HF Radios

Mission RGO ONE Transceiver 

Mission RGO ONE - New Owner - January 2024

RGO ONE is a specialty radio. It reminds me a little of my K2 kit and a little bit of my Afedri SDR. They are created by hand with special features and each one is unique while their distribution happens at the same time as their development.
I came into RGO ONE three years after the first offering and I also came to Elecraft years after introduction to take advantage of the updates process.
What you get with RGO ONE is a superior analog transceiver from Bulgaria. It is really small and has a nice fit and finish. It is great on SSB and CW, with a uniquely quiet receiver. It has a weighted tuning knob that makes the rig seem bigger and a sharp LCD display. The S-Meter is fast and fluid and the QSK for CW is solid state and quiet. So is the fan, which rarely comes on.
There is quite good fidelity with the optional 2.8 filter on receive and transmit. The AGC is nice. 
There is lots more to like, you get the idea.
On the other side of the coin, RGO is hand built, tested, and shipped one at a time and that makes them expensive as compared to commercial HF rigs.
RGO takes a long time to order and ship.
In my case, the documentation was really insufficient for a quick start and it took me days of wading through the Groups.IO reflector to learn what I needed to do to use the radio for the first time. This is the result of documents created and revised during product development.
In the end it was really worth it to me, because this is not my primary HF and it is uniquely different from my FTdx3K and IC7300 which are mostly computers and so complex they required me to write software to manage the deep Menu items while operating the radio.
I expect FTdx10 and Ftdx101 are the same in that regard, RGO ONE is just more simple and satisfying to use while providing a quiet and more natural sound than DSP processing can.

- Note -
I am seeing about 100hz drift from cold start and then within about 10hz after the first 45 minutes. The majority of this happens in the first 10 minutes, there is no TCXO. With the optional 2.8 SSB filters this gets noticed more.

Yaesu FTdx3000D Primary Transceiver 

February 2023 - The Yaesu Ftdx3000D was brought in to succeed my FT2000 from 2010 after 10 years of robust service. It does everything as well or better than FT2000 with some compromise due to the smaller footprint. The FT2000 came out of the box ready to play yet the FTdx3000 took some time to dial in to the same level of satisfaction, actually it took a long while of side by side comparisons. Both radios are excellent phone and Cw transceivers and from what I can see, much less reliant of raiding the Yaesu menus in normal operation than the newer SDR radios. FTdx3000D was released before "Touch Screens" were standard and that suits my taste as I prefer knobs and buttons on the radio but don't like touching the screen. Yaesu can really have problems with the user interface on their radios and FTdx3000D is no exception. The radio is compressed in size in comparison to FT2K and yet much of the available front panel and screen gets wasted with redundant functions or empty space. There are temporary "flashed" messages on the screen. Yet, Ftdx3000 does well enough with the interface compared to everything the radio has to offer. 

The most unfortunate idea for this radio was the spectrum display feature which is just a non-starter. Yet, even IC7300 which has a workable spectrum display in comparison has a very small visible area. In either case I use a full feature spectrum display for a second receiver SDR displayed on the PC. FTdx3000D has an excellent SDR output for this, which I use, so I don't miss the implementation of the spectrum display on the radio itself. 

In summary, I find the FTdx3000D a more robust radio than IC7300 for my operation and a simpler radio to use than the new Yaesu SDR radios, at a lower cost. The built in roofing filters and superhet design are wonderful luxuries, especially for Cw operators. I wrote a computer program to further simplify radio operation at the front panel - you can see that here: https://wb8yqj.yolasite.com/sdrmetersandafedri.php

Yaesu FT2000 Transceiver 

The FT2000 was my primary transceiver, it does everything in the world, but there are very many configuration options. I'll make some suggestions here.

- There are dual receivers, and I link them using parameter 034 GEnE TRACK = FREQ. I then can select the optimal receiver that I want to hear by turning up the AF GAIN for the more desirable receiver, and turning down the AF GAIN for the other receiver.  More often than not, the subreceiver hears noticably better than the main receiver. In CW mode, using the COLLINS CW filter the subreceiver is vastly more quiet, and in SSB mode if there is any background noise or static at all, the subreceiver presents a clearer copy. For AM or FM, the primary receiver is much better, so I widen the R.FLT to 15KHZ, turn up the primary receiver AF gain and turn down the subreceiver AF GAIN for that. 

- Set the subreceiver RF GAIN at 3:00 position. This quiets the receiver I listen to most often, yet does not affect the resting value of the analog S-meter, which is an excellent indicator for the sub receiver since the two receivers are linked.

- The FT2000 has two operating states, VFO or MEMORY. This is a key concept because it is possible to tune a memory and it will seem like the VFO is being tuned. If the MR or MS is lit, the FT2000 is in memory mode.  


- In the VFO configuration, the MR and MS indicator should always be unlit - press V/M repeatedly until that happens. Also the frequencies should match - press A>B for that. The only indicator around the subreceiver knob that should be lit should be M.CH. 

- Using this method, all frequency tuning will happen using the main VFO knob and this will affect both receivers.  The subreceiver knob is only used from this point forward to set the main VFO to memories from the memory groups (more on that later) when the M.CH is lit. 

- If it becomes necessary to disconnect the receivers link to work SPLIT, press the A/B button to the right of the subreceiver tuning knob. Now the subreceiver knob is used to do all the frequency tuning, dont touch the main knob. Press A<>B swap as needed. Make sure the TX activator is pressed and lit over the VFO that you want to transmit on. After the DX is worked, press A/B to light M.CH, press A>B and you are once again linked up. Dont forget to reset the light over the transmitting VFO. 


In the VFO mode, the entire radio is available for dynamic change, the bandstack registers and the VFO's are always overwritten during normal operation. The purpose of the memory mode is to allow you to call up a memory, use it for a while, tune it up or down, and when you are finished the radio returns to the state it was in before you entered it. Note - dont press any of the band stack buttons in memory mode. Clear the MR and MT lights by pressing V/M repeatedly before pressing a band stack button if you want to keep your memories and band stack separate.  

Here is an example. If I press the 28/29 button 3 times (with MR and MT unlit) I see 28.010Cw, 28.200Usb, and 28.400Usb. I have a memory at 29.0Am. I press the V/M button and the MR indicator lights and VFO A is then receiving at 29.0Am. If I tune the main VFO knob, MR is replaced by MT and I can tune to example 29.050Am. None of this is recorded by the band stack registers or VFOs. After I am through on 29Am, I need press only the V/M button until the MS and MR lights go out, and the radio keeps no record of the fact that I was ever tuning the memory at 29.050, it only keeps the base memory. 

AGC Parameters:

001 AGc FST DLY 700, 002 AGc FST HLD 20, 003 AGc MID DLY 700, 004 AGc MID HLD 20

005 AGc SLW DLY 4000, 006 AGC SLW HLD 20

Microphone: Preamplified Astatic D104     Keyer: Idiom Press CMOS-4 kit.   Paddle: Bencher Chrome


Ten Tec OMNI VI+ Review:

All of the HF fun, and none of the hassle. 
It has been a long time since the OMNI VI+ was reviewed on eHam. It seems the DSP rigs have stolen all the thunder these days. I had one and sold it for an IC756Pro and after using it for two years went directly back to OMNI VI+. I am a 95% CW operator. When I bought another OMNI VI+. I added the two most important upgrades, the TCXO was added at the factory, and I added dual Inrad 2.8khz SSB filters along with a single 400hz Inrad Cw filter.

I will say that the OMNI VI+ is the most capable and user friendly transceiver that I have ever used, with the Icom IC751a (also the IC761/765) running neck and neck with it until you consider the incredible Ten Tec QSK and the fact that the Icoms have a fan.

Operating this radio on CW is just like magic. The absence of the fan and quiet switching make it seem impossible that 100 watts are actually
going into the antenna. Even the K2 does not QSK as well as the OMNI and the receive audio is not nearly as pleasant. With the wider Inrad filters, it has all the fidelity one could want on SSB but without them it sounds like 1980's SSB - very restricted.

Now there are spurs, more and louder than on the Icoms or K2. All except one on 15m (S5 at 21.330) are completely trivial to my operation. The rig
with TCXO is very stable - essentially it is as stable as the BFO crystal that's in use.

Lots of guys have moved on to Orions, Jupiters, MP, and TS2000. But this radio stands in during contests better, and is more comfortable during a CW ragchew than the others. No boot nor reboot needed. The display, meter, and knobs are all man sized.

This radio has been revised, updated, and improved over so many years and none of that time was spent on computer bugs, it all went into actual improvements of the radio. With the mods suggested, in my mind it will be a long long time before anything else comes close to it - if ever.

Heathkit SB221 Review:

The SB221 is the later model SB220 offered only without 10 meters due to FCC restrictions. However there was a conversion kit for 10m available from HEATH. If you dont have an SB221, here are the bullet points. The filter capacitors and meter board have been replaced with Harbach's offering. On a weak 110V AC line (like mine) voltage drops can limit your output to 500 watts even with good tubes. The stock amp keying circuit can ruin your modern solid state radio, get the Harbach "soft key". The amp itself is a gem, but is built very very lightly. This makes it easy to service on a tabletop, it's compact, etc. but it is mostly a thin aluminum cabinet and chassis bolted to a big honking heavy transformer in the middle. Even if the transformer is removed (as mine was) to UPS ship, the main unit can be damaged - the bandswitch is ceramic and that will crack in a heartbeat if the (band select) knob is not removed before packing. New front panels and knobs are available for SB221, the panels are black or original. I never considered for an instant buying a new "mighty fine" amp even though their service would seem beneficial and the price is in the ballpark of what you would pay for a 30 year old SB221. Having this classic amp inspires confidence, it's fun to use, and with all the third party products available for it, I've never looked back.  

MFJ-1708 and MFJ1708BSDR Antenna Switch

MFJ-1708 and MFJ-1708BSDR Review:

Great value in an automatic antenna switch

I have the original MFJ-1708. It is a good little HF antenna switch but it does not share the receive antenna so if you want to use your SDR with an HF transceiver for transmit, you have to be listening on the SDR only. The transceiver does not have the antenna until transmit is happening. I like it because I listen to the SDR and transmit on a smaller less expensive FT450D. One downside is the MFJ-1708 AUX relay output used to switch linear amps or mute external receivers has normally closed contacts. I am in the process of installing an additional relay to correct for that. This means there will be two relays clamped while operating the original model, but the MFJ-1708 "B" actually uses four. 

I just bought the newer model, MFJ-1708B-SDR. This was designed for use at even greater than 30Mhz - claimed to be good up to 70cm. It does share the receive antenna so I can listen on SDR and FT450D at the same moment... but... there is a small insertion loss, about 3 db that the original model does not have. A new circuit was added to allow proper sharing of the receive antenna, there is a small transformer for that. The original MFJ-1708 can be modified (add a wire) for shared receive antenna but unhappy things (attenuation and crosstalk) can happen depending on the physical devices being shared. 

For those with open framerelay amps, Winkeyer USB has a parameter used to key the amp a specified amount of time before sending the first CW element. Connect the PTT output of the keyer to the control input of the MFJ-1708. On SSB timing on transmit is less of a problem for the transmitter and the amp. I highly suggest never depending on RF sense, always use the control line. 

MFJ new units sometimes have problems with the receive splitter transformer so place the SDR on the transceiver position and note the backround noise using the SDR Program, then short the control line. This will compare the shared receive circuit to a direct connection. 3db is typical, any more than that and examine the magnet wires to be sure the insulation was removed properly before soldering.

My FT2000 does a better job switching antennas internally for the SDR, but if a rig does not have this, the MFJ-1708 is a cost effective solution. 

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