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Reviews For: MFJ 90-Series

Category: QRP Radios (5 watts or less)

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Review Summary For : MFJ 90-Series
Reviews: 37MSRP: 189.95
Mono-band HF QRP CW Transceiver
Product is in production
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# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
K2PHD Rating: 2018-04-11
Mono jack problem Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Have two the 9040 and 9020. Both seem to have problems using a sterio plug for manual key. Not sure if anyone else has a similar problem with a fix.
AB7KT Rating: 2017-03-18
Worked OK for me Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought the 30 meter CW rig along with the matching tuner, power supply, and a folded dipole antenna....many years ago in the early 90s. At the time, I was living in an apartment and had no way to set up an HF station, so I operated portable. I used the bone stock radio with the included antenna on a regular basis and enjoyed many nice QSOs with the radio. I wasn't an extremely experienced ham at the time, so I wasn't all that picky about my radio. If I called someone and they answered me, or I called CQ and someone answered me, I was very happy. And that happened on a regular basis. I still have the radio and recently saw it sitting on a shelf and have been thinking about getting it out again. FWIW: I also owned the six and two meter versions and have worked people on six and two using both SSB and CW. I wouldn't say those radios were by any means great radios, but they worked and I had fun with them.
KA8YRV Rating: 2015-10-28
Fine QRP radio! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
The only fault I notice is that it drifts for the first 15 minutes or so. That is no deal breaker for me. Great receiver, filter, and audio. Just a whole lot of fun to use and enjoy.

Earlier 0-star review posted by KA8YRV on 2012-08-08

Upon receiving the rig from HRO, I opened the packaging, took the rig from the plastic bag and immediately put it all back. The rig had scratches down to the metal in five or more places on the "painted" cover and the same on the metal. Looked like used hamfest junk. What the hell is wrong with MFJ ? Their QC is a bad joke it seems. No more of them for me!
WW5F Rating: 2015-07-20
MFJ-9020 Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've had the 9020 for a couple of years now. I bought the internal keyer and the 500Hz filter along with it. I go on QRP binges occasionally and this is a great radio to do it with. I recently worked Tazmania on it (1800 miles/watt!). I use an MFJ-971 tuner into a 305 foot dipole up 30 feet fed with home made ladder line and it's very seldom the CQs I answer don't come back. The audio is kind of weak so I feed the headphone output into an amplified speaker which gives me plenty of audio. I bought the radio brand new and when I first pulled it out of the box and turned it on, the TX freq was several Khz off the RX frequency (shipping vibration?). A quick/simple adjustment (bring the side tone pitch down to an audible level) and that's the only adjustment I made. When I operate it, I leave it turned on for days at a time with an Astron RS7 (plugged into an UPS)--it only draws 15 watts out of the wall (on receive, with a lit tuner meter lamp and an amplified speaker) and this keeps it nice and stable. I like it. This winter I'll buy the 9040 and I expect similar excellent results.
N2UHC Rating: 2014-04-26
Decent QRP radio Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I bought a used MFJ-9015 because I wanted to get on 15 meters QRP. I found one for sale at a QRP get-together for a decent price, so I snatched it up.

After bringing it home and testing it out to make sure everything works, I found that the side tone started out OK but faded out to inaudible. After conferring online with a few other hams familiar with this series of radios, I learned that if you turn the internal voltage regulator down to where you have about 9.5V on TP2 instead of 10.5V like the manual says, it will work OK and the side tone will stay audible. I did this and it works fine now.

My major complaints with this radio are first that the AGC keeps thumping, and when you start sending the side tone is a bit harsh and then mellows out. This can also be adjusted by turning the AGC pot to get 4.0V on TP1. However, I turned the pot all the way down and still have about 4.8V. So I decided to leave it at that.

My second complaint is that they used a mono jack for the headphones instead of a stereo jack. I haven't seen a mono set of headphones with a 3.5mm jack in forever, so it's necessary to have a mono-to-stereo adapter on hand when using headphones. I could probably replace the jack but that would require reworking the connections on the PC board. It's easier to use the adapter.

I also prefer to have a 1/4" jack for straight keys, since that's what my main Kenwood radio uses, but this is a minor concern since I rarely use a straight key. I have built and installed an electronic keyer in the 9015 and it works well.

Overall, this is a decent QRP radio but not quite as good as, say, a Small Wonder Labs SW+ series. It does have decent frequency range, covering 21.000 to 21.200 MHZ. Other reviews have mentioned excessive drift in this series of radios, but mine doesn't drift at all after an initial warmup of about 10 minutes.

I'm glad I got the one I did for the price I did, and I'm really happy with it. However, if I'd had to pay the full $200 new price for one I think I'd be a bit unhappy with it.
KU4UV Rating: 2014-01-24
I really like my MFJ-9020 Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I purchased my brand new MFJ-9020 back in June of 2013. I haven't experienced any problems with my transceiver, and any drift, is very minimal. I haven't noticed any significant problems with drift during a QSO, so maybe MFJ corrected the problem. I am getting a good solid 5 Watts output from my 9020, more than enough power to make some contacts. I live in an apartment, and use a 200 foot longwire antenna about 6 feet off the ground along with an MFJ-902 antenna tuner. I have worked Italy with this setup, so the transceiver can certainly snag some DX contacts with a decent antenna. I noticed that the QSK on my radio straight out of the box was rather slow, almost too slow for my taste. It seemed like it took about a full second for the transceiver to switch back over to receive after keying the transmitter. I opened up the radio and adjusted the QSK setting. I am now able to hear stations between individual characters when transmitting. This makes working DX or contests especially nice.
The build quality on my transceiver looks really good, and I haven't found any quality issues in the 6 months since I've owned the transceiver. The transceiver seems a little pricey for a radio in it's class, but if you can find a good one on the used market, I would pick one up. MFJ includes a schematic, which is nice should you ever have to work on the transceiver. Overall, a really nice QRP transceiver that performs well.
WD9DUI Rating: 2013-05-08
ok for QRP Time Owned: 6 to 12 months.
I have the 9040, the 40M version, I obtained mine used 10 months back. I have had a number of kits and figured that I would try a full 5W radio. When I obtained the radio I notice that it would not work off a 12V system, it stated in the manual that it requires 13.8V. I gave it 13.8 and checked the voltage regulation, it seemed to be off, so some adjustments were made. With a 50-ohm dummy load I show about 8 watts. With antenna connected it is showing about 4 Watts which for me is plenty to work with. I have also installed a K12 cw keyer inside the rig, it will fit OK and you can use some of the pins that MFJ has provided for their accessories. The version I have appears to be made later and I have only 1 or 2 reports of drift.
KA5KRV Rating: 2012-05-23
Nice rig-while it works Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The xcvr is a neat one--great to drag along on our boat or camping. Mine developed some odd noises just after going out of warranty and got sent to the company for repair back in mid-January. Four months later and it's not back or been looked at, best I can tell. Three e-mails and a phone call or two have had no effect. Any repair guys out there need a job? There's work waiting in Starkville MS!! Good radio, lousy support.
W1JKA Rating: 2011-08-16
Built like a tank Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I am mostly a qrp cw-dx operator and do 75% portable ops on land and water and have built several qrp rigs.My favorite by far(other than backpacking for which I use my cubs and swl-30) are my 40/20 meter 90 series rigs.Very good signal seperation, built like a tank and simple to use.Mine are weather proofed in a 1 gal. zip lock bag and operate through lots of varied conditions winter and summer,Main antenna is a portable dipole with 20/40 m screw on radiators usually 15-20 ft. high with auto jump start battery for power,no tuner or baluns to mess with.I love my home qth K-1 base station but there is no way the K-1 would hold up to the unintentional abuse and conditions that the 90's see.My only recommendation with these radios is to check voltages and repeak tuning from factory for maximum effenciancy(Standard practice for anyone buying an MFJ product),I also tried the RS amp chip mod but noticed little difference,I prefer head phones in the outdoors anyway.The TIMEX slogan would aptly fit this radio so it gets a 5.
AA4BQ Rating: 2011-08-15
With Mods= excellent Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The MFJ-9020 out-of-the-box was a bit rough around the edges. However, with two improvements, it rivals my TenTec Scout in the QRP mode. The first improvement was with the audio. Some have suggested just putting in a Radio Shack chip in the place of existing one. I guess that works okay. But, better yet, I built a simple audio amp using a basic chip and took the opportunity to build the supporting circuitry to enhance the audio bandpass. It's marvelous. At the same time, I added a single chip keyer and placed the speed control on the back panel. With these two nice enhancements, this little MFJ-9020 is just superb. It's built-in crystal filter and hefty 5W out netted me a full log during the recent QTC contest. I was amazed how well hams in Europe heard me (because they wanted to). And, the receiver in the 9020 is selective enough even during the crowded contest band conditions. I can't say enough good about these little rigs once these two enhancements are added. I will say I didn't just throw something together. I designed and built the audio amp for performance as I did the keyer. I couldn't be happier with the performance.