Thursday, August 15, 2019

20 years later: The need for an ARRL "group review" of popular small rigs

QST, Dec 2000
In December of 2000, QST published an article of user experiences and lab results of several QRP rigs that were popular at the time - the SST, Norcal 20, Small wonder Labs DSW and a few others.

None of them justified an article dedicated to just one radio but, as a group review, I think the article provided useful information.

The way it worked was that an owner of each of the rigs wrote a short article of their impressions of and experiences with their particular radio, then they sent their rig to the ARRL for testing in the lab.

Spectrum analysis, dynamic range, image rejection - the works. After a few weeks, everyone had their rig back and QST's readership had the skinny on radios they may not have known about.

I remember all of this quite well - I wrote the portion of the article for the SST and was excited about having a rig I built put under lab scrutiny (in case you're wondering, it did well)!

It's been almost 20 years now. Those rigs are no longer commonly heard, but a new crop (their grandchildren?) is available, and with much different features and performance specs than the Old Guard.

The mcHF, the latest kits from Steve KD1JV, the upcoming FT8 rig from the QRP Guys, the new DSB kit from VK-land and probably half a dozen more would all seem to make for a similarly enlightening article on what's available now but perhaps not commonly known about outside of QRP circles.

And it would all be in one place - a printed article - rather than scattered reviews or various blog postings here and there, with varying degrees of thoroughness. The consistency of a selection of radios, all tested by the same respected lab, would be a valuable reference.

You'd be surprised at how many people I work who's reaction is, "Your rig is a what?" when I'm using the mcHF.

Four or five years ago, I sent an email to the ARRL pitching this idea to them. For the life of me, I can't remember their response that explained their reason for no longer being interested in this type of article. But I do remember thinking, yeah - that's a good reason.

Whatever that reason was, I hope it's expired now and that the ARRL will reconsider and give at least some of the many radios now available (many from small 1-person vendor/designers) some ink and some lab time.


  1. Looks like they've been doing the "one at a time" routine recently, including the QRP Labs QCX and the HFSignals uBitx, in separate product review articles.

    Maybe they think that there is enough meat in these radios to deserve an entire article for each.

    1. Yep, you're absolutely right. Maybe a group review would just be an abbreviation, less thorough than what they currently offer.

  2. That's my SW-40+ in the article! It's the ugly one that's built into a re-purposed printer a/b switch box, with hand-written labels. I remember getting the issue many months after I sent the rig up to ARRL-HQ, and looking at that picture, feeling a bit embarrassed about how nice all the other rigs in the picture looked. However, the little SW-40+, warts and all, performed perfectly. Thanks for the nice memory.

    1. Your rig looks like a true homebrew rig - all the others were furnished with pre cut and drilled cases. Yep, that was almost 20 years ago...doesn't seem like it though, does it!

      73 - John