QRP SDR Style: The Last Bastion

Now that I am firmly into my latest DX pursuit – the Free Range QRP DX 300 Challenge, I can say that I no longer am interested in QRO of any type – my IC-7300 has started collecting dust. I almost should have called the pursuit The Free Range QRP CW DX 300 Challenge, because I am quickly becoming CW only. I literally am holding on to QRO radios and a hidden AL-80B that I have borrowed that I can take out from its safe place if and when 3Y0I and Glorioso are activated. I’m starting to wonder if I will even bother with that – the old “Top of Honor Roll” pursuit has felt more like a ball and chain – like a job – and I’ve felt this way for several years already.

CommRadio CTX-10

I am now sure that within a year or two I could very well switch to the “Final Frontier” and go 100% QRP. I would look for top of the mark QRP rigs. I still see the Elecraft KX-3 as that radio – but do expect other challengers – especially some of the Chinese radio’s to start becoming decent. I don’t think the Chinese radios are quite there yet – but they are getting close.

The new Elad Duo-X looks like a really nice radio

I have looked at the Elad Duo and this CommRadio – and they both look nice, but don’t offer what the KX-3 offers, and I won’t go backwards or make just a lateral change. When I get closer to retirement and moving away from Orinda, I fully expect to sell the Gold Dust Twins and just “travel light” with a couple QRP radios and the AB-577. In fact, I will insist when we retire that I can still use the AB-577 since with QRP its ALL about the antenna, actually, followed by the receiver.

The Elad Duo X looks really nice – but I’m not sure a panadapter display on the radio is all that necessary. Once you have used a large monitor for the panadapter, and with the Win4K3Suite’s ability to superimpose spots on the waterfall, I think I would be very spoiled not having this feature on another radio. In fact, it seems like any panadapter on a radio – or even outboard – like the PX3 or P3 is just not worth it – just use your computer and big monitor. I am not one to use the rig travelling or without a laptop on hand anyway.

I also still like an SDR radio with knobs plus full access via a laptop. The main reason is that a “headless” SDR radio requires that you ALWAYS have to have a computer on hand – and I would like the option to take just the radio or not have to fire up the laptop – just because then you have the best of all worlds. Plus, I am not pleased with trying external knobs with an SDR radio where the tuning knob is connected to the laptop and not the radio directly – the latency just plain sucks. When I tune a radio – I don’t want to use a mouse or a slow “clunky” external “wheel” or “dial” knob – because ergonomically they just don’t cut the mustard.

I don’t know exactly how long I will keep QRO radios around the shack, but for now I do like the combination of old and new – big and small that I have. I also expect that there will be a KX4 some day – so I will wait for that. The Elecraft K4 looks gorgeous, but it is way too much radio for what I want. A KX-4 would be something I would look at seriously.

We are about to enter a recession – my guess is within a year, and so I will hold the line on any purchases from now on. I need to “practice being retired” anyway – and besides giving “The Chosen One” a gift of not spending money starting right about now – I will wait until something as good as a KX-4 comes out. I’m very much set for quite a while me thinks.

I owned the K3 for 10 years, so as much as you might think I try and change gear a lot – I am capable of sticking with “the best”, and the Elecraft K3 has had an amazing run in ham radio gear longevity circles.

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