Tuesday, April 06, 2010

All is forgiven ????

I don't know, though I am tempted to say, "Yes".

I am basking in the glow of a radio that seems to be working. Except for the internal battery holders, the PFR3A final wiring is done. For a few brief seconds I thought I was having receive problems again until I realized I was hooked up to the dummy load. Switching in the antenna brought the sweet sounds of CW into the headphones. I haven't made a QSO with it; but I am thinking (and hoping) that will be no problem.

So is all forgiven ?

Again, I don't know; but having a functional radio will be a nice salve for the aches and pains that I have gone through. From start to finish:

1) Ordered the radio in September. Sent my money to QRP Kits via PayPal on a Sunday; and five days later on Friday, the "Out of Stock" sign went up. I thought I might have squeaked by and had gotten the last one before stock had run out. I thought wrong.

2) Heard word that kits were being received in December by other buyers - where's mine? I had to remind QRP Kits that I was on the back order list too - they forgot to send mine ! Finally got mine almost three months after ordering it. In the meantime, hardly any communication at all; and a lot of guessing as to what was up.

3) Got kit and started building. Discovered that the receiver section was dead. Between comparing voltage measurements and other correspondence with Steve Weber KD1JV, it was discovered that U11, the clock oscillator chip that provides the reference for the DDS local oscillator was installed upside down at "the factory".

4) Correspondence with QRP Kits and Dan Tayloe got a replacement U11 within about a week.

5) Got the receiver section repaired and finished the circuit board.

6) Installed the decals on the enclosure and PERSONALLY, am not too thrilled with the appearance. Yes, I am being picky; but for the price, I think that decals are a bad way to go. Especially for a radio that is supposed to be competing with the KX-1 and HB-A1.

7) Found that the machining of the enclosure for the external power jack was off and had to hand ream the opening to correct the problem.

8) Finished the kit.

It's way too early to form any final impressions. I want to be fair and will wait until I've had some QSOs with it and have played around with it for a while. I would not recommend this kit for a newbie builder. I have built other kits more complicated than this (namely my K1 and K2) and did not have anywhere near the frustration that this one provided. In fact, my K1 and K2 gave me no stomach acid buildup at all. At the same time, I would not tell anyone NOT to buy a PFR3A. I am sure that many have gone together without a hitch. This experience just seemed "off kilter" from the start.

Three last tips:

1) Before you assemble the two halves of the housing together, take the little thumbscrews and screw them into the bottom half of the housing first. The threads in mine were gunked up with yellow paint and I had to waste one of the thumbscrews to cut new threads. You get extras, so don't be afraid to waste one. Better to waste a thumbscrew than to end up with a cross threading problem.

2) On the internal battery holders - roughen up the solder tabs with an Exacto knife or something abrasive BEFORE applying solder. If you wait for the solder resin to clean off the tabs for a good solder joint, you are going to melt the battery holder. I almost did.

3) I have a Boosteroo, which is a headphone pre-amplifier. I almost sold it on eBay a few years ago. I'm glad I didn't. The PFR3A is pretty loud as it is; but with some headphones, I think a Boosteroo will come in handy when using this radio.

Trying to listen to 40 Meters tonight, it was unsettling to hear a lack of signals. I had the K2 on for comparison. Everything that I was able to hear with the K2 (not much) I was able to hear with the PFR3A - that is a good thing.

72 de Larry W2LJ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My experience was very similar. Going to radio shack to pick up a couple of missing parts. Had about 20 parts left over, mostly disk caps. Reaming out the mounting hole. Decals. Manual could use some major attention etc. Tweeked and working now. Did some SWLing but don't have a 40 meter antenna here at home. John, KO0D