My original ham radio station included a Kenwood TS-520 HF transceiver, an HF antenna tuner, an SWR meter and a 40-10 metre trapped vertical antenna. In the decades that followed I have updated the station numerous times.
Today the station includes a pair of equipment racks with Ten-Tec transceivers, linear amplifiers by Ten-Tec and Ameritron as well as assorted antenna and rotator controls. Antennas consist of a 3-element SteppIR (20-10 metre bands) at about 15 metres above the ground and a 43 foot vertical (80-30 metre bands) with a ground mounted antenna matching system.
All the equipment is automated using N4PY software integrated with Logger32 or N1MM+ logging programmes. Antenna choice, amplifier band switching and Alfa Spid rotator orientation are all controlled by software.
My “main” station is based around a Ten-Tec Orion model 565. I have made several modifications to this transceiver including the extraction of a buffered 9 MHz IF signal. (This modification is explained in the Mods/Repairs section.) Also located in the left-hand rack is some audio processing equipment and a Ten-Tec Hercules II 500 watt solid state linear amplifier. Antenna/amplifier switching is done through the antenna ports on the Orion.
To the left of the computer keyboard are my Begali Simplex key (under a dust cover) and remote tuning knob for the Orion.
The right-hand rack includes my backup rig, a Ten-Tec Omni VI, an Ameritron ALS-1300 (1300 watt) solid state linear amplifier and hamware.de AT-615 remote antenna tuner control head. This amplifier and antenna matching system are used with my vertical antenna on the 80-30 metre bands.
Rotator controller, SteppIR antenna controller, LP-100A Digital Vector RF Wattmeter and Ameritron amplifier band switching interface are all mounter in front of the operator above the computer screen. The LP-100A has “dual couplers” and automatically switches to the vertical or Steppir antenna based no which antenna is getting the RF from the exciter.
The newest addition to the shack is a QMX from QRP-Labs. This little QRP kit operates on 80 through 20 metres and puts out a whopping 4 watts. Currently it has firmware for CW and digital modes such as FT8 and FT4. I have been having a ball with it. As I write this (October 6, 2023) I have logged 89 DXCC entities with the little rig.
Finally, I must introduce you to the station alarm system. This is our Airedale Terrier “Daiquiri”. She is our 3rd Airedale. Her predecessors were “Brandy” and “Tia Maria”.
If you’re a squirrel trying to break into the station you ARE in deep trouble! Remember to toast her on July 19th … that’s National Daiquiri Day!
QRP & Other "Stuff"
My interest in QRP (low power transmitters – typically less than 5 watts) began shortly after I was licensed! The first QRP transceiver I built was a 2 watt 40 metre kit designed by W7EL. This CW rig had a VFO, an RIT and a built in keyer! The first contact was across town with one of my “Elmers”, VE7EGU (sk). I’m not sure who was more excited me or Karl!
Next I graduated to a Heathkit HW-8, multi-band, 5 watt CW QRP rig. That was followed by a multi-mode Ten-Tec 509 and finally a much more modern multi-band and multi-mode Ten-Tec Argonaut V (which included computer control via a serial interface). A more complete summary of QRP transceivers in My QRP Stuff.
Recently, I found QRP-Labs and their modern kits. My first build was a 4-watt 20 metre QCX CW transceiver. The receiver in this little jewel is astounding! My first 2 QSOs were using my SteppIR yagi. The first contact was to Finland and then I turned the beam and worked Ogasawara Island for some pretty rare DX! By 2023 the technology has moved on even further and the designers at QRP-Labs have put more radio into an even smaller package! I have recently constructed a QMX transceiver kit (the smaller transceiver in the photo above). This little rig puts out approximately 4 watts on the 80, 60, 40, 30 and 20 metre bands! Currently it operates on CW and digital modes. However, there are plans to make it SSB capable in the near future.
As you can tell I am a big fan of QRP-Labs kits. To date I have built a 20 metre QCX transceiver, a 20 metre 50 watt amplifier for the QCX, 5 GPS units and a Signal Generator. Why 5 GPS units I hear you ask? Two GPS are in stand alone clocks from QRP-Labs, 2 are used to synchronize the clocks in my computers and the 5th is used to discipline the output frequency of the signal generator!