Tag Archives: radio equipment

Testing a Mountain Topper Radio (MTR) model 3B

Having seen the Steve Weber designed compact transceivers on the web and having seen an MTR owned by VK1FB, I was delighted to find one for sale on vkclassifieds.net.au recently.  After duly receiving it and waiting for my birthday to pass (due to my wife’s insistence on waiting for the actual day to receive gifts), I wanted to test it from home and learn the menu system, which like the radio itself, is very compact.

Using my home antenna, a fan dipole with elements for 80, 40, 20 and 10m, I connected the radio to power (a 3S Lifepo4), headphones and the antenna and turned it on.  It sent the number 4 in morse, saying it was on 40m.  I tuned it around the CW end of the band for a while and tried a few of the control functions.  Then I returned it to the default 7030 frequency by switching it off and on again (where have I heard that before?)

Then in the headphones I heard “cq sota de vk5cz” which was Ian at summit vk5/ne-095 in the north east of South Australia.  I listened to his contact with VK3PF and then heard him ask QRZ? (“who is calling”, or “is there anyone else there?”) to which I responded with my callsign.  He replied immediately with a good signal report.  I gave him a report and then told him this was my first contact with the MTR3B.  He acknowledged that and wished me good luck.  I returned the greetings and signed off.

Yes the new radio works despite being smaller than my morse paddle. It’s the blue box in this pic. Produces about 3-5 watts on 7, 10 and 14 MHz amateur bands. The Mountain Topper Radio 3B.

Ian/Buhd vk5cz posted to facebook a comment that this contact was the highlight of the activation, which was great to read.  And later he also published a video clip in which the contact can be heard taking place.

A day later I had the MTR connected again, this time on 14060.  I tuned it up to 14062 and there was a familiar callsign, VK5CZ, in contact with someone.  Looking at SOTAWATCH.ORG I saw that Ian had recently called CQ from another SOTA summit.  I waited until the contact was finished, then heard him send QRZ? and again sent my callsign.  Back he came with a 559 with QSB (fading) report, which was pretty good.  I told him it was the MTR again, which he was pleased to hear about.

Now I need a contact on the remaining band provided by the MTR, 10 MHz, for which I need to make some alternative arrangements as my home antenna does not have a suitable impedance on that band.  The MTR is designed for a 50 ohm non-reactive load.  I will route it through an antenna matchbox which can be adjusted to present a 50 ohm impedance to the transmitter.

So far so good.  I am very impressed by the MTR and look forward to many lightweight activations with it.

2010 Spring VHF/UHF Field day on 7 bands

For this event I took my usual station on 50 to 1296 MHz, plus my transverter and gridpack for 2403 MHz, Ted VK1BL’s transverter and gridpack for 3400 and Dale VK1DSH’s 10 GHz station (IC202, transverter, dish and tripod).

Contacts were made on all these bands.

Performance of the station on 1296 MHz was not as good as in previous years.  This may be due to conditions, or to a problem with my antenna or my location on Mt Ginini.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find suitable places where even two required directions are not partly blocked by the trees on that mountain.

Some pictures are already on http://www.flickr.com/photos/exposite/sets and I’ll be putting some also onto the vk1da.net photo pages.

Equipment sales: name your price

I have noticed some sellers of used radio equipment make life more difficult than necessary for themselves, by being quite unclear about what they really want for the gear.  ie. what is their asking price?

This is surprising because anyone who has bought equipment knows very well what they paid, knows what they got and usually has a good idea of whether they got a good deal.  You’d think anyone selling equipment would do a bit of basic research to find out what they are likely to get for a Bloggs XYZ120S transceiver.  But many people don’t do that.  You’d think their precious Bloggs transceiver was gold plated.  They should rethink what it is they are selling.

Radio equipment has a remarkably high resale value compared with most consumer electronics and certainly compared with motor cars we get huge prices for our old radio gear.  Why is that?  Before trying to answer that, let’s consider a few examples of unrealistic pricing or expectations.

One case is a Collins KWM2A transceiver with matching power supply.  These units were arguably the best you could get in their class for about 30 years, from the early 60s to the mid 80s and possibly longer.  They could barely be matched in even one respect by the best any other manufacturer produced.  The reasons – good design, simple operation, no frills, mechanically reliable and electrically hard to fault.  However this gear is now pretty old.  It uses tubes.  The manufacturer does not build these radios any more, parts are now harder to find and are becoming expensive.  Only the true fanatic will continue to maintain and use this type of equipment.  Modern equipment by other manufacturers offers much more in the way of operator conveniences apart from power and space efficiency.  So with this background we see a number of these radios being sold on the second hand market, sometimes with remarkably high pricing.  One ad even stated that since he had noticed similar equipment, together with a power amplifier being sold on Ebay for $US4000.  However he did not nominate an asking price and left it to the reader to work out what he would be prepared to accept. what should it be worth?  What alternatives are there that produce 100 watts on the bands from 80m thru 10m, with say 500 Hz dial readout and one VFO.  Well, almost none on the new market.  Even the cheapest Icom HF radio IC718 offers more facilities for around $800.  So to hope for any more than that is plainly based on the hope that there are people out there that want the equipment just for the pleasure of owning that particular brand or model.  Only the older operators will be at all interested in that thought, yet their numbers are diminishing.  So what chance does our seller have of receiving the $2500 he may think this is worth.  My feeling is, not much at all.

Another example is a portable multimode portable transceiver for the 420-450 MHz band.  This is a Yaesu FT790R.  3 watts output and modes SSB, CW and FM.  This is a curious gadget type radio, with insufficient power to make many contacts at all, unless you are located on the top of a tall hill or connected to a power amplifier.  OR it may be used as an intermediate frequency (IF) radio for higher bands such as microwave bands from say 2 to 10 GHz.  On those bands, using a higher IF is preferable to using 144 or lower frequencies as the IF.   So what is this type of radio worth?  Well, the latest version of the portable low power radio from Yaesu is the FT817.  It operates on all bands from 1.8 MHz to 450 MHz and produces 5 watts of any mode on all those bands.  It has digital readout and tons of memories, an inbuilt keyer and so on.  It is available new for just under $900 and is available on the second hand market for around $600 to $750 depending on age (5 years or 5 days).  So what kind of price should the seller hope to receive for his 20+ year old radio without warranty and spare parts availability.  Would you think $250 excessive?  So would I, but the seller in this example wanted $600 for his old FT790R (including a 10w power amplifier). In my view this is at least double its maximum value.

Another example was someone who should have known better.  A rare piece of Icom VHF/UHF equipment was advertised with a list of all the extras that had been loaded into it.   As my eyes ran over the listing, I searched for the asking price.  I found no clues given except for the amazing phrase “don’t make silly offers”.  Well, what is not silly?  How can a buyer read the seller’s mind and know what he has in mind for an unusual item like that?

In other consumer goods no-one would expect anything for a 20 year old transistor radio, or even a 2 year old MP3 player.  They get thrown on the scrap heap once the next model arrives.  Even more expensive goods like televisions and stereo gear is almost thrown out as worthless at the ripe age of 10 years.

In the case of used amateur radio equipment, you can be lucky and find equipment that has been looked after an used carefully.  The case is not damaged, the electronics inside it are all in good order.  No-one has made non-standard modifications (“improvements”) that reduce its quality of reception or transmission.  You can also be unlucky and find a radio is being sold because someone has discovered it does not work well at all.  With 20 to 30 year old equipment, the work needed to fix some problems can be quite expensive.   However there is currently a high demand for used equipment, which is artificially propping up prices for old equipment that should really be worth $50, not $300.

But what if you do think your Bloggs radio is a fabulous piece of equipment someone will love to use, and get heaps of service from?  Well, the least you can do is to look around first and see what they are selling for.  Be realistic, especially for 20 to 30 year old equipment.

But please, name an asking price and don’t expect buyers to read your mind.