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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:05 pm 
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I've had a chance to 'tune' all of the band modules. I was able to use a very small plastic hex head for 4 of the six - two required a very small (think eyeglass repair small) NON-Metallic screwdriver.

the 20M module showed the greatest change when tuned, the 17M, the least.

you will need a good signal source, very low power, a freq counter or second, calibrated radio and a bit of patience. Some kind of audio voltmeter is really nice to have, makes tuning a snap.

Follow the provided instruction sheet and you will be fine.

(ETA)
I put this on the bench and ran the sig Gen down to less than -122dBm, could still hear the carrier, not bad. KWM-2A, a radio from back in the day, was considered hot for having a 10 dB S/N at -113dBm.

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Last edited by TacAir on Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2015 3:02 pm 
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Exit glacier. Lots of ice.
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Don't stand too close.... Even with the bad band condx, it was a pleasant place to sit and read the mail....
Image

MFJ station set up on table

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MFJ 9200 sitting on top of Z-11 under. You can see the 4:1 BALUN in mid-air hanging from the antenna support.

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MFJ siting on top of a FT-817 for size comparison. The MFJ is about 2/3 the size of the -817.

Image

Top to bottom – MFJ 9200, FT-817 and then the Z-11 tuner.
So many (insert bad word here) tourists, I retreated to the picnic tables on the far side of the visitor center and set up shop. The trees are bigger there anyway. I later parked on a very large pullout about halfway back to town and setup shop again. Lunch was a MRE Beef Brisket. Way yummy.
On 20 meters snagged a DR (New German series callsign) HA5 (Hungary), EA3JA, in Spain, and RA1ANY (Russian). Heard more than a few VKs and a few canadian stations as well. All running a KW and monoband arrays. Which is to say I could hear then but not so much the other way around. Aurora was an issue all day, with a high noise floor which would rise and fall, sometimes to the point of killing any signals. It did this all day.

What I learned. Cheap earbud 'phones are not what you want for the MFJ radio.
With no RF gain control, background noise becomes an issue. While the B/W choices are decent, some may want an outboard filter for using the MFJ at a fixed location.
As noted earlier, the encoder for the VFO is a tad flaky, and will take some time to get used to – it works but is a bit wobbly. No worse than any of the kit offerings that use encoders.
Rig is considerably larger than the Altiods tin but has a two line LCD display – for me, a good trade off. The tuner/BALUN worked the treat & matched my 58 ft EFHW. So that part of the system was confirmed. Need to take the headphones from home and eat the size 'penalty.
All in all, had a fun day.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:29 pm 
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MFJ 9200 // 9296 Final Review

IMO, the MFJ 9200 QRP radio is not something I would recommend for the new ham or one that has limited technical skills. Let me explain the why behind this statement.

1. Low power AND CW only. With rare exception, not something a new ham is going to enjoy. I suspect that a lot of radios like this (Not just this make/model) will wind up on a dusty shelf.

1A. Technical data!
Now available by request. This was a private effort by a couple of QRP fans. The rig has a downloadable operator manual, but it is all but worthless for troubleshooting....

2. The VFO and volume controls are crazy delicate – and likely to be damaged unless the operator uses some serious care with packing and movement of the radio. No harsh, just the nature of the components used. These sit on a double sided board filled with SMD, not a robust situation. Real care must be exercised with the band modules – for storage, transport and when swapping them out. The headers can be damaged, and unless you recognize this need for care, you may be disappointed.

3. The VFO is flaky.
Multiple other reviewers have noted this. When you turn the control, the VFO jumps, goes both up and down or fails to change the frequency. The VFO control is also a push button used to change the VFO steps. Good engineering to reduce parts count, but as a former (20+ years) maintenance guy, I'll tell you now, this is IMO a bad choice. I'll wind up replacing this at some time, and knew that going it, so – no big.

4. Overall Quality – or lack thereof.
No worse than the average "China radio" and better than a lot on the market now. Just ensure you buy from a dealer that has a published return policy. If you buy one of these, wring it out thoroughly. Check for birdies at 1 Mhz points (ie. 10 Mhz, 14 Mhz, etc) Check power out. If it works, it works. If there are birdies, contact your seller or sent to MFJ for warranty work.

5. Service after the sale.
It's from MFJ – I'm not holding my breath. To be fair, expecting real technical/repair support from any ham dealer is, for the most part, expecting too much. This is a low budget, low volume hobby market. Take that into consideration before you harsh on anyone... Despite that, MFJ honored the warranty and offered fast service with good communications. I'm a happy camper wit their service.

6. Technical stuff.
No RF gain. No variable B/W and the list could go on. This is a basic radio, CW only that offers a chance to listen to SSB.

The only real annoying issue is that at every Mhz - 7.0, 12,0 15.0 and so on for the entire range of the radio - there is a loud birdie. Every Mhz. I suspect it's from the DDS scheme, I'll keep digging to see if this can be cleared. END GAME -I sent it in under warranty and the one I got back works great.

Bottom line – I'd buy it again, even if it has to take a trip back to MFJ to sort out the birdies....

Kits similar to this radio, with only 2 or 3 bands start at $200 and up – for a kit. It works, puts out a good, clean signal and the quirks - well, I think I can live with those.
Be warned, this rig is not for everyone, but it offers me a compact (not miniature) low current draw radio that enables me to use most of the HF hams bands.
Do I wish for a rig that fits into a mint tin, has a tuner and does both CW/sideband, runs off of AAA batteries and... Yeah, and the Communicator fell out of Capt. Kirk's pocket last week as well.


Update - I've had this out in the field and am quite happy with how well it works.

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Last edited by TacAir on Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:22 pm 
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After an HT my recommendation to a new ham would be an FT-817. It's relatively low cost and gives you plenty of things to play with. Once you figure out what you like do do; you can look for rigs better suited for that. If people want to do CW they can do that with the 817. I would only bother with a dedicated CW rig if you do quite a bit of CW. I haven't learned Morse code yet; so I don't do any CW. On HF I mainly do SSB phone and PSK-31.

For a trail friendly rig the 817 seems to have the best combination of; low power consumption, size, cost, and features.

I am glad you reviewed that MFJ rig. If I end up learning Morse code I may get a dedicated CW rig. However it will probably not be that offering from MFJ.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:59 pm 
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TacAir

Thank you very much for the photos as well as the narrative!

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 2:58 pm 
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Purple Mutant had asked about what kind of key I will be using. I've decided on something a bit different.

http://vk3il.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-08-16-16.04.47-e1408446206811-1001x1024.jpg

http://vk3il.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-08-16-16.06.00-e1408446295726-1024x604.jpg

http://vk3il.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-08-16-16.05.30-e1408446255249-884x1024.jpg

Source - VK3IL, from OZ posted this, very well done.

This built-in setup (I'll be using a US sourced board) means - no lost or broken keys. It also means no turning on the set until the antenna is fully attached. Since I always connect power as the last step, this shouldn't be an issue. THe power take off already exists in the form of P2, (see earlier board pic) clearly a left over from the HB-1(A, B and various mods) for an internal battery. Which mean I have a ton of space for mods like this.

Shame I can't shoe-horn in an ATU. But then, If I did that, it would become a KX-1....(which sells for $550 as a kit) Yeah.

If only the MCU could be re-written, then I could do many of the functions via paddle - very much like the ATS4(version) rig.

This is looking to be the most fun for the summer between dodging Forrest fires and pouring rain!

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 3:54 pm 
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That's a pretty cleaver paddle setup. It's handy if you have a built in key and are proficient with it. I haven't ever done iambic style keying. I may get a dual lever paddle to give iambic keying a try. Although before I do that I should learn Morse code and be able to properly key using my single lever paddle.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2015 8:51 pm 
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Purple_Mutant wrote:
That's a pretty cleaver paddle setup. It's handy if you have a built in key and are proficient with it. I haven't ever done iambic style keying. I may get a dual lever paddle to give iambic keying a try. Although before I do that I should learn Morse code and be able to properly key using my single lever paddle.



Piffle - using a set of paddles is an acquired skill - like walking and chewing gum. Buy a set - or make your own (see sideswiper.net) and have some fun!

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:34 pm 
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You kits QRP platform – HB1 series.

HB1A first seen as a 2 band kit – oddly seen offered in both thru hole and SMD components. Some were shipped in as a mix (SMD or th) in a kit. These first showed up for sale in North America on Ebay in October, 2009. Manuals for the HB1A ver 1, 1b, 1c , and later versions may be found at the wiki.
(http://hb-1a.golonka.org/doku.php) Excellent resource. Offers many mods for these radios

The HS1A is covered, briefly, at http://jn1glb.blogspot.com/search/label/HS-1A. This blog is dated July, 2010. The HS1A radio was seen as a single band knock-off of the HB1A. S being single…

A variation of the HB1A was sold by TenTec as a two band rig due to issues with spectral purity. The first eHam review for the now depreciated Ten Tec 40/20 (and the 30/20) is dated 7/2010. These reviews are generally positive. Both radios – and TenTec, are no longer around. Find them used.

Another variation - the MFJ-9200 – is seen May 2011 (http://qrp.sblo.jp/article/44825223.html (translated) I mention this specifically as this Japanese blog draws the line between the HB1A and the HS1A. It also links to another Japanese blog with photos and comments on the HS1A.
The first eHam review for the -9200 is dated 7/2011. Very mixed reviews - it clear that the product has gone thru at least one major 'upgrade' - a new chipset perhaps.
The software in my -9200 shows as 2011-08. Don't know if that is the build date, version number or something else.

HB1B (MK0) – the first eHam review is dated 10/2011. 4 band.

HB1B (Mk2) 4 band now with SWR indicator. Current offering.

Interesting to see how the Chinese radios have entered the North American market. First via Ebay as a kit. Now as a complete - or nearly so - unit. Issues with spectral purity remain for many of these units, hence the sale as a "kit".


The LNRprecision has a couple of rigs offered that have been influenced by this. Elecraft has upped their game due to pressure from these Chinese offerings.

The winner, if you see it that way - hams world wide now have more choice that ever before and many of the offered rigs are quite modern...and many are just copies of much older designs with more modern components (SMD) allowing a smaller package. How fun.

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Last edited by TacAir on Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:51 am 
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Shipped June 26 (a Friday) - arrived in MS that next Monday @ 10AM local. USPS - pretty good I'd say.

Called today, July 6 (Monday) the nice person who answered took a few minutes looking, then came back and told me that a replacement would be shipped out this week. They will email me when it goes out.

So far, not so bad. I'll post when the rig shows up and again when I get it checked out.

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Last edited by TacAir on Mon Apr 11, 2016 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2015 1:00 pm 
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**07/09 Update**

As I have noted earlier in this thread - I sent my -9200 back to MFJ, followed up on the shipment by posting a copy of the letter (that went into the shipping box) to the trouble ticket opened earlier.

Then, that next week (the radio had been confirmed delivered by the USPS on the Monday before) I called to see if any progress made in made. I was hoping that my -9200 was at least in a technician queue, given that it had been a holiday (short) week. The person who answered the phone checked and said they had already checked the radio out & would ship me a replacement this week (week ending July 10) .

Pretty impressive.

I got a telephone call this morning, (07/09/15) that the replacement had been shipped yesterday, priority mail. Bob - I assume this to be the 'Robert' on the ticket, was very polite. I was surprised at the call, but the personal touch is hard to beat.

I was both polite and complete with my documentation, MFJ reciprocated by being prompt and keeping me "in the loop".

I'll post a follow-up when it arrives and I get the rig checked out.

Overall - so far the customer service from MFJ has been :clap:

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:33 pm 
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**09/14/2015**

End of the saga.

Got the radio back in the mail today - and imagine my shock when MFJ used the same (hand-made) foam carrier I had used to ship the original -9200 to them for warranty work.
I had asked, politely, if they would use the carrier - and they did.

Radio arrived, well packed and checked out good on my bench.

END of story.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:11 am 
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Glad everything worked out. I would like to see some pix of the radio out in the field. A breakdown of the whole portable setup for the radio would be nice.

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Purple_Mutant wrote:
Since this thread has mentioned several CW rigs; what about keys? What kind of key do you use out in the field TacAir? I have a Whiterook single lever paddle.

http://electronicsusa.com/mk.html

It's very compact and seems to work well. Once I get around to learning Morse code that key will probably be a regular addition to my radio kit. The 817 has a nice built in keyer that works great with the Whiterook. I think the only downside to the white rook keys is their weight. I have to hold the base of the paddle to keep it from sliding around. Of course there are various ways to keep the key from sliding around. One guy rubber banded it to a DVD case.


I have a Palm key mounted on the side of my 817. I switched out the battery to a LI-Po with a different battery door which has a circuit on it to manage the charging issues. I'm also using a Super Antenna or a Miracle Antenna for HT and an Arrow Antenna 2M 70cm packable Yaghi. That covers my QRP needs.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:56 am 
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medic photog wrote:
Purple_Mutant wrote:
Since this thread has mentioned several CW rigs; what about keys? What kind of key do you use out in the field TacAir? I have a Whiterook single lever paddle.

http://electronicsusa.com/mk.html

It's very compact and seems to work well. Once I get around to learning Morse code that key will probably be a regular addition to my radio kit. The 817 has a nice built in keyer that works great with the Whiterook. I think the only downside to the white rook keys is their weight. I have to hold the base of the paddle to keep it from sliding around. Of course there are various ways to keep the key from sliding around. One guy rubber banded it to a DVD case.


I have a Palm key mounted on the side of my 817. I switched out the battery to a LI-Po with a different battery door which has a circuit on it to manage the charging issues. I'm also using a Super Antenna or a Miracle Antenna for HT and an Arrow Antenna 2M 70cm packable Yaghi. That covers my QRP needs.


If you need something more compact and easier to assemble than the arrow; take a look at the Elk antenna. I have one and I am really pleased with it.

I have been curious about the miracle antenna. How well do those work? They strike me as essentially being a whip antenna stuck on top of an antenna tuner.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 1:41 am 
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Purple_Mutant wrote:
medic photog wrote:
Purple_Mutant wrote:
Since this thread has mentioned several CW rigs; what about keys? What kind of key do you use out in the field TacAir? I have a Whiterook single lever paddle.

http://electronicsusa.com/mk.html

It's very compact and seems to work well. Once I get around to learning Morse code that key will probably be a regular addition to my radio kit. The 817 has a nice built in keyer that works great with the Whiterook. I think the only downside to the white rook keys is their weight. I have to hold the base of the paddle to keep it from sliding around. Of course there are various ways to keep the key from sliding around. One guy rubber banded it to a DVD case.


I have a Palm key mounted on the side of my 817. I switched out the battery to a LI-Po with a different battery door which has a circuit on it to manage the charging issues. I'm also using a Super Antenna or a Miracle Antenna for HT and an Arrow Antenna 2M 70cm packable Yaghi. That covers my QRP needs.


If you need something more compact and easier to assemble than the arrow; take a look at the Elk antenna. I have one and I am really pleased with it.

I have been curious about the miracle antenna. How well do those work? They strike me as essentially being a whip antenna stuck on top of an antenna tuner.


All I've seen are pretty mixed for reviews.

****

Speaking of antennas- I just ordered a manual tuner for my -9200. The SOTA has earned very good reviews & is used by most SOTA participants.

Image

Image
(here seen with the 9200's older brother, a TenTec 40/20.

The finished tuner is just 2"x 2 1/4"x 7/8", and the weight is just 2.54 oz. Basically a L tuner with a toroid w/variable capacitor to match the 50 ohm Z of the radio to the to ~4500 ohm Z of an end-fed half wave (AKA a Zepp).
Has an internal Tayloe SWR bridge so no additional 'stuff' is needed.

I've also ordered a 10 AA cell holder so I can use 10 NiMh battery for 12 VDC or keep using an 8 Cell holder for 1.5 VDC Lithium cells, which work in - 40F temps.

I used lithium batteries in my PRC-104 back in the day, and even cold soaked, it put out full power, so I'm not worried about the slightly higher cost. I settled on AA's as they are available world wide...

I'll be building a CW filter/audio amp (HI-per-mite) tomorrow with my grand-daughter. Small enough to fit into the -9200, I'll be putting this one outboard so I can also use it with my Ft-817 or SG-2020 for PSK-31.
Image

Should be a fun summer.

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That SOTA tuner looks interesting. It's too bad that it doesn't cover 10 meters. I have some clothes line reels for camping that I put 11 meters of speaker wire on with a spade connector on the end. Those would be handy with that tuner. A PL-259 to BNC female would make it easy to interface the tuner with the 817. So even though the tuner doesn't cover 10 meters; it might be worth getting anyway. It might also be fun make my own tuner. I did make a simple tuner once. A T match if I remember right. It was pretty crudely built. But it did work. If I can dig up some small variable caps that can handle QRP power; I might have to see what sort of compact tuner I can cook up.

Thanks again tacair

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Finished the filter on Sat w/the assistance of my grand-daughter, works as advertised. If you build one go for the pass-thru level of amplification for use with headphones. This thing is blast out a speaker... All for $20. Good stuff.

Had a spare protoboard, so showed the squirt how to solder. That and some scrap wire = 3D art....

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TacAir wrote:
Had a spare protoboard, so showed the squirt how to solder. That and some scrap wire = 3D art....


Soldering is a useful skill. It's always nice to see kids learning useful things.

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TacAir wrote:
Finished the filter on Sat w/the assistance of my grand-daughter, works as advertised. If you build one go for the pass-thru level of amplification for use with headphones. This thing is blast out a speaker... All for $20. Good stuff.

Had a spare protoboard, so showed the squirt how to solder. That and some scrap wire = 3D art....



PS
For fun, here is a link to the original 'Trail Friendly radio - a GRC-109! Only 32 pounds - plus the weight of the genset...
(http://www.n6cc.com/angrc-109-special-forces-radio-set)

Image
Controls on top, ant tuner built-in, up to 15 watts out.....what's not to like?

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 2:18 am 
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The hand crank generator for that radio looks pretty sweet. I have a treadmill motor I have been meaning to convert into a bicycle generator. That would be nice to have as a backup for my solar panels. It might be fun to see if I could run a rig directly off the bike generator with a super capacitor between the generator and rig. Given the life of a super cap; that might not be the worst idea to have as a backup for my SLA batteries. I need to save up my pennies so I can one of these days pick up a Nickel Iron battery.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:54 pm 
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Ah, yes, about that SOTA tuner. Built the thing with the help my my grand-daughter. It is an easy part of a rainy day project.

Now, about how to actually use the thing...

I bought this ($40 USD +$7.00 for shipping) for not a bad price all things considered for Alaska) because:
1) It's pretty small, as noted earlier.
2) Has a SWR bridge with an LED to indicate a match, so no 'extra' gear to lug, like an SWR meter.
3) All in all has good reviews on several ham site.
4) Should be easy to modify for specific use.

After some initial troubleshooting, I had the tuner working as designed.

I tested this by building a half-wave wire, then attaching the wire to the tuner, and then attaching that to my MFJ antenna analyzer. I used the analyzer to get to a no-SWR state, then attached the tuner/wire combo to a sensitive RF power meter, then hooked that all up my MFJ-9200. Starting on 30 meters, I discovered a couple of things.

In some cases,the indicating LED will not extinguish with with a near-perfect match for a EFHW. The LED will noticeably dim, but not go out. More on this later. The SWR meter showed a good match as well.

Upon switching the bridge out of the circuit (switch set to OPERATE) I check the SWR again. WOW. With the bridge out of the circuit, the mismatch was notable. Using the SWR meter, I could quickly adjust for a near-perfect match. THis is a critical adjustment - a very small movement in the capacitor will cause a big increase in reflected power.

Now then, it gets interesting. I went thru the same steps with a 1/4 wave wire. The LED clearly went out at lowest SWR and with the bridge switched out, the SWR remaining pretty much the same. I'm going to have to do some head scratching over this. Still, even a 1/4 wave antenna will work, so I can live with this until I sort out the physics.

Future modifications:
Image
The provided BNC connector has a flat spot, unfortunately, the enclosure has only a round hole, allowing the connector to move around. The panel mount above will solve that issue while allowing direct connect to the -9200.

Image

For nearly the same dough, I could have got a MFJ-9201 tuner - advertised to match up with the -9200 series radios. Some kind of SWR meter is still required. This tuner is rated at 100 watts :shock:



The journey continues....

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 1:19 am 
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That MFJ tuner looks interesting. I may have to check it out. That might be a good tuner to pair up with the 817. Just get a short length of BNC flavored coax to from the tuner to the rig. Then use a BNC to binding post adapter on the tuner to run a long wire. Those BNC to binding post adapters are pretty sweet. Right now I am using one as the feed point on a 20 meter loop antenna I just put up. I am using a BNC to F adapter for the 75 ohm coax matching stub and an F to SO-239 for the 50 ohm coax. Gotta love free TV coax from freecycle.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:26 am 
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The FT-817 is an ok little rig, not great but ok and I had one for many years. By the time you add all the optional filters to improve receiver performance and add an antenna tuner your probably getting close to the cost of a KX3 but the KX3 will still be 50 times more performance and features over the FT-817 and its antenna tuner fits inside the radio. If you played with a KX3 for even a few minutes you would understand and might have to save up for one.
Radio Guy


Purple_Mutant wrote:
Radio guy wrote:
The KX3 with built in antenna tuner and optional protective side panels with handles and Lexan cover is really bullet proof and will outperform radios costing many thousands of $$. There is also an optional VHF/2m module that gives you about 3w of transmit power. Another plus of the KX3 is its very low battery consumption around 190ma on receive, which is about 1/3 that of a Yaesu FT-817. Here is a link to the side panels and covers, not to be confused by rip off knock offs: http://gemsproducts.com/


The biggest downside to the KX3 is the price. It's hard to justify spending close to $1000 on a KX3 when the 817 does more for only $660. I might get a KX3 in the future, but for now I can't justify the cost. I already have an 817, so the money spent on a KX3 would be better spent on the IC-2700 I have been eying.


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