I confess to being quite excited! Not by the New Year so much (I’ve seen a lot of those come and go!), but by a new radio I received last night.
The radio is a uBITX kit by HF Signals (http://www.hfsignals.com/index.php/ubitx/), covering the HF band for reception (yeah, shortwave!) and transmitting capabilities on the amateur bands up to 10 Watts. Here’s a description by the manufacturer:
The µBITX is a general coverage HF SSB/CW transceiver kit with features you NEED for operating ease, convenience and versatility. It works from 3 MHz to 30 MHz, with up to 10 watts on SSB and CW with a very sensitive receiver. It features digital tuning, dual VFOs, RIT, CW Keyer and more. The µBITX is a general coverage HF SSB/CW transceiver kit with features you demand for operating ease, convenience and versatility. It features digital tuning, dual VFOs, RIT, CW Keyer and more.
Since I just opened the package this morning I have not yet begun to build the kit, but my initial impressions are “WOW!!” First of all, shipping was amazing. The radio was back-ordered when I made the purchase (what they thought was a 2-month inventory was gone in 2 days!) but they said they would be shipping after Christmas. They really meant that! It was shipped on the 26th, got here on the 2nd of January. Even with the holiday it was fast! Oh, did I mention it came from India!! Good on HF Signals and DHL!!
Secondly, I am very impressed with both the packaging and the board layout. All parts came in a plastic latchable box (which could be used as a case itself), and the circuit board is a work of art. I should mention it is mostly surface mount parts with some through-hole parts, all of which are pre-soldered. There are 30 (yes thirty) wound toroids all beautifully built, the work of a group of ladies in India who do this for a living. You can read about the founder’s goals for providing a workable wage for these women as part of his business vision in starting his company on the above website.
In addition to the toroids looking to be near perfection, the whole board is laid out beautifully with ample space for all of the parts. Typically circuit boards which are primarily surface mount components (SMC) are small, with parts fitting so closely there is hardly room to distinguish them. Yes, the board could have been made smaller, but thankfully was not. Everything clearly defined and beautifully soldered. I emphasize this because I believe it belies a certain level of pride of workmanship. Here’s a picture of the board:
Of course none of this matters if the radio doesn’t work as it should, and so I will update the blog as I put it together and start using the radio. I suspect if anything goes wrong it will be on my end, as the company has a solid reputation for radios. While this is their first multi-band radio, they have been producing single band radio kits for some time with a sterling reputation.
A few further notes: the radio is based on Raduino and is hackable. This means one can extend the range of the radio, build in or take away some features, and the user can benefit from the open-source crowd for interesting additions to the radio’s capabilities. Already there are many hacks which look interesting, and a number of YouTube videos which show step by step customization and construction.
There is no doubt this is going to be an interesting project, both to build and to use. And I believe it will be a project which grows and expands over time; one which is not simply built and placed on a shelf. Stay tuned, there will be more to come! 73, Robert