Open HT Surgery Gives Cheap Transceiver All-Band Capabilities

Watch out, Baofeng; there’s a new kid on the cheap handy talkie market, and judging by this hardware and firmware upgrade to the Quansheng UV-K5, the radio’s hackability is going to keep amateur radio operators busy for quite a while.

Like the ubiquitous Baofeng line of cheap transceivers, the Quansheng UV-K5 is designed to be a dual-band portable for hams to use on the 2-meter VHF and 70-centimeter UHF bands. While certainly a useful capability, these bands are usually quite range-limited, and generally require fixed repeaters to cover a decent geographic area. For long-range comms you want to be on the high-frequency (HF) bands, and you want modulations other than the FM-only offered by most of the cheap HT radios.

Luckily, there’s a fix for both problems, as [Paul (OM0ET)] outlines in the video below. It’s a two-step process that starts with installing a hardware kit to replace the radio’s stock receiver chip with the much more capable Si4732. The kit includes the chip mounted on a small PCB, a new RF choke, and a bunch of nearly invisible capacitors. The mods are straightforward but would certainly benefit from the help of a microscope, and perhaps a little hot air rework. Once the hardware is installed and the new firmware flashed, you have an HT that can receive signals down to the 20-meter band, with AM and SSB modulations, and a completely redesigned display with all kinds of goodies.

It’s important to note that this is a receive-only modification — you won’t be transmitting on the HF bands with this thing. However, it appears that the firmware allows you to switch back and forth between HF receive and VHF/UHF transceive, so the radio’s stock functionality is still there if you need it. But at $30 for the radio and $12 for the kit, who cares? Having a portable HF receiver could be pretty handy in some situations. This looks like yet another fun hack for this radio; we’ve seen a few recently, including a firmware-only band expansion and even a Trojan that adds a waterfall display and a game of Pong. Continue reading “Open HT Surgery Gives Cheap Transceiver All-Band Capabilities”

Stressless Shortwave Reviewed

[Dan Robinson] picked up a shortwave receiver known as the “stressless” receiver kit. We aren’t sure if the stress is from building a more complicated kit or operating a more complicated receiver. Either way, it is an attractive kit that looks easy to build.

Presumably to reduce stress, the VFO and receiver boards are already built, so assembly is just a few hours connecting large components and boards. As kits go, this is a fairly simple one. We were surprised to read that the supplier says you can’t upgrade the firmware. We, of course, wonder if that’s true.

For technical specs, the receiver is AM only and can operate from 100 kHz to 30 MHz. It uses a double conversion with intermediate frequencies of 21.4 MHz and 455 kHz. There’s a BNC connector on the back, and the radio requires 11 to 15V on the input. Apparently, the frequency generator inside is an SI5351. The sensitivity and selectivity numbers look very good for an AM radio.

We were surprised to see the radio didn’t have provisions for SSB since AM-only makes it not as useful for hams or others interested in non-broadcast transmissions. If we are doing our conversions correctly, the kit is fairly pricey, too, especially considering that it is AM only.

Still, we like that you could easily assemble a nice-looking radio kit. We were interested in hearing it perform, and [Dan’s] video lets us virtually try it out without the effort. We’ve seen the SI5351 on a carrier if you want to roll your own. Come to think of it, we’ve seen several.

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Mystery Signal! Are You Ready For Your Mystery Signal?

Like many people [Dan Greenall] spent a lot of time in the 1970s listening to shortwave radio. While you often think of that as a hobby involving listening to broadcast stations, some people like to listen to other communications such as airliners, ships, military, and even spy stations. These days, if you hear a strange signal you are probably only one internet search away from identifying what it is. But back then, you had to depend on word-of-mouth or magazines to figure things like that out. [Dan] found a recording of a mysterious military-like signal he made in 1971 on 14.85 MHz. He decided that maybe now, all these years later, he could finally identify it.

The operator in the recording is counting and mentions “Midway Island,” famous for a World War II battle and part of the Leeward Islands in the Pacific. Thanks to the internet and the law of six degrees of separation, [Dan] found [Chuck Kinzer] who was a Midway Navy vet.

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A Classic Shortwave Radio Restored

Before the Internet, if you wanted to hear news from around the world, you probably bought a shortwave receiver. In the golden age of world band radio, there was a great deal of high-quality programming on the shortwave bands and a large variety of consumer radios with shortwave bands. For example, the Sony CRF-160 that [M Caldeira] is restoring dates from the late 1960s or early 1970s and would have been a cool radio in its day. It retailed for about $250 in 1972, which sounds reasonable, but — don’t forget — in 1972 that would have been a 10% downpayment on a new car or enough to buy a Big Mac every day for a year with change left over.

As you can see in the video below, the radio seemed to work well right out of the gate, but the radio needed some rust removal and other sprucing up. However, it is an excellent teardown, with some tips about general restoration.

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It’s Numbers All The Way Down With This Tape Measure Number Station Antenna

For all their talk of cooperation and shared interests, the nations of the world put an awful lot of effort into spying on each other. All this espionage is an open secret, of course, but some of their activities are so mysterious that no one will confirm or deny that they’re doing it. We’re talking about numbers stations, the super secret shortwave radio stations that broadcast seemingly random strings of numbers for the purpose of… well, your guess is as good as ours.

If you want to try to figure out what’s going on for yourself, all you need is a pair of tape measures and a software defined radio (SDR), as [Tom Farnell] demonstrates. Tape measure antennas have a long and proud history in amateur radio and shortwave listening, being a long strip of conductive material rolled up in a convenient package. In this case, [Tom] wanted to receive some well-known numbers stations in the 20- to 30-meter band, and decided that a single 15-meter conductor would do the job. Unlike other tape measure antennas we’ve seen, [Tom] just harvested the blades from two 7.5-meter tape measures, connected them end-to-end, and threw the whole thing out the window in sort of a “sloper” configuration. The other end is connected to an RTL-SDR dongle and a smartphone running what appears to be SDRTouch, which lets him tune directly into the numbers stations.

Copying the transmissions is pretty simple, since they transmit either in voice or Morse; the latter can be automatically decoded on a laptop with suitable software. As for what the long strings of numbers mean, that’ll remain a mystery. If they mean anything at all; we like to think this whole thing is an elaborate plan to get other countries to waste time and resources intercepting truly random numbers that encode nothing meaningful. It would serve them right.

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Simple Breadboard SDR For Shortwave

One of the best ways to learn about radios is to build your own, even in the age of cheap SDR dongles. [Aniss Oulhaci] demonstrates this with a simple HF SDR receiver built on a breadboard.

The receiver takes the form of a simplified Tayloe detector. An RF preamp circuit amplifies the signal from a shortwave antenna and feeds it into a 74HC4066D analog switch, which acts as a switching mixer. It mixes the input signal with the local oscillator’s I and Q signals to produce the intermediate frequency signals. The local oscillator consists of a SI5351 clock generator with a 74HC74D flip-flop to generate the I and Q pair. The signals pass through a low pass filter stage and get amplified by an LM358 op amp, resulting in the IQ signal pair being fed to a computer’s stereo sound card.

An Arduino is used to control the SI5351 clock generator, which in turn is controlled by the same program created for the SDR Shield. With the audio signal fed to HDSDR, [Aniss] was able to pick up a shortwave radio broadcaster.

While this is by no means a high-performance receiver, building an SDR on a breadboard is still a great weekend project, with plenty of potential for further experimentation.

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SSB In Your Pocket

In the old days, a shortwave radio was a major desk fixture. These days, you can get truly diminutive radios. However, most of them only have AM capability (that is, no simple way to receive single-sideband or SSB signals)  and — maybe — the ability to pick up FM broadcast.  Small radios also often have no provision for an external antenna which can be crucial for shortwave radios. [Farpoint Farms] shows off the Raddy RF7860 which is a palm-sided radio, but it has the elusive sideband modes and an external antenna port and wire antenna. It even has a rechargeable battery.

Reading the comments, it appears this is a rebadged version of a HanRongDa HRD 747 radio. Of course, there are other smaller radios with sideband reception like the Tecsun PL368, but they aren’t this small.  If you are in the market for a really tiny shortwave radio, this might be the thing for you.

Of course, the question is what you want to listen to on the shortwave bands these days. There are fewer and fewer broadcasters on shortwave, especially those that broadcast to a general audience. However, if there is something you want to hear, pairing this radio with a good portable antenna, would do the job.

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