Monday, April 23, 2012

MTR build, day three

I think this is day three of my build. Thus far I have hit no real snags, only a couple of recalcitrant SMT capacitors that refused to stay where I soldered them. This kit has been a load of fun to put together. I have finished all of the SMT parts and started the through hole parts this evening with crystals and switches. I looked at the time, looked at the board and looked at the capacitors and decided to hang it up for the night. I think one more evening and I will be ready to power up the radio. Tomorrow morning, I am going to wander into downtown Seattle and stop at Specialty Bottle and pick up an Altoids tin or two for the project. Yes, I need a few for when I trash one drilling the holes.

72, Bob

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A few hours of build time

I started the MTR rig yesterday and continued again today. I have gotten all of the semiconductors down on the back side along with the resistors. Next come the capacitors. I am taking my time on this as I tend to make mistakes when I move along either too fast or work too long. This is my third kit which has SMT components in it. The first two were the Softrock Ensemble RX, followed by the ATS-4b. I expected this kit to be similar to the ATS-4, and it is, schematic wise, but most of the components seem smaller on the MTR. Or maybe I just had amnesia set in since I built the ATS-4. As long as work does not mess up my evenings this week, I should have the MTR built and on the air by next Saturday.

72, Bob

Here is the MTR shot through a magnifier.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The MTR is here!

A couple of days ago, the latest Steve Weber, KD1JV, kit landed on my doorstep. It is the MTR, the Mountain Topper Radio. The MTR is mostly SMT and will fit into an Altoids tin. The rig itself is a lot like his ATS series radios, a separate up and down button for frequency. I actually like using that style of tuning as I have one of Steve's ATS-4 radios. It is kind of like using RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) on an HP scientific calculator, once you get comfortable with RPN, it becomes preferable.  Steve's style of tuning is pretty darn easy to use and is rapidly becoming a preferable tuning method for me.

The rig is a two bander where you can choose two of your favorites from 40/30/20 meters. I have decided to build a 40/20 meter radio. Though it fits into an Altoids tin, it has a blistering 5 watts of power. Incredible for a radio of this size. Thus far I have installed 10 chips/transistors on the board. I had to hijack a magnifier from the XYL to see what I was doing as the chips are really small. More posts coming as I put this bad boy together.

72, Bob

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Low Fidelity

Another one of those ham experiences that take you a long time to notice that the “Obvious Meter” is pegged to the far right. I was outside on the porch a week ago with a wire in a tree. I did not have that much time before dinner to spend on the radio so I started on 20 meter SSB. I had a quick trade of information with a QRO ham in LA and went over to CW, again on 20 meters. I worked a CW QRO station in Cupertino California. No problem. So on Tuesday, I decided to try the NAQCC sprint and had a horrible time with all the QRP stations, I could barely pull them out of the noise with my FT-817. I decided to go inside a grab my Weber ATS-4b to try that. I was amazed at how well that rig worked pulling the signals out of the mud. I looked suspiciously at my FT-817. The only difference was a pair of Koss earbuds that I found on sale at Radio Shack plugged into the ATS-4. With the Yaesu, I was using a pair of earbuds that I got with some AM/FM radio, at some point in the past. I moved the Koss over to the FT-817 and amazing!   I could actually understand the CW. Even though the Koss earbuds were less than 5 bucks, they had much better fidelity than the generic ones. Looks like a trip to Radio Shack tomorrow, I hope they still have the earbuds on sale.  The moral of the story?  The earphones/earbuds are nearly as important as a good antenna.  

72, Bob