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Reviews For: Small Wonder Labs SW+ Series

Category: QRP Radios (5 watts or less)

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Review Summary For : Small Wonder Labs SW+ Series
Reviews: 63MSRP: 90.00
2-watt monoband superhet CW rig with varactor diode VFO
Product is not in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
N6PG Rating: 2015-03-20
Great QRP transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I'm not sure why I'm reviewing a kit that's been discontinued. I had this on the shelf for 2 years before building it. I almost sold it, but I'm glad I didn't. I really enjoy the audio and sensitivity. I have a KX3, but many times I'll just pack up my SW+20. I'm using the Par trail friendly EndFedz without a tuner, and my 2 watts does the job. Lots of fun. I'm using a Palm Paddle with the small keyer. I cannot say enough about this great little radio!
E78CB Rating: 2013-04-10
Great rig to built and use Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought SW40+ just to try it and as being my first radio kit experience I can say it just worked flawlessly right from the start. As I was satisfied with it, I ordered 20m and 30m versions, build them and they also worked fine. They all cower about 34-36 KHz range by VFO witch is good enough for me.
During first start of 20m version I found that final transistor is faulty, so I asked Dave if he can send me another one I will pay for. Before he answered I made order via e-bay and inform him there is no reason for him to send it to me any more. However, after some time I received this part from him at no charge! Now, I am not living in US or next door but overseas so I must say it is more than fair service from Small Wonder Labs! Thanks, Dave!
However, I made a tribander radio and put it in old CB station case. This took a lot of my nerves to the brink just to put it all inside. I used a 4x8 contacts rotary switch (couple of USD on e-bay) for switching in between these three units, although I made separate antenna switch. Supported with DL4YHF keyer and BLT+ QRP Tuner it makes a great camping rig for me. I made no additional modifications except simple RF meter and using 15V battery charge it puts out 4w on 40m, 3w on 20m and 2w on 20m. With 12V it goes down by 1w less. Together with some simple dipole or mobile wire aerials it brings me a lot of joy, especially when working from the field. Great rig! I see it is no longer produced by SWL, so hope the Rockmite series will stand
KD4SBY Rating: 2012-10-02
Do not like them Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Am I the only one who does not like these kits? I build two of them, the 20M and 40M version, and both were horrible. They overloaded quickly and the reception was so weak that I had to crank everything wide open, resulting in the overloading problem I mentioned above. And that with the same antenna that I use for my regular rig! I finally got rid of them, completely puzzeled by the great praise they receive here in the reviews. I can understand if one was bad, I could have bad parts, but both of them?
They certainly did not perform as was expierenced by others here!
N2DM Rating: 2012-07-09
Great Time Owned: more than 12 months.
Very good rig. I especially like the receiver. There is just the right amount of feedthrough from adjacent frequencies, to let me know where other stations are, but they do not interfere with center freq. Really smooth rx. Used in FD 2012, thought SW40+ better than FT817 on 40m. Dale, N2DM.
GM0WNR Rating: 2012-03-20
Great little QRP rig! Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
What can I say that hasn't already been heaped on in spades, great little kit, some of the placement on the PCB was quite tight, but the instructions are well written, and I would have no hesitation in recommending it for the newcomer to "diy" radio. Communication is great from the company, as I had one query about the 40M version of the kit which was answered very quickly and to my complete satisfaction. It worked first time and produced a QSO over @ 100 miles resulting in a 599 report from a massive 2 watts out into my home brew doublet at 25 feet. Still to fit it in a case but look forward to working some good stuff from the garden this summer. Radio just became interesting again, with the "will I make it?" feeling you only get with QRP. Overall a massively entertaining, pleasant experience, both building and using this lovely kit!
AD6KA Rating: 2012-01-26
LItele Rig, Big Signal Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
This is yet another terrific kit from Dave Benson. Parts, PC Board Quality, and Documentation second to none. Elecraft Quality.
Super simple but fun build.

Hears great, and I get almost 4 watts output (!)measured with my Elecraft W1 digital SWRBridge/Wattmeter, but I cranked it down to 2.5 watts and PUT A HEAT SINK ON THE FINAL PA
TRANSISTOR. I think this last item is important.

Winding L1 in the VFO exactly according to the manual put me exactly where I wanted to be, smack in the middle of the Novice Band. And knowing that I can change the base frequency simply by removing an L1 turn or adding a small cap is nice, should I change my mind later.

People I chat with on CW give me good reports for
tone, and can't believe I'm barely running 3 watts into a multiband vertical or 40m dipole.
(I mostly use the vertical because the dipole is setup for the phone band).

This kit would be PERFECT for a new ham or one new to buildig who "wants to get his feet wet".
I can't remember the last time one of Dave's kits had a missing part. And even if you screw
up part yourself, he simply drops it in the mail for you. He is always there by email
for Technical Support if needed, which it was not needed with this kit.

I plan to add a Pico Keyer kit for this rig from and also a .5w LM386 audio amp to drive a small speaker. Am also going to have jacks for either straight key or paddle. I see no need for a frequency counter display, but other guys have added them to theirs.

This is the PERFECT inexpensive project for the ham itching to build a small, USEFUL project
for his shack, and it would make a superb portable/backpack rig as current drain is very low.

It's hard to come up with more superlatives when describing this rig.

If you have any questions about this rig or
how I built and modified mine, please feel free to qrite me.
My email is good at under AD6KA.
73, Ken AD6KA/5R8GQ
K1AVE Rating: 2012-01-03
Great Kits Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I've built, own and still operate the 80, 40, 30 and 20 meter versions and all are a blast to build and use! Great RX with sharp edge bandpass. MSRP is now $60 not the $90 as noted. I'd recommend anything that Dave sells - he knows what he's doing and he cares.
2M0CFB Rating: 2012-01-03
Great kit, great value, great support. Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I ordered the SW+20 from Dave on 19 December thinking I'd get it in the new year some time. The kit arrived here in Scotland on 29 December; I was incredulous. Opening the well packaged carton and finding everything there as listed, I set the kit down for a while. Unable to contain myself for long I made a start. Reading through the manual identified one errata, R17 must be installed the opposite way to the silk screen.
Alignment was quite straight-forward; I'd not done this kind of thing before, but got there eventually. I also embodied a RIT mod from the instructions that are on Dave's website. This works well; if you plan to do this it's worth building it in so you only need to select C7 & C8 values once. I get 43kHz (14.022-14.065) of the band and the RIT gives about plus or minus 1kHz. I changed C29 as my sidetone was down at 500hz, a 220pf ceramic gave me very close to 800hz, which is where the audio peak seems to be. Finally this thing has a rock stable VFO, I've applied a few coats of nail varnish to L1 and it can sit there for hours without wandering any more than about 100hz.
If you want to have a good time building a wonderfully reproduceable design go for it!
AB4ZT Rating: 2011-05-01
SW-40+ A Great Kit Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
This is my first QRP kit, so I don't have others to compare it against. However, I am giving this a 5 for the following reasons:

- The kit was complete, no missing parts
- The instructions were well written and thorough
- Quality PCB - soldering was very easy
- Alignment was very simple and straightforward
- Great circuit design and features. The radio performs very well, and there is plenty, plenty of audio
- Most important of all, I thoroughly enjoyed building and using it. It worked right off and my first QSO was with an XE2 station about 1,200 miles distant. I have mine set to as close to 1.5 watts output as I can measure.

Bottom line, whether you have done kits before or this is your first one, you will really enjoy building, and just as important, using this radio. One piece of advice: If you don't have one yet, one of those "helping hands" circuit board holders makes a world of difference. Get yourself one.

By the way, in a separate post in Company Reviews I noted that I received very prompt service of my order, so no fears there, either.


Richard, AB4ZT
N6MUK Rating: 2010-12-19
Great Kit, SW-80+ Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
In the past I have built and used a Ten Tec 1300 series transceiver on 40 meters and an MFJ Cub transceiver on 20 meters. I also own an OHR Explorer II transceiver on 30 meters, that I bought used on ebay (assembled by someone else). Each and every QRP rig has its quirks for sure...

Saddened by the fact that I was lacking the ability to operate QRP on 80 meters, I ordered a Small Wonder Labs SW-80+ kit from Dave Benson.

-Assembly is straight forward. Not as involved as the TT 1300, but definitely more involved than the MFJ Cub. While the instructions and the kit are well thought through, I can't quite recommend the SW+ series for the first time builder working on their own.

-My SW-80+ worked straight off but the audio in the headphones was low. I contacted Dave about it and he lead me in the direction of finding the problem. I had accidentally inserted a wrong value capacitor somewhere in the audio signal path. After I changed that, the rig provided plenty of audio to drive ear buds or headphones.

-Even before I fixed my error in the audio chain, I was making fine business QSOs with this great little rig. In fact, my first CQ call on 3.527 mHz brought an immediate reply from a station a few states away, and a nice little rag chew ensued.

-This rig has no RIT. I can't honestly say that I've ever missed it. RIT is something I rarely use anyhow.

-This rig has no Automatic Gain Control. That concerned me when I bought the kit but it shouldn't have. The "volume" control on the SW series is actually an RF gain attenuator. I was skeptical of this but it really works great. Its easy and natural to adjust the gain and I've never missed (or noticed) that AGC is lacking. I suppose in a hot contest it would fall short but that's not what this type of rig is for.

-A good QRP receiver (in my opinion) has a quality of clarity on the band. What I mean is, I feel I'm operating closer to the band and the signals. It feels more life like, more dynamic, more 3 dimensional in my ears. I get drawn in. Dave's single conversion superhet design, with it's rich sounding audio chain and smooth QSK, is great in this respect.

-This SW+ rig outputs a clean 1.5 Watts of RF that is shockingly effective! With most state-side QSOs, when the band is in decent shape, I'll give a 589 or 599 and typically receive a 569 or 579. That's not bad considering most hams I work on 80 meters are running 100W or more. As with all QRP radios, your antenna is the most important thing.

-This rig is not really a DX machine because 1.5 Watts is thin for DXing on 80 meters. I've worked Alaska, Hawaii, Canada and The Caribbean and with a better 80 meter antenna I would probably do more. For real QRP DX fun, 40 meters has been my power house band. This rig on 80 is smooth, relaxed, fun and great for rag chews.

Overall, a solid performer with a GREAT little receiver, good instructions, good economy and the GREAT support of Dave Benson. Highly recommended!