Zen and the Art of QRP DXing

UrbanBeam up 55′ on AB-577

Unlike any station that I have had up before, using the Elecraft KX-3 with the UrbanBeam is what I would call “Spartan Fun”. I really can’t believe how easy it is to work the world with only 5 watts. I also can’t believe how well the UrbanBeam works – and how just getting it up another 10′ – to 55′ really has made a difference.

One follower of this blog has commented a few times on my minimalist approach to DXing. He is right – I guess I always wanted to accomplish DXCC Honor Roll with 100 watts and a wire – but that was not possible given the crappy QTH’s that I have had (or so I thought) – radio wise that is – they have been very nice places otherwise. I think right from the start – I have dreamed about “less is more” – and I have finally achieved this after so many years. Funny that – reminds me of the Zen expression – “The hardest thing to do is nothing”.

Over the past several weeks, I have tested the front to side ratio of the UrbanBeam on 40 and 30M, and it is noticeable, but because on 40M its a folded dipole – its not quite as sharp F/S as a full sized straight dipole would be. HOWEVER, starting on 20M – it is every bit as much a 2 element yagi as any other 2 element beam that I have had – and the Front to Back is right in line with the SteppIR 2 element yagi. The KX-3 and UrbanBeam represent the very finest in “Spartan Living”.

So, here we have two American companies who make my (current) favorite gear. As much as I would like to buy American when I can – I do – but NOT as some kind of political statement or “religion”. That’s a fools game anyway – since many (most?) of the parts come from all over the world. There simply is not a product that I know of anymore where at least some of the parts aren’t manufactured elsewhere – and that is fine by me.

Win4K3Suite with the KX-3

I’ve been thinking a lot about gear and “elegant design”. At first glance – I started drooling at the Icom IC-705. Its like the face of the IC-7300 but QRP. Then I realized that maybe having a rig with a “scope” on it is NOT a good idea. The only reason I believe this is because of HOW Tom, VA2FSQ designed the Win4K3Suite. Its the BEST panadapter software I have ever seen. And the control part of the software is something I have grown to really like as well.

I have heard of several rigs that have had issues with their “scope” LCD units or OLED units. I have never had such an issue – but now with my KX-3 and WIn4K3Suite – I don’t see any need for a scope on a rig. Yeah – I have finally come over to “the dark side” – literally and figuratively. I guess for the first time – I really understand “The Zen of Flex Radio”. The software ensures that your user interface can always grow and improve – something you can’t do with a built in “fish finder”. Also – I have rarely heard of any issues with a plain text readout on a rig – only the “fish finder” screens.

The most exciting radio to come out in several years – the Elecraft K4

If I were in the market for the best DX Pileup Fighting Superjet – I would have a down payment on a K4 already. Fact is – it truly is “too much radio” for my needs. I have seen others say this about other rigs – but I finally understand what they mean. I applaud Elecraft on this rig – and I hope they sell a ton of them. While I won’t be purchasing one myself – I am excited about what they will design and build next. You see, a few years ago at Pacificon, Wayne Burdick, N6KR, gave a presentation on the AX-1 antenna. I was struck by how much he loves QRP and everything QRP and portable. He is a genius radio designer, and the K4 sure is a masterpiece – at least on paper. The modular design and options that you can purchase to customize the rig is the cats meow. The very heart of Elecraft still has its roots in the old “Wilderness Radio” – with the Norcal40A and Sierra as early awesome rigs – and then everything Elecraft.

Ironically, with the Win4K3Suite, the rig that I would consider (again) would be a K3S with second receiver and separate RX antenna jack would be nice. The prices are dropping as more and more people are drooling over the K4.

I still would rather wait to see what the KX-4 will be. Because I am running QRP only now (except when 3Y0I hits the air this year?), I like the small form factor. It takes up next to zero desk space – and I am working the world.

Less is very much more as far as I am concerned. I feel like I finally have “landed” where I wanted to back in 2001 – so – old dogs can learn new tricks. Why it took me 18 years – well, I’d have to consult The Big Book of Zen I suppose . . . .


One Comment on “Zen and the Art of QRP DXing

  1. I’m glad you enjoy working QRP Rich. It would be good for any HAM to work QRP once and a while. I never heard of a failing “fish finder”screen. However, the screens that are appearing in the Icom series are just on the market for a few years. I had my “analog” IC-706MK2G for over 20 years, it showed some minor defects over the years. But considering the abuse I did on it keeping it on full power Olivia mode for instance and having it so hot you couldn’t touch the outer site. It still works….Now I recently bought the IC-7300, it was much cheaper compared to my IC-706 with DSP installed. I wonder if it holds for over 20 years….The Win4K3suite looks fine, something I miss for the IC-7300. Although there seems something like this into N1MM logger. Have to check it out…. 73, Bas

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: