QRP and Simple Wire Antennas
| There are several companies which sell QRP CW
kits. This is an annotated links list. I have included my observations
regarding what is offered and in some cases what I have found from first hand experience
building their kits.
There are other web sites with kit lists (here is one of them). My intention is not to duplicate their effort. Rather, this list with its annotation provides one ham's short review/summary of the kits available.
In my opinion there are basically three groups of kits available for Ham use:
Type 1. This is what I call the Experimenters Kits. These are small kits such as Vectronics, SOP and Kanga Kits. They are often just TX or RX and the receivers are very simple and they are most often what is called Direct Conversion. The TX functions are usually low power 1-2 Watts.
Type 2. This is what I call the the Single Band Wonders. These are transceivers which means the TX and RX functions are integrated. They are most often superheterodyne receivers. One can get a very high performing QRP rig for the buck using one of these kits. Examples can be found from Small Wonder Labs and Oak Hills Research. The Tx functions are usually 2-5W depending upon the rig.
Type 3. This is what I call the Multi Band Wonder. These kits come in two or more bands, are always superheterodyne, and usually offer 5W output power. Examples of the rigs can be found from Oak Hills Research and Elecraft.
What follows is my review of kits organized by supplier. I listed the supplier and then provide my review/comments on what they have to offer.
|Small Wonder Labs
offers CW QRP, PSK31 and SSB QRP kits. The SW+ series is the CW kit family $55(US).
It is a type 2 kit. They are offered in 80, 40, 30 and 20m versions.
Output power is about 2 W and they are VFO tuned. The bandwidth is about 30-40KHz
with the portion of the band set during assembly. I have built the SW40+. It
is a great kit especially for the first time kit builder. The instructions were
great and I build it in one Saturday. I recommend that you get the enclosure
$35(US) and RIT $25(US) kit. It is a little extra money for both, but it is worth it
especially the RIT kit. I was able to tune my SW40+ to get more than 80KHz bandwidth
by simply adding a 220pF capacitor (about a 2 minute upgrade). If you are interested
in the details of how I did this just email me and I
will tell all. One the reasons this is such a great first time kit is all the online
information on this kit. In fact, there is a GREAT Elmer series developed and put
onto a PowerPoint presentation. I have to find the link for that and when I do I
will add it here. Just go to Yahoo and type SW40+ and see what pops up.
Elecraft offers two great rigs. The K1 and K2. The K1 is the QRP cw kit and it is a type 3 kit. This is a great multiband cw kit. It comes in two $279(US) or four $349(US) band versions. This is a logical next kit after the SW+ series. I have build and use this rig. My detailed review can be read here. In short, the rig does all that it is advertised to do. I love using it. I have the four band version. I don't have the automatic antenna tuner, but I made a contact with another K1 user who does. He had just added the tuner and said it was worth every penny. This kit can be a challenge if you have never used a soldering iron or built a kit. If you have never used a soldering iron before you should try a SW+ or other simpler kit first. By the way, I get good signal reports on this rig.
Oak Hills Research offers the OHR500 five band rig and the OHR100A single band rig. The OHR100A may actually be a better rig than the SW+ series and is a type 2 kit. For instance the output power is higher at 4-5W verses 2W for the SW+ and the as designed bandwidth is 70-80 kHz. The online information was not as plentiful as for the SW+. However, if I had it to do over again, I would most likely choose the OHR100A. It come with a 10 turn pot option which at $15.95(US) is a no brainer upgrade.
The OHR500 is another story. It is a a type 3 kit and is a pretty good rig, but the specs on the web page are really lacking in content. The specs which are there don't match up against the K1. For instance output power is 4-5 W except on 15m where it is 3-3.5 W. Also, the front panel is just not as clean as the K1.
They also offer a QRP Watt meter kit, frequency counter/dial kit, and a RF load kit. The frequency counter looks like a great kit and I was about to buy it when I found the counter I now have at a HAM swap meet.
Wilderness Radio offers the SST, Norcal 40A, and the Sierra. The SST is a type 2 kit and is very comparable with the SW40+ except that it lacks the cleaner enclosure and its tuning bandwidth is less at 10-20KHz. The price is right though at $85(US).
The Norcal 40A $129(US) is a very nice rig and is also a type 2 kit. I have worked several stations who were using this rig. For instance, N7KM said he was using the rig. It sounded great.
The Sierra is the multiband version at
$369(US) for the 6 band version. This is a nice rig and is a type 3 kit, but it has
two draw backs. First, to change bands you have to open the case and change out the
band module. That's a hassle. Second the output power is only 1.5-3 W.
However, I have worked someone using this rig and he said he loved it.
|Other reviews to follow.|