Month: June 2014

Optibeam OB21-3 – largest 20-15-10m antenna

Optibeam just launched a set of 4 huge HF antennas, and the OB21-3 is definetely the one that caught my attention the most. It’s a 21 element HF beam, covering the 20, 15 and 10m bands; as some of you may know, Optibeam makes proper (and expensive) antennas: no traps, no shortcuts, nothing compact, nothing lightweight. The OB21-3 is no exception, at 14m long, 11m wide and weighting 100Kg this is a real monster – rememeber there are triband trapped antennas weighting only around 10Kg. But if you want gain and realiability, this is probably your best bet: the 5 elements on 20m, 5 elements on 15m and 11 elements on 10m provide 15 to 17dBi of gain in a proper installation, the manufacturer rating it for winds of 130Km/h. But as the song says, “baby there’s a price to pay”, get ready to shell out about 2600 EUR for this beauty (I promise this is the last time I’ll make Christina Aguilera references). But this 21 element beam is by far the smallest, when we look at the other 2014 models from Optibeam: the OB1-160 (yes, a rotatable dipole for 160m) weights 150Kg, the OB804030 (8 element 80m/40m/30m beam) ups the ante to 165Kg and the huge OB4-40 (4 element 40m beam) tips the scales at 185Kg. Don’t even try to look up the prices for these things,...

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Yaesu FT-897D is discontinued

Yaesu FT-897/D is undoubtedly a bestseller, offering DC-to-daylight (actually 0.1 to 470 MHz) coverage, field day ready style and features and a rather affordable price. It’s almost identical to the FT-857 (smaller, lighter, no battery compartment) and the FT-817 (even smaller and lighter, 5W output instead of 100W, no DSP) and their family is around since 2002. The 8×7 series were never aimed at high performance or even ease of use, nevertheless they are great all-round rigs, good for basic stuff and affordable, a great radio station in one rig for alot of people. Well, it seems now Yaesu is starting to phase out this great line of radios, and the FT-897D is the first to go, starting June 2014. People were asking for a long time for replacements of the FT-8×7 family, the outdated RF deck design and front panel ergonomy being the main subjects needing improvement. Even if Yaesu didn’t say anything about a replacement model for the FT-897D this could be the first step in the right direction. After thinking about it for some time, I’m not sure there is a much better way of doing things and keeping affordability and the expanded frequency coverage. Performance can be easily improved by moving to SDR technology (not DDC/DUC wich is still too expensive), but there are 2 issues: 1. there is at the moment no high IP3...

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SunSDR-MB1 – finally a proper modern transceiver

Expert Electronics’ SunSDR-MB1 is what I’ve been expecting from the amateur radio industry for some time: a transceiver using modern technology, with a proper user interface, good interconectivity and decent power output. Once again we can see the smaller manufacturers are way ahead of the curve compared to the big three (namely Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood), wich are beating it around the bush by trying to force useless commercial technologies to amateurs (yes I’m looking at you Icom ID-5100A). The SunSDR-MB1 is a direct conversion SDR transceiver, fully standalone, offering 125W output, a huge (and more importantly, working – yes I’m looking at you Kenwood TS-990) spectrum display and a plethora of buttons that will make the most avid anti-menu-driven-equipment fanatic rejoyce. The screen is also touch-sensitive, I don’t find that particularly useful but at least they’re implementing modern stuff. The radio part of this poetic piece of technology is a SunSDR2, the user interface is handled by a fully featured mini-ITX computer with an Intel Core i7 processor wich runs Windows 7, there is also an 125W HF / 60W VHF power amplifier (that will be retrofitted with predistorsion technology via a software upgrade at a later time) and an internal 13.8V PSU; options include an automated antenna tuner, WiFi and GPS receiver. Weight is just a bit shy of 10Kg and the external dimensions are 370*160*370mm. Connectivity is...

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Elecraft KX3 2m option is available

Elecraft KX3 is one of the most interesting transceivers on the market today: very high performance, very low current drain, very lightweight – all of these are possible thanks to SDR technology. When it came out Elecraft promised a VHF module will be available at some point, and after a long time and some delays, the KX3-2M add-on is finally listed on their website and available for order. The 2m module simply mounts on top of the internal ATU – if you don’t have the internal ATU option, you need the NOATU version wich is more expensive; it makes more sense to get the internal ATU for US$140 than pay an extra US$30 for the special 2m module. It provides 120-165 MHz coverage with sensitivity centered around the 144-148 MHz band, about 3W of RF output and increases the recieve current drain to about 350mA. Claimed MDS is about -145dBm, there is DTMF and FM repeater support and has it’s own antenna connector, separated from the HF+6m one. There is also a version for the 4m band, but there aren’t too many details out on that...

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