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Categories | Keys & Paddles | GHD GT501M Straight Key Help

Show all reviews of the GHD GT501M Straight Key

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AA6TZ  Rating: 5/5 Jul 4, 2003 07:02  Send this review to a friend!
Truly the very best manual ("straight") key I have ever used!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The GHD GT501M is, without any doubt or reservation, the very best manual ("straight") key that I have ever had the pleasure of using, period!

I obtained my first Amateur Radio license in 1967 and have used (and built) a plethora of manual keys during the past 37 years. If I were to assess the overall quality of said keys, I'd say they ranged from the cheapest of plastic 'artifacts' to what I had heretofore considered to be very well made 'CW instruments'.

Then, on one particularly happy occasion, while conducting an Internet search for 'top-of-the-line-keys' ... I was fortunate indeed to have found the GHD Model GT501M at the Milestone Technologies, Inc. website. The superbly machined GT501M is handcrafted in Japan by Mr. Ujiie, owner of GHD.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of my review, I would first like to offer my deepest, sincerest praise for truly outstanding, exemplary service to Mr. Marshall Emm (N1FN/VK5FN), owner of Milestone Technologies, Inc. (from whom I purchased my GT501M). Marshall is well known within the CW community--most notably for his congenial, 'beyond the call of duty' customer service--and his straightforward, amicable personality. His product line is arguably the very best in the business.

Due to a minor problem that arose during the shipment of my new key (due to the fault of the carrier, NOT Milestone Technologies), I contacted Marshall shortly after the parcel's arrival. He was "right on it" as is often heard said, and the key was quickly (and painlessly) replaced, much to my satisfaction. It is extremely rare nowadays to find individuals as helpful and personable as Mr. Emm, especially when things don't go quite as planned. (i.e., the "norm", right?!??).

OK. Now onto the details . . .

I am not easily impressed. However, the build quality of this masterfully crafted key became immediately apparent upon initial inspection (one glance at its gleaming chrome finish and its phenomenal structural design will surely capture *any* CW operator's attention!)--and, if 'first impressions' count for much of anything, I can state, unequivocally, that I was impressed beyond belief!

OK . . . so it looks great, but how well does it PERFORM?

In a word--flawlessly.

One of the first things I noticed when removing the new GT501M from its custom-crafted box was that it felt like the Rock of Gibraltar (it ought to, as it is crafted from a steel billet--and weighs a hefty 4 pounds!). At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of its construction: mechanical perfection--integrated seamlessly with a gem-like, deep lustre chrome finish that is second-to-none in appearance!!! The Navy knob supplied with the GT501M is constructed from ABS resin and has been meticulously machined and polished. It is somewhat larger in size (taller) than the assortment of Navy knobs I have been accustomed to. The tactile 'feel' of this material is superb, making the custom GHD Navy knob a joy to use: responsive--and v-e-r-y comfortable for those ultra-long CW ragchews.

The GT501M uses a straight lever arm, as opposed to the 'bent' designs common to most manual keys. In other words, that portion of the lever arm immediately preceding the Navy knob that is normally curved downward (making it closer in relation to the base--hence, easier for the 'American method' of sending, which entails the CW op keeping his/her arm flat along the surface of the table, while operating the key via wrist and fingers, exclusively). I have personally developed my own 'method' of sending, whereby my entire sending arm is (slightly) raised up, off the table's surface, using the length of my arm, wrist, and thumb/index/middle fingers as a 'unit'--enabling hours of effortless sending (well, for me, anyway!). The GT501M feels like no other key . . . and operates with the fluidity that I have craved for 37 years! I would have felt *soooooo* much more confident to have had this fine key at my disposal when taking the sending test for the 2nd Class Radiotelegraph Operator's Exam at the FCC, rather than my trusty ol' Nye Viking Master Key . . . but they passed me anyway--even with the sub-standard key (ha!).

One feature that is unique to the GT501M is its micrometer spacing adjustment (a real micrometer!). You can 'fine-tweak' the spacing to (what seems) a half an Angstrom, then lock-in the setting with a knurled set-screw. The oversized, permanently lubricated/sealed aircraft bearings support the lever arm with rock-solid stability. There is absolutely no trace of lateral (side-to-side) movement whatsoever.

The spring-tension mechanism is meticulously fabricated--and exhibits *tension* (s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s), rather than compression (the majority of manual keys use the latter method, where the weight of the lever-arm *and* the force exerted by the CW op's 'fist' are countered by the opposing force of a compressing spring). I am unaware of any advantage(s) that one system may have over the other, however.

The contact points are made of 'hard' silver (GHD's terminology), the bottom contact set in a ceramic base.

A nice finishing touch to this extraordinary key is the inclusion of an 'extension lever kit', which enables the length of the lever-arm to be extended by another 2 centimeters. As it comes ('out of the box'), the Navy knob can be moved 1 centimeter toward the front of the key (i.e., there are 2 machine-threaded holes at the very end of the lever-arm)--but with the extension lever installed, the knob's position can be adjusted in 4 steps of 1 centimeter each. Not bad, huh?

The GT501M enables its user to generate ultra-precise CW with no instances of any of those highly annoying, "right-in-the-middle-of-your-QSO" re-adjustments; common to so many of the straight keys I have used in the past. You adjust the GT501M's spacing and spring tension to your preferred settings ONCE -- and it will remain dead-on for what seems an eternity. The silver contacts should only be cleaned by the use of a clean strip of non-acidic paper. To affect said cleaning, one simply inserts the paper strip between the silver contacts, then, while exerting a gentle downward pressure on the Navy knob--slowly pull the paper through the contacts. This process is repeated a few times, which effectively 'burnishes' the oxides from the precious metal surfaces.

The GHD GT501M is a *SOLID* performer all the way! It functions just as smoothly as it looks. To many, its comparatively steep $300 price tag may be just a tad high for 'a mere straight key', but it is a *precision* tool to be sure . . . the VERY BEST of its kind (my opinion) . . . one that will surely provide its fortunate owner MANY years (perhaps a lifetime, given its exquisite, bullet-proof construction) of effortless, happy (read: FUN!) sending. Besides providing the CW operator with precision and functionality, it is safe to assume that this exotic-looking key will be the topic for an untold number of conversations--when anyone (Ham or not) gets their initial glimpse at its truly flawless chromed finish, while it's 'sitting-pretty'--proudly perched atop your shack's operating desk--BELIEVE ME!

Can you tell how happy I am with my new GHD GT501M? I thought so!

No other straight key comes close.


Clive Merrick Morel, AA6TZ 
Product is in production.
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