If you ever wanted to get into Amateur Radio as a hobby but felt you couldn’t afford to buy an HF rig to work on the shortwave bands, then a tiny bare-bones 2-way radio from China could be something to change your mind.
I’m talking about a QRP (low-powered) CW transceiver that sends and receives Morse Code signals at around 7.026 MHz, which is a popular QRP (low power) morse code frequency on the 40-meter Amateur Radio shortwave radio band.
The little “Pixie” QRP CW rig is a Chinese adaptation of a popular build-it-yourself radio kit that Amateur Radio enthusiasts have been building and using successfully for years. Mine was bought off eBay for $14.33 AUD (about $11.05 USD), postage included. And here is the link: http://bit.ly/40mpixie
Connect a simple morse key, a pair of ear buds (headphones), 9v to 12v battery and a tuned 7 MHz antenna and you will be ready to go “on the air”. But remember that operating QRP means your signal is weak and many stations won’t hear you. It takes patience, skill and the most efficient antenna system you can build to give you a chance of being heard.
A dipole (or sloper) antenna for the 7 MHz 40m ham band is around 66-feet long from end to end and, if possible, should be hung up about 33 feet or so from the ground. If the antenna is hung as an Inverted Vee antenna (with just one support point at the centre), then the length of the aerial will be slightly shorter.
Your 40-meter dipole can be fed in the middle with 50 Ohm coaxial cable (or even 75 Ohm TV coax) and connect directly to the transceiver as long as it has been tested and trimmed so it’s SWR is low enough. An antenna analyzer is the best tool for the job, so if you can borrow one or get a ham who owns one to help you, then tuning the antenna will be simple enough. And please trust me on this, a 2:1 VSWR (or less) is fine. Trying to get a perfect 1:1 SWR is not necessary and is mostly an over-rated myth.
However, if you can’t be sure the SWR is low enough, then an ATU (antenna tuning unit) between the Pixie transceiver and the antenna is advisable. This will protect the radio from damage.
You can buy the Pixie as a kit for maybe a dollar less from a different eBay seller, so read the description carefully to be sure you are buying the version that comes fully-built from the factory in China. Don’t buy a kit version (a bag of parts plus circuit board) unless you are keen to assemble and solder in all of the electronic components yourself. And remember, you will need to be confident you can fault-find the radio if it doesn’t work properly once you’ve built it!
If you are really interested in seeing what these minimalist QRP rigs can do, then I suggest you join the Minimalist QRP Transceivers group in Yahoo Groups. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Minimalist_QRP_Transceivers/info
PS: Don’t waste your time with this group. I have filled in forms to join myself but there is no moderator response and the application to join expires without having been read. Maybe there is a similar group elsewhere? Can anyone suggest one? Thanks. (Added 7th May 2015)