QRP CW, Any input on rig selection?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KD2RON, Nov 23, 2015.

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  1. KD2RON

    KD2RON Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am considering purchasing a QRP rig and see a wide price range from over $2000 for an Elecraft to just over $200 for an MFJ. I can only do QRS cw, no contesting. I do use a keyer. Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    You probably need to figure some of your other requirements.
    Which bands do you want covered? (HF? VHF? UHF? Just one or two, or many?)
    Just CW, or other modes as as well? (...and if so, which ones?)
    What antennas do you plan to use? (...and would an internal ATU help?)
    Kit or ready built? (...and if a kit, whether modular, or using through-hole components only, or using surface-mount?)
  3. KD2RON

    KD2RON Ham Member QRZ Page

    I like 40m, cw only would be ok, like to be able to use wire portable antenna, probably need ATU, no experience building so kit would have to be for beginner. Thanks for your help.
  4. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Have and have had a number of QRP rigs over the years Yaesu, Icom (junk), various kits etc. On the low end the SWL kits are great but now out of business except for the Rockmites taken over by QRPME a fun rig. The Elecraft QRP rigs are outstanding and the KX-3 is in a class by itself just a terrific rig to operate with great performance.
  5. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    You probably don't need to look any further up the Elecraft range than the KX3, then. Even it is probably overkill, but it will do all you want and then some. The kit version is "modular" and involves a great many small nuts, bolts, screws and washers, but no soldering. In retrospect, I think I'll go for factory assembled next time. Elecraft do kits very well, though.

    A Yaesu FT-817ND might also work for you, but doesn't have an internal ATU option, would probably need an extra CW filter, and the only DSP for it is a third-party mod.

    You may also find some of the rigs available from http://www.lnrprecision.com/ of interest.
  6. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Agree with M0LEP's assessment of the KX3. It's the ultimate portable QRP all-band HF rig, not limited to CW. It has a fantastic receiver, excellent filtering which is very flexible and adjustable, very low power consumption, ability to monitor two frequencies simultaneously for split DX operations, built in ATU available, CW decode built in (but not as good as decoding by ear), really clean CW output, and very stable PLL frequency synthesis.

    The only two significant areas that other portable QRP rigs can beat it on are price and size, and for most people most of the time the size wouldn't be the deal-breaker. The KX3 is amazingly small, just not as tiny as some minimalist CW rigs. The KX3 can strain the budget, however.

    If you need an antenna tuner for a rig that lacks a built-in one, consider the Elecraft T1. It's very tiny, very fast to tune. Available in kit or assembled form. I built mine from a kit -- it's a tight fit, and you must carefully follow the instructions to be sure there will be enough room. I don't think I'd recommend it as a first kit building experience, at least not without some coaching.

    Among assembled QRP rigs, the YouKits hb1b looks interesting. Basically a clone of the Elecraft KX1, but available fully assembled instead of a kit, and lacking the built in autotuner of the KX1. I think the KX1 might be preferable if you were up to assembling a kit, but the Youkits rig has some appeal. Google around and you'll find reviews as well as comparisons with the KX1.

    Another thing to consider is the MFJ 9340 Cub. This could be a good introduction to kit building. It has some drawbacks, including a limited tuning range, a VFO that can be prone to drifting, no built-in keyer, and only about 2 watts out. But it's tiny, inexpensive, and not so intimidating to build as a first kit.
  7. KD2RON

    KD2RON Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for your suggestions. Is there any way to see if QRZ would start a QRP forum or is it better to use the cw forum?
  8. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Just to toss out some lower-end rigs - I use ALL of the following for CW QRP - in order from least favored to most favored from my perspective:

    1. Heathkit HW-7 - takes a bit of skill to operate - but once you start making contacts on this old rig, it gets addictive just because of the challenge! But overall performance is pretty lackluster by today's standards. Covers 40-20-15 meters only with 1.5 watts out (1 watt on 15) which means really good antennas are essential.

    2. Heathkit HW-8 - still a direct-conversion receiver like the HW-7 but adds 80 meters and a few other features - much easier to use on the air than the HW-7 in my opinion. Very decent little rig but still only 1.5 watts or so output

    3. Elecraft K1 - current model only covers 20 and 40. There was a 4-band option but I don't believe they do that anymore. This is a very nice radio - up to 5 watts output, great selectivity and very solid performance. I'm not in love with it - the tuning rate is a tad harsh/fast and the audio isn't the greatest IMO. The programming menu structure could be better - to me it's just kind of wonky how you navigate to different features. But it's a very high quality modern radio that I would easily recommend. Very nice built-in keyer

    4. MFJ-9296 - I LOVE this little radio!! Tiny - I take it to parks in the summer - full 4-5 watts output on all bands - easy-to-use interface with (to me) a more logical and accessible menu system than the K1. I have the "96" version that comes with all the band modules - 15-17-20-40-80 - I do wish they offered a 10m and 12 module because my portable 20m 1/4-wave ground plane (homebrew) easily adjusts to all the bands 30m and up.... but aside from that, this is a very fun little radio and I highly endorse it :) [has a built-in keyer with "call CQ" button, but the "call CQ" button is very lame - you can't change anything other than your call, and it calls CQ in a non-standard way - this is the only serious drawback to this rig IMO]

    5. Heathkit HW-9 (with WARC option) - my all-time FAVORITE QRP rig!! It just is a delight to use - covers all bands 80-10 including WARC bands - full 3 watts output on all bands except 10m (3 or so), hot superhet receiver with good selectivity and image rejection - but what really makes this one be my favorite QRP rig ever is the SOUND and FEEL. The receive audio is just "ear candy" with a 700hz analog passband, and the tuning is so smooth and has such a nice touch to it, on a radio that's not too tiny. If I could have only ONE rig for CW QRP it would be the HW-9 hands down.

    So there ya have it - my recommendations for QRP CW rigs as an owner of every one of the above :)

    NK8I and KU4X like this.
  9. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That's an interesting question. QRP isn't always CW, nor is CW always QRP. The "Homebrew and Kit Projects" forum attracts a fair bit of QRP discussion, but similarly, not everyone who homebrews is doing QRP, and not all QRPers own a soldering iron. Some of the newer digital modes (JT-65, WSPR) are often QRP, but not always.

    I could see a case for a QRP board. Problem is, IMHO, there are already too many sub-forums on QRZ, and sometimes topics cross lines, making it hard enough already to figure out which board a topic should be posted to.
  10. W7UUU

    W7UUU Super Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I agree. Just go look at eHam forums - threads get lost in that mess FAST!


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