15-Jan-2010: Now living outside of Waco, TX, I've installed a Tarheel 200A-HP screwdriver antenna as a temporary antenna at the home QTH.
My main HF radio at this time (and for the foreseeable future) is the Elecraft K3. I can't say enough about this radio. Instead I'll direct you to my blog where many of my thoughts and observations on the K3 are posted.
For the many years my equipment has been primarily Japan Radio Co. (JRC): a JST-245 was the main HF transceiver at WW2PT for about 15 years; an NRD-535D was my primary receiver for SWBC listening since it was introduced in 1991. However, at the end of 2009 I decided to clear out some of the old stuff so these two radios, along with my vintage NRD-505, were sold. A pair of classics NRD-515 receivers are still used for mediumwave DX with a Kiwa Air Core Loop.
In 2007 I built an Elecraft KX1 QRP CW transceiver; this has rekindled my interest in QRP operation and CW. My first rig was a Heathkit HW-9 that I built in 1985 a couple of years before I earned my first ham ticket. With the HW-9 I learned the code and made my first QSOs tapping out CW on a straight key with a shaky fist.
Elecraft K3 HF+6M Transceiver
Pre-ordered on May 4, 2007 about a week after seeing Elecraft's announcement. Estimated July delivery delayed until finally received serial #216 on January 17, 2008.
Early tests show this to be a keeper. First big rig purchased since the JST-245 and it was worth the wait. DSP filtering and noise reduction is amazing, many nice features, well designed. Still waiting for several unreleased options such as second receiver and digital voice recorder, but happy to have it early! The synchronous AM mode is promised to be part of a future firmware release, can't wait for that.
Elecraft KX1 HF QRP Transceiver
A CW-only rig, with 5W output on 40m and 20m - I have yet to install the 80m/30m module which I own but remains unbuilt. This was the first kit built since my Heathkit HW-9 back in 1985, and it turned out to be a far better experience. The built in ATU and paddle makes this a nice little toy to noodle around with on trips.
Japan Radio Co. JST-245 HF+6M Transceiver Sold November 2009. I've owned this radio since it was introduced in 1994, and it was my only HF rig for many years until I bought the K3. This rig is special to me because of my work with JRC during the design of the radio.
The JST-245 was JRC's answer to the devastating QST review of the JST-135. We used the review as a checklist at the JST-245 design review meetings in Mitaka. I reasoned that, while perhaps undiplomatic, the review was accurate and the next transceiver needed to address each of Dave Newkirk's criticisms. The result was a radio with superb audio quality, AGC performance, filtering, and ergonomics.
The JST-245's contemporary competition included the Kenwood TS-950S/DX, Yaesu FT-1000MP and ICOM IC-775, and I believe the '245 easily runs with this pack despite it's lack of DSP. Indeed, the JST-245 can be considered the last great non-DSP transceiver produced for the amateur market; every rig in it's class introduced by the Big Three following the JST-245 incorporates DSP at either IF or AF, or both.
By the time the first production run hit the US market, I had left JRC to return to Gilfer. I purchased one of the first units imported into the US, loaded it with every accessory, and use it to this day. For a while I had it matched with JRC's JRL-2000F MOSFET linear amp, a stunning combination.
The JST-245 is a dream to operate. The color LCD shows all important operating parameters yet is uncluttered. The tuning dial is silky smooth and weighted nicely. Every button and control has it's place, with only the most mundane functions relegated to alternate functions. The built-in tuner uses relay-switched LC circuits rather than a motorized roller inductor, and the tuner settings for numerous sub-band segments are stored in memory allowing instant, automatic recall when changing frequencies. A built-in 3-antenna switch is a handy feature; the selected antenna is also memorized for each band. There are 200 memory channels which store nearly every parameter including mode, filter, AGC, tuner and antenna settings.
The JST-245 has few shortcomings and only a mere handful of quirks ranging from annoying to interesting. The fan is a bit noisy and comes on after a short warm-up period even in receive mode; the noise blanker is fairly useless; a few birdies and whistles can be heard occasionally.
JRC discontinued the JST-245 around 2002 (?) and has not announced a replacement.
Japan Radio Co. NRD-505 HF Communications Receiver Sold October 2009. The NRD-505 was one of my dream radios when I was a kid, unaffordable at the time and lusted after for years after JRC ceased production.
This particular unit was acquired when I worked at JRC; a customer called asking about the then-new NRD-535. He wanted to upgrade, I wanted a 505, we both ended up happy. When I received it I was startled to see that it was a CTG model - apparently JRC provided equipment to Communications Technology Group, an Long Island, NY company - in a private-label OEM deal. An ad for CTG ran in the 1980 World Radio TV Handbook. I have never seen another CTG-branded NRD-505.
My 505 has the optional CDD-48 4-channel memory unit installed, along with narrow CW filter, matching NVA-505 speaker, and an ultra-rare NFG-505 outboard RF preselector.
Like the NRD-515, the NRD-505 is used for exclusively for mediumwave DXing. Both are connected to a Kiwa Air-Core MW Loop which sits on the desk.
Japan Radio Co. NRD-515 HF Communications Receiver
The NRD-515 is my main receiver for mediumwave DXing. in addition to the two stock filters (6 kHz and 2.2 kHz), I installed two custom Kiwa filters - a 3.5 kHz narrow AM filter and a 8 kHz filter module for wide AM reception. Other options include the NDH-518 96-Channel Memory Unit, NCM-515 Controller, and an NVA-515 external speaker. The 515 may be the best solid-state MW receiver I've ever owned as there is virtually no microprocessor noise that can be picked up by the loop antenna which sits less than 3 feet away.
I picked up a second '515 in June 2007 from an original owner who purchased it new from Gilfer; it includes Perry's 3.5 kHz Murata filter mod which is not quite as sharp as the Kiwa 3.5 kHz filter but practically indistinguishable in side-by-side listening tests.
Japan Radio Co. NRD-535D HF Communications Receiver Sold November 2009. The NRD-535D is my primary radio for shortwave broadcast listening. The synchronous ECSS circuit is indispensable for AM mode reception; adjacent channel interference can be eliminated in all but the worst cases, and any carrier distortion or selective fading is greatly negated. The often maligned audio quality of the NRD-535 is improved by using the fixed line output to drive an external audio device (i.e. external powered speakers or, as currently employed, the NCS Multi-RX audio switch unit).
This is not the first NRD-535 I've owned, there have been several over the years. The first unit was one of the very first off the line, sent to me by the JRC factory for testing just as the 1991 Gulf War was beginning - I remember listening to Kol Israel on that first 535, as they broadcast air raid warnings during Saddam's Scud missile attacks and advising citizens to wear their gas masks. Simply haunting.
The current NRD-535 at WW2PT was taken in as part of a trade a few years ago. The IF filter board has undergone many changes over the years as I experimented with different types of aftermarket filters. Currently installed are a couple of Collins torsional mechanical filters (2.4 and 0.5 kHz) for SSB and CW, and the stock Murata CLF-D6S (6 kHz) wide filter.
Datong FL-3 Active Audio Filter
The best analog audio filter ever designed, hands-down. When DSP filters came along, the FL-3 became a technological relic, but in it's day no other filter came close. In SSB mode, you can adjust the low and high rolloff independently, much like a modern transceiver's twin passband tuning works at the IF level. In CW mode, you can adjust the overall audio bandwidth and the center frequency separately, and a RTTY mode works like the CW mode but adds a notch in the center, effectively passing only the mark and space tones while suppressing all other audio frequencies. If that's not enough, there is a notch filter which can be tuned manually or automatically. I've owned the FL-3 for nearly 20 years, and while newer DSP units have passed through the shack over time, I always go back to the FL-3.
Heil Classic 5 Microphone
After shlepping for years with crappy desk and hand mics I treated myself to The One Microphone™ for my shack that I always wanted, which will be used with all rigs (someday, when I get the NCS Multi-Switcher).
The Classic 5 comes with a desk stand but I elected to mount it on a boom so I don't have to hunch over the desk. I ordered the model with the HC5 cartridge (frequency response 300 Hz - 5 kHz) ; this cartridge worked well in my ProSet and suited my voice. It also has a wide frequency setting (50 Hz - 18 kHz) in case I want to join the hi-fi SSB lunatics on 14178 kHz.
Kantronics KAM+ RTTY/Packet Terminal Node Controller
Haven't used the KAM much; last RTTY DX in the log is from Feb 1990. I have a pair of these, but only one has been upgraded to KAM+ firmware version 8.0. I liked being able to work VHF packet at the same time as HF RTTY or Amtor. I have fond memories of using this modem with an old dumb terminal that my brother acquired for me (though at the time, "fondness" was the last word I'd have used to describe the experience). The lack of software for the KAM required using a terminal program (ZTerm was the Mac software I used) and command-line interface. I always though the Universal stand-alone RTTY decoders did a better job for digital utility monitoring, but they were for receive only. The reason I chose the KAM over the more popular PK-232 escapes me, but I think it was a coin toss at the time.
I have the KAM+ hooked back up to the JST-245 now. It's been so long since I last used it that I need to re-learn the commands. It works great running through MacLogger DX's TNC window.
NCS 3230 Multi-Rx
Possibly the single greatest radio accessory I've ever owned. Simply put, it's an audio line mixer which operates with push button switches to select audio from up to 6 different sources, with a stereo AF amplifier to drive a pair of external speakers (I use two small Sony speakers left over from my surround sound home theater installation). I use the device in what NCS calls Spatial mode, where each audio source can be placed either in the center, or in the "background" with each channel panned to a different spot from left to right - for example, I have my JST-245 at 9 o'clock, NRD-515 at 10, NRD-505 at noon, NRD-535 at 1, IC-2000H at 2 and PRO-2005 at 3). I typically keep the HF radio I'm listening to centered, with the scanner in the background at full left and the 2m rig at full right. When wearing headphones, the effect is amazing. The Multi-RX can also be used in Normal mode, in which and source can be full left, full right, or centered. Separate headphone and external speaker outputs can be switched separately and used simultaeneously. There is a master volume knob and a balance control, and a single button mutes the entire system. A recorder output can be selected for any combination of the 6 channels.
Some Past Equipment...
Bearcat III Scanner (8 ch., cyrstal controlled,
VHF Hi + Lo)
Grundig Yacht Boy 400 Portable SW/MW/FM Receiver
Hammarlund HQ-170 HF Amateur Band Receiver
Hammarlund HQ-180 HF Communications Receiver
Hallicrafters S-38B HF Communications Receiver
Hallicrafters SX-101A HF Amateur Band Receiver
Hallicrafters SX-111 HF Amateur Band Receiver
Hallicrafters SX-122 HF Communications Receiver
Heathkit SB-301 HF Amateur Band Receiver
Heathkit SB-401 HF Amateur Band Transmitter
Icom µ2AT 2m Handheld Tansceiver (my first HT)
Icom IC-706 HF/6m/2m Transceiver
Icom IC-820H 2m/70cm All Mode Transceiver (what