G3LIV Isoterm Traveller USB

I've been enjoying my KX3 for some time, especially when mobile in the RV and camping.  While I've operated mainly SSB and CW, my attempt at RTTY and PSK for the 13 Colonies event during July 2014 didn't go so well.  I was portable at a campground in SC, setup comfortably on a picnic table with my portable dipole erected on a Jackite pole.  I made some contacts, but I suspect my problems were a result of directly connecting the KX3 to my MacBook Pro.  While I know the KX3 lacks the audio in/out isolation of the K3, I thought I'd try it anyway.  Fail!

In preparation for the event this year, and to make sure I have a fully functional portable station, I began the search for an audio interface.  I ready many reviews (and posts on the Elecraft reflector) concerning audio interfaces and rig control.  Ultimately, I placed an order via G3LIV's web site for a Isoterm Traveller USB interface.  Johnny was extremely responsive via e-mail and carefully ensured I was receiving what I needed to be successful.  A++ for customer support!

The interface arrived in just a couple of days and I was able to quickly get setup and make contacts.  Johnny includes a CD with the required drives (which can easily be found on the Internet) and some popular utilities.  Once I installed the USB driver, I verified in the KX3 menu that MIC BIAS = OFF and MIC BTN = PTT.  After that, I connected the cables and with a little twisting of the audio controls on the interface to get the proper audio levels (KX3 manual page 18), I was operational.  

There's plenty of info on Johnny's web site about the technical details.  Here are the top things that sold me:

- Is not a sound card.  It's simply isolation, level control, and keying
- USB Powered
- Small package (not much larger than a deck of cards)
- Full input and output isolation
- True keyed TX instead of VOX
- Audio controls on the front of the interface box
- Removable cables for easier transport and use with other radios

Front view when connected and receiving.  There's a red LED that switches on when in TX.

  

Rear view with connections.  One really nice thing is that the interface can be used with many different radios by simply swapping cables.  Which use standard plugs, so homebrewing cables is a snap in the future.

 

I'm using an iMic audio interface so my fiddling with the MacBook sound output for other things doesn't effect my setup.  Plus, the iMic packs down very well into my travel bag and can also be used with my iPad.  The input and output plugs are marked so that you get them into the correct ports.  The rig side connections are easily distinguishable due to the mic port plug having all 4 conductors.

To test the interface and to make sure I had a solid solution, I worked two contests with this setup (plus my KXPA100) and it worked flawlessly.  I'm extremely happy with this setup and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an audio interface to use with their Elecraft KX3 or other rig. 

 

 

Times Microwave LMR-400 Review

I've used LMR-400 for a long time and am a very satisfied customer. The cable is very durable yet easy to bend / install. It weathers well and stands up to water very well. Connector installation is relatively easy as well.

Update, 6 years later...

I have several runs that have been in the sunlight and weather for 6 years now.  All are holding up very well and show no signs of deterioration.  Still a happy customer.

 

 

Palstar AT2K Review

I've been using an LDG AT-11 to tune my various antennas. I'm the second owner of the AT-11 and it has served me very well. But, it's time has come... It's almost completely given up on me so I've been using the internal tuner on my ICOM 756ProIII. It works, but it's limited in what it can do.

I've been planning for a linear amplifier and part of this would be to upgrade to a newer and more capable antenna tuner. Having looked around and read a number of reviews on eHam, I decided to go with the Palstar AT2K. I recently purchased a Palstar PM2000A meter from HRO and was very impressed with the quality of the meter. When I decided to go with the AT2K, the fine folks at HRO Atlanta accepted the PM2000A back in exchange for the upgrade to an AT2K. Bear in mind I had only used the PM2000A a couple of times over the course of about 2 weeks. Since the AT2K has the same meter built-in, I had no need for the separate PM2000A.

The AT2K was backordered to Palstar and it took about three weeks for it to arrive. I knew immediately, when picking up the box, that this was going to be a quality piece of equipment for the shack. The fit and finish of the AT2K is excellent. It's built like a tank and I expect it will last a long time. Not like some of the cheaper ones that have flimsy cases that make you question the quality of the internal components.

Having only used auto tuners in the past, I found the AT2K very easy to use. I was able to tune up without problems on several bands. The instruction manual has a well documented tuning process and some suggested starting values.

Now that the Ameritron AL-80B is here, I can really say that this tuner is great. It easily handles the power I'm putting through it and finding a good match is rather easy. I can get a very good match (= 1:1) on 80m and up. I can get a match on 160m, but it's not that good. I'm going to run a long wire and utilize the binding posts on the AT2K with some balanced feedline.

 

OpenTracker+ Build and Review

Ordering the OpenTracker+ was painless and arrive in just a couple of days. Packaging is was nice and the correct components were in the bag.

For the build, I inventoried all of the parts and then began with some of the larger yet low-profile components. I did part of the assemble the first night and then finished the next evening with all of the resistors. In all, it took just a couple of hours to assemble the OpenTracker+. I was using a new Hakko soldering iron for this project, so some of the time was spent fiddling with the new iron.

Picture of the parts package

Picture of the assembled OpenTracker+

Once assembled, I ran through the testing procedures at the end of the user manual. One tip might be to put a note in the assembly section of the manual indicating that there are some test procedures at the end.

Everything tested properly, so I hooked it up and it immediately began reporting it's position. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the ease of assemble and ease at which I got it on the air.

Here are some specific observations:

Pros

- Easy assembly
- Nice kit packaging and quick shipping
- Easy to change some basic settings with jumpers
- Software is user upgradeable
- Support forum at Yahoo Groups is very helpful

Cons

- No real assembly instructions other than a diagram, picture, and a couple of "make sure you..." comments.

So, I'm a satisfied customer and would definately by another. As a matter of fact, I have a second one sitting here needing to be assembled. That's later this week...

Here's a quick update having used the OpenTracker+ for several weeks now. I've very satisfied with it's operation and have both units functional. I am very happy with my choice and can't compliment Scott and the other folks on the support forum enough.