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EK1C, anyone tried one? Opinions?

Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by VE7JBX, Oct 27, 2016.

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  1. VE7JBX

    VE7JBX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Been looking into various QRP rigs a step up from my FOXX-3 for when I have some free radio $$ to spend - came across the Youkits EK1C, I think this is a 'new' model, but should be shipping now. It looks to be in line with what I would like for features size and price - has anyone out there actually got one? Any experiences / comments?
  2. N4MU

    N4MU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looks like a scaled down version of the HB1-B. Therefore the $110 savings. FWIW - I have a HB1-b (for about a month now) and I love it. Assuming the same QC is put into the EK1 I see no problems. Look over the details carefully though. You may opt for the higher priced spread.
  3. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have some comments-

    I'd really like to see a schematic of the Ek series rig before I plunk down the better part of $200 for a Hencho en China kit - or any radio FWIW. The EK-1C does look like a reincarnation of the HB-1A, 3 band radio.

    OTOH, Pacific Antenna offers a Steve Weber Tribander kit - where you pick any three bands from 80 to 15 meters.
    The KD1JV rig also has a built in Iambic keyer with 5 to 40 wpm code speed, selectable Iambic A or B modes and two 63 character message memories.

    I suspect the UKits has the same keyer seen on the HB-x,CRK-10A series. The ads are silent on any (new) memory in the EK-1x keyer.

    The Tribander has 4 xtal IF filter and an audio filter (600hz) , don't know about this new EK series. The old EK-1B had 3 xtals in the RX path.

    Ergos are a wash, as both have a front panel display and rotary encoder.... The Ek-1 display backlight can be shut off for some current savings on RX. The Tribander uses more power on Rx, so that's at least a consideration if you plan on using this in the field.

    Price difference? $225 for the KD1JV designed kit vs $190 for the UKits completed radio. Difference is $35 or 17% more than the China rig. You should factor in the the KD1JV rig has full documentation and support in North America.

    Your time in completing a kit is something only you can add to the ol decision tree...

    Given the future of propagation, I would think 80/40/30 or 80/40/20 might be a better pick. The UKIts does offer 5.9 to 16 Mhz Rx, like the early HB-1x radios, so that is also something to consider.

    I will have to say, I recently got a good look at a current HB-1B MK III - mine is an older version (HB-1B8b) and was surprised at the changes inside - and the excellent build quality.

    Gonna be a hard pick. Let us know what you wind up with and please post a review if you go with the EK1....
    AG6QR likes this.
  4. VE7JBX

    VE7JBX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Appreciate the comments/ thoughts, thanks!
  5. VE7JBX

    VE7JBX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ok, bit the bullet and ordered an EK1C today. I'll have to come back with a review after it gets here. Guess this leaves me two weeks or so to polish up my CW hihi
    KL7KN likes this.
  6. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looking forward to your review and hopefully, some good pics of the radio, board and so on..
  7. VE7JBX

    VE7JBX Ham Member QRZ Page

    First impressions on the EK1C.

    Kit arrived one week after being ordered, even with a 24 hr holdup at customs - package was opened and inspected. Packing box comes with cut to fit dense foam insert.

    Unit itself looks nice on exterior. Clear, clean labeling, everything fits together well, nice uniform paint job. Only small issue here, "tune/step" lab is misplaced too close to rotary encoder knob so it's partially obscured - label should be about 5 mm lower.

    Controls have a nice feel, nothing sloppy or loose; pushbuttons have good tactile feedback. Rotary encoder doesn't seem to react/sense very fast turning (that is, if you turn it too fast, it still reads the input but not more quickly than if you turn it slower; it's like it's not being "read" at very high frequency so if you exceed this it doesn't sense all of the input.) At least that's the simplest I can think to describe it. Minor, it tunes up and down as it should, and is fast enough. Pushing the tune encoder changes tuning steps 100 kHz, 1kHz, 100Hz, 10Hz.

    You can switch between memory mode (16 frequencies assignable) or VFO mode. You can activate a 'scan' feature in either mode, from a very limited test I did I believe you have to manually stop it if it comes across a signal you want. In VFO mode you can select either 10hz or 100hz scan steps.

    RIT can be activated and similarly can be set to 10 or 100Hz step sizes to offset RX frequency. I didn't think to test how far it can offset - more than 1 kHz but I didn't see if a full 5 kHz split was possible. I'll try to remember to test that next power up.

    No manual with the radio, but there is a mostly comprehensible 5 page manual (PDF) for download. I noted two apparent mistakes in the manual:
    1) it says pressing the tune knob for 2 seconds moves it to 100kHz step size. Actually, this only seems to activate the scan mode; getting 100kHz steps requires single presses and going through other tuning steps.
    2) "RV1" adjustment appears mislabelled (more on that, below).

    Backlight is preset in auto mode, comes on when you adjust anything but volume, off after a few seconds. Supposedly also has always on and always off modes, I didn't check that.

    Display is clear and legible, shows vfo or memory mode (& mem #), frequency to 10Hz resolution, TX or RX state, and battery voltage. My voltage reading seemed to be a bit off (more below).

    Tested with a 20m monoband dipole via MFJ-949 tuner. RX quite good on 20m compared to my FT-101ZD (which I think is very good), based on W6WX 14.100 kHz beacon. Same power level TX heard on both radios. 30m, didn't hear anything to test. 40m, RX seemed good but maybe not quite as good as FT-101ZD. Clearly able to pick out several CW stations though. RX audio is nice. Tested and was able to listen to SW BC station on 41m band, although I had to tune 700 Hz below its listed frequency. Audio a bit weird but understandable - sounds like the AGC is optimized for fast signals (as expected) and bandwidth probably on the narrow side for voice (also as expected).

    TX - my sidetone was deafeningly loud. Fortunately, the manual says "VR1" adjusts this. So, case opened (4x PH#2 screws allow you to neatly lift off the upper case cover while everything is working.) VR1 was labeled and adjusts with PH#0 to a more suitable level. Manual also says display voltage readout is adjustable via "RV1". I can't find an RV1 anywhere, but there's a SECOND "VR1" on the subsidiary circuit board behind the front panel. Yes, adjusting that corrects the V readout. (There are a labeled +/- jumper pin set on main board for use if you want to squeeze a small LiPo battery in the case, good place to put the test leads when adjusting the Vout reading). Almost all SMD components, but well spaced out, might be user serviceable (?) Solder joints I inspected looked uniformly very good.

    TX test to dummy load, at 12.3V on AA cells:
    20m ~5.7W (spec: 4-5)
    30m 4W (spec: 4)
    40m ~4.8W (spec: 4-5)

    Tried sending on 20m but no RBN spots and one fellow in northern CA pointed a 2 el beam at me and listened but wasn't able to pick me up. Late in the day for 20m though so I wasn't too surprised. I'll try again when I think there's better propagation.

    TX/RX switching is very fast and no weird pops or other noises.

    Few photos of the exterior, display, and inside the case attached.

    IMG_5981.JPG IMG_5983.JPG IMG_5984.JPG
    KD2RON likes this.
  8. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice write up. Thank you. Is the volume out enough to drive a small speaker?
    How narrow do you find the filtering?

    It seems the filter is now 3 vs 4 crystals in the ladder filter. Layout has changed a bit as well.

    Here is an image of the EK-1A (B) for comparison.
  9. VE7JBX

    VE7JBX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I tried running my Icom SP-20 speaker and that wasn't successful - I think you'd need to have an amplified speaker. Maybe a really small 1.5" or so might work, though.

    Width --- let me try tuning over a few more strong / stable signals before I comment. It's not 500 Hz narrow, but something less than 2.4 kHz ...

    Oh, and the RIT will indeed adjust more than 5 kHz.
  10. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks again.

    While you are tuning around... When zero beat to WWV on 10 & 15 Mhz, what does the display read? Curious how well the display lines up with the actual frequency.

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