of antennas. I consistently get good reports on my TX audio on SSB, and my CW signals.


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W4KYR
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2012, 01:46:12 PM »

 If the SGC 2020 had good features and a good following why did they discontinue it? Its not like they replaced it with something else. Their SGC 2000 is a different radio, meant more for marine HF applications.
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KB1GMX
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2012, 05:04:30 PM »

I have yet to check out a 2020.  I'd like to sometime.  The audio issuses with that radio sound like the carrier oscillator crystals are off, that's usually fixable.

As to the QRP is 5W, yes it is.  Not all QRP ops are religious to that extent but play at lower  or low power.  For me that power was the threshold for the box as in My goal was nough to communicate and then if I think I need more that will drive an out board amp to some higher power.  Often the need was not there.

With that said I run 4-5W home brew SSB on 20 and 10M win very good success, the key is all about the antenna.  For a while I ran them into a TA33jr with amazing results.  I've even broken through pile ups on 20 with that power.  Not on first try but I'm persistent.

The higher power for general operation is also nice and I have an amp that either of those radios can drive for about 40-45W.  Not a ton of power but usually if 5W was not enough 40 certainly was.

For me 100W is QRO And I do that occasionally with a pair of 6146s in Tempo Ones and HW101s, but hey it's fun at 5W.


Allison

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K5TED
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Posts: 229




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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2012, 04:05:29 PM »

SG-2020 was discontinued because SGC has bigger fish to fry than trying to compete for cheapest rig with the Japanese.

SGC's military antenna market alone probably makes 100 times what they did on amateur radio equipment.

Notice they still make that awesome auto-tuner antenna switching and matching console, and it is priced very competitively with all the other stamped aluminum and platic Japanese brands.

SGC has BIG business in auto-couplers.

Next?
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K5TED
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Posts: 229




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« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2012, 04:11:07 PM »

If the SGC 2020 had good features and a good following why did they discontinue it? Its not like they replaced it with something else. Their SGC 2000 is a different radio, meant more for marine HF applications.

Have you ever actually owned one? What is the serial number?
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