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Reviews For: StationPro II

Category: Specialized Amateur Communication Products

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Review Summary For : StationPro II
Reviews: 12MSRP: 600
StationPro master station controllers, featured in the August 2010 issue of QST.
Product is in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
N4NUI Rating: 2014-01-07
Great Accessory Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
With two radios and two amps and a ton of accessories this is a neat and very useful addition to the shack. Please note that as of 5 Jan 2014 the Mouser pre-populated order form has a number of components that are scheduled for obsolescence by the manufacturer with limited remaining stock and there are a few that will require substitutions using the Mouser equivalent part search facility. My order as complete with substitutions totaled $377.95 with $7.00 shipping. The kit price was $220 with $21.20 priority shipping. Considering the total cost of $626.15 it is still a good value.
NJ0F Rating: 2013-02-26
One word - Awesome Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Not only is this a engineering masterpiece, but Jim's personal after sales support to help with assembly problems far exceeds anything I experienced before. Kudos to W8ZR.
Once you had one of these in your shack, you will not want to part with it.
I am now looking for an excuse to buy and build a second one!
NA6TE Rating: 2013-01-30
Excellent Project Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
Jim (W8ZR) has a winner here. A tremendous amount of thought and engineering went into this kit. The Station Pro II is a great asset to your shack to get rid of the spagetti that is located behind most hams equipment. It handles 3 Txmitters and amps along with 2 mic selections all selectable at any time.
My eyes not being what they were 30 years ago caused me to make a few mistakes and parts replacements but for sure Jim was always available for brain picking and reassurance.
If you decide on this kit you will not be disappointed.
God job Jim.
KD0NID Rating: 2012-10-15
Worth Every Penny Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have been building kits since I was about 8 years old which is 61 years now. I have NEVER built a kit that used the quality of components used in this kit. Everything about this kit is FIRST CLASS!! At first, it seemed to be a lot of money to invest in this piece of equipment but after thinking on it for some time and looking at the mess of cables and wires I had with my very large collection of mostly vintage gear, I came to the conclusion that it was a small amount to pay to get things under control. I just makes everything much more organized and easy to use. The kit was a pleasure to build and I had absolutely no problems building it. The instructions were crystal clear and programing it was a snap. I am always amazed after building a kit such as this that it STARTS RIGHT UP. I love my StationPro II so much that I just bought another one. This kit is a small amount to pay to get your equipment under control.
W6LBV Rating: 2012-01-28
Mission Control for the ham shack Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
For most hams the decision to build and use a Station Pro II typically is a multi-step process:

1. Over the years, accumulate a collection of radios, accessories, and operating aides that eventually totally fills the operating bench and produces a rat’s nest of cables and wires.

2. Realize that the operating situation is out of control and “something has to be done!”

3. Begin to design a home-brew master station control console, to control all radios from a central console with one set of accessories (mike, PTT, CW paddle, headphones, etc.).

4. While scanning the Web for design ideas, discover W8ZR’s SP II system.

5. Game over!

There is a level of genius in the SP II system that isn’t fully evident from an examination of only the console’s front panel. Certainly the panel demonstrates that the SP II has all of the inputs and switching needed to fully control up to three transceivers and three amplifiers, individually, while using just one set of operating accessories. (Up to three SP II consoles can be networked, to provide control of up to 8 transceivers and amplifiers.) But the genius lives on the back side of the unit, and it has to do with cable management and design/use flexibility.

On the back of the central console there are four major multi-conductor output jacks (as well as a number of minor ones): three go to individual, external, radio interface boxes, and one goes to an independent external RF switching relay box. This is where the genius sits, because almost all of the station wiring is relocated to “behind the desk” locations, where it does not generate visual clutter and impediments to day-to-day operations.

Physically, the radio interface box (known as a “pod”) consists of a small custom PC card mounted in a plastic box. The control connection from the master console to the box is via a single DB-25 M/F cable, which is a standard 25 conductor computer item. The connections from the pod to the several radio interface jacks (i.e., microphone and PTT, speaker/headphones, CW key, etc.) are by means of individual short cables with radio-specific plugs on one end, and with the opposite cable ends soldered to marked points on the PC card within the pod. These radio cables are home-built or adapted from commercial sources as part of the construction process.

An individual pod offers a maximum of 24 radio control lines plus ground, with all common radio I/O functions already identified plus a number of unused control lines available for future expansion. Each user, however, will have to “design” each pod and radio connecting cable set for a specific radio, before constructing the pod.

The RF switching box is capable of switching the RF from a maximum of three transceivers and three amplifiers — independently! Thus any one of the three transceivers can be used “barefoot” (amplifiers locked out) or can drive any one of the three amplifiers, as controlled by momentary-contact toggle switches on the console front panel. The RF output from the selected radio/amp is fed to a single common antenna terminal. Note that the RF switching box does no antenna switching; that would have to be done externally. Interconnection between the RF switching box and the console is by a standard “Ethernet” cable (8 conductor, RJ-45 plugs).

Use of the three radio interface pods and the RF switching relay box greatly aids station cable management! A pod can be located behind each radio, with just a single 25 conductor cable running to the console on the visible part of the operating bench. All of the cables from the pod to the radio are short, and they can be kept mostly hidden behind the radio. Similarly, all of the RF coaxial jumpers from transceivers and amplifiers terminate in SO-239s on the RF switching relay box, and the bundled transmission lines and the relay box can be kept hidden behind the bench as well. Thus the number and jumble of visible cables associated with a large and complex station can be reduced by as much as 75%.

The SP II is available only as a “semi-kit,” including the PC boards, metal chassis, and a few specialized parts, that is ordered from Harbach Electronics. The remainder of the electronic components are ordered from Mouser Electronics, via an on-line pre-written “project order form.” Very easy to do! A few connecting cables will need to be purchased separately; these are all commonly-available items.

The eight PC cards that comprise the SP II are of high quality, approaching commercial specs, as are the chassis parts. The layouts of the cards and the chassis parts are very accurate; all parts fit precisely as specified in the instruction manual and require no “jiggering” during construction. The electronic components are of typical commercial quality.

The construction/operation manual is exceptionally well written and illustrated, surpassing in quality the old Heathkit manuals in this reviewer’s opinion. Especially worthwhile are the “forward looking tips” in the manual, which are intended to prevent future problems and mistakes that could inadvertently be made during a current construction step.

Kit construction is something that each prospective user will have to evaluate. The SP II is a *big* construction project! It requires good organizational skills, proper tools, and a number of nights of work. W8ZR provides a list of required tools and construction practices, and he means exactly what he says. Builders would deviate from these recommendations only at their own risk!

The parts are tiny and sometimes difficulty to identify, the PC boards are necessarily crowded, parts clearances are small, and very careful attention to detail is required. While there are no surface mount components used in the kit, nevertheless construction practices need be vastly more precise than those used on the old Heathkit vacuum tube audio amplifier projects! It cannot be built with the casualness of soldering a PL-259 connector onto the end of RG-8/U cable using an old Weller solder gun.

Nevertheless, Jim Garland supplies support to the builder that seemingly has no limits. E-mail questions to him involving problems usually receive almost instantaneous responses. There is absolutely none of the “we’ll take your phone number and somebody will call you back later” mentality here.

After construction is finished, programming the main microprocessor in the completed kit is a simple, fifteen minute process: download both the Basic Stamp programming application and the published microprocessor instruction “script” from the Web, edit the supplied script to insert custom tags with the identifications of the station’s hardware for display on the console’s LCD screen, attach a programming cable to computer and console, and run the “load.” Unless radio/amplifier changes are made in the station, programming need be done only once.

The SP II is a big and somewhat costly project. But once it is completed and put into service, it will greatly increase your operating convenience and pleasure. It is indeed a work of genius, certainly deserving of more than the maximum “five stars” that are allowed.

W4ASE Rating: 2012-01-10
A Great KIT review by W4ASE Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I have been a ham since 1964, over 47 years. I have built literally hundreds of Kits, construction projects of my own design and many projects/amps out of magazines over these past years. I recently had my left hip replace and had been stacking up magazine articles for some time to read as I recouped from surgery. One of the Articles was in the August 2010 issue of QST. It was the Station Pro by Jim Garland W8ZR ( I have always wanted to build the automated tuner he wrote about in the May 2002 issue of QST. I guess too many other things going on, but the Station Pro Article hit a nerve. It was just the station accessory I needed. I do have three transceivers and three amps and it has always been a problem switching back and forth between the SSB set up and digital station. I read the article twice and decided to take the plunge.

I order the “semi kit” from Harbach Electronics which included very high quality boards, nice cabinets, jacks, hardware and some custom parts. The next step was very neat, rather than giving me a shopping list of additional parts to search the web for - I was provided a link to a Mouser Parts Order form that was all filled out – only required my shipping information and a credit card. Very easy.

The assembly was straight forward and fairly easy. As with all kits a complete reading and understanding of the instructions is necessary. It worked first time and is performing as advertised on my table. A great kit that does what it says it will do. As Jim points out this is not a kit for the novice builder. The Station Pro 2 is a kit that is of excellent quality, a great looking finished product and frankly it just makes me smile each time I flip a switch to change to one of three transceivers and three amps. Thanks Jim!
K2GV Rating: 2011-08-06
Nice Project Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I bought the StationPro II at Dayton this year.
The project went together smooth and works GREAT! No problem with parts or ordering them.
Really enjoyed assembling the unit, and it is a nice addition to the station.
Thumbs up! Great product Jim.
K3BHX Rating: 2010-12-16
Fantastic addition to the Shack Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
A very enjoyable kit to put together. High quality parts. Very well written and organized manual. A fantastic addition to organizing my shack and simplifying operation. Highly configurable and much more intuitive than the equipment I was previously using which did not do all the Station Pro will do.
JA1WWB Rating: 2010-12-10
excellent solution and good support Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
If you have multiple Rigs and Amplifiers and wish to have instant reconfiguration of connections of those equipment, StationPro II is the solution. You have up to nine combinations plus three barefoot operations with three Rigs and three AMPs just by pushing toggle switches on the front panel with LCD display on which you can show up your specific names of your equipment by easy programming.
You can also select two microphones, switch connections of speaker & head phone and key paddle and much more.

The StationPro II is provided with full kit, you can get semi-kit at Jim’s website and other parts at Mouser Electronics who supplies complete set of all necessary parts which you can order very easily.

Building up the kit is a lot of fun.
Jim’s manual is very easy to follow even for non-English based people but you should watch out order of assembly. I mistakenly soldered connectors on the reverse side on the board without careful read of instructions and I had to make re-soldering of those connectors which caused damages of through-hole of the board.

In spite of my careless mistake, Jim’s support is just excellent for the trouble shooting.
His response is so quick and so kind.
Lot of thanks to Jim.

I will recommend StationPro II as an excellent solution for all users of multiple Rigs and AMPs.
K6CTA Rating: 2010-12-09
Ellegant solution Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
The StationPro is a wonderful piece of auxiliary equipment that has added convenience and fun to operating my station. While there are a number of devices in the market that will allow you to switch between radios and mics, none allow the flexibility and additional features of the StationPro.

Construction is straight forward. Jim, W8ZR, has provided excellent instructions. I have built both the SP-I and SP-II; both worked as advertised from the start. As with any construction project, being organized and taking your time is key. Programming the Basic-stamp IC is very easy, and again Jim has provided complete details, including the software.

The ability to switch between multiple rigs, amps and mics with the flip of a momentary contact switch makes operating easy. The unit looks great, too. The individual "pods" for each rig is a great idea, and has eliminated much of the cable clutter that used to live behind the desk. The initial cost has been far outweighed by the added convenience to the station.

This was a fun project to build, and has been even more fun to use. I would recommend the StationPro to anyone who has multiple rigs.