Friday, April 28, 2023

9A5N solid-state paddles

Seven or eight years ago, I built a capacitive-touch keyer from a kit offered by a vendor no longer in business. The keyer was small enough to be built into an existing rig - the "paddles" were simply two small bolt heads that extended through the rig's case.

Touch one bolt to send dits, the other for dahs.

To see other examples of this implementation, check out this site.

A similar kit can be found here.

For a long while now, I've had my eye on the solid-state paddles designed by Neno 9A5N. I wanted them but didn't really need them. After all, the Nye Viking SST paddles you may have seen in my videos were bought new in 1978 and have been problem-free ever since.

They continue to perform like new, even after 45 years of constant use, and have taken me from a 5wpm Novice to wherever I'm at now.

But it was time.

Justification comes, as it always does (lately), from POTA. Contrary to what might be implied, I wanted a heavy set of paddles that won't slide around on a picnic table.

The benefit of lightweight paddles for portable operations that take place within double-digit meters of the car is a myth - I want a heavy, one-handed key that won't slide around.

I do have a small set of Palm Paddles; the advantage of their portability is offset by the fact that they require two hands - one to hold them, the other to operate them. If I were a backpacker, these paddles would offer an actual advantage rather than the illusion of one.

But those days have passed - I drive to POTA sites and usually walk less than half a km to my operating position.

I also wanted paddles that would be immune to any dust or debris that might be encountered when operating outdoors.

A tracking number received less than an hour after ordering - 9pm Neno's time - and was en route via FedEx the next morning. I received it 3 days later.

I've been using 9A5N's paddles for about a month now and love them. It took several operating sessions to get used to them - that amount of time would have been shorter if I'd used only those paddles during that time but I made things difficult for myself by using the Nye paddles at home, the 9A5N paddles while portable.

This is a heavy beast - it won't slide around, even on an uneven surface as might be encountered on a POTA activation (weathered picnic table).

Reviews of this paddle on eHam are all 5-star and I can find little to add to the narratives already written except to say that they're easy to get used to (if you don't so what I did!) and that the design inherent to these paddles makes them impervious to dust, pitting or any other issues that might cause poor contact (since there are no contacts) of dit or dah closures.

I do find myself subconsciously wanting to send faster, and have to remind myself not to send faster than I can copy.

I haven't had to do that since my Novice days but there's some psychological oddity from the lack of tactile feedback that I think, accounts for a tendency to send faster in order to achieve the feedback - which, of course, won't be there at any speed.




  1. Big congrats John. I am thinking about it for long time... :)

    1. Same here, Petr - I thought about it for 2 *years* before finally buying!


  2. Hi John. I came to the same conclusion. I like heavy paddles for doing things like POTA. I may have to look into these though I am not as zippy as you 🙂.