Looking at the Transmit Range row above, something stood out right away – where is 7.21 – 7.30 MHz?
Checking the website showed the range as 7.0-7.3 MHz as I would expect, and I can confirm that you are indeed able to transmit between 7.21 and 7.30 MHz.
While I am generally a CW operator, that would have been a serious omission.
In the Box
You get the radio, an non-terminated power cable, a handheld mic, and some papers that include a printed manual.
I’m not huge on the “unboxing” type experiences. For me it is a once-and-done experience. If that is your thing….sorry. This is a fairly spartan box.
Now on to the main course.
The radio is smaller than I expected, but feels quite heavy and robust in the hand. Here is a soda can for reference:
Controls are minimal:
Two knobs (that double as push buttons) that control volume and tuning
4 faceplate buttons (what these control changes depending on what menu page you’re on)
4 top buttons (power, mode/preamp, band adjustment/lock
Moving towards the back panel we have a BNC antenna interface, ground lug, key interface, comm interface, acc interface, and power input port.
The display is simple, well laid out, and gives the important pieces that I use most: mode, frequency, S-meter, and spectrum display. The background is a white with slight blue tinge color, and the foreground is almost a dark navy blue. Not quite black.
The back light is either on or off, no adjustment available.
Tuning the radio is very pleasant. The large knob has small palpable steps that provide feedback but do not impede tuning when you’re trying to move fast.
Underneath is bare except for 4 rubber feet that it sits on. The side panels are equally bare.
The Good News
Most of the things I expect and use in a radio are there today.
CW settings for type, speed, tone, and QSK are all adjustable. CW filtering bandwidth is also adjustable in increments of 50/250/500 Hz.
It is multi-band and multi-mode, including digital.
The spectrum display reminds me quite a bit of the one on the Lab599 TX-500. If you’ve seen the Xiegu x5105 then you’ve seen this one as well.
With volume adjusted, the audio was surprisingly clear. The onboard speaker can (as noted below) become overwhelmed. I’m working on recording some audio samples and will upload when ready for reference.
Operation is quite simple and I think the controls are a bit more intuitive than their other transceivers. The menu navigation is easy to do and I didn’t have to reference the manual once in order to do basic operations. Their UX is getting better in my opinion.
Missing in Action
There are a few things missing from this radio, at least in my opinion.
Memories – there are frequency memories but not the type one might use a lot with a portable radio for SOTA/POTA operating, namely memory banks to store recorded messages. I’m not a constant user of such, but they are nice to have in cooler weather when my fist becomes an ice block.
There doesn’t seem to be any sort of automatic gain control and the onboard speaker can quickly become overwhelmed on strong signals.
Beware if you’re using a headset!
Unlike their other radios, there is no built-in battery. This isn’t necessarily a con for many, but want to call it out.
Also unlike the x5105 and x6100, it does not have a automatic antenna tuner.
There may be other things that you depend on that are also missing as well. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.
Coming in at half the price as their current top-end HF transceiver, the x6100 and in a form-factor that is more like the Yaesu FT-817/818, it is an interesting radio.
Having just received it today I haven’t yet had it out in the field, but I have to say I’m both pleased and a bit torn. On the one hand this I see myself much more likely to take this out when I may be places that would be a bit more dangerous for something like a KX2/3 or the IC-705 (I’m paranoid about my radios). It performs what is generally needed and is simple to operate.
It is small and seems quite robust.
But I’m struggling to see why I’d grab this one and not the x5105. Yes it is smaller, but having charged the x5105 I can grab that and a wire antenna and go.
I think I’m gonna keep this one though. There is potential here and who knows what Xiegu will add in a future update, but this may not be something that meets many operators’ needs.
I’ve had a couple of days to play with the new (tr)uSDX 5-band transceiver and I thought I would do a quick post to show my initial impressions of this kit.
The (tr)uSDX Radio is a project created by DL2MAN and PE1NNZ, based off of the uSDX project.
It covers 5 amateur bands – 80/60/40/30/20 meters and is multi-mode – CW, SSB (LSB|USB), and AM/FM.
There is an onboard speaker and a mic, though external ones are recommended.
Please keep in mind that this project’s intent was to (through the use of group buys, etc.) allow for a user to acquire the necessary parts for about $50 USD. With the supply chain issues affecting the whole world right now, sourcing parts is increasing that cost quite a bit, so authorized suppliers like those they’ve partnered with are one of the only reliable methods of getting everything in an easy fashion.
Please also keep in mind that this radio is not an IC-705 or a KX2. It is not meant to be, and my comments below will be framed within the context of what this radio is, not what it isn’t.
Note that I ordered two – one pre-assembled with the case, and one that is the raw kit without the case (I’m 3D printing my own).
This gives me the opportunity to see if there are any advantages to either method other than price. That and I like radios.
It is an addiction.
It arrived safe and sound on Thursday, April 7th. My first impressions when receiving the box was:
Those fears were unfounded as the rig was well padded inside with very thick and sturdy bubble wrap.
Packaged in the box is the radio and an unterminated power cable.
The bubble wrap they used is not the standard type that is seen in packaging all over, rather it is of a series of long inflated tubes. The material is quite a bit stronger than typical bubble wrap and takes a lot more effort to puncture.
Part of building the (tr)uSDX is loading the boot loader, then using the serial number to download a personalized firmware image.
The supplier does all that for you, and provides a label on the packaging including the serial number for your reference when doing firmware upgrades.
If you lose it, the only way to see your serial number again is to re-flash the boot loader and erase the existing firmware.
So far so good.
Before getting anything powered up and on the air we needed a power cable. The supplied cable is a 3.5mm to 1.35mm DC plug. It is smaller than the standard 5.5mm to 2.1mm plugs that most radios accept, and so you will need to either attached some connects to the bare ends of the plug, or get an adapter.
I found an adapter on Amazon that lets me avoid using yet another set of Powerpoles and instead use the existing plugs I have to bring the size down to what this radio needs. You can grab a set at on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FJLZGPF?th=1
Or you can attach a set of connectors of course.
The supplied case is 3D Printed and feels like it is done out of PETG. The quality of the print is quite good – the details are all there, the seams are solid and it just feels sturdy. The orange feels like the same shade of orange sherbet ice cream – kind of washed out in color.
I think if I had to do it over again I might have chosen the other color which is an olive drab. I say that as a fan of the color orange.
Just nit-picking on my part.
The case design, is in my opinion, superb. Everything was well thought out. There are four individual side pieces, and a top and bottom piece. The sides have internal slots that the PCBs fit into, securing them in place.
There is absolutely no wiggle room in any part of the case. Everything is tight and snug.
The tuning knob is also 3D printed, and fits tightly onto the stem without worry about falling off. There is no set screw, nor is there one needed.
It is all held together by 8 flat headed screws.
The whole case (minus the knobs, screws, and BNC adapter) measures 60.5mm by 90mm by 30mm.
Or in other words, about 2/3s the length and width of my iPhone.
It is tiny.
They must have a dual nozzle printer, or at least one that is capable of pausing to change out filament colors as the raised lettering is black filament printed on the orange base. It isn’t painted.
Size Comparison with QCX-mini
Size-wise the two radios are extremely close, with the (tr)uSDX only slightly thicker front-to-back.
That makes the capabilities of this little transceiver even that more amazing to me – it is multi-band and multi-mode in a package that is similar to, what I think anyway, is the best portable single-band CW rig available.
There are tradeoffs for that though as we’ll see shortly. (again, not speaking to that as a negative, rather recognizing that this is a jack of all trades type radio and not a master of one, whereas the QCX-mini does one band and CW extremely well)
First Time Powering On
Upon powering up the radio, you are greeted with your callsign on a brightly lit interface. The onboard speaker is quite small, and results in a ringing tone when driven by too high of volume as to be expected given the size.
It automatically shuts off when an audio cable is inserted for an external speaker or headphones.
There are four buttons – Menu, Enter, PTT, and the tuning knob can be depressed for certain menu navigations, and the speaker rounds out the front face of the case.
There are built-in calibration tools, including a meter that shows power output and relative efficiency.
Out of the box I got the following:
I’m comparing that to what others are seeing and, after watching DL2MAN’s calibration video, I may tweak things just a bit.
Not too much though – its pretty good out of the box.
Next step was to get this on the air and see what RBN could see.
I hooked it up to my 20m Dipole which is suspended about 39-40 feet up in a tree.
Ok – so we know it gets out there 😉
I did call CQ a few times and even tried hunting a POTA activator or two, but given the time of day and the low power, I wasn’t getting through. I don’t think that is the fault of the rig, rather that I had only a bit of time that day to even try.
That and given 20 meter propagation, I generally can only reach the east, south, and west coats of the US that time of day, and the activators were all on the edges of that.
Oh well – more tries I guess are needed.
The audio quality is not as clear as I would have liked, even at this price point. The noise floor of the rig using an external speaker is still quite high. Playing with the noise attenuation settings can help, but there is a persistent static that you have to work through.
This is where I need a lot more time with the radio.
DL2MAN has a page on his site that details all the menu options so I’m not going to go through them here. I will just say that it will take me a few times using the radio before I’m used to which button or knob does what.
That is not a negative, just the reality of the radio due to size, etc.
I will also say, however, that it is easier to navigate than my Mountain Topper MTR4B.
They’ve done a great job in trying to make the various navigation options clear and concise.
I’ve mentioned the audio already, and I just uploaded a small clip of both SSB and CW audio samples of live QSOs.
I have a lot more time that I need to spend with this little rig before I can fully say, with any degree of authority, how it performs in real use. I haven’t been this excited to get a new radio in a while – there is just something about the type of rig they’ve created here that really gets me going – and so far I am not disappointed.
My initial thoughts on pros/cons (note that the cons are nitpicking on my part – it really is a lot of radio in a small package)
Can be bought assembled, as a kit, or you can get the parts together to build yourself
Supports Iambic A/B, and Straight Key modes
Different power cable connector than any other radio I own (small radio so other connectors would add bulk)
The OLED display can be hard to read in bright light (read outdoors)
Needs an SMA to BNC connector (supplied, but another thing to keep track of, though again it is expected given the size of this radio)
The speaker isn’t performant at any volume that you might need outdoors (at least not if there is anything making additional noise around you) – also expected given the size
Really, there isn’t a lot of cons at this price point and size.
This radio represents a tremendous advancement in small, portable radios that can be assembled at home and used in the field. Like I said previously, it is a lot of radio in a small package. I wouldn’t use it as a main POTA/SOTA rig full time, but I also haven’t had any field experience with it yet so I might eat those words.
This is a boon to amateur radio operators that people like DL2MAN and PE1NNZ are putting these out there for the public to take and create. Even if you never build or buy one of these radios, I believe they deserve a huge thank you from all of us for their efforts and time.
You can read about the project, including how to source the parts at DL2MAN’s website at http://dl2man.de
Alliteration aside, with my recent review of N6ARA’s TinyPaddle I noticed that I’ve started a collection of small, portable paddles. I thought it might be useful to do a quick comparison post for everyone’s reference.
Each brings something to the table that the others don’t, while sharing many similarities beyond just portability.
I’ll focus on physical characteristics only – how a paddle feels to a user is subjective, I really like each of these for different reasons, and as such your particular tastes may or may not align to mine.
I have purchased each of these for portable use and keep 2 of them in my bag each time I pack things up to leave the house. They are all small and light enough that having a backup means that I don’t have to stop playing radio if something breaks (and to date none have – I’m just paranoid).
NOTE: I am using my cheap set of calipers and a kitchen scale, and as such all measurements are close enough but perhaps not precise.
I spent the last week on a road trip that took me 3000+ miles (4800+ kilometers) round trip from Minnesota to Utah and back.
Upon return I found a new item in my mailbox.
N6ARA makes what has to be – at least to my knowledge – the smallest CW paddle around.
I mean, this thing is really, really small.
Even having seen images online, it didn’t convey how truly tiny the TinyPaddle really is. I’m almost scared to lose it.
So what is the TinyPaddle-Jack?
The TinyPaddle-Jack is a kit or preassembled backup or ultraportable iambic paddle. It is smartly designed as you will see, and superbly constructed.
The assembled paddle consists of the paddle and audio port (one piece), a 3D printed holder body (black in the images), a 3D printed holder cover (orange in the images), and an adjustment tool that clips onto the holder cover.
The holder cover allows the paddles to be protected in transit, and then by flipping the paddle around it becomes a holder extension that allows for one hand to hold the paddle in position while the other hand sends those glorious dits and dahs.
Some photos that hopefully do it justice.
N6ARA has an overview video you can watch here.
Coming in at a svelte 0.3 ounces or 8 grams without the audio cable, it disappears into your kit and won’t weigh you down.
N6ARA also publishes STL files so that you can print your own parts for building or replacing pieces as needed.
I haven’t had this out and on the air – yet. I have spent quite a bit of time with this on my Morserino to get used to the size and make sure it is adjusted to my liking. I like to do that instead of making other operators suffer through my fist.
The size does take some getting used to. Again it is really small, and like most portable paddles requires the use of both hands to be effective. I’m not even sure you could mount this with Velcro or equivalent and still be able to keep it still. There is just too little surface area for me to be confident of any mounting solutions, though I have not tried any to date.
Having said all of that, I do like the feel of it. It is responsive, and after a couple of tries I found myself able to consistently send characters correctly at 20-22 wpm which is my current upper limit on other small paddles. Cranking things up to 25 wpm I started to hit enough errors that I wouldn’t go on the air with my skill level where it is with this paddle.
But that is more my personal failing and not the paddle.
You might know http://www.gemsproducts.com as Side KX – a company that produces protective side panels and polycarbonate face coverings for Elecraft and other radios. I have both for my Elecraft KX3 and think they are the perfect addition to that fine radio.
I’ve added the Peovi Carry Cage for my IC-705 and have enjoyed the additional peace of mind it provides me, but have constantly worried about the front face and how to protect it when placing the radio into a pack for mobile operations.
Knowing Peovi makes products for cameras, I took a cue from that world and had been using a camera wrap such as this one. Camera wraps are great ways to quickly add another layer of protection to just about anything and they come in multiple sizes. Note that they provide soft protection only – they are wraps after all.
Still though, the face of this radio is where all the magic happens.
Having already decided that the Peovi Carry Cage is a worthwhile addition both in cost and weight to protect a significant investment, seeing the new offering from Gems Products got me excited and I promptly ordered one.
Note that you must have the Peovi Carry Cage in order to use this cover – it uses the side pieces to secure itself to the radio and will not work without it.
The Side KX Cover for the IC-705 is built very much like the one for the KX3. It fully encloses the face and controls of the radio along all 4 edges with about 1.4mm thick polycarbonate (as my calipers measured it – they’re cheap so it might be accurate 😉 ). The edges have raised sections that fit securely into the openings on the side panels of the Peovi Carry Cage.
It is very lightweight, coming in at 85 grams or about 3 ounces.
All lines and edges are clean and well constructed.
One slight concern is that the tuning knob is fairly close to the right edge of the radio, and when removing the cover it tilts and can touch during the process. Probably not a big deal, but I’ve taken to putting the left edge in before setting the right in place, and doing the reverse when removing to avoid hitting it. This is more of an issue of the design of the radio and how close to the edges the knob is and not about the cover itself.
I’ve had this cover for only a few hours, but my previous experience with their KX3 cover leads me to believe that this will be just as durable and protective. As such, I certainly recommend this cover to anyone who has both an IC-705 and the Peovi Carry Cage. It is another layer of protection for this excellent transceiver.
The whole setup does come at a cost that isn’t just monetary – the radio (plus battery), Peovi Carry Cage, and Side KX cover come in at a whopping 1636 grams, or 3lbs 9.5oz! Not lightweight by any means, but this is not a Rockmite or Mountain Topper. 🙂
Pick yours up here. As noted at the beginning, I purchased this item at full price with my own money and have not been influenced in any way to post this review. I have benefited from many other hams and their honest opinions about products, and I hope that this benefits you as well.
On a side note, they have also started selling side panels for the Icom IC-7300 which I also purchased. I might put a quick review of those as well if there is any interest.